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2014 Annual Report – what we’ve done, what we dream of doing next

Posted December 15th, 2014 in Featured, News 0 Comments

CENTER FOR NEW CREATION
Project: Spirituality and Ecological Hope

2014 Program Report

Where we’ve been; where we’d like to go

logo tiny without wordsNovember 30 marked the end of our fiscal year, and December the end of the calendar year. Odd, I know. But it seems a good moment to look back on the year – what we accomplished, the moment at which we have arrived as we close out 2014; and then a look ahead to next year – the work we see unfolding (with your help, and we don’t just mean donations).

 

Where we’ve been

In the past couple of years, our work has centered around four pulses:

  • Speaking, presenting, workshopping the ecological crises in all its complexity for a wide variety of communities. We understand the deep connections between Earth and Spirit and we offer programs that help us together re-find and restore those connections. The crisis of our planet is a crisis of spirit; therefore, the work of “new creation” is a spiritual work (in the broadest sense of that term). We try to clear a path through the “cultural fog” of denialism and false hope so that we can SEE clearly the world as it is, the nature of the challenges before us, and the need to find another way to live – right now.
  • Connecting as our means allow with realities on the ground and with different communities living in the midst of the cause-and-effect of the rapid pace of industrial development. For the past two years, we focused especially on the frenzied last stages of the fossil fuel era, from extraction to production, and from refining to transport, including tar sands, fracking, pipelines, exploding trains, and frac sand mining. We find ourselves surrounded and threatened by a monstrous network that has created interconnectivity across North America for these dirtiest of fuels, and the environmental toll is almost beyond comprehension. We believe people need to understand what is going on so that we can collectively, and urgently, begin to make other choices. The future of life on the planet is at stake here.PIIC crude
  • Using our blog and Facebook page as means of sharing our concerns, priorities, and sources of inspiration to a wider world, connecting people with helpful resources, and sharing news of where “new creation” is happening in local communities all around the U.S.
  • Collaborating in our local area with like-minded groups working to create communities of “new creation.”

2014 – What we accomplished

Despite our limited resources and the ongoing struggle to raise funds for work of this nature, we feel very good about the progress we made in all four of our work areas. Among our accomplishments in 2014:

  • More than a dozen presentations before a wide variety of groups, including Catholic religious congregations, seminarians, justice and peace groups, grassroots activists, and student groups, from Amityville NY to Villa Maria PA to La Grange Park IL to Madison WI and sites within the Greater Milwaukee area, including a workshop at Milwaukee’s annual Sustainability Summit.

    Margaret Swedish

    Margaret Swedish

  • Convening a monthly gathering, tenderly called “Centering for New Creation.” So simple. We sit together in quiet meditation for 40 minutes, and then we share from our hearts. Incredible wisdom, insights, and tenderness emerge from this quiet community. It is a reminder that our work is also a deeply contemplative one, and it helps deepen our friendships and solidarity.
  • Collaborating each year with the Peace and International Issues Committee of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee to put together a lecture series on the Tuesdays of March that focus on themes related to ecology and social justice. They have been very successful, hard-hitting, and motivational.
  • We continued our journey into the darkness of the fossil fuel industry by traveling to the other end of what begins in the Alberta tar sands industrial region, which we visited in 2013 [see:  Athabasca River Pilgrimage]. I took a “toxic tour” of the environs around the BP oil refinery in Whiting IN, led by a colleague based in E. Chicago, and continued our intensive learning about the impacts of the oil production and refining process. We also continued our work to educate about the pipeline and oil train networks crisscrossing the Upper Midwest, the impacts of the frac sand mining boom in western counties of Wisconsin, and had our first personal encounter with a rural area sitting on the Utica Shale play in Western PA as the area was beginning to be fracked.
  • And we attended some wonderful programs in places like The Well Spirituality Center in La Grange Park IL, the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, and local programs on food justice, the proposed open pit iron ore mining in the North Woods, and so much more.

So we did a lot – with very little, and often out of pocket. Imagine what we could do if we had the resources to grow this little operation.

2015 – What comes next?

If you have been reading some of our recent updates, you know that we harbor this great hope of dissolving the Spirituality and Ecological Hope project into a revived Center for New Creation (CNC), the non-profit that is our fiscal sponsor. We don’t have the means to do that yet, but we hope we can move firmly in that direction in 2015.

What would a CNC look like? The point would not be to create another activist project, but rather a place of gathering, a “hub,” if you will, where multiple expressions or manifestations of the work of “new” creation can gather, interact, have conversation, learn from one another and get support from one another. Part of this idea comes from a longing to get past the fragmentation that marks a lot of the ecological movements, many small groups doing many good things, but in what way do those energies come together to feed on one another toward building a more cohesive new creation work?

The Peace Poets and yours truly

Margaret Swedish and the Peace Poets at Homecoming Farm, Amityville NY

What we would hope a CNC could do is develop a visible presence of a new culture with new values appropriate to the urgency of our ecological crisis, not because we have any answers (none of us really do), but in order to take up that mission of making the path by walking it.

Can we build this dream as partners, create a hub that would bring together some of the best inspiration combining spirituality, social and ecological justice, activism, and a fierce critique of cultures of oppression, including racism and segregation and other manifestations of exclusion, which are anti-ecological and therefore destructive of culture and creativity? So many people doing prophetic, cutting edge work. What would happen if some of that energy got into a room together on a regular basis, really challenged our comfort zones, called out the deepest and best within us, past the fear and into the realm of dreaming anew the kind of human beings these times require?

Something to think about, no? We hope you will want to think about it along with us.

As we ponder this dream, we also commit to work in the area of our four primary pulses:

  • We will be back in Villa Maria to pursue some deeper collaboration around the theme of spirituality and ecology, in the shadows of the new fracking wells. We have a couple of workshops planned in February and April, and we hope to collaborate in an incipient project of touring college campuses in the Upper Midwest with several others sometime in Spring. We will send in a proposal for another workshop at the Sustainability Summit, and are following up on several other invitations for later in 2015.
  • We will continue convening the Centering group, hoping to grow the community and establish our circle as a safe space in which to re-root ourselves and share from the heart.

    Million gallon oil leak near the BP refinery in Whiting IN

    Million gallon oil leak near the BP refinery in Whiting IN

  • We are working right now on finalizing the plan for the Tuesdays in March lecture series. This year the committee is focusing on the theme, Confronting the Realities of Segregation. The reason for this is obvious. We have reached a watershed moment in this country when it comes to racism and segregation. No progress can be made on any of the urgent issues of our times if we remain this divided as a nation. We must heal these deep wounds if we are to find our way out of political and social impasse. We hope to elevate the intensity of this awareness through this series.
  • We will continue fostering collaboration and solidarity with grassroots groups, those “places” where the real work of change is going on – from the bottom up, in communities where people are defending their land, air, and water, or are learning how to live differently, or are coming back home to Mother Earth to re-anchor the life of the spirit. These are significant signs of what Joanna Macy and others call “the Great Turning,” and they need support, visibility, solidarity, and community. We are all in this together now.

Building a New Creation Community

Well, none of this is much fun if any of us are trying to do it alone. One of the reasons I like the name of the non-profit so much is because it speaks to exactly what is needed right now – communities creating culture and ways of life anew, in the context of an old way of life that is collapsing around us, destroying Nature, making our future appear grim and sad. That’s what so many people share with us these days – the fear that this is our future, the future for our children and their children.

We don’t want to accept that quite yet. In the midst of the grim reality, some amazing new work is going on, and many young people are engaging deeply, prepared to surrender the version of the American Dream that is fed by hyper-consumerism, material ambitions, and fear. More and more, people are turning from the emptiness of individualism to a rediscovery of the meaning of community, not only with other humans, but with communities of sentient and non-sentient beings within which we are embedded. We know now that our human fate is bound to the fate of the living systems of the planet. That is not just a fact, it is a discovery with deep ethical and spiritual dimensions.

Photo by the Mom

Photo by the Mom

We want to take our part in building that community. This will take more funding. Right now we are dependent on donations and small sharing grants from religious communities, and on stipends and contributions from our programs. We need to broaden that base so that we can do the following things:

  • Find the physical space for the hub to become real, the place of gathering, located in the Greater Milwaukee area (we hope);
  • Build a new website as a virtual hub so we can share stories beyond our geographical area, a space for local communities to share their praxis and wisdom;
  • Develop new program work and outreach, especially around the theme I like to call, the ecology of racism;
  • Spend more time in communities impacted by the fossil fuel industry so we can learn, offer solidarity, and share their stories.

Needless to say, we hope you will want to join us on this journey. These dreams can only be realized in community. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So, friends, in closing, at this time of year when so much of our spiritual reflection is on the meaning of darkness and light, may we rest in the realization that it takes both to create our world, it takes darkness in order for us to see the light. And may that be a powerful metaphor for embracing these times with courage and heart.

Margaret Swedish

To donate, click here.

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Catholic bishops from around the world call for end to fossil fuels

Posted December 10th, 2014 in Featured, News 2 Comments

Catholic Bishops from around the world have called for end to fossil fuels in an urgent plea to address the crisis of climate change. They place “responsibility for this situation … with the dominant global economic system…” and call for “a fair and legally binding global agreement based on the universal human rights applicable to all in Paris in 2015.” The statement follows:

DECEMBER 2014
Catholic Bishops’ statement in Lima on the road to Paris

Introduction – from COP20 to COP21

We Catholic Bishops from all continents have come together in Lima on the occasion of COP20 to join the efforts of world leaders as they work towards signing a just and legally binding climate agreement in Paris in 2015.

Following the evangelical option for the poor, we work closely with the most vulnerable communities and the excluded and as such are closely attuned to how the problem of climate change is affecting them. Our message to political leaders and all people of good will is rooted in the experience and suffering of these poor communities.

Humankind on the Planet Earth is ordained to live in equity, justice and dignity, peace and harmony in the midst of the order of Creation. Humankind is ordered to treat respectfully Creation, which has a value in itself. We Catholic Bishops recognize the atmosphere, rainforests, oceans and agricultural land as common good that require our care.

Climate Change and Climate Justice today

We recognize that much good has happened on Earth through the rightful and responsible intelligence, technology and industry of humankind under God’s loving care. And yet in recent decades many grave adversities such as climate change, with its devastating impact on Nature itself, on food security, health and migration, led to a great number of suffering people worldwide.

We express an answer to what is considered God’s appeal to take action on the urgent and damaging situation of global climate warming. The main responsibility for this situation lies with the dominant global economic system, which is a human creation. In viewing objectively the destructive effects of a financial and economic order based on the primacy of the market and profit, which has failed to put the human being and the common good at the heart of the economy, one must recognize the systemic failures of this order and the need for a new financial and economic order.1

We note with appreciation that, in our times, States, Religions and Groups of Civil Society and individuals at all levels are recognizing more and more the natural as well as the ethical concerns of this matter. We wish to see therefore a deepening of the discourse at the COP20 in Lima, to ensure concrete decisions are taken at COP21 to overcome the climate challenge and to set us on new sustainable pathways.

We recognize that in line with truly democratic principles the poor and the poorer nations, who are many and are more affected by climate change impacts, are also agents in the development of nations and human life on earth. They also give us a voice and a sense of hope in our times as we face crises such as climate change. We hope their gentle, meaningful and active participation will encourage decision makers to develop more mixed systems instead of ‘one size fits all’ modern technological-?industrial approaches.

We as Bishops call on all parties

1. to keep in mind not only the technical but particularly the ethical and moral dimensions of climate change as indicated in Article 3 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).2

2. To adopt a fair and legally binding global agreement based on the universal human rights applicable to all in Paris in 2015.

3. to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degree Celsius, relative to pre-?industrial levels, in order to protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change, such as those in the Pacific Islands and in the coastal regions.

4. to build new models of development and lifestyles that are both climate compatible and bring people out of poverty. Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100% renewables with sustainable energy access for all.

5. to ensure that the 2015 agreement delivers an adaptation approach that adequately responds to the immediate needs of the most vulnerable communities and builds on local alternatives. They should ensure that 50% of public funds go to meeting their adaptation needs.

6. to recognize that adaptation needs are contingent on the success of mitigation measures taken. Those responsible for climate change have responsibilities to assist the most vulnerable in adapting and managing loss and damage and to share the necessary technology and knowhow.

7. to adopt clear roadmaps on how countries will meet predictable and additional finance commitments and establish robust and transparent accounting methodologies.

Our commitment

We Catholic Bishops believe that Creation is life offered, is a gift for one another and that all will have the needed “daily bread”, providing sustainable food security and nutrition.

We Catholic Bishops commit ourselves to developing the sense of “gratuitousness”3 to contribute to a lifestyle which frees us from a desire of appropriation and enables us to be respectful of the dignity of the person and the harmony of creation.

We Bishops want to accompany the political process and seek dialogue to bring the voices of the poor to the table of decision-makers;

We are convinced that everyone has a capacity to contribute to overcome climate change and to choose sustainable lifestyles.

We Bishops call on all Catholics and people of good will to engage on the road to Paris as a starting point for a new life in harmony with Creation respecting planetary boundaries.

 

BISHOP SIGNATORIES TO THIS DECLARATION:

Monsignor Salvador Piñeiro García-?Calderón, Archbishop of Ayacucho, Peru, President of the Bishops Conference of Peru

Monsignor Pedro Barreto Jimeno, Archbishop of Huancayo, Peru. President of the Justice and Solidarity Department of the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM)

Monsignor Sithembele Antón Sipuka, Bishop of Umtata, South Africa. Representative of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)

Monsignor Theotonius Gomes, Auxiliary Bishop of Dhaka (Emeritus), Bangladesh. Representative of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC)

Monsignor Marc Stenger, Bishop of Troyes, Representative of the Episcopal Conference of France

Monsignor Zanoni Demettino Castro, Archbishop of Feira de Santana, Conference of Brazil

Monsignor Richard Alarcón Urrutia, Bishop of Tarma, President of Caritas Peru

Monsignor Jaime Rodríguez, Bishop of Huánuco, Perú

Monsignor Alfredo Vizcarra, Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Francisco Javier de Jaén, Perú

Written in collaboration with our Catholic agencies CEAS (Peru), CIDSE, Caritas Internationalis, CAFOD (UK), CCFD-Terre Solidaire (France), Development and Peace (Canada), MISEREOR (Germany) and Secours Catholique (France), Trócaire (Ireland).

 

———-

1 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 53-­?58
2 Equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, precautionary principle, right to
sustainable development
3 Caritas in Veritate

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Re-inventing the Center for New Creation can only be done in community – because that’s how “creation” works

Posted October 20th, 2014 in Blog, Featured, News 0 Comments

As we continue our conversations about dissolving the Spirituality and Ecological Hope project into a re-envisioned Center for New Creation, there is much to share with our readers and collaborators. We are in a fundraising mode because without the support of a whole lot of people, this “new” creation cannot come about. Here’s a version of the letter we have been emailing out describing what we are thinking, what the mission looks like, how the work will unfold, and why we are so excited about it:

little light blue logo - very tinyCenter for New Creation

Sponsor of Spirituality and Ecological Hope

We are about doing something new and we need your help.

October 20, 2014

For several years I have been working on this project focused on the meaning of ecological hope in a time of planetary crisis. What I have learned in doing this is, well – a lot! I have learned more than I ever knew before about the wonder of this Mother of ours, of all the ways in which this complex living reality that many call Gaia came together over a few billion years to give birth to this human species through the amazing journey of evolution.

And I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about the terrible crisis that has befallen us because of the way we have lived on this planet.

CO2 Mauna Loa feb 2014I have been sharing both aspects of this story now for a long time, have written about it, spoken about it, offered workshops and presentations, engaged dialogue with others, and have gone out to many places to SEE how the crisis is unfolding.

I have also come into contact with amazing people doing amazing things – not only to educate and advocate and protest, but also to begin experimenting with “new” creation, with new ways of life even as the old is clearly unraveling all around us.

And so of this project – it is also in need of some new creation. Building on the work of these past 7 years, we have decided to dissolve the SEH project into a re-missioning, a reviving of what was once a vibrant, prophetic justice and peace organization, based in Northern Virginia. The Center for New Creation was founded in 1979 by a few amazing women getting together over coffee in each other’s homes. This is the original mission statement, which barely needs a touch-up:

To educate and foster dialogue about critical social justice issues, encouraging careful social analysis to identify root causes of injustice and violence, and strategic, community-based actions in response. The CNC supports creative and just alternatives to the status quo and emphasizes the importance of solidarity and common effort across national and economic boundaries in the work for a better world.

Just add in “social and ecological justice issues,” and “analysis to identify root causes of ecological destruction, injustice and violence,” and the rest works perfectly. The CNC was a space not only for advocacy and activism, but for analysis and dialogue based in the Circle of Praxis. Many of you know it or remember it well. It has four movements:

1) Insertion into reality, getting out of comfort zones and into the heart of what is happening
2) Social analysis, getting to the root understandings or causes for the situation one is witnessing or experiencing
3) Looking at this then in the light of “faith,” or the overarching framework of meaning, the “spirituality,” that forms the center of one’s core beliefs
4) Taking action that can change the reality of injustice or suffering

These four movements form a circle that brings us back over and over again to the beginning – looking again at the reality in the light of our responses, how has it changed, what did we learn, what is the next thing to do…

peoples climate marchI cannot imagine a more relevant model right now for engaging this moment in the human journey. None of us has the answers for what to do and how to do it. None of us can see the clear path through a crisis that appears so overwhelming, so many things falling apart, or about to, all at the same time. I can’t sit alone in my room figuring out what to do, and neither can you. We can only do this by trial and error, by stepping out into the unknown and making the path by walking it, as the old saying goes. And we can only do that together, in community, sharing the risks, fears, and the hope – as I have written on the project blog, hope as a verb not a noun, something we do, not a thing we wait around for or try to possess.

Whether or not there is hope depends on what we do now…

This is one thing I can say, though, with certainty: as we form community based in friendship, conviviality, humility, shared risk, play, and even joy, we will already be on our way to moving beyond what is causing all these collapses to creating the news ways of life that can one day emerge out of the old.

So I invite you to read the 3-part series on our blog [New Creation: It’s happening everywhere and we want to tell that story] about how we are rethinking this work. If you only have time to read one of them, read the third (Oct. 2), because it is the most concrete. New creation is already happening; we are not inventing this. But a lot of these new ways, these new paths, are happening at very local levels and are mostly invisible to the culture at large. In many ways, that is the genius of what is taking place; but, as we know, ecology is about connections because it is interconnection grounded in a rich inclusive biodiversity that gives the fabric of life its unique strength and beauty.

We want to contribute to that ecological movement, so necessary now for our survival as a species.

TRAVEL

The beautiful Athabasca River long before the tar sands site.

Last year, as most of you know, we were privileged to engage a 2-week pilgrimage along Alberta’s Athabasca River to the tar sands industrial sites. It was a journey taken in community, prepared for in community, and processed in community. It took the support of a much larger community to raise the funds and open the doors for all the work that followed.

TRAVEL

Air and water pollution downriver in Ft. McKay

We want to take this model into more places, visit where new creation is happening, often in dire circumstances – fracking zones, frac sand mining sites, front line communities being hit hardest by pollution and wreckage of their towns and neighborhoods, American Indian nations taking the lead to protest against industrial threats and insisting on restoring the rights of their communities and the rights of the living beings and waters where they live.

If we start putting these stories together, the future starts to look very different, indeed.

And that’s what we want to do – share those stories, put them on a website, promote these groups, make them visible to more and more of our culture, provide a space where they can see and learn about each other, the creative actions, strategies, and more that are the beginnings of that path we make by walking it. Right now that happens on Facebook nearly every day. That is part of what has inspired this idea – how to take those multiple pages and links and reveal them for the burgeoning ecological community that they are. Anti-Fracking Protest

We will have many, many collaborators as we venture out into the community of new creation, but to get us going we need your support. First of all, we need to create a website powerful enough for this project, one that is inviting, engaging, and beautiful. Then we need funds to get out into these communities with our cameras, voice recorder, and notebooks.

It will be an ongoing process and exchange about how new creation is happening all over the place. A bigger and better source of hope I cannot imagine right now!

And then to take the dream one step further, we hope to find a real physical space where those who wish can really do some of the “social analysis,” that getting to the core of the causes of our very big human predicament, with as much courage and clarity as we can muster.

So, big dream. What do you think? Can we launch this journey? Can we share it together?

We are a small operation with little overhead. For that reason, every contribution, no matter how small, can make a very big difference. You can contribute by check or via PayPal (info on the DONATE page of our blog), and your donations are tax deductible.

If it’s true that the path is made by walking, well, let’s join hands and head on out.

Margaret Swedish
Center for New Creation
PO Box 070495
Milwaukee WI 53207

Center for New Creation Board of Directors:
Marie Dennis, Co-President Pax Christi International, CNC co-founder * Fr. Joseph Nangle, OFM, Assisi Community, Washington DC * Jan Gregorcich, SSND, Global Partners, Running Waters * Debra Schneider, Catholics for Justice & Peace, Waukesha County Green Team * Rodney Sanchez, Tender Shoot of Joy, Meditation Milwaukee * Margaret Swedish, Spirituality & Ecological Hope (organizations listed for identification purposes only)

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PART III – New Creation: It’s happening everywhere, and we want to tell that story

Posted October 2nd, 2014 in Blog, Featured, News 0 Comments

Some weeks we find news that adds urgency to the work we do. Some weeks are harder than others in that regard. When that happens, we try to keep things in balance; we go out and look for more stories of New Creation.

Because increasingly we feel the tension of these two opposing directions barreling into the future – the one that is deconstructing Nature and the Web of Life, and the other that is trying so hard to keep it knit, and to re-knit what is already so terribly broken.FAMILY

This project exists right smack in the middle of that tension. Let me offer a few examples of what I mean…

On a variety of fronts, it seems things could hardly  be more dire. Here is the short list of some of the worst indicators about our near-future, one that is coming faster than even many researchers ever predicted.

World wildlife populations halved in [A MERE] 40 years

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.
Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.

Reports on what’s happening to Nature because of humans cannot get much more dire than this. We are shredding the Web that holds us. We are shredding the complex biodiversity that gives evolution its vibrancy and creativity, that keeps Nature healthy and alive. At this rate – my goodness, what happens in the next 40 years if we continue on like this?!

The full WWF report is available as a PDF for reading or download at this link. I recommend downloading it and using it for study, group discussion, consciousness-raising wherever you are. The key here is this:

The report shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by what WWF calls unsustainable human consumption.

We cannot get around this. It is what it is. It is Nature, it is reality, it is inescapable. Unless we address the core foundation of the crisis we’re in – HUMAN CONSUMPTION – we are doomed, and doomed by our own behavior.

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Tough stuff, right? Can get you down when you see the predictions for the steep RISE in human consumption over the next few decades.

Then this one came along ’bout the same time. It’s updated from an earlier release in May and came into my email queue on Wednesday:

NASA-UCI Study Indicates Loss of West Antarctic Glaciers Appears Unstoppable

This is a critical tipping point thought to be decades away, and therefore one we could still prevent by reversing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade or two. Now we are clearly committed to a vast rise in sea levels that will make the map of the world look very different within a mere century or two.

These glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) and are melting faster than most scientists had expected. Rignot said these findings will require an upward revision to current predictions of sea level rise.

You see what I mean about an elevated sense of urgency.

This one came a few weeks ago, though I didn’t have the courage to open it until a couple of weeks later:

U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks - from Justin Gillis at the NY Times

Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report.

The U.N. report will be out next year and is likely to cause quite a stir. These releases of drafts tell you that the urgency we feel is also felt at the U.N. and among the hundreds of scientists involved in putting it together.

Fracking well under construction in Western PA

Fracking well under construction in Western PA

Add this, about the booming frac sand mining industry, already destroying thousands upon thousands of acres of land and water in the Upper Midwest. Or this, about the looming water crisis out west. Or this, about how the use of insecticides is now so pervasive that they have contaminated the planet everywhere threatening future food supplies.

“Stop! Stop! We can’t stand if anymore!” You feel like that, right? It’s one of the psychological conditions of our times – the desperate need to avoid the full implications of this news and what it means for us. It’s our latest form of a burgeoning PTSD. But don’t drug it. Don’t calm it down. USE it! Make it into a force or a commitment, one that clears the mind and heart and helps us to see how easy it is to make the right decisions now when we put our lives and our consumer lifestyles into perspective. Suddenly all that stuff and privilege we’re hoarding doesn’t seem so important.

Many of us have been very good at telling this bleak side of our crisis. We can even forget sometimes that we came into this work with an awareness rooted in the prophetic work of scientists and advocates going all the back to the 60s – those who predicted all this. The culture did not embrace their message fully then – including many environmental advocates now who continue to live wildly out of proportion with the planet’s limits, still reluctant to absorb the full gravity of our predicament – but we have their research and their wisdom to give profound credibility to the multiple crises and collapses we face now. Many didn’t listen back then; we all must now.

Fracking wells in Colorado - Source: Ecoflight & Greenpeace USA

Fracking wells in Colorado – Source: Ecoflight & Greenpeace USA

The world we live in right now is wildly different than the one of a decade ago – think Hurricane Sandy and the mega-drought out west and the superfires rampaging through the forests and the polar vortex of last winter and the ebola outbreak and how Miami floods at every high tide now and how the Louisiana coast is melting away into the Gulf, to appreciate just how different it is.

And a decade from now?

Telling those stories of these vast changes brought about by humans, and telling them from the vantage point of the most local communities where the impacts are playing out, what it means to people and other sentient beings – those stories remain crucial for the work we do – because we need to SEE this, to KNOW this, to understand that this is not something that will just go away one day. The ecological crises of our times will be our context for the next centuries, the reality that will define who we are now as a human species. Nothing we do or decide will take place outside that context and everything we do or decide will have an impact on how it unfolds.

Feels kinda momentous, no?

But think about what I just wrote – everything we do or decide will have an impact on how it unfolds!

That certainly doesn’t make our lives unimportant or lacking meaning – in fact, it fills our lives with meaning, significance, consequence.

But we have to get our own lives in perspective. As individuals, each of us seemingly has little impact on the big picture, for good or ill. As a species, the impacts are enormous. But sitting here in this room today, I cannot stop the world from warming or the ice sheets from melting. I cannot grab hold of the crisis at that scale. But what I CAN do is add my contribution to how this is going to unfold. I can choose to go to the shopping mall or go online and buy the thing I don’t absolutely need, or I can decide right now today to get out of the consumer market as much as possible. Right now I can refuse to participate in what is destroying the Web of Life and contribute my part in strengthening it, especially its resilience to withstand the crises that are currently shredding it.

Alice's Garden, in the heart of urban Milwaukee

Alice’s Garden, in the heart of urban Milwaukee, a place where hope is a verb

Then I can look around me at the ecological community of which I am a part, see where the stresses are, the advocacy possibilities, the threats from industries, and start working where I am to create new ecological communities, to be part of the resistance to the destruction, to be part of the witness to radically new ways of life that can move us through and beyond the crisis to the potential for Nature’s healing and regeneration.

This, too, does not mean reinventing the wheel. This, too, has been going on for a long time from Rachel Carson to now. What is happening at the grassroots is inspiring, a human awakening to the “places” where we are and what corporate rule is doing to them, a human awakening to who we are as beings on a planet with lots of other beings all interconnected, making our lives possible.peoples climate march

Here’s the thing, though: you see how easy it is to find egregious examples of the crisis – big headlines, big stories, international attention, global alarm!!! But what is harder to see is the incipient, burgeoning awakening happening in local communities around the world, including in this most consumer-saturated culture of ours. And you know what? They are everywhere. I get to be in contact with some of them because of the work I do – the writing and speaking, the workshops and PP presentations. And because of that, and having a little non-profit from which to work, and a book on the whole mess (see sidebar), I have had reason and opportunity to get out and find these “places,” these “spaces,” where pipelines and frac sand mines and tar sands mines and pollution and loss of habitat are threatening the places people love and hold sacred. The resistance to the destruction is growing, and it is often very personal, which adds an element of passion and fierce love.

I’m not talking here about the big climate march, either. There are plenty of groups telling that story. I’m talking about Trempealeau County WI and my state’s Central Sands region and East Chicago and along the Kalamazoo River and the Penokee Hills and eastern Minnesota and the Alabama tar sands region and the UT tar sands region and Villa Maria in Western PA and the Loretto Community in KY and the mountain communities of Appalachia

If you start putting all those stories together, lifting them out of the fog of the culture into the light of day, it begins to look like something really important is going on. And THAT is what we want to start doing here as we dissolve this project into a revitalized, re-missioned, Center for New Creation.

To brighten your day, let me just list a few of these “places.”

enbridge action july 22 2013Heartland Prairies Tar Sands ResistanceFrackfree America National Coalition based in Youngstown OH, Great Plains Tar Sands ResistancePenokee Hills Education Project, Crawford Stewardship ProjectSave Our Shoals working to stop Alabama tar sand mining, Save Marktown, a community under threat from the BP refinery in Indiana…

I could spend the rest of this day listing hundreds of groups like these – and so could many of you.

We want to tell these stories. We want to get out and do what we did last year in Alberta – sit with those who are involved with these groups, with those who have begun in earnest to push back on this frenzied assault on our communities from fossil fuel, mining, chemical, developer, agro-industrial, and other bad corporate actors who are bringing us to the brink of catastrophe. In these incipient movements there is space opening for a real learning process about how we live, why it is no longer working, and what it means to learn once again how to live appropriately, respectfully, even lovingly within Gaia.

There is opportunity to begin to work as Nature does, through the smallest most local roots, from even the smallest seeds, and then weaving the interconnections together of soil and water and air and the intertwining of roots and plants and animals, the multiple and diverse life forms that together, rather than torn apart, become resilient, appropriate, sustainable, life-supporting – and beautiful.

Telling these stories means bringing our cameras and voice recorders and notebooks, bearing witness to what they are seeing and experiencing, and then sharing those stories in one internet Hub of New Creation – a website dedicated to that purpose, i.e., to promote the work of these many groups and to open a space to share insights, wisdom, experiences, strategies, successes and failures – and what a rewoven Web of Life might look like.

logo tiny without wordsThis will take time and resources. In this 3-part series, we wanted to share out into the world where we see this project going because we will need your support. This is a small non-profit with almost no overhead. What we have are a lot of connections and some great resources. We have a niche now in how we talk about this watershed moment in our evolutionary history and in what we think most significant about where real change will be emerging, where it is really coming from – from the roots, from ordinary real people working to defend their places, people who already show us a way of being in relationship with the planet that is now urgently needed.

And we need their inspiration. This is where hope can find us again. We keep chasing it in these grim times, but maybe hope-as-verb rather than noun, maybe hope-as-action, as what we do and who we do it with and with what motivation and with what intention – maybe it can catch up with us and reorient everything we do around what really matters.

So, here again is the link to this project’s donation page, which is therefore the link to funding this work we want so much to do. Remember that contributions are tax-deductible. And then we hope we can get out to some of your communities and have you share your stories with us. And if we can find the right genius website artist we have in mind, a few months from now we will have the new “space” where the stories can be shared.

Thanks for your interest, your work for New Creation, your love for this generous planet and all of your beautiful places.

Margaret Swedish

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