"The native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present," the pope told a crowd of indigenous people from more than 20 groups including the Harakbut, Esse-ejas, Shipibos, Ashaninkas, and Juni Kuin.
During his time as administrator, Pruitt has met with several oil, gas, and other corporate entities in what he refers to as meeting with “stakeholders.” But many environmental leaders do not see his relationship with these corporations as innocent meeting, they believe he is interested in gaining their approval rather than dealing with environmental issues that many of these companies cause.
“However, we are resilient and refuse to allow President Trump’s unlawful decision to discourage us. We will continue to fight in honor of our ancestral warriors who fought for our way of life, for our culture and for our land too.
The Commission was tasked with determining whether the project is in the state's interest, but was prohibited from evaluating environmental issues because the pipeline already has an environmental permit.
Though the Obama administration rejected the project in 2015 on environmental grounds, President Trump reversed the decision in March 2017, saying the construction of the pipeline would produce increased jobs and decreased fuel prices. The reversal of the decision has been met with staunch opposition by those fighting for environmenal justice and indigenous rights.
Christians often want to be good Samaritans in dealing with the symptoms of sinful systems. So we lobby for asylum seekers to be allowed into the country and we advocate for tackling climate change. The two are not unrelated — climate change can be a driver of significant migration. Consider the Carteret Islanders, who are now abandoning their homes as the rising seas swallow their islands, and seeking a new life on Papua New Guinea. And some researchers have even suggested that climate change was a factor in the Syrian crisis, as a six-year drought drove up food prices and forced people into poverty.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico remains flooded and without power. The aftermath of the storm continues to unfold as the damage builds upon itself, forcing hundreds from their homes. Without electricity, cell service, or reliable communications, the situation on the ground is difficult to imagine for Americans living on the mainland.
In my experience, Democrats in Congress see the iceberg and want to steer away while Republicans, with mercifully increasing exceptions, don't. Congressional offices tend to fall into three categories: climate affirmative, climate dismissive, and climate indifferent.
Supran and Oreskes said that while, as early as 1979, Exxon scientists acknowledged burning fossil fuels was adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and causing global temperatures to rise, the company's position in newspaper ads remained significantly different by consistently asserting doubt about climate science.
For the brilliant theologians who teach and research at seminaries or divinity schools, part of their work is training the next generation of future pastors for church leadership. Catholic and many Protestant church leaders have received a thorough theological education (though not all). They possess Masters and Doctoral degrees that solidify their ability to grasp the tenets of theology. But for those theologians interested in changing the world for the better, they must offer work that is easily understood by the masses, especially the marginalized population they are seeking to assist.
FOR MANY OF US, how people treat the Earth goes far deeper than “politics.” Our relationship with God’s creation is, at heart, a theological matter.
The Paris climate accord is not perfect—it does not go far enough and it is not binding. Nevertheless, it was a giant step forward to have 195 countries commit to curbing the carbon emissions that are endangering the planet and the people who live on it, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. That step was very important, the result of decades of hard work and diligent diplomacy.
Therefore, Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the agreement is a theological failure and an abdication of American leadership on perhaps the most important crisis facing the world today. Politically, it was enormously shallow, arrogant, and truth-less: three words that sadly characterize many of the bombastic statements and decisions the administration has made.
In 2014, Flint began pumping water from the Flint River into the homes of Flint’s nearly 100,000 residents. Officials have admitted to not properly treating the water with appropriate corrosion measures, resulting in undrinkable lead-poisoned water.
PEOPLE OF COLOR in the United States are exposed to 38 percent more asthma-producing nitrogen dioxide than are white people. People of color are twice as likely as whites to live without potable water or modern sanitation.
The “big green” environmental movement often focuses on national issues and federal policy, dividing people along partisan lines of red or blue. But churches and low-income communities focus on people and their daily lived experiences. Though both are fighting for just causes, because the environment affects us all, the big greens sometimes overlook the people on the ground or do not represent them accurately.
“We have a moral and spiritual obligation to look at the impact of climate change in general and how it impacts people, including our constituents,” said Rev. Leo Woodberry, pastor of Kingdom Living Temple, an independent African-American church in Florence, S.C.
Woodberry’s church takes a robust approach to local environmental issues, including looking at climate change, air quality, and environmental justice for communities that are over-burdened and vulnerable, particularly communities of color. They also look at “environomics,” said Woodberry. “That’s where the economy and environment meet and allows corporate polluters to come into communities and dump toxins because it’s profitable for them,” he said.
The White House and Pruitt have proposed a budget for the EPA that would cut the agency’s budget by $2 billion and eliminate 20 percent of the workforce, including the entire Office of Environmental Justice. In his letter, Ali suggests the budget cuts will specifically harm those most in need of help, saying that the agency’s new leadership hasn't given "any indication that they are focused or interested in helping those vulnerable communities.”
AS SUMMER drew to a close, one of the great dramas in the planet’s ongoing environmental uprising erupted in a remote place, the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that straddles the border of North and South Dakota. The Army Corps of Engineers had approved plans for “fast-tracking” the Dakota Access pipeline, which would carry crude from the Bakken shale of North Dakota west to Illinois and then south to Gulf refineries. The pipeline was mostly on private land, and the company had gotten most of the necessary approvals from pliant state officials—but it had to cross the Missouri River somewhere.
The original plans had called for that crossing to happen just above Bismarck, a mostly white North Dakota city. But there had been concern about what would happen to the town’s water supply in the event of a leak, so the map had been redrawn, to take the pipe across the river just above the Sioux reservation. And the Army Corps had signed off on the plan—even though three other federal agencies, including the EPA, had raised serious objections. Just another day in the ongoing saga of environmental injustice that haunts this nation.
Except that this time something unexpected happened. The local Sioux said no: They erected an encampment blocking access to the construction work. And their message spread: White environmentalists joined them, as well as a crew from Black Lives Matter, but mostly other native Americans poured in, from all across the West—representatives of as many as 200 different tribal nations, according to reports. Chief Harry Goodwolf Kindness of the American Indian Movement commented that it has been well over a century since people from so many tribes had engaged in such joint action. “First time since the Battle of Greasy Grass,” he said, “so it’s been a long time.”
FAITH-BASED COMMUNITIES have been at the forefront of environmental justice work since the phrase first came into use. In 1987, the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice published the report Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. The report—the first of its kind—documented the connection between the siting of hazardous waste sites and the race of the communities where they were located.
For Aaron Mair—an epidemiological-spatial analyst with the New York State Department of Health—environmental justice organizing began in 1984 when he and his family moved to the Arbor Hill neighborhood of Albany, N.Y. The 80-percent-black neighborhood was home to an incinerator that resulted in two of his daughters having upper-respiratory health issues, according to Mair. The neighborhood’s toxic air prompted Mair to begin organizing his community to get the incinerator shut down.
In May 2015, Mair was elected as the first African-American president of the Sierra Club, a national environmental organization with more than 800,000 members. Raven Rakia, a freelance journalist and Grist fellow, interviewed Mair for Sojourners in February.
Raven Rakia: What’s the significance of your becoming the first black president of the Sierra Club?
Aaron Mair: I didn’t start out to make history with the Sierra Club. I started out to make history as an environmental justice activist by elevating the voice of communities of color with regard to equal treatment and protection under the law.
While Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has admitted that mistakes have been made and takes full responsibility, the residents of Flint to this day have not found remedy. His initial action was to have city fire stations serve as bottled water and water filter distribution points. Michigan National Guard personnel provided water to residents there.
And the nation knows the crisis — high lead levels in children’s blood tests and a spike in Legionnaires disease.
WHEN ONE THINKS of black environmental liberation theology, the name of slave-rebellion leader Nat Turner might not immediately spring to mind. Perhaps it should.
A biopic on the life of Turner, called The Birth of a Nation, is scheduled for release in October. Based on early reviews, I expect the film by director Nate Parker (Red Tails, Arbitrage) to deliver a powerful recounting of Turner’s life.
In 1831, Turner led enslaved and free African Americans in a rebellion against slaveholders in Southampton County, Va. The uprising was swift, violent, and bloody. At least 200 African Americans and more than 50 whites died. After whites quelled the rebellion, Turner hid in the woods for several weeks. He was eventually captured and executed.
Turner’s time alone in the woods offers surprising insights. He is an African-American man familiar with nature. He is a Christian preacher given to visions. From that arises a deep environmental wisdom.
The original report of the slave rebellion is found in The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton VA, as told by Turner to a white lawyer in Richmond, Va. “The blood of Christ [that] had been shed on this earth, and had ascended to heaven for the salvation of sinners,” Turner says in the book, “was now returning to earth again in the form of dew.”
Turner’s visions were based on his understanding of the Bible. He was literate (that in itself was unusual for one enslaved) and worshipped God. Turner was a prophet of God, in the context of nature and revolt.
The story of Jesus’ passion and death has stirred my imagination since I was a child. In an act of profound mystery, Jesus walks towards the conflict swirling around him. Jesus accepts his arrest and does not raise his voice. His willingness to embrace the consequences of truth-telling leaves him silent in the face of his accusers. His judges repeatedly say they can find no fault in this man, but the people want more. They want someone to blame.
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).