went to the Wild Goose Festival for spiritual refreshment and
retreat. The events of this violent, unmoored world followed me
there. In particular, my newly-attuned ear for racism and white
privilege was further calibrated as the community responded to events
unfolding over the weekend. Black folks took the lead, and I learned
that my job was to tune in and listen deeply, learning from them what
they needed from me. I came home and joined Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), who work closely with Black Lives Matter.
my ear was also attuned to ecojustice issues, and there was a
smattering of workshops addressing them. I had planned to go to the
Creation Care Alliance
of WNC sponsored panel on Friday, but the big
names were rallying the crowd in response to the shootings, and I
felt a strong need to be there. I ran into friends from the panel
over the weekend, and it felt good to be in solidarity with them
Scott Hardin-Nieri has brought much-needed new blood to the
organization, which I have joined again after many years' absence.
Scott has charisma, compassion, and strategic wits, as well as
organizational leadership skills. I look forward to working with
Scott and the growing list of WNC congregations who have joined hands
under the Alliance's umbrella.
Sunday morning I had a sweet reunion with my old buddies from NC Interfaith Power and Light
. I met the new director, Susannah
Tuttle, at the Katherine Hayhoe Asheville events this spring,
and have been impressed with her leadership. Susannah carefully
explained the shift in tactics from the liberal know-it-all position
to one of finding common ground with your neighbor, focused more on
listening than teaching. Then my old friend Penny Hooper shared a
remarkable story revealing the faith community's role in the Obama
Administration's recent decision to halt mid-Atlantic exploratory oil
drilling (reviewed every 5 years). Penny and Mark, who is a
commercial fisherman, live in Smyrna, near Morehead City on the NC
coast, surrounded by swarms of conservatives. As a retired college
biology teacher, Penny knows plenty about what's at risk with climate
change and offshore drilling. She did some careful strategizing,
leading to a non-partisan campaign under the name Concerned
Citizens, comprising multiple coastal towns.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held its final review this spring.
It was attended by four mid-Atlantic governors' energy staffers in
the morning, then a mandated consultation with Big Greens and
citizens' groups like Penny's in the afternoon. At that meeing, BOEM
chief Abby Hoffer told the enviros they were doing a great job of
organizing – with one exception. “Where are the faith voices
here?” she asked. Penny spoke up and said she thought she could
bring that voice to the table. She went home and called Susannah.
The two of them came up with a statement for Susannah to take to a
meeting of NC church judicatories, which was occurring,
providentially, in four days. The assembly heard the statement and
unanimously adopted the no-drill position as an expression of
creation care stewardship. These assembled churches represented 1.5
million members from 6200 congregations. This was definitely a
voice. Within days, on March 15, President Obama announced the
moratorium on Atlantic drilling, a policy reversal. The ecojustice
community is pressing the administration to make the same decision
with drilling in the Gulf and the Arctic. May activists take their
cue from NC Power and Light, who have done us and the battered ocean
an immense service.
the memorial service on Saturday, Geeta had engaged a dignified
black woman reverend with clear gifts as a contemplative leader.
Finally finding a place she could identify with in the police
killings, she compared her experience as a mother of teen-aged sons
with Dele's, who had raised hers in D.C., where they changed buses
twice each way en route to school through tough neighborhoods. From
this perspective, what black families endure every day sunk in.
Now, at the end the presentations, Susannah recognized Reverend Dele,
who promoted an upcoming conference in Eastern NC, ”A Sustainable Race.”
Reverend Dele quietly explained that the ecojustice issues that the
white middle class focused upon were not the same as her community's.
Each community needed to listen to each other about their particular
ecojustice troubles. For the black community in eastern NC, the
problems stemming from hog lagoons, unaddressed since the 1970's, are
central. A conference “opening new streams of justice in our
environmental and food systems” sounds like a place where white
privilege could be of service to a common cause.
where do we go from here? I read a piece
awhile back suggesting
that a coalition of Green and Black, broadly and deeply united
through overlapping ecojustice issues, could give the ecojustice
movement the momentum to make a final push into the mainstream of
political action. The author pointed to the history of the civil
rights movement as instructive, suggesting that climate action
leaders sit down with elders from the civil rights movement. With
the climate action movement taking increasingly to the streets, the
time for training in civil disobedience and effective tactics is
ripe. And the civil rights movement was rooted in the churches and
Jesus's social gospel, which belongs at the core of this work. The
solidarity of heretofore separate parts of civil society would be a
tremendous boost for each. With a monumental election looming before
us, the necessity for joining forces is immense. It's time for the
movement we've been waiting for to come of age. Now.
Labels: A Sustainable Race, Abigail Hoffer, Atlantic drilling moratorium, Black Lives Matter, Bureau of Ocean Management, Creation Care Alliance, NC IPL, Rev Dele, SURJ, Wild Goose Festival