We are currently putting together a climate action team. We have both expertise and passion to contribute. They would be focused on education both within and outside our community, creating alliances with other faith groups, treaty partners and NGOs that share our passion, and planning events to lobby local and national political leaders to take climate change as deadly serious and respond more quickly in the hope we are able to weather this storm.
If you are interested in being part of such a team, contact Clay Nelson who will organise a meeting with all those who share your passion.
If you are far away from Auckland, thanks to Zoom, you could join the team as well.
To introduce my musings this morning I am turning to an 18-year-old woman who, ever since she was a child, has been teaching us how to speak truth to power. Greta Thunberg has resisted being a token voice used by governments lacking political will and by global companies seeking to monetise efforts to stop killing the planet while doing their best to protect their financial interests in extracting carbon. This is a short speech she gave on the eve of COP26.
You may remember the movie The Perfect Storm that came out in the year 2000. It was about a real storm in 1991. A variety of factors came together to create a hurricane that was never named. In the northern hemisphere hurricanes form in the tropics and move north. This hurricane started as a nor’easter that became a hurricane that formed off the Atlantic coast of Canada and New England and then moved south causing considerable damage.
The term “perfect storm” was coined by journalist Sebastian Junger after a conversation with Boston meteorologist Robert Case in which Case described the convergence of weather conditions as being “perfect” for the formation of such a storm. It has entered our lexicon to describe an especially bad situation caused by a combination of unfavourable circumstances. It certainly applies to our new reality.
A couple of weeks before the Christmas of 1849, William Lewis Manly climbed to a mountain pass and beheld “the most wonderful picture of grand desolation one could ever see.” Manly was standing in what’s now southwestern Nevada with an empty stomach and a dry and parched throat.” Manly found himself wandering the desert owing to a series of unfortunate decisions. Hoping to reach the gold fields in Northern California they took a detour that led into some of the most inhospitable terrain on the continent.
“We, the young, are deeply concerned about our future. Humanity is currently causing the sixth mass extinction of species and the global climate system is at the brink of a catastrophic crisis. Its devastating impacts are already felt by millions of people around the globe. Yet we are far from reaching the goals of the Paris agreement.
I have shared in the past that I was reared by, and infused with the values of, a staunch empiricist. Yet my scientist father was a highly committed and active member of the Episcopal Church most of his adult life. Furthermore, to everyone’s surprise, including mine, he parented an Episcopal priest who evolved into a Unitarian minister. As a teenager I could not untangle the mystery of how belief in science and faith could be embodied in a single skin. It was a conundrum. It was an impossible juxtaposition. It was mind-numbing cognitive dissonance. It defied an adolescent’s black and white view of reality.
To continue with Elizabeth’s Kolbert’s river metaphor, I am reminded of a gift a friend who knew me too well gave me at the beginning of my ministry. It was a poster of a landscape featuring a river. The caption beneath it read, “Don’t push the river”. This intrinsically Taoist wisdom taunted me from its primacy of place on the wall facing my desk. All my stereotypic male traits wanted to move the river faster; straighten its meandering nature; keep it carefully constrained within its banks. There was way too much to be done to accept the river’s natural pace. The river’s course might be more picturesque, but posters be damned, it wasn’t efficient or fit for purpose from my limited view. Time to push it.
Optical illusions are fun. In part because they are universal as far as I know. The word illusion comes from the Latin word illudere, meaning “to mock”. These illusions trick our brains into perceiving something different from physical reality. Three common ones are illusory motion (images that appear to be moving), double pictures (images that contain two pictures in one), and impossible objects (images that make sense when drawn on paper, but which could never exist in real life!).
Something was off when I woke up in my dorm room in late January 1969. I realised I couldn’t hear the ocean, which was only 75 metres from my bedroom at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The sea was silent. I and other early risers went to the cliffs overlooking the normally pristine coastline. The ocean waves were weighed down by oil and tar, unable to crash on the beach. Continue reading Reflections on Earth Day→