Well, not far. We’re still active, busy, doing many things, just not posting here lately, because…
Because we’re doing some major rethinking about our work priorities. And there is much more to come on this whole topic in the next few weeks. But just to give you an idea…
We want to better integrate the program priorities of our little non-profit and its mission with the realities of injustice, racism, poverty, and the reasons for the culture’s almost complete political dysfunction, the breakdown of our social and cultural institutions. Those of you who have followed us for some time are aware that we have been writing about and struggling with this for some time. The ecological crisis we face has been boiled down in the mainstream culture to a struggle to slow down global warming and climate change. This is not the problem. It is evidence of the problem, and if we choose this narrow path, we are going to make bad decisions – like attempting to geo-engineer the atmosphere.
To make this shift, we have been embedding ourselves more deeply in the inner city reality of Milwaukee and making connections with some of the grassroots groups in the Upper Midwest that are engaged in the radical work of meaningful new creation, in other words, standing on the ground of their deep connections with home, with local eco-communities, especially those under severe threat, and from there creating significant expressions of how we are going to “change the world.”
Examples are becoming legion! From Milwaukee’s Alice’s Garden and Walnut Way, to work in NW Indiana in the shadows of the BP refinery and the mess left in the wake of the steel industry and other industries that have made the area one big toxic waste zone, to the work to stop frac sand mining in Wisconsin’s western counties, or to impede Enbridge plans to expand and construct new oil pipelines across our states, to water issues, and more.
We want to use our space here, and our work out in the community, to bring more of this to light, to see that the Earth is responding mightily and loudly now in the face of the damage of our industrial cultures through these grassroots efforts, this “rising up from below.”
And then, to do what we aspire to do, we want to develop a new website. We will continue to use this blog platform until that is ready to be launched sometime later this year.
Later today I will be offering a keynote address at Marquette University to help launch their annual Mission Week. The title of the talk is, “What do we mean when we call the Earth ‘sacred?'” Many do, and few appreciate how radical a statement that is. To say, as cultures have for millennia predating most western religions, that the Earth is sacred is an indictment of our industrial growth economy. This realization is spreading all across the world now, from indigenous cultures, from within many of those western traditions, and from various iterations of “earth spiritualities” coming to birth around the world. This is a great source of hope.
So please stay tuned. Sign up for email updates. And check out our Facebook page and “like” us there to receive posts in your news feed.
I apologize for the long silence. We are breaking it now.
Excerpt from the talk I will give today:
The point I want to make today is this: if we believe that the Earth is sacred, then we have to live as if that is true. And we have to treat it accordingly. We must live within it as if the creation out of which we were born is itself manifestation of the deeper mystery that we call God, or the Great Spirit, or any number of names humans have given to that mystery down through the ages. There are few things in the human experience more common to us than this sense that at the heart of creation is mystery, what we call the divine.
In this age of ecological crisis coming about because of how humans have shaped their economies and cultures, we are faced with a profound and deeply religious and ethical question – what have we done with this place of divine revelation? How have we entered into and walked around in this sanctuary, this sacred place?
When we take in fully the content of what it means to call the Earth sacred, what we do next becomes remarkably clear.
Friends, these past several weeks have been busy, intense, full of hard news about the state of the world and good news about the paths of new creation that are being carved out in the midst of these challenging times. That rhythm, that dissonant beat, will be with us now for the foreseeable future – several generations at least. The significance of our time is that we are the generation that must begin to chart the course of new creation, carve the paths to the new ways of life that the planet’s limits and the emerging collapses of the industrial growth model of economics will force on us, willingly or not.
Per person US eco demand and resource supply. Can’t live like this anymore. Source: Global Footprint Network
What we choose in this project is to embrace the coming transition willingly. Rather than be passive, resigned, overwhelmed, depressed, we welcome the opportunity to participate in something so fundamental to what it means to be alive, to be conscious beings in this time on this planet, taking responsibility for our role in the Earth’s community of life. We can make the deliberate decision to move away from a destructive culture – destructive of life, of living ecological communities, of human communities, of rich and abundant biodiversity – to a new ecological culture in which we restore our appropriate place in the ecological whole and become partners with Nature, participants in the work of healing, regeneration, and a new human community amid the whole.
As most of you know, right now the CNC is rather humble as an “institution.” We remain “virtual,” without the resources for “place,” a space where we can situate an office, a gathering place for mutual learning and support around the core themes of our work. We wish we had that. We will continue to search for that “space” and for the resources to make it happen.
But despite the lack of a physical location, we/I get out into communities most days, offering presentations, facilitating conversations, getting to know some of the most inspiring “best practices” of grassroots communities. Part of our mission is to help in the vast task of raising consciousness about the ecological crisis, the broken human relationship within Nature that has resulted in so much damage to the planet, seeing what it is in the lifestyles that this culture assumes and presumes as if it can go on forever but which are in reality leading us down a very destructive path. And we work to raise consciousness about the possibilities for moving out of that culture into something new, the next transition for human life within the whole of creation – a transition that is necessary if we are to survive.
Source: Global Footprint Network – excellent resource!
Here is a sample of our work since our last post on Sept. 9:
*I have viewed the film, Planetary, with several small community groups, and helped facilitate lively and passionate conversation that always arises from this gorgeous and inspiring view of both the planetary crisis and the wonder and awe of this place that is our home;
*I have traveled to Cleveland to deliver a lecture at John Carroll University in anticipation of the 35th anniversary of the murders of four US missionaries in El Salvador on Dec. 2, 1980, Maura Clark, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan. Cleveland faith-based groups are carrying out a series of programs leading up to the date and this was the first one. As long time co-coordinator, then director of the Religious Task Force on Central America & Mexico in Washington DC (1981-2004), this story formed an overarching narrative (that, and the witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero) for our work as we played a national role in the Central America solidarity movement during those years. The invitation to speak at JCU allowed me the opportunity to revisit this story and to unpack it for our time – what it tells us about how to live within, or how to approach, a time of crisis and upheaval as faithful witnesses to new ways of life in the face of the devastation of the old. It was also a special opportunity to tie together the inescapably interrelated themes of ecological and social justice (can’t have one without the other);
*After returning from Cleveland, I offered a presentation on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si': On Care for our Common Home, for an event organized by the Catholics for Peace and Justice, located in the Greater Milwaukee area, with support from several faith-based institutional sponsors on a sunny Saturday morning. The turnout was terrific and the passion level high;
* That focus continued as I did three presentations on one day for staff, members and associate members of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee.
And there’s more: continuing to meet with a group in Middleton WI planning an Oct. 2016 ecology & spirituality retreat day at a monastery near Madison; meeting with the Peace & International Issues Committee of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee to plan the annual Tuesdays in March lecture series which will focus in 2016 on some of the major issues confronting us in the next election cycle; and attending an excellent conference, A Tapestry of Sustainability, at Alverno College.
So these are a few highlights from the past 4 weeks (one of the reasons it’s been hard to post more regularly here). We also continue to be the convener for a small group that meets once a month for “centering” (what we refer to as “centering for new creation”), sitting in silence for 40 minutes, sharing what emerges, sharing food and each other’s company. Groups like these are another way we discover the emerging path of new creation, because it lies in the hearts and longings of each of us.
Trigger Happy Star Formation – Chandra X-Ray Observatory, NASA
I also continue meeting with a “new cosmology” book group, another “space” in which we allow our minds and spirits to open to the new revelations of science and spirituality that are collapsing old paradigms that no longer work, as we articulate new ones that do, that arise from what we humans are learning from new cosmological discoveries and the new physics. We have even taken on quantum theory (!!) proving that with a little effort we can all begin to grasp these wonders of how creation actually works.
I wanted to share these CNC activities of the past few weeks because I’m not sure that everyone who visits here is aware of all we do, of what the CNC is. We don’t have a physical “space,” but we have extended community, we grow and are challenged along with many others, and we do a lot of work.
And there is still more. There are the connections we are making beyond Milwaukee and Wisconsin to other activists, especially in the Upper Midwest, to other ecology and spirituality centers around the country, to networks like Sisters of Earth that are part of the ongoing organic collaboration among so many inspired groups and individuals around the country. By way of the internet, those connections extend beyond the U.S. to Canada, England, and more.
Finally, we created a Center for New Creation Facebook page, which now has hundreds of followers. If you are on Facebook, we encourage you to “like” the page to stay in touch with us, and perhaps invite your Facebook friends to do so as well. It has become another vehicle for posting important news as well as inspiration from a variety of sources. Not everyone likes Facebook but, aware of all its faults, we have found it to be an invaluable social media platform for connecting with hundreds of groups that inspire us and among whom we get a sense of the world that is being created from the grassroots all around the world.
The Athabasca River long before it reaches the toxic world of Alberta’s tar sands. Photo: Margaret Swedish
Busy? Yes. Is all this work funded? Some, not all. For a student group without a budget, like the group planning the UWM program, I often work for free. With others, we work on a sliding scale. But without the sustained support of a budget funded by donors and a few small grants, we would not be able to do a lot of this work, including the planning work for various events.
We want our supporters and donors to have some idea of what this project is, what it looks like, what it is trying to do, as one source of emergent energy for the new creation we must bring about while there is still time to avert real ecological catastrophe. I will follow up this New Creation News update again next week because there is more to tell.
Our biggest needs right now, why we need your support:
1) we need a new website, seriously! This glorified WordPress blog platform is not powerful or flexible enough for what we want to do – engage a conversation here, an exchange, with other partners making new creation, to start some serious cross-fertilization, especially around integrating the work of ecological and social justice (did I mention that we can’t have one without the other?).
2) we still dream of the physical space where people can gather for some ongoing deep reflection on the meaning of new creation, sharing experiences, wisdom, stories, and visions that can help animate us all into the future. Nothing like it yet exists in this corner of the world.
Once again, our bank account is pretty depleted. We hope some of you reading this might contribute to help us take this project to the next level. Your donations are tax deductible. Visit our DONATION pageto contribute via PayPal or by check and mail.
You can also support us by inviting me to do a program in your community. After 24 years in the Central America solidarity movement and 9 years working on the themes of ecology and spirituality, I have a lot of experience gathered up now and am always eager to work with local groups to contribute as I can to the work of education and grassroots empowerment.
Thanks for reading this far. Thanks for sharing the hopes, the dreams, the urgency of New Creation.
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…
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 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
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.
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
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;
* 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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.