April Leese: Why am I attending the Teach-in? Why not?

April Leese is a resident of the Community of Living Traditions in Stony Point, New York. A recent seminary graduate, she has had a lifelong connection to the outdoors, and to environmental stewardship.   Why would I want to attend an interreligious teach-in focused on earth, faith and peace? Why would I care about climate change and how it connects to other issues? I think that I have been so surrounded my entire life by creation and the love of it that the question of why would I stand for climate change almost has no meaning to me. Why would I? Why would I not? I exist in the midst of all of this; I am a part of all of this. I grew up on a farm, running around outside. My family’s idea of vacation was to go camping and hiking, more time outside. We recycled back when you had to drive stuff over the mountain to drop it off (instead of just into town like we do now). We saved water because we were pumping it from the ground and could judge by the stream running past our house whether that was from an abundance of water or a scarcity. We grew a lot of our own food because it was so much better that way. As a result of this early connection to the rest of creation, I have never felt disconnected from natural systems, even when I was living in cities and they were not immediately apparent to me. I know not everyone gets the privilege of growing up in the country. Indeed, it would...

Aude Isimbi: Coming Back to My Roots

Aude Isimbi is a resident at the Community of Living Traditions in Stony Point, New York. For the past year, she has taken an active role in social, economic, and environmental advocacy. She is the current Advocacy and Solidarity Coordinator for the World Student Christian Federation (North America).   Growing up, we always had a garden. No matter how often we moved or how small our backyard, we always had a garden. My mother grew up on a farm and when she moved to the city she did her best to always eat as much of her own products as possible. She also made sure she knew where the food she was eating was from, the chickens that produced the eggs she was frying, and the cow whose milk she was drinking. So, I grew up eating beans, peas, lentils, pumpkins, and squash from our garden. We had fruit trees ranging from guava to avocadoes to passion fruits. It is not that we never shopped in markets, we did; but my mother always made the effort of always buying from people she knew before buying from the market. She made her own jams and preserves; and for her favorite sorghum mush, she always drove miles to her mother’s farm for fresh sorghum. I was born in Rwanda, raised in Tanzania, went to school in Canada, and now live in the United States. When people ask me about my first culture shock; I usually tell them about trying to cook beef for the first time and having it turn to mush several times; or about the fact that milk here tastes...

The Possible Dream of an International Carbon Fee

Ethan Bodnaruk is a PhD. student in Ecological Engineering at SUNY-ESF. This is his second blog post. Environmental advocacy can often feel daunting and overwhelming because the fate of the environment seems so far out of our hands.  We can change lightbulbs, compost, and hopefully drive less.  But in the meantime the machines of globalization, industry, and multinational corporations churn out pollution, waste, and greenhouse gases (along with some good things we need).  At the international level, the 25-year history of annual UN climate change talks hasn’t been fruitful. An underlying cause of climate change is that the social and environmental costs of fossil fuels aren’t accounted for in their monetary cost.  The Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) has a proposal that addresses this root cause: a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend.  Further, CCL has a lot in common with interfaith approaches since the organization focuses on relationship building, cooperation, and empathy. The social and environmental costs of fossil fuels – known as externalities – are ultimately paid by society through environmental degradation, climate change, and health effects of air pollution.  Our current situation is largely the product of subsidized fossil fuels and inefficient infrastructure built on the (false) assumption of their continued abundance.  By putting a price on carbon, the market economy – the very thing we might feel powerless over – can help fix these problems. CCL’s proposal would put a $15/ton fee on emissions from carbon-emitting fuels at their source (e.g. mine, well, port).  The fee would rise by $10/ton each year until emissions reach a sustainable level.  For gasoline, this would equate to a price increase...

Community and Religious Leaders Respond to Chattanooga, TN Shooting

National and Tennessee Community and Religious Leaders Respond to Shooting in Chattanooga, TN Released: July 17th, 2015  A month ago today, a young gunman murdered nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.  It was the first day of Ramadan.  This morning a young man murdered four marines, and wounded three others.  Numerous others were traumatized, and families of the killed and wounded must now begin the long road of grief. Yesterday marked the close of Ramadan in 2015. Any religion worthy of its name will stand against these episodes of violence and murder, and will call for an uncompromising reaction of resilient faithfulness in our communities across this country.  We know that no single individual defines a faith or a community.  And, it is a sign of the health of our citizenry when we seek to deepen our understanding of these events even as we share as best we can alongside those who have lost loved ones today. “This heinous act is deeply troubling for the Muslim community, especially as Muslims are ending the holy month of Ramadan. As Muslims gather to pray, to worship God, we will also mourn the loss of our servicemen,” Mr. Naeem Baig said, who is the moderator of Religions for Peace USA and the President of the Islamic Circle of North America. “Islam condemns such an act and in no way endorses such violence.” For the past 3 years, Religions for Peace USA and Faith and Culture Center have been working to build trust between Muslims and non-Muslims through the Our Muslim Neighbor initiative. “As a Muslim and as an American, this...

Why I Stand for Climate Justice: A Unitarian Universalist Perspective

Hello! My name is Aly Tharp and I am from the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. I serve as a part-time network coordinator for a small group of committed and spiritually-grounded activists called the Unitarian Universalist Young Adults for Climate Justice. Before taking this position in September of 2014, I hadn’t fully realized how deeply my Unitarian Universalist faith informs my activism and perspective on justice.In the fall of 2012, I was just a few months out of college with a degree in Environmental Studies. I had a passionate interest in the intersection of economic justice and environmental sustainability, but my vision for what careers were available in that field involved grim caricatures of assigning US Dollar values to forests, watersheds and ecosystems with a thin sliver of hope that speaking the language of the market will influence public policy enough to make a lasting difference.I didn’t think that lasting solutions to our unsustainable society would come about using the same methods that brought us such great global environmental crises in the first place, and I still don’t. Instead, I found inspiration in the growing grassroots change movements around the world, and felt that was the domain where I wanted to be. Before long I was in the thick of things, in East Texas. Two Unitarian Universalist (UU) activists had recently been arrested along with quite a few others, taking non-violent direct action to block the machines tearing down trees for the easement to the Keystone XL “Gulf Coast Project”. I knew about the Keystone pipeline from my college studies, but learned about the blessing from President Obama to build...

Unearthing War: One Conscientious Objector’s Account

Maggie Krueger is a second-year Masters of Theological Studies candidate at Harvard Divinity School, research associate at The Pluralism Project at Harvard University as well as aspiring food justice activist. Death is an ever-present feature of farming – even without livestock. As seasons change, crops that do not flourish are tilled back into the Earth. Plants growing out of place and turn are hoed and pulled for compost, their potential medicinal attributes ignored as they are reduced to weeds. Some perennials do not grow back after harsh winters, while annual greens wilt in the sun of mid-day. Seeds begun in plastic starter boxes inevitably sprout too many shoots, where perfectly healthy seedlings are removed in the thinning process. While some plants are lost to mother nature, or to an agricultural system that strives to foster the best growth possible, other crops can be spared from destruction by human hands. As an aspiring apprentice at an intentional multifaith residential community and farm in the Hudson River Valley this summer, I found rescuing produce an attractive task. Ultimately, the duty was redemptive, connecting me to the soil I felt so complicit in abusing. An unabashed carnivore, friend of Appalachian ranchers, and frequenter of the Great Outdoors, humane slaughter for the sake of life was not an unfamiliar concept to me, nor a notion weighing heavy on my conscience. Plants and animals, weeds and pests had a role to play that might involve sacrifice for the greater good of life, justice and prosperity. But something worked on me unknowingly as I labored hands and knees in the soil of our gardens. It...