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Standing with Standing Rock

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by Sharon Delgado

“The Earth does not belong to man; Man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”        Chief Seattle

Anyone who is concerned about climate change or human rights ought to be paying close attention to the Standing Rock resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline taking place right now in North Dakota.  Working for climate justice does not simply mean lowering our own carbon footprints or sending emails to elected officials.  It also means joining together in solidarity with people who are most vulnerable to a changing climate and those who live on lands that are threatened and polluted by extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction, transport, and refining.  Such “sacrifice zones” are often on historic Indigenous lands.

Although most people know that this country is built on a history of land theft and genocide of Native peoples, relatively few realize that the historic assault on Indigenous lands continues today.  In the United States and Canada, this often takes place through the violation of treaty rights and the exploitation of Native lands by extractive industries.  Large corporations have repeatedly violated treaty rights by extracting resources and polluting traditional lands that sustained Indigenous peoples for millennia.

Members of  more than 150 Native American tribes have joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their attempts to block the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline.  The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline would transport 470, 000 gallons of crude oil each day from the Bakken Oil Fields. Tribe members are concerned because the pipeline would travel below the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Reservation, and a pipeline accident could contaminate their water supply. Over 2,000 Indigenous people and their supporters have gathered there, and nonviolent protesters blocking construction are being arrested each day.

The United Nations has issued a statement calling on the United States government to ensure the right of the Sioux to participate in decision-making about the pipeline, since its construction would negatively impact their rights, lives, and lands. The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society and other religious groups have made statements in support of this action.  Here’s an article with background from the United Methodist News Service:  United Methodists, Native Americans Oppose Pipeline.

People around the country are sending money, transporting supplies, and engaging in solidarity demonstrations.  This climate justice struggle is ongoing.  Donate through the Standing Rock Sioux official website. To stay updated, visit and follow the Standing Rock Sioux Facebook page.   Democracy Now is covering this action on a daily basis.

In This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein wrote about the importance of supporting Indigenous struggles, such as the resistance taking place at Standing Rock, to protect the earth.  She said, “Their heroic battles are not just their people’s best chance of a healthy future… they could very well be the best chance for the rest of us to continue enjoying a climate that is hospitable to human life.”

By taking actions in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, we take concrete steps toward repentance for historical wrongs against Indigenous peoples, including wrongs perpetuated under the banner of the cross by institutional Christianity.  By supporting their Camp of the Sacred Stone, we respond to calls to respect the rights of Indigenous nations and the rights of Mother Earth, while acknowledging the value of Indigenous teachings and Indigenous ways, regardless of our spiritual convictions or secular beliefs.

Perhaps Chief Seattle was right.  Perhaps all things really are connected.

 

Feel free to sign up to follow this blog.  I will also post updates here and on the  Climate Justice Action Facebook page.

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The Moral Argument to Divest from Fossil Fuels

By Sharon Delgado

Jenny Phillips, Coordinator of Fossil Free UMC with Bill McKibben, United Methodist and Coordinator of 350.org
Jenny Phillips, Coordinator of Fossil Free UMC with Bill McKibben, United Methodist and Coordinator of 350.org

I pray that United Methodist delegates at General Conference will vote to screen fossil fuels out of our investment portfolios.  There are both economic and moral reasons to do so.

The economic argument is that investors in fossil fuels face “stranded assets” and the resulting financial loss as coal, oil, and gas companies are unable to extract and burn all the reserves upon which their projected profits and stock values are based.  United Methodists advocate for strong environmental regulations and a widespread switch to renewable energy sources, but if these changes take place, many of the reserves will be unavailable.  Furthermore, as we have seen with the bankruptcy of Peabody Coal and the recent downgrading of Exxon Mobil stock, it is quite clear that market forces related to fossil fuels are volatile.

Still, the moral argument is strongest:  it is wrong to profit from wrecking the planet.  Ending our addiction to fossil fuels should override arguments based on economic self-interest or the economic interests of our denomination.

As United Methodists and as followers of Christ, we should have no part in investments in fossil fuels, which pollute the atmosphere with the persistent greenhouse gases that are causing climate change, bringing disaster upon people, harming creation, and foreclosing the future.  Rather, we should be investing ourselves and our money in renewable, life-sustaining, and regenerative enterprises.  By doing so, we step away from institutional complicity in destroying creation, affirm our deepest values, and offer a vision of hope for a transformed world.

Go to Fossil Free UMC Facebook Page and Fossil Free UMC Website for more information.

Follow this blog by signing up on the right or by “liking” the Climate Justice Action Network Facebook Page.

Make a Lantern for General Conference Climate Vigil

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Hello fellow United Methodists,

Would you like to know what you can do to raise awareness about climate change at the upcoming United Methodist General Conference?  Please consider decorating one or more lanterns for the General Conference Climate Vigil, which will be held on May 12 during General Conference at the Oregon Convention Center Plaza.   The Climate Vigil is being sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.  All United Methodists are invited to create and decorate prayer lanterns for the vigil and either bring them or send them to the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, Attn: Climate Vigil, at P.O. Box 13650, Des Moines, WA 98198). Simple direction can be found on this short Youtube video.  “Together we’ll light the night with our prayers for God’s creation.”

As you probably know, climate legislation will be considered at General Conference that would add greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) to the list of investment screens in the United Methodist Book of Discipline and United Methodist Book of Resolutions.  The California-Nevada Annual Conference passed legislation to that effect in 2015, as did ten other annual conferences.  The General Board of Global Ministries, which works with people on the front lines of climate change, also supports this legislation.  The newly-created Climate Justice Action Network, based in the California-Nevada Annual Conference, is working with Fossil Free UMC to support this legislation.

One more thing you can do to support this effort is to sign up on the right hand side of this page to follow this blog.  If you do, you will get an email each time something is posted here.

The Climate Justice Action Network was created as a project funded by a grant from the Cal-Nevada Advocacy and Justice Committee.  The goal of this project is to build a network of United Methodists and others who are committed to working for climate justice by learning about climate change, responding in faith, sharing resources, and taking coordinated actions.  “A primary strategy of this work is to act in solidarity with other justice campaigns, with other faith and secular communities, and with people in regions and nations most vulnerable to extreme fossil fuel extraction and to a changing climate.”

Bill McKibben’s post on Fossil Free UMC

 

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Here is United Methodist Sunday School teacher and climate activist Bill McKibben’s blog post on the upcoming vote at the upcoming United Methodist General Conference (this May) on screening out investments in coal, oil, and gas companies as a response to climate change.  For other information about the General Conference vote go to Fossil Free UMC.

 

 

The Movement to Divest from Fossil Fuels 

church divestedIn May, delegates from around the world at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference, meeting in Portland, will vote on whether to respond to climate change by establishing an investment screen against fossil fuels.  Fossil Free UMC, a network of United Methodists organizing across annual conferences, is organizing this effort.  This is part of the Go Fossil Free, the global movement to divest from fossil fuels.

This movement challenges the economic system that perpetuates climate change.  The worldwide system of unrestrained free-market capitalism, dominated by global corporations and fueled by money, is based on the view that market forces will sort everything out.

Those of us who are working to get our churches, colleges, and other institutions to divest from fossil fuels are challenging this system by saying, “Money is not the highest value.”  There are good financial reasons to divest from fossil fuels, but even if there weren’t, “If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.”  There are values in life that are more important than money.

It is true that the global economic system is working well for the largest corporate players, those who benefit from subsidies, tax breaks, and preferential treatment.  Coal, oil, and gas corporations are among the most privileged beneficiaries.  But the system certainly isn’t working for the majority of people or for the natural world.  It’s not supposed to.  This system is not designed to preserve the creation, protect communities, or create equity and harmony among human beings.  It’s designed to turn human life and labor and the gifts of the earth into commodities to be bought and sold, and to deliver this wealth upward, to those who design and control the system.   As I say in my book on this subject, Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization:  “If we follow the money, we will see that the system is designed for the results it is getting. The architects, rule makers, and enforcers of the global economy are reaping the benefits of what they have designed.”

But as the movement to abandon these fossil fuel producers grows, they lose moral standing.  They are revealed as being not as all-powerful as they would like us to believe.  It becomes clear that their stock prices are based on extracting and burning all the reserves in their portfolios which, as we now know, would destroy the planet.  Political leaders, corporate CEOs, and others at the top will not lead the way to keeping the majority of fossil fuels in the ground, as is required for us to mitigate the harm caused by climate change.  They are driven and constrained by institutional realities.

But (thank you, God) a global movement for climate justice has emerged, led by people in developing nations most vulnerable to climate chaos, by Indigenous people in “sacrifice zones” where extraction is destroying the land, by women who live and struggle to care for children on the front lines of climate change, and by youth who know they have everything to lose by keeping silent.  This is one of the most hopeful movements of our time.

Sharon Delgado

 Order Sharon Delgado’s CD or download a free MP3 version:  Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do?