Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Two Years Later
distributed 9/5/03 - ©2003

Like most people in the US, I have a vivid recollection of where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001. But my memories have a different twist.

On that Tuesday morning, I woke up in a National Forest campground in the mountains two hours from Denver. I spent the early part of the day photographing wildflowers and reading. In the afternoon, I took a leisurely drive along back roads, delighting in the vibrant fall colors of the aspen trees.

At 4:00 that afternoon, as I started to turn my thoughts back to civilization, I clicked on the radio. By then, over 9 hours after the first jet had slammed into the World Trade Center, NPR was into analysis instead of reporting, and it took about 15 minutes for me to piece together horrifying the details of what had happened.

Probably 99% of the US population heard the news before I did. I still wonder how my experience of the event -- of not spending the day watching the story unfold, and of hearing commentary about terrorism before I heard of the terror itself -- has shaped my understandings and my reactions.

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As we approach September 11, 2003, the world of our everyday experience is far removed from what any of us could have imagined before 9/11/01.

In reaction to the terrorist attacks, a vast swath of people of the US dramatically enlarged their circle of concern, reaching beyond self, family and neighborhood to claim a passionate patriotism. (And those of us who had already been living from an even larger circle of global awareness have been criticized frequently for not contracting our concern to a nationalistic focus.)

The US -- already the world's military, economic and cultural superpower -- has asserted its right to unilaterally shape global events and policies. Historic principles about the appropriate justification for war have crumbled. The United Nations has been weakened.

The US has launched two wars western Asia, toppling brutal governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our government is now finding that it is an extremely difficult task to establish security, stability and democracy in the post-war turmoil of those countries.

George W. Bush -- who was a weak, embattled president of questioned competence and legitimacy two years ago -- became a resoundingly popular wartime president. Mr. Bush has used his newfound political capital to push through tax cuts, laws and administrative policies that would have been unlikely before the terrorist attacks. Among those, the "Patriot Act" and other wartime measures have trampled civil liberties in this country, diminishing the very freedoms that we proudly proclaim to the rest of the world.

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Even as I see the dramatic changes in the last two years, I also remember what the world was like before September 11. I realize that there is much which has not changed.

I had gone to the mountains for two days of relaxing and re-centering, so that I would have the energy and focus to dive into a challenging fall of eco-justice advocacy. The world that I left for a brief vacation on September 10 was far from idyllic. And many of the problems that claimed my attention two years ago are still with us.

The president and the Republican leadership are still pushing an absurd energy policy that seeks to expand resource consumption, and does essentially nothing for conservation. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still the symbolic battleground for how far we are willing to go in feeding our addiction to fossil fuels.

The concentrations of greenhouse gasses are still increasing, the Kyoto Protocols are still not ratified, and the Bush administration continues to reject the many available and effective ways of addressing the problem of global climate change.

The forces of economic globalization continue to spread webs of commerce around the world. The trade agreements which enable that expansion overturn sovereignty and democracy, undermine community life and social values, and hold up financial profit as their primary goal. New agreements that will expand those webs are in the works.

Communities in the US -- most often populated with people of color and the poor -- are still severely impacted by toxic waste and many forms of pollution. Key laws and programs that had provided some help and protection, such as the Clean Air Act and the Superfund program, have been weakened.

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More than two years ago, Eco-Justice Ministries was lifting up a faithful vision of shalom -- of peace, justice and harmony for all of God's creation. In the days before 9/11, that message for the world was sorely needed.

In the last 24 months, the need for a hopeful, transformative vision of shalom has not diminished. Indeed, the changes that have taken place in the last two years make the need even greater. New political and economic realities make the struggle even harder.

I pray that churches around the world -- and perhaps especially in the US -- will be enlightened and enlivened by the liberating Spirit of God. I pray that we will be visible and assertive in proclaiming a message of grace, compassion and community. I pray that we will be tireless in seeking sustainable ways to bring justice to all of God's creation.

And I promise that Eco-Justice Ministries will be a part of that movement, as we continue to both challenge and support individuals, congregations and denominations in the holy work for eco-justice.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

NOTE: These reflections build on what I wrote about A Whole New World on September 28, 2001. The ethical and practical questions raised in that commentary are still appropriate. It is available on our website.


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