While We Still Can
by Paul Chaffee
The decision to devote the September TIO to eco-justice came months before Harvey, Irma, and Jose ravaged the Caribbean, Texas, Florida, and eastern Mexico with torrential wind and water, before all-time heat records in the West sparked hundreds of fires, muddying the atmosphere, claiming lives and homes and businesses along the way. It came before the blustering bravado of North Korea and the White House threatened nuclear violence here and abroad. Even before the U.S. abandoned the Paris Climate Accords, we’ve been collecting material about eco-justice.
So the dozen articles in TIO this month represent but a hint of the remarkable resources available in these days of ripe anxiety – resources to address climate change, accelerating natural disasters, and personal engagement. The September issue begins with the environmental wisdom of a Hindu teenager; and then come stories to teach kids to value the creation. Lest we start to generalize too quickly about these lovely possibilities, though, Katherine Marshall offers a broadside to the religions of the world for not paying nearly enough attention to the future of the Earth and all living things.
Following this comes a cry from the head and the heart to undo the threat of our greatest environmental risk, nuclear weapons. A “Call to Conscience” comes from a United Religions Initiative study group in San Francisco. They invite you to go to www.thenuclearprayer.org to read the Call and view their Nuclear Prayer video. Doing so is a powerful personal way to express your support for the September 21 International Day of Peace being celebrated at thousands of sites around the world next week, and a great tool in waking folks up.
Underlying everything in this ‘eco-justice’ issue is a new focus on the ethical, generative importance of values in addressing the crises around us. Sustainability is a frequent issue. The matter of “intergenerational equity” has gone into litigation. A landmark federal lawsuit seeking to establish “a legal right to a stable climate and a healthy atmosphere for all present and future generations” is making its way through the courts. Twenty-one young people, aged 9 to 20, brought the suit against the president, various federal agencies, and the fossil fuel industry over their failure to avert climate change. It was filed in 2015, won a victory last year at the U.S. District Court level, and remains in litigation.
In spite of the troubling observations that organized religion has been far too slow in responding to issues of eco-justice, the rest of this issue is a small treasury from theologians, activists, and visionaries. Along with their sometimes cruel clarity about what is happening in the world, they are also expert witnesses for good things emerging. While many despair of the world, they point to sources of hope. The Earth and its teaming creatures are still alive and sometimes thriving, and we are the ones who can do something about making it better for us all.
The concluding essay by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim is the single best article on eco-justice I’ve ever read. Read it. Share it. Preach it. Near the end of their essay, they quote Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book The Evolving Self (1993):
It is no longer possible for mankind to blunder about self-indulgently. Our species has become too powerful to be led by instincts alone. Birds and lemmings cannot do much damage except to themselves, whereas we can destroy the entire matrix of life on the planet. The awesome powers we have stumbled into require a commensurate responsibility. As we become aware of the motives that shape our actions, as our place in the chain of evolution becomes clearer, we must find a meaningful and binding plan that will protect us and the rest of life from the consequences of what we have wrought.
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Three years ago, a college junior in Wisconsin contacted TIO and asked if we would be interested in an article from her about the Interfaith Youth Core, its founder Eboo Patel, and the leadership conferences IFYC holds on campuses across the land. Absolutely interested. From that assignment to many others, through an extended internship, Megan Weiss went on to become TIO’s webmaster, design a new website, build a digital library for the archive, oversee social media, write more articles, and, most recently, edit the articles we publish and secure graphics for them. Most of the content this month was selected and edited by Megan.
No wonder then, that TIO is happy to let the world know that Megan Weiss is now TIO’s Associate Editor. TIO has grown throughout her involvement, and we look forward to her participation going forward.
On a personal note, Megan is half way through her master’s degree in interfaith-engaged interdisciplinary studies. And this fall she will be married to Nikoli Anderson! All congratulations to you both!
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