New Creation News

What in the world have we been doing for the past month?

Posted August 20th, 2015 in Blog, Featured, New Creation News 0 Comments
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Yes, it’s been a bit of a long silence on this site. As we rethink things for the Center for New Creation, as work ramps up in the wake of the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home, as we engage in a few other planning sessions for coming collaborative programs – well, life, work become more intense, which is not the way I remember August…

Credit: USDA

Wildfire in the Bitterroot National Forest earlier this summer – Credit: USDA

For one thing, the planetary news this summer has gone from sobering in the beginning to downright scary at this point. Wildfires, deadly heat waves all across the northern hemisphere, the fast spread of extreme to exceptional drought across most of the North American West, from Mexico to Alaska, have stunned us, frankly. I mean, we knew things were getting bad, but this?

I mean, let’s just cite one example of the unprecedented extremes, because sometimes one detail of the reality brings the whole thing into view: On July 31, the heat index in the Iranian coastal city of Bandar Mahshahr reached 165 degrees. The actual temperature was 115 degrees, but the dew point reached 90.

90!!! How was anyone able to breathe, to move? New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called this “unfathomable,” because it is.

For more on this story, read his Aug. 19 column, “The World’s Hot Spot.” Extreme summer heat, part of the “new normal” for our planet, is contributing to immense human suffering, and to wars, political instability, ecological breakdowns, and severe economic challenges.

Activists hang from bridge in attempt to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic. Pic: 350 PDX

Activists hang from Portland bridge in attempt to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic. Pic: 350 PDX

And then there’s the news that, despite those extreme climate events, business-as-usual in this country proceeds apace: President Obama decides on one side to regulate coal emissions and on the other to give Dutch Shell a permit to drill in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. He says he wants to regulate methane emissions from natural gas wells, but continues to support the spread of fracking and natural gas production as a replacement for coal-burning in U.S. power plants.  The nation, meanwhile, can’t get enough of these cheap gas prices and giant gas-guzzling vehicles, which are being purchased at a record pace. Consumers are shopping and traveling more. It seems no disaster or series of disasters or combinations of disasters are enough to convince us that we cannot live like this anymore.

Corporate executives and politicians tell us a growing economy is good news, generating employment for more people after the punishing recession that followed the financial collapse in 2008. But most of those jobs have no future because they are part of an economy we will either decide to end by deliberate life-saving decisions, or (more likely) be forced to end in a very short time because the Earth is announcing in no uncertain terms that the industrial era is over. The longer we keep it on life support, the harsher the transition is going to be. Why? Because the longer we keep it on life support, the more climate is changing in ways that will make more of the planet uninhabitable (including some of our most populated places), will increase the numbers of environmental refugees from the current tens of millions to hundreds of millions, and will destroy a lot of the “resources” we will need to survive through the transition – like water and land to grow food locally (which will be the only way we will eat and drink in coming decades, by living within the limits of our bioregions).

In other words, the longer we wait, the less resilience we will have, and the Earth will have, for us to get through the crisis time.

We need to take good care of her... Photo: NASA

We need to take good care of her… Photo: NASA

And if we are concerned about jobs that pay livable wages, we ought to be making the transition right now away from those that depend on fossil-fueled industrial growth to those that will depend on the creation of the new ecological economies – transitions in energy, re-purposing and reusing everything, environmental clean-up projects on a massive scale, mass transit, local small businesses providing vital services, small farmers (mostly organic), popular health programs and a single-payer health system to replace mega-medical delivery systems and the private insurance industry, along with re-creating urban areas to make them wonderful, healthy, community-oriented places to live.

There’s plenty of work to do, plenty of jobs that could be created to get them done – but not within the paradigm of capitalist industrial/technological/economic/consumer growth. Not if we insist that we ought to be able to live where we want, however we want, travel around the world as we want, consume whatever we want, buy whatever we want, abuse the planet in whatever way necessary to live as we want, and on and on. We can’t make the transition if we continue to equate freedom of consumption with democracy, with the principle of freedom itself – as we have in this nation.

Credit: Marcus Donner, Greenpeace

Kayactivists protesting Dutch Shell’s drilling in the Arctic.  Credit: Marcus Donner, Greenpeace

Creating a culture of “new creation” to erode the foundations of this destructive industrial growth culture is an essential part of the conversations we are having this summer as we ponder how to “locate” this project in the context of the work to nurture, help bring about, contribute to “The Great Turning.” That Turning, long known as a necessary requirement for our long term survival, has become urgent at this point in time because the cultural changes are way too slow for the pace of the ecological changes now underway. We have to catch up to those changes, and fast, if humans are to have a decent future life on this planet, or perhaps any future at all.

We have to not only catch up to the changes, we have to live in a way that halts them before it is too late for the ecosystems of the planet – the Web of Life that holds us and all our fellow creatures – to heal, regenerate, and renew themselves.

I mean, these extremes of heat and drought and fires and floods are not the planet’s only news. So is looming water scarcity, ruined soil that can no longer support food production, industrial contamination of everything (the Animas River disaster being one recent example), and positive feedback loops in the climate system that are already irreversible, such as the death of coral reefs and a huge percentage of aquatic life, the melting of most of the world’s glaciers, the melting of massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, and rising sea levels, already flooding the streets of Miami Beach and Charleston SC at high tide, and drowning islands in Chesapeake Bay.

Oh, and 2015 is going to shatter previous global heat temperature records, and 2016 is almost certain to surpass those records.

US Drought Monitor, August 11, 2015

US Drought Monitor, August 11, 2015

It’s no longer a question of how to avoid disastrous climate change, resource depletion, and the sixth great extinction. Now it’s a question of how bad it’s going to get, and whether or not we will kill the generations to come before they are ever born.

Hard truths, but they need to be told. I sometimes want to throw bricks at my TV when I see what is reported as news these days – from Donald Trump to Scott Walker to Hillary Clinton’s email – none of this is news, none of this tells us anything we need to know about the planet, the trouble we’re in, and what we need to do about it. Friedman’s column did. The Durango Herald did. The heat waves that killed thousands in India and Pakistan were chock full of news. Those roaring fires out West? They have some news for us!

All summer, a couple of broadcast stations have tried. NBC Nightly News has had near-daily reports lately about the fires, often as the lead story. The Animas River disaster received plenty of coverage. But unless cultural leaders, religious leaders, community leaders at every level make news of the planet a focal point of their agendas, educating and organizing from the bottom up, the “turning” will not happen.

And part of that work is letting egos go, especially those organizational and ideological egos, so that millions more of us enter with humility into solidarity with those on the ground, especially frontline communities, who are already doing this work, often invisible to the larger culture because they are just not taken seriously.

We want to be one of those groups – offering our solidarity, offering visibility, offering our efforts to educate, consciousness-raise, incite, excite, point people to the places on the ground where they can make a big difference.

So, what are we doing this summer? A few things:

* presentations, workshops, book groups, reflection groups on the ecological crisis and the work of new creation;

* interpreting Pope Francis’ encyclical in a variety of communities where we have been invited to do this;

* going to all sorts of meetings to work with other groups to create collaborative programs in their communities;

* using this site and our Center for New Creation Facebook page to promote the new ecological vision and link to some of the best groups and resources we know about;

* meeting, proposing, discussing with colleagues and friends the fundamental questions about where and how to “locate” this work, where we can have impact, make a difference.

What do we need most?

Funds to create a “space” where people can come together around this theme of “new”creation, to share skills, experience, wisdom, insights, visions, spiritualities that can be shared out to the wider world. And we need a new website that can service that work, this WordPress blog platform no longer being adequate for the dream we have.

I think a lot of us are feeling the urgency now. This is critical work. We want to be one locus for it, and as much as possible link with others around the country that have a similar vision. We will need the help and support of a lot of people to make that happen. We know this is not the kind of work that goes easily into a grant proposal form or fundraising pitch. That’s why we come over and over again to those who have the vision, the urgency, the heart, and the commitment to face this crisis full on and see what we can create out of it – something new, something never seen before, a turning, a great turning toward a future we cannot yet see, but that has our children in it, and their children, and their children’s children, living in abundance amid a grateful planet.

We can use your support right now as funds usually diminish during the summer. They have, and we need to rebuild the bank account in order to move ahead. You can help us get started on this post-summer push. We would be extremely grateful for any contribution you can make now. To DONATE

But we also need and want to build this community of collaborators, colleagues in the work, fonts of a more collective wisdom especially needed right now.

We will start posting again on a more regular basis. Please tell others about us. Post this link on your own website and blogs. Share the link on social media. And share your thoughts about this work, what you’re doing and what we’re doing, in the comment section of our posts. One day we will have that new website where other examples and voices of new creation can be found, where a larger community can participate in the conversation.

Enjoy these late summer days. The hints of change are in the air – seasonal, planetary, and also the turning.

Margaret Swedish

 

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Let’s get more specific about what we mean by “new” creation

Posted June 8th, 2015 in Blog, Featured, New Creation News 0 Comments

Shall we? I mean, that’s one of the questions I get frequently now – what do I mean, what is it, what does a post-carbon world look like, show me how it will function, what will happen, and (the real question hidden within the others) will I be okay?

First response to this – I can’t answer those questions for us. We have to answer them together, as on a journey, making the path by walking it, inventing and creating as we go along.

And it won’t be easy.

And it means giving up a lot of assumptions about how we live now, about surrendering expectations that stay within the paradigm that brought us to this moment. It means a whole lot of imagination, a whole lot of dreaming, of vision quests done in community. It will mean trial and error, learning what works and doesn’t work in the practice of it.

Worshop on gender justice at the Body & Soul Healing Arts Center in Milwaukee on MLK holiday. Photo: Venice Williams

Workshop on gender justice at the Body & Soul Healing Arts Center in Milwaukee. Building inclusive community. Photo: Venice Williams

But hardest of all, it means learning how to trust ourselves and one another. It means creating community not among the like-minded, among those where we have really high comfort zones; because that’s how most of the culture lives now and it is part of what is not working, the cultural pathology that prevents new creation from finding access, opening new roads, seeing new things, achieving new insights.

Now, if I were to try to lay out the plan for you, wouldn’t I be contradicting how creation works?

So where is it happening? Let me count the ways and spaces – because there are so many of them. Here’s a very short list that could be multiplied thousands of times. If any of us are looking for what to do to begin the process, a lot of it is a matter of opening to what is already in the works, and then taking the personal risks of internal and external change in our lives to join in.

Let me give a couple of local examples from Milwaukee where I currently live:

Alice’s Garden
Center for Resilient Cities
Walnut Way Conservation Corp. [see also this recent news article]
Growing Power
Victory Garden Initiative
Fondy Market
Milwaukee farmers markets
If you’re on Facebook check this out: Body and Soul Healing Arts Center

And look at what this faith community is doing: Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church, or this one: All People’s Church, or this one: Buddhist Peace Fellowship Milwaukee Chapter.

Check out this community organization: Urban Ecology Center, and this one: Transition Milwaukee.

And there are the new movements where we partner again with the Earth and all her sentient and non-sentient beings to begin a radical healing process, participate with our hands and heart in that work, where we witness aloud and with urgency, to make our voices heard as we engage this process. A most recent and inspiring example:

the tar sands resistance march in Minneapolis last Saturday Also important because of who led it: Minnesota American Indians Lead March..., which brings to mind this important essay from Canada’s David Suzuki: Aboriginal people, not environmentalists, are best bet for protecting the planet.

video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6hKzl55D2E

The march was organized as a partnership among communities, not top down, but emergent. That’s how resilient life comes about – from the roots, nurtured from and by the roots.

Remember this from last September? Just look at the diversity, beauty, and wide variety of cultural expressions among these hundreds of thousands of people!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPyQ27svmjc

Yes, I could go on. Some of this work is about creating new ways of life one neighborhood at a time, as in some of these examples. Some of it is about addressing the essential need for food and using that to create a culture that has meaning far beyond the food and garden plots. Same for the cultural expression in a march to protect the planet, from the organizing to the implementation.

These things include something essential for new creation – building community, getting to know one another across dividing lines of class and race, ethnicity and culture. In my city, one of the most segregated in the country, where white flight and racism run deep through our history, this is essential work if new creation is to have any meaning at all, much less the power to transform a culture leading us to ecological disaster.

Because, as have said so often here, ecology is about the interconnectedness of everything. The rise of plutocracy in this country runs in tandem with white supremacy, racism, and suppression of the rights of poor people and the marginalized, right along with the destruction of our eco-communities from those who profit off that destruction.

Another example, my colleague Thomas Frank in E. Chicago invited Rev. Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir to the community of Marktown and the BP refinery in Whiting IN. If you want to see what some of the work of new creation looks like, check out this video – seering, righeously angry, and fun! This is solidarity from below in its best meaning. Learn more about Marktown here, and about Rev. Billy here.


Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXyTngDBbpU

Just about wherever you are, you could come up with a list like this. Really, there are no excuses for waiting to engage the process of new creation. It’s not a matter of someone handing us that strategic plan where we can see the end goal, so that it feels safe to launch ourselves into the process. And wherever we are, we can work in our communities to invite people to engage this great adventure.

There is the Great Unraveling happening now – necessary, painful, tumultuous, inevitable. And there is the Great Turning, the point where we turn away from the industrial growth paradigm that created this mess and turn toward the new path, where we make the decision to stop participating in what is destroying us and start putting our energies into what must be created. And there is the Great Transformation, now beginning in virtually every part of our world, where we begin to live the new way of life in the midst of the old and its unraveling.

The way we offer hope is not to lay out a plan for us or some clear future vision of how it will be concretely, because I don’t know anyone who can tell us what this will all look like a couple of generations from now. This is a journey, not a destination, as in the old phrase, and the journey itself is the destination where we are headed, where we need to go now. We are not headed for an end we can see. We are invited to come to our true destination by leaping right into the heart of the journey itself.

~ Margaret Swedish
Home page featured photo: Thomas Frank

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Making New Creation

Posted February 12th, 2015 in Featured, New Creation News 3 Comments

While we consider ways to reinvigorate this organization, I want to share what we are thinking about for program content in 2015-2016. If you’ve been reading our last couple of posts, you already have an idea.

First of all, what we do is a lot more than this glorified blog. We write, yes, here and on our Facebook page, as a way to connect with a community around the country and beyond. But a lot of our work involves being with, or engaging a wide variety of groups offering workshops, presentations with lots of visuals to reveal aspects of our ecological realities that the mainstream culture does not show us (or even want to show us), and facilitated conversation and exchanges about those realities. At times, we have had opportunities to lead 1-2 day retreats, delving more deeply into our relationships within Nature and within the cosmos that just keeps getting bigger and bigger and more mysterious and magnificent with every new discovery.March lecture series crude

This is incredibly rewarding work because of what emerges from it – inspiration and motivation to get to work on the ecological challenges facing us now, a greater comfort level talking about those challenges, friendships and expanded community connections, a release of creativity as we seek new ways of life that translate into new creation as the old one crumbles underneath the foundations of industrial societies. We are able to do a little dreaming together, to begin to see the world that is possible if we relinquish the old one and venture out along a path into the unknown.

We also spend our time connecting with other community groups and organizations moving in similar directions, the ones determined to not accept this “given” world (given by global corporations and the governments that enable them), but to create new paradigms, new frameworks of meaning, new ways of being on this planet together as we move into this intense period of transition from one way of life to another.

We seek to create a “space” where ecological justice, social justice, and the path of peace in our world come together. For a long time, those paths were separated, even alienated from each other. Now we know that there is no ecological healing without social justice, and social justice cannot come to a world that is being ecologically destroyed, and that neither social justice nor ecological healing can come to a world that still sees war and political violence as a way to redress grievances or to try to hold onto political and economic power.

And so we want this “space” that we call the Center for New Creation (virtual now, perhaps a real physical one in the near future) to be one place where these three themes come together, feed on each other, open up for us a way of seeing our world and the interconnectedness of all things, all energies, all dynamics within which we exist.

When we see the world this way (which is also ecologically correct), we begin to see how much difference we actually can make by what we do, what we decide, how we choose to live our lives – because everything we do or don’t do affects everything else within the dynamism of the whole.

The only one we know...

The whole…

Our last two blog posts indicate something of the direction in which we are going. When we speak of the “ecology of fossil fuels,” we speak of the dynamic interconnections of an industry that feeds our world with energy for just about everything we do by extracting ancient organic matter and gases in ways that we can burn for fuel. A lot of us tend not to think of it this way, but it is in reality a deep, intimate, personal relationship that we have with our planet, one that is depleting it of its most essential life-giving resources, using up water and land, polluting the air, contaminating rivers and wetlands, and contributing enormous amounts of global warming gases into our atmosphere.

That is absolutely one form of our ecological relatedness within Gaia, a manifestation of what has become a profoundly dysfunctional, even pathological relationship. Even as we arrive at the knowledge that we are destroying the very basis of our future survival, we are hooked, addicted, and don’t know how to stop ourselves.

When we reflect on the “ecology of racism,” we focus on another form of what is actually an “anti-ecology” with profound ecological consequences. Life thrives on biodiversity. Indeed, it requires it. Evolution on this planet tends always in that direction, unless something comes along to begin an extinction event. But when that plays itself out, life again begins to grow abundance and resilience by way of diversity.

blmThere is a field called biocultural diversity that describes how essential this is within the human community and that community’s relationship with the other sentient and non-sentient beings. We thrive in diversity. Forcing separation requires an enormous amount of energy trying to create something utterly untrue – that we can create around ourselves monocultures of race, lifestyles, and belief systems, and think that kind of culture can survive. Those excluded from the exclusivity of the dominant cultures suffer injustice and discrimination in many forms. The energy required to hold such a system in place, to defend it, and then the resentment that builds, the hurt and anger – all of this makes what is now a crowded world where races and cultures spill into one another ecologically and socially impossible.

We think this needs to be talked about – a lot. We think this requires some deep reflective thinking and discussion, because we are living right now in a profoundly unsustainable reality. We feel it all around us as our culture frays around the edges and decays from within. We feel it as climate changes, as our city streets grow restive, as political violence spreads across parts of our world emergent from old empires, as too many people cling to various forms of fundamentalisms as a way to cling to certainty in an increasingly chaotic and uncertain world.

These tensions are becoming increasingly intolerable.

So, new creation. Because – there is a way through this!

A lot of the tensions are caused by fear, by a deep feeling of vulnerability, and by how much we are still strangers to one another – wrapping our old sense of identity around us in an effort to feel safe, whether that is racial, ethnic, religious (or not religious), political, or class identities. It is amazing what can happen when we relinquish those identities in the face of their growing unsustainability and give in to the change that is moving us in a new direction – one of inclusivity, mutuality and solidarity as we come to realize that we are all in this together, and the only way we will get through is – together.

New Creation

New Creation

Nurturing one another, as the soil, seed, rain, and sun – making life happen, all the elements with something essential to contribute.

As you create programs in your own communities, we hope you will think of us and this project. We would love to work with you, to be invited into your “places” where we can do some of this work together. That is also one of the ways we sustain this project.

And then, of course, donations are much needed. So if you, your churches, your groups, might be able to contribute right now, that would be enormously helpful.

We look forward to sharing more of this journey with you. If you have not yet done so, you can sign up to receive updates and blog posts via email. We also invite you to visit our Center for New Creation Facebook page, to add us to your “likes,” and to be part of the conversation.

In ecological hope…

Margaret Swedish

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Rethinking the Center for New Creation and the work of ecological hope

Posted January 21st, 2015 in Featured, New Creation News Comments Off on Rethinking the Center for New Creation and the work of ecological hope
January 21, 2015

Dear Friends,

We just posted an update on this project and on the Center for New Creation, the non-profit that is our fiscal sponsor, at the “About SEH” tab above. As we have written previously, we are in the process of dissolving the project, Spirituality and Ecological Hope, into the work of the Center – not yet a physical center, but a virtual center that gathers together some of the crucial reflection and work that is being done to respond to the ecological crises of our times.

We hope you’ll take a moment to read this update, help spread the word (perhaps by sharing this link), and invite your communities to join us in this journey.

And thank you.

Margaret Swedish

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