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Unintended Journeys -- Showing the Effects of Natural Disasters and Climate Change

Padmapukur, Banglasdesh. © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos, 2009.
Padmapukur, Banglasdesh. © Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum Photos, 2009.

“Humanity is intimately tied to the world we live in, and every societal action and technological advance has an effect on the earth,” reads one of the plaques in the current Unintended Journeys exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C.

The temporary exhibit, which runs until Aug. 13, is a powerful photographic portrait of the catastrophic effects environmental disasters are having on millions of people around the world.

The exhibit focuses on five different countries that have recently experienced or continue to experience severe weather conditions that have caused displacement, migration, intense hardship, and death for inhabitants. The disasters covered are the Hurricane in the Gulf, the Earthquake in Haiti, the Tsunami in JapanFlooding in Bangladesh, and Desertification in East Africa.

PHOTOS & POETRY: A Unique Look at Gaza

When most people think of Gaza, surfing is not the first thing that comes to mind. But photo journalist Ryan Rodrick Beiler has an eye for capturing the resilience and richness of life in this occupied land.

A former web editor for Sojourners, Beiler now serves on staff with the Mennonite Central Committee in Palestine and Israel. To learn more about Beiler’s extraordinary work, check out his photo essay “Gaza: The Persistent Paradox” (September-October 2013, Sojourners magazine) and the slideshow below.

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While these pictures provide a unique look into life in this war-torn region, the words used in Beiler’s article are just as powerful. Referencing “Silence for Gaza”—a prose poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish—Beiler paints a more complete picture of Gaza as a land of both ugliness and beauty.

Sinaan Antoon, an Iraqi poet and associate professor at New York University’s Gallatin School, offers this excerpted translation of Darwish’s “Silence for Gaza”:

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Gaza: The Persistent Paradox

IN "SILENCE FOR GAZA,” Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish captures the contradictions of the coastal enclave, describing it alternately as “ugly, impoverished, miserable,” and “the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us.” Darwish’s antonyms evoke Gaza’s crushing conditions and resilient residents, exemplars of sumud, an Arabic word roughly translated as “steadfast perseverance”—a fundamental form of Palestinian resistance. Darwish’s poem also states that Gaza “did not believe that it was material for media. It did not prepare for cameras and did not put smiling paste on its face.” And yet every person, every story, every image of Gaza illustrates this persistent paradox of a land at once ugly and beautiful.

“I DON’T KNOW why they targeted us. No rockets were fired from our neighborhood,” says citrus farmer Yusuf Jilal Arafat, whose 5-year-old daughter Runan was killed when Israeli warplanes bombed their home. Arafat’s wife, four months pregnant, and their 8-year-old son were found alive in the rubble. His surviving children now suffer from frequent panic attacks at night. Many of Arafat’s trees were destroyed by the bombs, and the ground is covered with oranges now in various stages of decay. Rumors of contamination by Israeli weapons may hurt the sales of his crop, but he will still harvest. The family is living with Arafat’s father-in-law until they can rebuild.

Rebuilding under Israeli import restrictions is no simple task, so salvaging existing materials remains a vital practice—albeit risky, according to structural engineers. But ingenuity-by-necessity is constantly on display in Gaza, whether it’s recovering crushed stone from beneath ruined highways, straightening steel rebar from bombed-out buildings, or pulverizing concrete for reuse in new (but weaker) blocks.

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SLIDESHOW: City Beautiful

If you keep your eyes open, there is beauty to be found in our cities—often in areas that are dismissed and in poor repair. While some choose to exploit urban decay, the city remains a place that is always full of potential for life and vitality, as illustrated in Julie Polter’s essay “Beyond ‘Ruin Porn’” (August 2013, Sojourners).

Check out the slideshow below—featuring artwork from Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program and photography by Camilo José Vergara—to marvel at the cities and spaces described in “Beyond ‘Ruin Porn.’”

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Keystone XL: The Dirty Facts

In February, more than 30,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the Keystone XL Pipeline. During his speech at the largest climate rally in U.S. history, 350.org founder Bill McKibben stated, “I’ve waited my whole life for this.”

Read the rest of Bill’s stirring speech in “The Battle is Joined,” featured in Sojourners magazine’s special climate change issue (May 2013). Join the battle to stop the construction of this pipeline. Check out the resources below to learn the dirty facts about Keystone XL.

Upworthy’s #NoKXL Video

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PHOTOS: Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

As Onleilove Alston reveals in “Connecting the Dots,” in the April 2013 issue of Sojourners magazine, Hurricane Sandy vividly demonstrated the relationship between climate change, poverty, and immigration. Healing is taking place as people of faith step up to coordinate recovery efforts and lead advocacy efforts to curb climate change.

To view some of the ways people are making a difference in communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, check out the slideshow below.

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PHOTOS: Rebuilding Notre Dame l’Assomption Cathedral

Three years after the 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti, the impoverished island nation is still struggling to rebuild. The ruins include Notre Dame de l’Assomption, Port-au-Prince’s renowned cathedral.

Hope abounds, however, as the capital city seeks to reconstruct this sacred place of worship. Edwidge Danticat’s “House of Prayer and Dreams,” in the April 2013 issue of Sojourners magazine, beautifully illustrates why the cathedral is central to the city’s past, present, and future.

A source of national pride and inspiration, the people of Haiti are committed to rebuilding Notre Dame de l’Assomption.

View the slideshow below, including photos of the cathedral’s future design (courtesy of ndapap.org).

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Friday Links Round Up: Cookies. Dads. Harry Potter.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookiesphoto © 2009 Ted Major | more info (via: Wylio)Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • The changing face of AIDS.

    Joyless Christians and The Lord of the Rings

    My favorite characters in The Lord of the Rings are the Ents -- an ancient race of giant living, talking, breathing trees in J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional land, Middle Earth. I have a little confession to make: Whenever I hear a reading from Isaiah 55 where it says, "The mountains and hills before you shall burst into song and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands," I always picture the Giant Ents from The Lord of the Rings. And then I picture these clapping trees from Isaiah holding little Hobbits in their branch arms in what ends up a willful conflation of Middle Earth and Major Prophet.

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