Eco-Justice Ministries  

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

Lenten Invitations to Action
distributed 3/8/19 - ©2019

The Christian season of Lent began on Wednesday. These 40 days before Easter traditionally have been seen as a time for study, prayer, and personal spiritual disciplines. Those are good and necessary things ... but in these dangerous times, a season of penance calls for a more active form of prayerful engagement.

Several close colleagues of Eco-Justice Ministries are inviting us to join in specific and timely actions dealing with the climate crisis and clean water. I urge you to look at their invitations -- for endorsements and commitments, for public witness, and for written prayers -- as spiritual disciplines that join us as a community of faith as we act for the protection of God's creation.

***** Climate and the Green New Deal *****

It was just a month ago that a resolution was introduced in the US Congress calling for a Green New Deal. (I dealt with it briefly and rather obliquely in early February.)

In a strong historic echo of the New Deal that created strong federal programs to end the Great Depression of the 1930s, this new "green" proposal seeks to address the two interlocking crises of climate change and economic inequality. (In his encyclical, Pope Francis said that we don't have two crises, "but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental." The idea is the same, however we count them!)

What has been introduced in Congress is resolution, not legislation. It outlines five goals, 14 projects and 15 requirements that could define many pieces of future legislation. This resolution has only been introduced. There has not been a vote, and it may be amended before a vote. But this fairly short (14 pages) and technical document has clearly and concisely named the crises and pointed to the level of action that is needed.

The notion of a bold and comprehensive Green New Deal has caught public attention in a way that one more set of committee hearings on climate science could not. The proposal for a GND has inspired imagination and hope among a sizable majority of people in the US, and has ignited passionate opposition from others.

In that polarized setting, it is helpful to be able to step back just a bit and get our ethical bearings. Our good friends of Interfaith Power and Light have outlined several important principles under four broad headings (truth and science, restoration and renewal, compassion and fairness, and interdependence across boundaries) which they say "are central to responding faithfully to the opportunity to achieve the goals of the Green New Deal."

AN INVITATION: The IPL principles help set any discussion of a Green New Deal within a faithful moral context. You are invited to endorse the principles by adding your name and email address to an IPL form.

Naomi Klein has written a thoughtful article on the proposed Green New Deal that helped me grasp some of the historical background for the GND resolution, and helped me see the unifying perspectives behind the resolution's list of projects. In an echo of the IPL statement of principles, she wrote: "the onus is on all of us who support it to help make the case for how our overlapping crises are indeed inextricably linked -- and can only be overcome with a holistic vision for social and economic transformation."

She also was forthright about the political powers that are lining up for and against the proposal. She outlined the convergence of events and movements that made the first New Deal possible, and compared those to the political divisions of today. She gives both warning and encouragement:

"the kind of mass power that delivered the victories of the New Deal era is far beyond anything possessed by current progressive movements, even if they all combined efforts. That's why it is so urgent to use the Green New Deal framework as a potent tool to build that power -- a vision to both unite movements and dramatically expand them."

Building strong new movements requires that we join together beyond political parties. People of faith can, and must, stand up as advocates and activists for policies that align with our values.

AN INVITATION: Our close colleagues at GreenFaith are helping to organize and mobilize people of all faiths and spiritualities in supporting the Green New Deal. They invite you -- not just to add your name to a petition -- but to subscribe to a mailing list that will "offer tools to help you move into action, and share our vision for a better tomorrow" -- including an upcoming webinar. I urge you to join me in signing up for that list.

Much of the media coverage of the Green New Deal has focused on one of the resolution's sponsors, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But the idea didn't emerge from her. The idea for a GND came from the youth-led Sunrise Movement, which for several years has been "building an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process."

All around the world, students and youth have been at the forefront of the work for climate justice. has an inspiring summary of recent global student activism, including dramatic school walk-outs and strikes.

Next Friday, on the 15th of March, US students will join in the first Global Strike for the Future. Their demands include a Green New Deal, and go far beyond that congressional resolution, demanding clean water, an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure, and much more. This kind of coordinated student activism has been overdue in the US, and it is a promising sign of youth leadership.

AN INVITATION: Spread the word of the Global Strike for the Future to young people who might want to participate in this youth-led movement, with events scheduled across the US. Join with the youth at an event near you -- parents and other adult allies are welcome to gather in support of the youth.

***** Pray for Clean Water *****

Over four years ago, Eco-Justice Notes (The Waters of Garden Gulch) described the clean water rules then being proposed by the Obama administration, and urged our readers to submit comments in support.

In the Trump era, the Environmental Protection Agency is issuing a new regulation regarding waterways, which (not surprisingly) will overturn much of the previous rule. The new regulations would have negative effects on drinking water, waterways, and wetlands. Public comments on the revised rules are open until April 15.

I heard this week from Cassandra Carmichael, of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, about a Lent-focused effort to protect clean water. The NRPE is collecting prayers to be sent to the EPA during the comment period. Their initiative is a creative way to bring a distinctively religious voice into the public comments.

AN INVITATION: Join senior religious leaders, clergy and lay leaders in writing prayers that the EPA uphold its mission to protect human health and clean water. Prayers are invited in formats that could be used either in congregational or personal settings. Find more information and a submission form on the NRPE website.

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Lent is a season of reflection when we are intentional about connecting faith and our daily life. The four invitations in today's Notes -- three of them from our close partners in the faith-based environmental movement -- provide opportunities for Lenten reflection and action that extend beyond the personal, stretching us into public witness and advocacy.

As acts of faith and spiritual discipline, I urge you to join me responding enthusiastically to these invitations.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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