The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries
An Eco-Justice Thanksgiving
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States. Along with too much food and too much football, the holiday is an occasion to pause in gratitude.
As I think back over the past year, I confess that gratitude is not the spiritual quality which spontaneously bubbles up in my soul. We're now almost 10 months into Mr. Trump's tenure as President of this country. It has been a difficult and exhausting time for those of us who are passionate in our contrary visions of the nation, of justice, and of our responsible relationship with the rest of creation.
And yet, gratitude is essential, even in hard times.
This year, I remember a sobering slant to that mythic story of The First Thanksgiving of the Plymouth colony. As one historical source reminds us, "The 53 pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving were the only colonists to survive the long journey on the Mayflower and the first winter in the New World. Disease and starvation struck down half of the original 102 colonists." Their gratitude emerged from struggle and loss. They gave thanks in the midst of sorrow.
Pausing to discern blessings and to lift up gratitude is especially important in difficult times. Giving thanks lifts us out of the day-to-day wash of troubling headlines and desperate action alerts. Pausing in gratitude grounds us in our deeper values and commitments, and gives us perspective about larger trends.
This Friday, in anticipation of next week's holiday, I'll briefly touch on a few places -- within the realm of eco-justice topics -- where I find reason for thanksgiving.
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Today was the last day of COP23, the UN climate talks held this year in Bonn, Germany. I am profoundly grateful that the international community is holding to the commitments of the Paris Agreement made two years ago. The United States is the only UN member state to pull back. All the other nations standing firm, and finding new opportunities as the world takes the climate crisis seriously. The US stance of denial and short-sighted self-interest is being marginalized, and other nations are stepping up in their leadership and commitments.
I give thanks, too, for the "U.S. People's Delegation" which has been present in Bonn. The unofficial contingent representing ordinary citizens, several states, and many cities has been visible and vocal in saying that the commitment to climate justice is alive and well throughout our nation. I found joy in seeing clips of one protest -- at the US panel presentation in support of fossil fuels and nuclear energy -- where a crowd of youth rose from their seats to sing, and then walk out, leaving the panel members to talk to a mostly empty room.
I give thanks that the climate commitment of US cities, states, businesses and civic groups is not only seen in their statements at COP23, but is growing and strengthening. 150 US mayors have now signed onto the "Ready for 100" campaign, pledging to power their communities with 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Some state governments are pushing ahead with strong initiatives. Speaking in Bonn this week, California Governor Jerry Brown said, "We are not waiting for all the deniers, we are committing ourselves to do everything possible to get on the side of nature instead of fighting it, to deal with the climate change challenge in a real way."
I give thanks for the persistent activism across a wide range of environmental and justice issues. When the Trump administration ordered a "review" of many newer National Monuments, over 2 million comments were filed. One analysis said that about 90% of those statements called for protecting the monuments -- an outpouring of support that has limited the damage to these precious lands. Throughout this year, dedicated people have continued to call (and call, and call) their members of Congress, making their opinions known on health care, immigration and the "dreamers", and more.
I give thanks for the many agencies that Eco-Justice Ministries looks to as partners, allies and coalition members. Through this year, we have been strengthened and guided in our witness and activism by their expertise. In the faith-based realm, I think of our close friends at Creation Justice Ministries, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, GreenFaith, Earth Ministry and the Interfaith Power and Light network. There are too many secular agencies to list, each standing firm on their particular issues and approaches. And I give thanks for the growing move toward cooperation and movement building among all of those groups, recognizing that we're all working on a common cause.
I give thanks for the courts of the United States, which have claimed their role as an independent branch of the US government. This year, lawsuits have blocked or tempered many of the most outrageous actions of the Trump administration.
I give thanks for the multitudes of committed people working within the US government who have continued to honor the mission of their agencies. I think of the folk who have recently prepared the US National Climate Assessment, an authoritative report on climate science which clearly names the facts and the urgency of this crisis, and which clearly contradicts the climate denial of the White House and so many in Congress. I think of the creative acts of resistance, such as the "Alt National Park Service", where NPS employees -- on their own time -- have refused to be silenced about science and history.
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Next week, we will gather in houses of worship and around dinner tables to give thanks. The list that I have just offered touches on just a small part of what can be celebrated that day. For most of us, there is so much for which we can be profoundly thankful.
To be honest, my listing from the perspective of Eco-Justice Ministries may have many items that cannot be named at your family gathering. My list is politically controversial. You may not want to read it if your gathering is philosophically split. Be prudent as well as honest in your Turkey Day conversations!
Whether your eco-justice thanks are named out loud, or recited silently, do take time in the next week to be strengthened by gratitude. In what has been a challenging year, there is much to celebrate in our global community working for God's shalom and the well-being of the Earth Community.
By the way, Eco-Justice Ministries has a long-standing tradition that our entire staff takes time off for the Thanksgiving weekend. We won't be sending out Eco-Justice Notes next Friday; the next Notes is scheduled for December 1.
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