Friday, December 26, 2014

Postcards from Peru, Part 2: Negotiating a Foreign Land

The woman sitting beside me on the plane from Atlanta to Peru was traveling home to visit, she said, after many years in Indianapolis with her son and daughter-in-law. She spoke no English. Of course I did not get her picture, but had she not been dressed in western clothes she might have resembled the beautiful women here.

My Spanish was laborious and shaky, wrestled from daily walks along the Ohio, listening first to Pimsleur lessons from the library and, when these ran out, a program called Platiquemos. I told her I had never spoken Spanish with a real person before. We started out with names and travel plans, but as we talked she would forget how poor my skills were, and speak longer and faster, till I would pull her short with “Mas temprano, por favor,” and “Puede repitar, por favor?” Then we’d get back on track for a few moments, till she took off again.

Though this first encounter was not on our itinerary, traveling mercies usually offer such serendipities: a kind soul, overly confident in my listening abilities, a call to begin tuning up my ears, the first of many Peruvians who assumed I would understand.

She told me that she was a widow, and that she attended a Spanish-speaking Catholic church in east Indianapolis, believed deeply in Jesus, cared for her grandchildren, cooked for her children, and never learned to read or write, not even in Spanish. She showed me how she could sound out letters, but said she couldn’t combine them to make words.

Shortly before we landed, she held up her customs forms and asked for help. Fortunately, they were in Spanish. Even when I could only pronounce the questions without comprehension, she would reply, and I would write. The moment that very nearly made me cry was at the end, when she took the pen from my hand, adjusted it carefully among the aged fingers of her own right hand, and slowly, painstakingly, five seconds per letter, in perfect cursive, wrote her own name.

We spent only a few hours together, and only by chance. But in that brief exchange she gave me a living reminder that humans have made our way on this planet for countless generations, loving, tending, worshiping, working, even traveling and living in foreign lands, without ever learning skills, such as reading and writing, that educated westerners consider basic. And that while illiteracy is more unimaginable to me than living abroad, and poses barriers to human development that I could not wish on anyone, it is no measure of a person’s dignity or inner life.

If English were not so ubiquitous, I too would be illiterate in most every airport on earth. I have, in fact, ventured to neighborhoods, in many countries with nonwestern alphabets and tongues, where I was functionally illiterate and deaf, rescued only by an interpreter’s presence or by American confidence that I could somehow negotiate my way back to linguistic security, which was never far away. I’m not sure what it would be like to make my home where I daily confronted such barriers. I imagine it takes courage, trust, and skill beyond any I have yet exercised.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Postcards from Peru, Part 1

UNFCCC COP20 Lima PeruCOP 20, the twentieth meeting of the UN “Conference of the Parties,” to clarify worldwide agreements for action against climate change, occurred in Lima, Peru the first half of December. There a proposal was drafted to be filled in by each nation and then ratified at COP 21 in Paris next year. This sounds, like most UN work, incredibly bureaucratic. But underlying the tedium is the alarming and indisputable (yet still disputed) threat that climate change poses to human civilization, which this meeting was meant to address. (Even more alarming is that most U.S. citizens were not even aware, much less supporting or praying for its leaders.)

The fact that every nation is committing to cut greenhouse gas emissions is promising. We can be proud that the meeting’s success came at least partly from the U.S.’s surprising greenhouse gas-curbing agreement with China this fall. The catch is that how and how much each nation cuts is to be self-determined and, as climate scientists say, isn’t enough to prevent passing the 2 degree Celsius limit. But halfway there is better than none. Here is a BBC story detailing the conference’s results.

Coinciding with that meeting, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Hunger Program hosted a trip to Peru, in which I participated. I’ve been back more than a week, but trying to write about it has been overwhelming. I’ll just wade in, and continue the story in subsequent posts.

I signed up knowing almost nothing about Peru. Our friends Ruth and Hunter Farrell had spent ten important years in Lima, I knew that. It’s Inca country on the west coast of South America. It’s one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries, which also makes it one of the most sensitive to climate disruption. Lima hugs the Pacific coast (in
the eastern time zone), in a desert with almost zero rainfall. To its east, the stark Andes mountains straddle the country, and even further east, the Amazon rain forest begins that stretch through Brazil. Peru is bordered, moving clockwise from the north, by Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. In our hemisphere, only Brazil has more borders.

The Presbyterian Church’s initiative in Peru and nine other countries is called Joining Hands (in Spanish: Red Uniendo Manos, which has nothing to do with the color red, or communists, just for the record, but means “network joining hands”). Joining Hands partners with work around the world to help eradicate hunger by addressing its causes. Mission Co-Workers Jed Koball and Jenny Valles were our in-country hosts, along with Young Adult Volunteer Kyle Coombs, Andean regional liaison in Columbia Sarah Henken, Bolivia Mission Co-Worker Chenoa Stock, and the knowledgeable and passionate Executive Director of Joining Hands, Conrado Olivera, one of whose articles about environmental impacts in Peru is here.

Jed and Jenny
Six wonderful PCUSA Compassion, Peace, and Justice folks traveled with us, as well as PCUSA moderator Heath Rada and his spouse Peggy Rada. Fourteen more of us from around the U.S. landed in Lima’s airport and were driven through the city’s vast congested maze of speed bumps, Spanish colonial palaces, and concrete-and-rebar constructions to the Convent San José de Cluny.
There we spent a day getting oriented before we rode almost straight up to Peru’s continental divide at 16,000 feet. Two nights in the Andean city of Huancayo, where traffic and music never never cease. Then back to Lima, to be joined by young adults from Peru and Bolivia for three days of conferences, worship, vigil, and a People’s Climate March, Peru edition. Though we saw and heard much, and covered hundreds of bus and van miles (and had the nausea and giddiness to prove it), it wasn’t a sightseeing trip and no, we didn’t visit Machu Picchu.

Jed had sent us a helpful preparation list, which included the links below. The first video should be required viewing for everyone who cares about children, and everyone who buys batteries, electronics, or any other product involving mined metals. For every American who confuses Free Trade with Fair Trade (which is about like confusing hell and heaven), the videos on outsized investor rights are a must-see, showing how little even sovereign nations can control the rising tide of corporate colonialism:

Environmental Degradation from the Extractive Industry
·         House of Lead: Story of Greed  (10 minute video, Joining Hands) 
·         Seeking Justice in Peru  (5 minute video, PC(USA)
·         Spirit of Power (6 minute video, CAMBIALO/Joining Hands)

Excessive Rights for Foreign Investors
·         Coup d´Etat to Trade Seen in Billionaire Toxic Lead Fight (article, Bloomberg News)
·         Trade Agreements vs. Democracy (article, Sojourners)
·         Global Investment Rules: Threat to Democracy and Environment  (10  minute video)
·         Support Trade Reform  (webpage, JH campaign resources)  
·         Shedding Light on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (50 minute JH webinar)

Climate Change
·         Climate Change, Peru: Retreating Glacier (5 minute video, World Bank)
·         Climate Change Exacerbates the Impacts of Extractive Industries  (article, JusticeUnbound)

Lead-polluted river Mantaro in La Oroya
I was watching House of Lead at the home of my daughter-in-law in New York before going. Leyla, a middle school dean who was born in Nicaragua, was working in another room. As she heard in Spanish the interviews I was reading in translation—a woman lamenting her dead children; a young boy deeply infected with lead poisoning but aspiring to be a lawyer and doctor to stop the pollution—we were both left gasping for air. Like I said, required viewing. Should be. For all. Details to follow. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Clergy Speaking Out on Climate Change

A new report entitled “Believers, Sympathizers, and Skeptics: Why Americans Are Conflicted about Climate Change, Environmental Policy, and Science” offers very interesting statistics on American views of climate change. Jointly prepared by the Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion, it highlights views by political and religious affiliation. Among many other things, it discusses frequency of clergy leader discussing climate change by denomination and race, showing Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics more likely to hear about climate change from their pastors than white Catholics of Protestants. It states:
Americans who say their clergy leader speaks at least occasionally about climate change are more likely to be climate change Believers than Americans who tend not to hear about climate change in church. 
Climate Boot Camp is a pilot program being developed by Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light. Recognizing the vital leadership of clergy, we are planning this one-day workshop to train religious leaders to speak boldly and knowledgeably about climate change. It is led by a climate scientist, a biblical scholar, and a local pastor, and concludes with practicum experience and group debriefing.

Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson calls religion and science “the two most powerful forces in the world today.” He comments:
If religion and science could be united on the common ground of biological conservation, the problem would soon be solved. If there is any moral precept shared by people of all beliefs, it is that we owe ourselves and future generations a beautiful, rich, and healthful environment. (The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth [New York: Norton & Co., 2006], 5)
We may search for technological answers to the multiple ecological problems we face, but the questions are really human ones: What do we value? How do our lives and values line up? Religious leaders help shape values, and play a critical role in reaching vast numbers of Americans.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Retreat, Webinars, NPR, and the Shrine

Strange how things converge. Just before a fabulous GreenFaith Fellows retreat at the Quaker retreat center Pendle Hill in eastern Pennsylvania, I was coached into doing two webinars. Within three days. With two different outfits. In between speaking to two classes of middle-schoolers at Sacred Heart school in Jeffersonville and teaching one Bible study at Louisville Seminary and another at First Presbyterian Church. This past year on the road has been such a gift of friendship, learning, and joy. To discover how to teach people across the country from home, at the desk where I wrote the book itself, seemed like coming full circle. 

Here is a link to the GreenFaith Webinar, a lecture and Q&A hosted by GreenFaith's Stacey Kennealy, about Creator and Creation in Scripture. You have to download the ARF player to view it, but it's easy.

And here is a link to the PCUSA webinar with Rebecca Barnes and Bill Brown, “Creation Care: Basic Bible 101.” You have to register to view it, but it doesn't take long.

And because this is way more cool, here is a link to an NPR story about my son Ian’s hip-hop teaching career. To view it, you just have to be hip.

And here is a picture of him performing Saturday night at the Shrine in New York City, along with several of his students. I'm posting this because it's more dazzling than a webinar, and I was so happy to be there.

The new Workbook Fulfillment Center (i.e., our attic) has been kind of fun, sending books out to people all over the place whom I've not met before. So I've made a way to buy the book, the workbook, or both together directly from me, and even get an autograph if you like. CLICK HERE. 

And as always, I would love to hear what you think about the book, the workbook, or the ecological challenges you face in your own locale. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inhabiting Eden Workbook Is Now Available

The new workbook to accompany Inhabiting Eden was ready a month ago, and I've been selling them wherever I've been speaking, but I just now made time to set up the page and to mention it in this blog. Here is the Amazon description:

"This spiral-bound companion to the popular Bible study by Patricia K. Tull, Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis (Westminster John Knox, 2013), invites readers to ponder their own faith-based ecological journeys. Each page offers questions and prompts based on the book, as well as space for recording thoughts, musings, and notes, and for making their own action plans. Like the Bible study, the workbook begins by exploring the problem of change and the many precedents for productive changes in human thinking and action. It goes on to discuss relations between humans and nature as they unfold in the first four chapters of Genesis, and to bring biblical ethics to bear on several interrelated ecological issues: consumerism, agriculture, toxic waste, and climate change. It concludes by inviting consideration of the kind of future we envision for coming generations, and recommending actions aimed toward a hopeful future."

I wrote the workbook because people were telling me they enjoyed the book so much that they were reading it in two days. I am hoping this workbook will offer the chance to slow down and think deeply about our vital ties to creation and our responsibility to take action--action on behalf of future generations, and on behalf of those who are vulnerable to ecological crisis today, both humans and other beings. Groups who are studying the book together may enjoy a deeper, more thoughtful conversation as they share what they themselves wrote in response to the book and the workbook's prompt questions. 

Buying the workbook directly from me is less expensive than on Amazon: $12 each plus shipping

Book choices

A guide for leaders is underway, and I plan to have it ready in time for teachers in churches that are using Inhabiting Eden as a lenten study in 2015. It too will be available both through Amazon and through this website. 

I pray that these resources will not only help readers understand the faith roots of environmental responsibility, and enlighten readers on many dimensions of our present situation, but will also inspire passion and action to co-create conditions in which our descendents may flourish. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

People’s Climate March in New York City

A year and a half ago we shivered by the Washington monument in a crowd that—at 40,000—was larger than we could see or wrap our minds around. It was the largest climate rally in history. Yet it was only one-fifth the size of the March on Washington for civil rights in 1963. I wondered if it was too few, too late.

At yesterday’s People’s Climate March through midtown Manhattan, no panorama from any helicopter could capture the mass of those cramming the streets from Central Park to Times Square and beyond. The organizers expected 100,000. Conservative early estimates said 311,000. Later these were raised to 400,000. Meanwhile, in 2808 cities in 166 countries, similar gatherings marched. This rivals the increase from a well-watered summer garden.

The Faith Communities contingent alone filled 9th Avenue from 58th to 59th before we joined the march—Buddhists, Muslims, Presbyterians, Zoroastrians (yes), Jews, Unitarians, Seekers, Catholics, even Athiests. We heard the ram’s horn, we sang Siyahamba—“We are marching in the light of God”—we prayed. As we passed the southern border of Central Park, a large group of meditators held vigil. Above our heads, in building after building, friends waved and held signs. We could believe sanity might finally prevail; science might finally be heard.

That evening at an interfaith service at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, under the outstretched wings of two glittering phoenixes constructed of recycled industrial debris, worldwide religious leaders spoke passionately, leading us to come forward to recommit our work for climate justice: Dr. James Forbes, writer Terry Tempest Williams, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Rev. Jim Wallis, Vice President Al Gore, UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, Union Seminary president Dr. Serene Jones, and many others. 

The most heart-wrenching: Father Edwin Gariguez of Caritas in the Philippines described the relentless destruction there, Manilla submerged again this week under another tropical storm. “Uncle” (Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq), an Eskimo shaman, said the glaciers of Greenland having shrunk from 5 kilometers deep to 2 kilometers in his lifetime, and yet we must still melt the ice in the human heart.   

Changing our petroleum-soaked collective ways doesn’t require everyone’s agreement, but it does take enough melted hearts, enough open eyes, enough clear minds, enough moral authority, to brand boundless petroleum, gas, and coal production as shameful, like chattel slavery; toxic river dumping repulsive, like child molestation, and brazen politicking for corporate misbehavior unacceptable, like flag burning. In 2013 in the U.S., the fossil fuel industry received $21.6 billion in government subsidies.

We paid this. And that didn’t count the taxpayers’ bill for climate-change-related disaster clean-up and healthcare costs. The least we can do, for starters, is to stop paying Exxon and BP for killing us, and charge them instead.

Will we have to return in 2015 with two million people? It seems we could, but what if we stopped having to oppose the powerful and start working together, rebuilding a society in which all creation rises out of our ashes? 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Collegeville Bound

Last summer I had the privilege of participating in one of Collegeville Institute's summer writing workshops on the campus of St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. If you are a person of faith who loves to write, this is for you. Later this fall or winter they will post their offerings for Summer and Fall 2015, and it's worth applying. My apartment-mate for the week, Jill Kandel, just received word that her memoir, A Sliver of Shade: Six Years in a Zambian Village, won the Autumn House Press 2014 Creative Nonfiction contest and will be published by the press. So this is the real deal--great writers and great writing teachers (poet Michael Browne was ours) in a beautiful setting. 

This fall I will have the further privilege of teaching one of Collegeville's writing courses, The Writing Pastor. I am anticipating the week, and the twelve students, with much joy and trepidation. 

In the meantime, Elisabeth Kvernen, the institute's Digital Communications Specialist, invited me to post a guest blog on the Collegeville website about Inhabiting Eden. Here is a link to that blog post. Please enjoy! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Solar Freakin Roadways

I am finishing a workbook to go with Inhabiting Eden, and it should be ready for purchase within a few weeks. It will be spiral-bound, with space for readers of my book to reflect and write. While working on it this morning, I was updating some of the live links on this website (see Inhabiting Eden Footnotes with Live Links), and I ran across a new video, "Solar Freakin Roadways."

It's a lot of fun to watch, first of all! But it also introduces a technology that is simply amazing. I heard one the inventors, Scott Brusaw, describing Solar Roadways at the Festival of Faiths in Louisville a couple of years ago. These would revolutionize not only transportation, but also electrical and wastewater infrastructure, safety, and snow removal, and make us 100% renewable. Why freakin not? 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sorry Been Busy

My rap star son—yep, the one who performs for crowds of 50,000 in France—has a new album coming out called Sorry Been Busy. That’s pretty much been my tune the past few weeks—though my life is thankfully not as exciting as a rap star’s—trying to start new work while keeping up with other commitments. It will get better. I’m just glad it’s worthwhile work. Too many lack even that.

Been up and down Indiana twice since mid-June, meeting with people who are banding together to make changes—in their homes, sanctuaries, and towns. This week in Terre Haute I met a newly forming group at a United Methodist church, and the next night in South Bend a group of eleven representing six churches and a mosque, all pooling information on how best to lower their utility bills and protect Indiana’s air at the same time. The Muslim and Mennonite folk were excited to hear they are receiving solar grants from Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light.

Last week I also spent two mornings with Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) students at the

Friday, June 27, 2014

I Have a New Job!

Interfaith Power and Light is a national faith-based organization that promotes action on global warming among congregations. It was founded by a Episcopal priest. Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, or H-IPL (rhymes with “ripple,” which has creative potential), is the Indiana state affiliate. H-IPL has, in turn, its own developing affiliates all over the statestrong in Bloomington and Indianapolis, but also active from South Bend (which, despite its name, is north) to Evansville on the Ohio, from Terre Haute in the west to Fort Wayne in the east.

The past two days I drove Indiana roads—hilly in the south, flat as an ironing board up north, green everywherefrom Jeffersonville to Indy and on to Mennonite country in Goshen, back to Bloomington and home. H-IPL offers outstanding daylong workshops called “Using Energy Prudently,” offering congregations practical info for conserving power in HVAC systems, lighting, appliances, and all the other usual suspects. I had attended one in Columbus last month with two church members. More than a dozen have been offered this year all over the state. Goshen had had one, and this was their follow-up meeting, reps of several congregations figuring out together how to begin.

H-IPL’s leaders work with urgency and dedication to help congregations understand not only why energy conservation is important, but how to achieve it. In three years the organization has mushroomed, but that’s not enough. They hope to spread the message throughout communities of faith. Indiana is one of the highest per capita coal burners and seems to be, on principle, extremely resistant to environmental stewardship. H-IPL hopes to change that—for our children’s sake.

I’ve had trouble remembering my job title:  “Affiliate Developer.” The first word is a noun, not an adjective. Not like assistant professor, but like “developer of affiliates.” I will be a resource, guide, organizer, encourager, teacher, whatever, with existing and new affiliate groups. It’s a little intimidating. But every meaningful job starts out looking intimidating. If it didn’t, where would the challenge be?

There are two other staff people: Larry Kleiman, the new Executive Director, a “retired” (sort of) United Church of Christ pastor, and Mike Oles, the Faith Community Organizer, a United Methodist member. There is also a bevy of board members of all stripes, workshop leaders, and other volunteers. A lot of energy, powering Indiana’s future and lighting the way. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Walk on the Wildflower Side

Last weekend I drove with some friends to the Red River Gorge of eastern Kentucky for a wildflower walk organized by Father John Rausch, a Glenmary priest and ecological advocate. He arranged for Dr. Tom Barnes to lead us, the wildlife extension specialist from the University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry and an accomplished naturewriter and photographer. GO TO HIS WEBSITE! You'll get lost in the beauty there! 

This turned out to be much richer than we imagined. I’ve enjoyed many wildlife walks at national parks, seeing three times more than I would have seen on my own, taking home information that makes the forest vivid with specificity—no longer “tree, tree, tree” but “poplar, pawpaw, pin oak.” The tiny wildflowers, so easily
overlooked, reward their viewers even more, especially since there are some we have often seen without remarking. If humans find it challenging to get to know other people without learning their names, it is all the more so for us with trees and plants.

There were nine of us. It rained all morning, but we circled the narrow roads, jumping out in ponchos and hiking boots to gaze at yellow and pink lady’s slippers (native orchids--the yellow is featured on the cover above), Solomon’s seal (picture to left--not mine), valerian, wild ginger, and a host of other flowers that in a couple weeks will disappear into the next stage in their plants’ annual cycles, while some other flower shows its stuff. Mute and mostly still, they nevertheless announce, to any audience and no audience, in their intricacy, variety, and beauty, their maker’s glory.

Since I know so little, each such outing doubles my memory bank, while reinforcing details from previous walks. To travel with a group small enough to ask, “What’s this?” yet large enough to share infectious zeal, made the day more festive still. We stayed in the moment: no one cared that it rained, and no one dampened our spirits by rehearsing their week’s troubles, many and varied as they were. The day’s sensory richness will long linger, cultivating affection for nature and commitment to its flourishing.

Inspired by this walk, I took my tree guide to a familiar meadow Sunday evening to

catalog some specimens I often pass by. A farmhouse once stood here, and a floorless summer kitchen and outhouse still stand on the field edge next to some stray Stars of Bethlehem that someone may once have tended. It’s easy to imagine a clapboard home framed by youthful trees, which are now doddering past their prime: catalpas scantily clothed in last year’s seedpods and tentative spring leaves; sugar maples branching past their neighbors to hoard the sunlight; senescent slippery elms; black locusts, not yet blooming; white ashes past their bloom; an adolescent buckeye; a tulip magnolia someone left behind decades ago; a ghostly sycamore by the frog pond.

It’s hard to protect what we do not love. It’s hard to love what we do not know. And it’s hard to know what we do not stop to observe firsthand. The more we relearn nature, the more we’ll adjust our habits to assure its continuity. This is a sacred endeavor. As Sir Thomas Browne said (and I got this from Tom Barnes): “Nature is the art of God.” 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cooking Joy

Several people I know are skilled at carpentry, metalwork, sewing, and other constructive arts. Just about the only thing I know how to make from raw materials is dinner.

Early evenings, I love to close my laptop, turn on NPR, and cook. Whatever I find outside has first priority; second is what’s fresh from the nearby farmer’s market, or the organic grocery. I choose local to encourage farming infrastructure and local prosperity, and organic to avoid poisoning farm workers. When fresh vegetables are not available I use what we canned or froze last fall, foods untouched by corporate hands.

This week: vegetable soup with green beans and tomatoes from last summer’s garden; Indian chickpeas from garbanzos frozen last fall; vegetarian tamales with last year’s jalapenos and cherry tomatoes, and fresh spinach and spring onions; roasted vegetables including garden asparagus and organic sweet potatoes; salads of garden kale and spinach and new lettuce. At table we say grace over the dishes, their ingredients, and the friends who helped supply them.

Last night, listening to All Things Considered: broccoli-cheese souffle of farmer’s market eggs, last year’s broccoli, and milk, flour, butter, cheddar cheese, all local. And an amazing tomato chipotle soup: saute onions and garlic; add canned tomatoes and almond butter (the recipe said roasted pecans, which would have been exquisite if I had some), and half a chipotle pepper. Hit it with a hand blender. Add last year’s corn. I wish you could taste it. It all took about an hour.

Last summer a friend introduced me to a woman who had turned her corner lot into an edible Eden, outlined in strawberries and sweet potatoes. When I sat down, her two chickens climbed into my lap. She inspired me to mix more foods into our own flowerbeds (see Monday's post on apples, berries, greens, and herbs). I also learned that the daylilies that keep expanding are edible, as are the redbud blooms. Each adventure invites another.

Some call cooking work. I call it creativity. Eating out is fun sometimes, but most restaurant fare is not worth the losses to pocketbook, principles, and diet. Prefab grocery store meals in boxes, cans, and frozen trays are high in price, packaging, salt, corn, and unpronounceable substances. Cooking makes us stronger: healthier, aesthetically richer, calmer, more accomplished. It’s one of our most reliable introductions to our own community, both its people and its plants. Through daily food choices, we vote for the future we desire.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Resurrection Miracles

I was curious to see what would survive the harsh winter.

Several greens flourished in the garden, including some kale that is still producing salads. The spinach that slept through in cold frames, often under piles of snow, leaped up toward the sun when we removed their storm window rooftops. Fat asparagus stalks begged to be plucked and roasted, and we complied.

Every day in April I inspected two new apple trees—lifeless sticks when planted last fall—and watched buds swell and leaves fluff out. They may grow branches by summer’s end. The blackberries we thought had died rose triumphant, Christlike, portending summer breakfasts al fresco. The coffee grounds I dumped on the blueberry patch through the winter have now resurrected as flowers that might just turn to fruit. The strawberry plants scattered throughout the flowerbed last fall are blooming too, and the honeyberry and gobi berry sticks that I planted and promptly lost are now beginning their ascent into bushdom.

The rosemary unsurprisingly died, but I replaced it with one I’d kept inside. The sage that died won’t be missed. Very surprisingly, the relentless, invincible English ivy that dominated the northern hillside—keeping the yard from eroding into the street, but also harboring mosquitoes and weeds—croaked. Every hydrangea died to the ground, but now they’re preparing to give it another go.

Here is the biggest miracle: A couple of years ago I

Friday, April 11, 2014

Presbyterian Outlook Review

The first review of Inhabiting Eden is out in the April 14, 2014 edition of The Presbyterian Outlook. The author, Rev. Susan Zencka in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, says that she tested a couple of chapters with a group from her church, and they wanted to keep on reading. 

It's always gratifying for a writer to realize someone "gets" what you are doing. Rev. Zencka says, "The book is gentle in tone.... Often when I read books about the state of the earth, I feel guilty and ashamed for not doing enough. After reading Tull's book, I feel empowered to do more." Thank you so much!

Here is a link to the review. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Damascus Road, British Parliament, Seneca Falls, DDT

What a joy it was to preach this morning at Louisville Seminary for the Festival of Theology. Marian McClure snapped this shot of President Michael Jinkins and me just before we began.  

And while we are on pictures, here is one Greg Bezilla snapped while I was talking at the lovely Canterbury House at Rutgers University last week....

I spoke today about the problem of wrapping our minds around the changes we know we need to make, and the help we find when we look to forebears who faced other life-shattering challenges to habit and viewpoint, such as the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, William Wilberforce introducing the abolition of slave trade in the British parliament, Lucretia Mott starting the women's rights movement in Seneca Falls, and Rachel Carson speaking out to the public on DDT through her book Silent Spring. "The world we take for granted is founded on decisions to keep turning from a familiar but flawed present toward destinations only imagined, unprecedented, unknown, decisions risking failure, moves we only regret if we fail to make them."

Now to finish preparing tomorrow's sermon on Genesis 1 and 2.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Engineer for Hope

If you still hold stock in Exxon, it's time to sell now. 

Ben Adler at reported Tuesday ("ExxonMobil: Carbon caps? Fat chance. We'll just keep on drilling") on Exxon's Monday shareholder report, which argued for business as usual, based on the assumption that the U.S. government will be unable to compel the necessary 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Exxon's report itself is worth perusing: evidently the megacompany admits human-caused climate change could be a bit of a problem, but plans to address it by increasing conservation in its drilling operations, expecting that renewables will comprise only 5% of the world's energy mix even by 2040. 

The good news, as Adler points out, is clarity. For anyone still hoping shareholder activism might succeed, Exxon has laid its cards on the table, signaling loudly that the health of future generations is not this company's concern.

But for those disappointed by the oil and gas industry, the person to watch is Dr. Mark Jacobsonprofessor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He and his associates have been rolling out detailed plans to convert California, New York, the whole U.S., and in fact the world to 100% water, wind, and solar energy.

Watch his lecture concerning the whole planet here. And see his 50-state plan, including profiles for each state, here.

These plans naturally mean large up-front costs for turbines, PV panels, and other improvements, but Jacobson projects that the financial returns from improved human health alone will quickly reward these investments. For instance, according to his New York proposal: "If New York switched to water, wind, and sunlight, air pollution-related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 related health costs every year."

The only thing more remarkable than his proposals is that anyone anywhere is still wondering whether the pricetag is worth it. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

GreenFaith Ground for Hope Conferences in Lexington and Louisville this weekend

Really looking forward to the GreenFaith Ground for Hope Bluegrass conference in Lexington this Saturday morning, 9:00-12:00, at Central Christian Church (205 East Short Street). I will be keynote speaker, and there will be workshops on creation themes in worship, religious education, and spiritual practice; on greening worship facilities; and on faith-based advocacy and fossil fuel divestment. The event is free and open to the public. Here is a link for more information and registration.

AND looking forward even more to the Louisville event on Sunday afternoon, 2:00-7:00 at Highland Baptist Church (1101 Cherokee Road). Keynote speaker will be Richard Cizik with panelists Sister Claire McGowen, Camille Helminski, and Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport. Several workshops will be offered there as well--the ones from Lexington and more, plus interfaith worship. Free for students and seminarians, and $15 (to cover the reception afterward) for others. Here is a link for info and registration.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper will be teaching Sunday school and preaching at our church, First Presbyterian of Jeffersonville (222 Walnut St) through the weekend:
   5:00 p.m. Saturday service
   9:30 a.m. Sunday adult class, "Green our Faith: From Belief to Action for the Earth"
   10:45 a.m. Sunday service

These events are co-sponsored by Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, the Earth and Spirit Center, the Festival of Faiths, the Jewish Community of Louisville, Louisville Seminary, Kentucky Council of Churches, Blessed Earth, Interfaith Paths to Peace, the Bahai Community of Louisville, Compassionate Louisville, Earth Charter Indiana, and more. 

So glad to see the faith communities and environmental communities of Kentucky and Indiana pulling together for these crucial events. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Divestment from Fossil Fuel Vote in Mid-Kentucky Presbytery

Joining the swelling movement among churches, colleges, and cities across the country, last Saturday the Presbyteries of both Mid-Kentucky and Arkansas voted with six other presbyteries for an overture to the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly recommending that the church divest from fossil fuel over the next five years, reinvesting our money instead in a future we--and the planet--can live with.

In Mid-Kentucky, several spoke for the motion, and only one against. The voice vote was decisive: we became the first presbytery in a coal state to endorse divestment from coal, gas, and oil, and investment in sustainability instead.

That afternoon I drove to West Virginia to talk about prophetic courage with Christians whose land has been deeply scarred by mountaintop removal, and whose water has been poisoned from chemicals used in coal processing. More about that later. 

The Rev. Jane Larsen-Wigger, pastor of Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church, introduced the overture. I asked her permission to reproduce her words....

“Back in September our congregation’s Earth Care Team brought the overture to the PCUSA to divest from fossil fuels to our Session. As we sat in an air-conditioned room discussing whether to bring it to you, our own complicity in the issue of climate change did not escape us.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Montreat Ecology/Spirituality Conference

I am leading a conference at Montreat, the beautiful Presbyterian conference center outside of Asheville, NC, Thursday to Sunday, April 24-27. It's called Inhabiting Eden (original, no?). I hope you will consider coming, and will pass the word to others.

Here is the info on the Montreat website.

Here is more information: 
Some think the Bible concerns only humans and God. Yet from the first creation story to the end of Revelation, Scripture imagines a larger universe inhabited by other creatures besides ourselves. Genesis 1 shows God’s pleasure with the earth and all its species long before humans appear. Genesis 2 pictures humans made from the ground in order to serve and preserve God’s garden. The speeches of God in Job imagine nature as a wild place, barely understandable to people, yet adored by God. As we come to terms with our ecological limits, we can reignite the imagination to see more clearly our place in creation’s intricate web, to cherish more actively its delicate beauty, and to relish our responsibilities to treat life—human and other—with respect and awe. Enjoying the Eden of Montreat and listening to Scripture, we will explore a spirituality of grateful care, and of realistic hope for facing our generation’s ecological crises.

The class includes time for learning, group interaction, contemplation and exploration, and fellowship. The formal sessions are titled:
Session 1: Inhabiting Eden: Why Does It Matter?
Session 2: Practicing Gratitude in a World of Entitlement
Session 3: Practicing Connection in an Insular World
Session 4: Practicing Lament in a Numb World
Session 5: Practicing Hope in a World of Despair
Session 6: Conclusion: Practicing Life in a World of Wounds