Wednesday, July 27, 2016


More from Wild Goose: Green and Black Together

I 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.

But 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.

On 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.

The 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.

At 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.

So 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: , , , , , , , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]