I have spent countless hours over the last several years working on the issues of shale oil/gas fracking, climate change, and renewable energy, primarily through online commentary. Although I make my case using science, real-world experience, sociology, and economics, much of my personal energy for this work comes from my grounding in the principles of Catholic social doctrine and my calling to live them to the best of my abilities.
Earlier this month, I was very grateful to attend a workshop/retreat entitled “Healing the World: One Step at a Time” led by the Rev. Dr. Bruce Epperly. It was designed as a time to reflect on challenges to our natural and human environment as we in the Christian churches prepare for the Lenten season. The timing was perfect for me because just as we in New York received the fantastic, unexpected news of a planned ban on high volume hydrofracking (HVHF), I developed a case of shingles, which kept me from participating in the spontaneous celebrations that happened in the following days. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to see some of the other people who had worked so hard on this cause and to meet others who were also working on caring for creation, including humanity, and to renew our hope as we continue our work.
There were so many important reminders:
To remember to take time away from activity to reflect, pray, and renew.
To not let opponents become dehumanized in our own minds, which I manage quite well with my environmental advocacy, even in the face of derogatory comments directed at me, but less well when it comes to confronting those who commit atrocities such as the terror attacks in France or the horrible massacres and kidnappings by Boko Haram in Nigeria.
To not get caught in the either/or of dualism.
To realize that one small action or prayer can have an effect in the world that we can neither predict not know, a principle that played out for us in the battle against HVHF in New York, where hundreds of thousands of individual actions added up to what had seemed to be an improbable, or even impossible, victory.
To challenge what is in need of reform while offering an alternative path that is good, sustainable, life-giving, and cognizant of the interdependence of creation, which, while I understand that to be within the concept of God-who-is-Love, exists both within and apart from spiritual traditions.
One of the great gifts of the workshop was a special video message to us from Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and one of the world’s leading voices on climate change issues. I had expected a somewhat generic welcome and acknowledgment but was stunned at how personally Bill spoke to us. It was obvious that he knew our area of the country, calling Interstate 88 “Warren Anderson’s driveway”, which is an inside, local joke, and talking about our beautiful rolling hills and our history of technological innovation. He recognized the immense work of the Broome County fractivists, which was very meaningful to me because, however hard we worked to get our message out there, it seemed that the public perception of our county was that our pro-fracking politicians were speaking for their constituents rather than for themselves, the JLCNY, and the fossil fuel and other business interests who gave them campaign contributions. While I will always be grateful to our allies in Ithaca and the Catskills and NYC and around New York State and our beleaguered friends from PA who fought so hard for our cause, it was heartening to know that Bill McKibben recognized our efforts here as vital to the victory.
Bill went on speaking to us from both an environmental and a faith perspective, challenging us to build new sustainable systems. I appreciated him mentioning building up local agriculture, in which initiatives are already underway with more to come, and alternative energy, another area in which we have already made advances and hope to build upon rapidly now that we no longer have the threat of HVHF’s industrialization and pollution making our homes unpleasant or unlivable. I think everyone in the room loved when Bill spoke of taking “energy from above, rather than below.” Such a potent metaphor. No to fossil fuels. No to negativity. Yes to wind, water, and sun. Yes to responsible use of biomass/biofuels. Yes to heat pumps (Even though the geothermal ones probably fit in the “below” category, I’m claiming them for the surface.) Yes to the energy of people taking action to protect the environment and to protect people, especially those most vulnerable to the ravages of poverty and climate change. Yes to the power of Divine Love, which we envision as coming to us from above, but which also surrounds us in creation and imbues us with energy to protect and cherish every being and every thing.
Bill McKibben said, “People of faith bring their own reasons.” I thank him, Dr. Epperly, all the workshop participants, the Peace with Justice Committee of the Broome County Council of Churches and all the other sponsors for reminding me of my reasons and renewing my energy to continue to serve God in love through cooperating with others to care for creation – the environment, creatures, and humanity.
This post is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January: http://lindaghill.com/2015/01/01/just-jot-it-january-pingback-post-and-rules/