climate

My Women, My Village: Working Together to Redeem the World

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There are women in my life I choose to breathe with. With these women, I turn our breath into sounds, sounds into words, and raise them together in solidarity across the currents of justice. Together, we fight for the environment, we fight for rights, for black lives, for women's rights — and constantly strive for peace.

5 Environmental Justice Takeaways From Last Night's Debate in Flint

Flint Water Tower Plant
Flint Water Tower Plant, ehrlif / Shutterstock.com

Last night’s Democratic presidential primary debate in Flint, Mich., ran the gamut on issues, from guns to trade to racism to religion.

But it was also the most environmentally focused debate yet in the 2016 campaign.

Here’s a quick summary of the main environmental issues that came up (and a couple that didn’t).

On U.S.-Mexico Border, Pope Criticizes Corruption in Church and State

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Pope Francis conducted Mass in the Mexican state of Chiapas (home to more than 1 million indigenous people), with Bibles available in different indigenous languages in order to make the ceremony accessible to as many audience members as possible.

Pope Francis minced no words when it came to the environment: “The environmental challenge that we are experiencing and its human causes affects us all and demands our response ... we can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history.” 

Pope Calls on World Leaders to Implement Paris Climate Deal

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Pope Francis hailed the “historic” climate change agreement signed in Paris, urging the international community to swiftly implement the deal.

Speaking to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 13, Francis called on world leaders to act on the unprecedented environmental agreement signed on Dec. 12 by nearly 200 countries.

“The conference on climate has just finished in Paris with the adoption of an agreement, defined by many as historic. Carrying it out will require a unanimous commitment and generous dedication on everyone’s part,” he said.

COP21 Is Coming. What Will World Leaders Talk About?

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"The biggest open question in Paris may be how much aid goes to poor countries trying to leapfrog fossil fuels,” Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and founder of 350.org, said.

“For reasons both moral and practical the number should be large — larger than it likely will be."

As we think about the future of our children and our grandchildren, we need to rethink our use of water: how we store it, how we carry it and how we drink it. Water is a human necessity. Our ignorance can lead to the irony of spoiling watersheds — by robbing them of potable water while introducing mountains of plastic waste, impervious to decays which produce useful soils, and diverting water from useful work.

Muslim Leaders Call on All Nations to Address Climate Change

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Supporters of the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change included the grand muftis (highest authorities in religious law) of Uganda and Lebanon and government representatives from Turkey and Morocco. The conference itself, the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium, was co-sponsored by Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, and GreenFaith.

The declaration comes at a moment ripe for climate change discussion, in the wake of President Obama’s announcement of a Clean Power Plan on Aug. 3. The plan requires states to reduce carbon emissions from coal power plants starting in 2017. It’s also a timely precursor to the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December.

The declaration cites climate change research, followed by a detailed call to action. Among other things, it puts pressure on those attending the United Nations Conference on Climate Change to set clear goals, calls on wealthy and oil-producing nations to be leaders in curbing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and asks that all nations commit to 100 percent renewable energy or a zero emissions strategy.

Cardinal Peter Turkson: Bishops Need to Speak Up on the Environment

REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS
Cardinal Peter Turkson poses as he holds Pope Francis’ new encyclical titled “Laudato Si’ (Be Praised): On Care of Our Common Home” during the presentation news conference at the Vatican on June 18, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS

The Vatican is calling on bishops globally to act on the pope’s groundbreaking environmental encyclical, Cardinal Peter Turkson said in an interview.

Last week, bishops’ conferences across the world were sent a message urging them to speak up about the message of the papal letter, which called for greater action on the environment, said Turkson, who is president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Thousands March in Rome to Show Support for Pope Francis’ Call for Climate Action

Rosie Scammell / RNS
Thousands march in Rome to show support for Pope Francis’ call for climate action. Photo by Rosie Scammell / RNS

The interfaith element of the pope’s environmental message was reflected in the diverse range of religious leaders present.The interfaith element of the pope’s environmental message was reflected in the diverse range of religious leaders present.Religious leaders from across the globe led a “Many Faiths – One Planet” march to the Vatican on June 28, to show their support of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking environmental encyclical.

Organizers estimated a crowd of 5,000 people reached St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the pontiff’s tough stance on climate change, after parading through Rome under a canopy of painted banners.

Aunt Roma's Lessons for Eco-Living

Houses in front of a power plant. Image via LeicherOliver/shutterstock.com
Houses in front of a power plant. Image via LeicherOliver/shutterstock.com

Years ago as a child growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I was befriended by a wonderful family around the corner from my home. The patriarch of the family, Edward Blunt Sr., was a hard-working executive for a telecommunication company; the matriarch, Roma Blunt, lovingly called Aunt Roma, was a consultant for several local educational institutions; and their son, Ed Jr., became one of my best friends and adopted brother.

Ed and I played sports, shared the same birthday, and graduated from high school and college together. Ed's family provided a unique gift for the young men in our neighborhood. As a result of their southern roots and deep-rooted village values, they believed adults — especially adults of African descent — had a responsibility to aid and assist in the development of young men in the community.  

At least weekly, a gang of musty, sweaty, boisterous young men crowded into the Blunt household to take part in a ritual of culinary excellence provided by Aunt Roma. In this house we did not own, pay for, or live in, we witnessed the southern artistry and gastric creativity produced with a palette of collard greens, gumbo, cornbread, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, fried okra, and fish on the canvas of our senses. The white house on Green Road became our hangout, respite, and my second home. Since I lived geographically closest to the Blunts’ home, I found myself at their address more frequently than other "brothers" in our network.

Upon one of my routine visits after finishing another amazing meal, Aunt Roma passed on a special gift. She handed me a key to the home. She stated with matter-of-fact ease, "Otis, you're over here enough, you might as well have a key."

After I said thank you, she began to reemphasize the rules of the house. 

"You are always welcome here … you are welcome to eat, rest, and relax ... I trust you, and as long as you abide by the rules of the house and your parents are aware of where you are, this door is always open to you."

I was given access to the Blunts’ home because of my relationship with their son. I was given access to a home I did not create, build, or purchase. Because of my relationship with their son, I was given access to an environment I did not create.

Preparing for Paris

A drop of water. Image via Chepko Danil Vitalevich/shutterstock.com
A drop of water. Image via Chepko Danil Vitalevich/shutterstock.com

As the world looks toward the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December, it would serve us all to reflect on California.

When I moved to California in August 1991, the state’s five-year drought changed the most mundane aspects of life. Throughout my East Coast childhood, this is how I learned to brush my teeth: Turn the knob on the sink, place the toothbrush under the running water, brush, spit, brush again, spit again, place your Dixie cup under the running water, rinse your teeth, gargle, spit, use the running water to rinse the sink of all your spit, then — and only then — turn the water off.

I performed that basic ritual during my first week in Los Angeles. My roommate scowled. She had moved to LA years before and had lived through the state’s drought. Over the course of those five years, every resident of California had taken ownership of the state’s dire situation by altering the daily routines of their lives.

Common measures included: placing bricks in the backs of toilets to use less flushing water, only flushing once or twice a day, only using the absolute minimum amount of water necessary to brush one’s teeth, cooler time-tight showers, and the list goes on.

History records my first months in Los Angeles as the tail end of the state’s late 1980s drought. People danced in the streets of South Central, East LA, and Santa Monica as El Niño’s waters soaked cracked earth in late 1991. But as citizens of a state in crisis, our shared sense of duty had transformed small changes in daily routines into a collective culture of conservation. In fact, to this day, many Californians still practice those same measures.

But it’s been 24 years since those dire days and California is fighting again, slugging into its fourth year of another drought. But this one is different. This is the worst drought in 1,200 years, according to a study published in the American Geophysical Union journal.

Standing in a brown field that should have been packed with several feet of snow on the first day of Earth Month, California Gov. Jerry Brown said: “It’s a different world. We have to act differently.”

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