What would Bill say?

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What_Would_Wellstone_Do_-254x300“What would Wellstone do?” is a question often heard in Minnesota after the un-timely death of Senator Paul Wellstone. Most people can make a well-educated guess at the answers.

What would Bill say?” is the question I’m pondering this morning, looking for light in the darkness of the chemical eco-catastrophe  in Crosby, Texas.

Bill Gibson — click William E. Gibson to read Bill’s obituary — was a campus ministry colleague in the mid-’70s.

41XX644YJ4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_One of 27 campus ministers in New York State under the auspices of United Ministries in Higher Education*, Bill was “doing his own thing” at Cornell. His own thing — “eco-justice“– resulted in Eco-Justice — the Unfinished Journey. Click the title to read from the book Bill edited.

 

Like Paul Wellstone, Bill Gibson was a trailblazer. Unlike the senator, he worked away from the floodlights, quietly taking the path less taken on what has proven to be humanity’s great unfinished business.

Thank you, Bill. Rest in Peace.

Bill-Gibson-1Your joy and light still shine.

 

 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 1, 2017.

*Click HERE for the history of United Ministries in Higher Education (UMHE), the ecumenical ministry jointly funded by the American Baptist, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal, Moravian, Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Brethren, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist churches.

Harvey, Houston, and the Holy

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The urgency of a rescue operation is not the time for anything but compassion.

Timing and perception are everything in this startling time of Hurricane Harvey, 500-year floods, and the chemical plant explosions now taking place in Houston. Watching a helicopter rescue the elderly and disabled from the rising waters of a flood that has put people at risk is not the time to say I told you so.

But sooner or later it is time to speak about the unnatural crisis hidden behind the crisis of nature. In times like this, everyone becomes a socialist, and, if we’re seeing straight, no one stays a climate change-denier in the city big oil built.

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Chemical plant explosions are the latest horrific news that graphically illustrate a national crisis that is more than ‘natural’. The crisis is anthropological and theological.

“Man over nature” was always an illusion. A hoax. A faux understanding of the human species’ relationship with the rest of nature — “man (sic.) over nature,” as though the first were separate from the latter — that leads to destruction and self-destruction.

The chemicals are exploding because the plants that make them cannot keep them cool. Keeping them cool requires an operative electrical grid, or, when the grid goes down, an emergency generator that isn’t vulnerable to flooding. When the grid and backup generators fail, the chemicals heat and explode.

Timing and perception are everything.

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Not much more than a year ago Standing Rock was being touted as the emerging symbol of the revised understanding, the shift in consciousness, and the new behavior required of humankind in the age of climate departure. The oil pipeline from Canada to Texas refineries was stopped in the name of nature itself.

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That was before the 2016 election, and the 2017 appointment of a climate change-denier to gut the EPA, presidential executive orders stripping away regulations on the fossil fuel industry, and America’s spiritual retreat from the Paris Accord on Climate Change. Texas, not Standing Rock, was in charge again. Or so it seemed until Harvey came ashore to wash away the illusion of “man over nature.”

It’s time now for a clearer perception. Time to hold next to each other a picture of flooded Texas chemical plant explosions and the peaceful protest of Standing Rock,  and ask ourselves which picture is truer than the other. Or perhaps the truth is better seen when both are held together side-by-side: two anthropologies and two theologies. According to the one, humankind and the human city are the measure of reality itself. According to the other, God (i.e. the Eternal, Being-Itself) is the “natural” context — the mysterium tremendum et fascinans* — in which we live, and move, and have our being.

Today is, and tomorrow will still be, time for compassion and help for the people of Houston. It is also time to perceive something much deeper and wider. The rescued people of Houston, southeast Texas, and Louisiana are but the latest victims of the tragedy of the human mind and spirit: the fanciful illusion and creation of an alt-world of species superiority to nature.

Could the trembling of this horrific moment lead us to a holier fascination with reality itself?

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Rudolf Otto (1869-1937)

The people of Standing Rock and Rudolf Otto are watching.

*Rudolf Otto‘s Latin term for the human experience with the Mystery beyond all taming that both fascinates and causes us mortals to tremble. (Rudolf Otto (1869–1937), The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational.)

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 31, 2017

 

 

 

 

Big Yellow Taxi and climate science

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Songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” rise from memory so many years later when an EPA climate scientist report reaches the New York Times before it gets edited or killed and all the scientists get the word “You’re fired!”

We won’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 9, 2017.

Operation Popeye and Leonardo da Vinci

Scientist and artist John Lince-Hopkins responded to Geoengineering and Nature Itself:

“Don’t forget that the U.S. was the first (and so far, only) world power to weaponize climate during the Viet Nam War (Operation Popeye).

“Whither now?”

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia’s article on Operation Popeye:

The cloud seeding operation during the Vietnam War ran from March 20, 1967 until July 5, 1972 in an attempt to extend the monsoon season, specifically over areas of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The operation was used to induce rain and extend the East Asian Monsoonseason in support of U.S. government efforts related to the War in Southeast Asia.

The former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, was aware that there might be objections raised by the international scientific community but said in a memo to the president that such objections had not in the past been a basis for prevention of military activities considered to be in the interests of U.S. national security.

The chemical weather modification program was conducted from Thailand over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam and allegedly sponsored by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and CIA without the authorization of then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird who had categorically denied to Congress that a program for modification of the weather for use as a tactical weapon even existed.[1]

Click Operation Popeye for a history of Operation Popeye’s attempt at weaponizing the climate.

Then join John in asking “Whither now?” John’s no Leonardo da Vinci, but he represents the wisdom of the master artist from an earlier era:

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” – Leonardo da Vinci. 

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 29, 2017.

Geoengineering and Nature Itself

John Hopkins paintingThis morning John Lince-Hopkins of Lynx North Studio brought to our attention Technological Fixes for Climate Change.

We share below one theologian’s response to Technological Fixes for Climate Change.

Regarding “geoengineering”, maybe it’s just my depression, but I think not. The Tower of Babel has always been one of my go-to texts because it holds the paradox of the human condition. All attempts at “engineering” our way to security will fail.

There is an architecture that eludes our engineering when it comes to the planet. It’s called Nature. We are living in the time of what Bill McKibben calls “the end of Nature”. To what extend the end of Nature is the result of human disruption conceived in Western terms as “man over nature,” and to what extend climate change is attributable to non-human factors makes little difference IMHO to the call of the human species within Nature.

The Human Vocation

There are two very different creation stories in the Book of Genesis. Chapter one comes from the priestly (P) tradition.

It was the genius of the Priestly tradition’s creation story (Genesis 1) that they saw the balance of Nature as “Good”  (“and God saw…and it was good!”). The artchitecture of creation is a beautiful piece of art that inspires praise and awe. To imagine something else would be to fall from praise. You might say the P writers were more like scientists who beheld and marveled at the intricate web of natural life.

No sooner do we read Chapter One that we come to the second very different creation story from the perspective of what biblical scholars call “J”,  so called because of the use of the writer’s Name for God.

Genesis two and three read more like novels, expressing in very earthy terms the earth-bound character of human nature and human creature’s resistance to creaturely life — the inexplicable choice of the archetypal “earthlings” to eat the fruit of the ONLY tree among all the trees of the garden based in humankind’s tragic urge of to become “like God, knowing good and evil.”

Only when they fail to stand in awe and thanksgiving in the midst of the Good (a good which includes nature’s “limits” on their behavior) do they invoke the curse that renders them shamefully conscious of their nakedness (their naturalness) and sends them into a hiding from their Creator. Fratricide (Cain’s slaying of Abel) quickly follows their expulsion from Eden.

The continuing human calling is to see Earth itself as the theater of a glory not of our own making and to resist the illusion of the serpent: “if you eat of the one tree which is forbidden, you will become like God.” It’s the second part of that statement that is the temptation – refusing to live with the limits of Nature itself. One might even say “the Fall” is an attempt at geoengineering.

Genesis 1-11 is called the Primeval History — a history that never was but always is. The Primeval History concludes with the story of Tower of Babel — human engineering for the purpose of “making a name for ourselves”, i.e., establishing and securing our existence in time in the face of chaos.

Now it’s “GEO-engineering” – the illusion that we can fix this, that we can “engineer” our way out of the mess our geoengineering on behalf of a more perfect world has created. There’s a HUGE difference between geoengineering and being responsible. The former disturbs Nature. The latter works collaboratively with Nature…or whatever is left of her. Anything else is Babel. It is doomed to fail.

John captures in paint what his word say of his intention.

jr-3“Environmentally focused paintings and other art forms from the early 21st century build a foundational historic context for future generations.  They are documents of the time of ‘the first awareness’ by the human species about the course and implications of climate disruption. As this awareness settles in, climate disruption in the form of weather (as it affects biodiversity, human society and the physical planet) has become, for me, a main topic of my work.”

Perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to say that John Lince-Hopkins, the scientist and the painter, combines in the 21st Century the ancient wisdoms of the P writer and the J writer — the awe of Genesis 1 and the earthy calling and tragedy of Genesis 2, 3, and 11. Would that we might all do the same.

Click Art Wander for more on how John views his work as a climate change scientist and artist.

Thankful for the friendship,

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 29, 2017.

 

 

 

Trump’s Paris betrayal: the stupidest decision of the 21st century.

SERENDIPITY re-blogged Sean Munger’s post on the president’s decision to abandon the Paris accord on climate change. Here’s a taste:

“Fighting climate change is not about choosing ‘helping the Earth’ over job security or economic prosperity for Americans. Fighting climate change is job security and economic prosperity for Americans.”

SERENDIPITY

I don’t often write blog articles with the sole purpose of commenting on news items, but as a decision today by President Donald Trump deeply implicates climate change–without a doubt the most serious problem facing every American and every person on earth right now–I felt I couldn’t let it go by without at least a few words. My academic expertise is in the history of climate change, I’ve taught courses on the history of climate change (and wrote about them, here and here), and most post-academic career involves climate change, so I believe I’m qualified to speak on the subject.

Trump’s decision to abrogate the Paris climate change accord, at least where the United States is concerned, is not merely a strategic misstep (though it is), a betrayal of American trust and power…

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“We’re still in! You’re Wacked out!”

June 1, 2017 was a day of moral, spiritual, and economic bankruptcy.

What a much beloved president once called “the better angels of our nature” are weeping. They know that you can’t mess with nature without consequence, that in the world of nature’s economy, less is almost always better than more, and that only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. They know a fool when they see one. They mourn a people and a world when the fool isn’t fooling and when there’s no separation between the king’s fool and the king himself. The king’s a fool but doesn’t know it. All that matters is the theater spotlight.

Meanwhile our better angels have been rehearsing a new musical with a massive chorus that opened late yesterday on Broadway and across the world:

“We’re Still In!”

Among the better angels joining to produce “We’re still in!” are scientists and religious leaders. Neither kings nor fools, two of them immediate issued official responses to the president’s Rose Garden announcement:

The Union of Concerned Scientists and The Episcopal Church.

Yesterday the foolish king extended the right hand of fellowship to our new closest allies — Syria and Nicaragua — while raising his fisted left hand in a power salute to traditional friends after putting a match to a cherished line from the American canon of Scripture:

“The mystic chords of memory . . .  will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”  – Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address.

But you can’t burn away American memory with a match.

On June 1, 2017 the stage lights centered on a kingly fool. But no sooner had the curtain come down on the White House Rose Garden than the new musical of our better nature was premiering under the lights in the king’s home town on Broadway . . .  and in London, Paris, Berlin, Ottawa, Mexico City, Moscow, Brussels, Pretoria, Cairo, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Beijing, and everywhere else across the planet . . . except Managua and Damascus:

“You’re wacked out! We’re still in!”

The Seagull and a double rainbow

seagull in ScarboroughA double rainbow appeared last evening over the tidal river beyond the house where five seminary classmates and our spouses are staying this week on the coast of Maine.

It happened after a full day feasting with our seminary Old Testament professor, Edward F. (Ted) Campbell, Jr. and poet J. Barrie Shepherd on William Greenway’s For the Love of All Creatures: the Story of Grace in Genesis in this time of climate departure. The five seminary friends, once seven, who call ourselves “The Old Dogs” or “The Gathering” have convened annually from Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Arizona, and Minnesota for study and fellowship for the past 20 years.

pepperidge-farm-goldfish-cheddar-DbXv3l-clipartJust moments before the rainbows appeared, we were entertained by two seagulls begging for treats. One of them ate a Pepperidge Farm “goldfish” our of my hand – twice. Snatch! The goldfish was gone. Down the seagull’s gullet. My hand was fine.

Then the first rainbow appeared. Followed by another. Almost as beautiful was the reflection of the sun from the yellow grasses on the far shore of the tidal river at the foot of the rainbows. The seagull and the rainbows were like exclamation points to Greenway’s case that we are seized by the love of all creatures.

“Maybe there really IS a God 😂!” I said to my seminary roommate. “You know there is,” Mr. Stewart,” said Wayne.

Early this morning at dawn there is a very aggressive seagull incessantly banging on the sliding glass door between my living room chair and the deck demanding more cheddar goldfish!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Scarborough, Maine, May 2, 2017.

 

Earth Day 2017 in France and the USA

Today on Earth Day 2017 it’s hard to believe it was just one year ago today (April 22, 2016) that the world celebrated 195 nations signing of the Paris Accord on climate change.

Marine Le PenExactly one year later to the day, it is both Earth Day and Election Day in Paris, where the French go to the polls following another chilling terrorist attack that boosts the candidacy of far right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen who would “Make France great again!”

Here on the other side of the Atlantic and across the world, scientists and supporters of science are casting their votes with their feet, signs, and speeches in the wake of the 2016 American election of a climate change-denying President and Congress unravelling the Paris Accord while concentrating of erection of a border wall.

March for ScienceThe March for Science stands with Albert Einstein. “We cannot,” said Einstein, “solve our problems with the same thinking by which we created them.”

The thinking that has led to our problems includes bad religion, bad scientific, bad politics, and bad economics that ignore reality, bend and shrink reality to the size of the human will to power, and sacrifice creative imagination beyond the boundaries of the thinking that had led to our problems.

Today it will take prayerful people on both sides of the Atlantic to vote for the Earth in whatever way we can. Good science, good religion, good politics, and good economics go hand-in-hand.

On Earth Day 2017 pray for the Earth. Pray for yourself, for others, and for all creatures great and small. The Planet has no borders. It’s all the same house.

Albert Einstein

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Earth Day 2017.

With the stroke of a pen

Yesterday the stroke of a pen appeared to erase wisdom. But, as Kenneth K. Mayer’s With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power reminds us, appearance and reality are sometimes different. There’s a difference between the stroke of a pen and an eraser.

00-PEN-777x437Mr. Trump signed the executive order that defies climate science, diminishes responsible federal action on climate change, and promotes a hoax: more jobs and a stronger economy.

The news coverage of the President proudly displaying the executive order to the “audience” while surrounded by smiling fossil fuel corporate executives and climate change deniers left me feeling sick.

 

Fortunately, thanks to a political system of checks-and-balances, and organizations like the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)*, there’s more to reality than the stroke of a pen and what meets the eye from a television camera.

Read U.S. Climate Actions Can’t Be Stopped With the Stoke of a Pen and enjoy a better day than yesterday.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 29, 2017.

* NRDC works to safeguard the earth – its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.