Lowe for Congress and 350.org

Yesterday, the Lowe for Congress campaign took part in 350.org’s Global Work Party, a collaborative effort by groups all over the world to take practical action to care for our environment. On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, we joined 7,346 other events in 188 countries by going to help clean up part of the Great Western Trail. See pictures below.

Update from the campaign (10/7)

Events:

On Tuesday we hosted a 350.org event, entitled Panel for the Planet. It was a great success, with attendees from across the political spectrum all supporting environmental responsibility. Dr. Fred Van Dyke, professor of biology at Wheaton College, was the keynote speaker, and discussed how politics could address the environmental issues facing us.

Ben, speaking afterwards, said:

I’m thankful that everyone could be here and that Dr. Van Dyke could lead us in a frank discussion of what we need to do to create a more just and sustainable future. We desperately need good jobs in Illinois, and the clean energy economy is our best option for putting people back to work while tackling the urgent climate crisis. That is why, unlike my competitor, incumbent Peter Roskam, I strongly support robust clean energy legislation. It is just the right thing to do for our community. Clean energy is not solely a Democratic or Republican priority; it is a moral priority, an American priority, and one that I am proud to champion for our district.

Yesterday Ben spoke at three Political Science/American Government classes at College of DuPage, each time answering questions on his positions, on his thoughts on politics, and on why he decided to run (and to run the way he is running, free from special interests). Something he said really hit home: “Only when we have people who will win the right way will we have people who will govern the right way.”

Amen, brother.

(Did you notice our campaign pumpkin? Yeah, it wasn’t carved. We might still do that–three weeks to get around to it!)

Donations:

We recently talked to a local businessman, a Wheaton grad and a pillar of the community—he’s been overseeing his company for over 50 years! He said he’s done with supporting political candidates who simply feed into the broken status quo. But, meeting with him yesterday, he said to Ben, “You’re different. You’re the only one I’m supporting.”

The fact is, Ben’s decision not to take money from interests—to run with integrity and conviction—is refreshing for many people.

If you’d like, you’re welcome to give here. This is a grassroots campaign, energized, supported and run by volunteers. This is your campaign.

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”

To mark Earth Day, head on over to God’s Politics and check out the post I wrote. Here’s a teaser:

Today is Earth Day, an occasion for marking our responsibility to care for our world and the environment. It seems trite to have just one day to remind ourselves of the importance of this — though the same could be (and often is) said about Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc. We should always be aware of how we ought to be good stewards of the world and the resources God has entrusted to us; not just one day a year.

UPDATE (04/23): The link is down. Sojo’s working on it!

UPDATE 2 (04/23): Back up!

Van Jones and Green For All

Original post: March 29, 2009; repost: February 27, 2010. With Van Jones’ return to the public eye, I thought I’d put this up again.

Spring break is almost over—class starts tomorrow, in fact, on what will most likely be the busiest quarter of my three years at Fuller (following closely on the heels of last quarter, which was the busiest quarter of my three years at Fuller). I’ll be taking four classes (Theology & Culture; Theology, Politics & Modern Society; Culture & Transformation; and Teamwork & Leadership) and working part time as the All-Seminary Council (ASC) Vice-President. I’m excited about this coming quarter, but boy, is it gonna be busy!

Anyway, this past week has been a great one. Notwithstanding the whole not-eating thing (four days to go!), I’ve been able to chill out here and recover from the craziness of the last quarter, watching movies, sleeping, hanging out with friends, napping, and probably most importantly, reading.

Reading is sort of an occupational hazard when you’re a grad student, and one can become jaded towards the whole endeavor of reading when you have to read books for school anyway (and on a timetable to boot). I usually try to be reading at least one non-school book so as to keep me sane, but often this gets squeezed out by the sheer volume of pages I have to digest per week.

So it’s been with great pleasure that I’ve dived back into reading these last few days. Currently, I’m reading Tom Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus, Muhammad Yunus’ Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Nature of Capitalism, and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

And I just finished The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, by Van Jones, who’s Barack Obama’s new Green Czar, also known as the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ). I highly recommend it—the last time I was so struck by a writer’s honesty and inspired by a writer’s vision was when I read Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, and we all know what happened after that. ☺ Anyway, highlights from the book:

our entire economy was designed to function in a world where fossil fuels are forever abundant and forever cheap. Today, as those fuels—and especially oil—become increasingly scarce, prices are rising to reflect that reality. (2)

The United States is the world’s biggest polluter. To avoid eco-apocalypse [both environmental and economic collapse], Congress will have to do more than pass a cap-and-trade bill. And Americans will have to do more than stick in better lightbulbs. To pull off this ecological U-turn, we will have to fundamentally restructure the U.S. economy. We will need to “green” whole cities. We will have to build thousands of wind farms, install tens of millions of solar panels, and retrofit millions of buildings. We will have to retire our car, truck, and bus fleets, which are based on combustion engines and oil, and replace them with plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles powered by a clean-energy grid. (58)

“History teaches us that it is impossible to guide a complex series of deep changes in culture, economics, and law without first grounding efforts in a set of unchanging ideals,” (65) and Jones puts forward the three principles of

  1. equal protection for all: “there are some dangers that are too big for any individual to overcome, especially the most vulnerable among us. So in an age of floods, we must reject any philosophy that would tempt us to tell people in wheelchairs to ‘sink or swim.’ We must embrace, instead, the principle that says: ‘We are all in this together—come what may’” (70).
  2. equal opportunity for all: “We are one human family. So on a good day, we should not leave anyone out. And on a bad day, we should not leave anyone behind. We should not accept a world where people of color and low-income people are always first in line for everything bad and then are left to benefit last and least when it comes to anything good” (73).
  3. reverence for all creation: “we don’t have any throwaway species or resources. We don’t have any throwaway children, throwaway neighborhoods, or throwaway nations either. Therefore, the green economy must do more than reclaim thrown-away stuff. It must also reclaim thrown-away lives and thrown-away places. And it must reclaim the thrown-away values that insist we are all members of one human family, with sacred obligations to each other” (74).

He advocates what he calls Noah principles (as in Noah from the Bible; but go read the book for more) in creating the kind of politics through which we can get things done:

  1. Fewer “issues,” more solutions; that is, focusing on the things that we are working towards rather than focusing on the things we are against.
  2. Fewer “demands,” more goals: “Goals can be shared—even by people who disagree on many points. Demands can never be shared. One party makes them; the other party must either deny them or capitulate” (107).
  3. Fewer “targets,” more partners: “In this age, our main job is to seek out friends wherever we can, not just to defeat enemies” (109).
  4. Less “accusation,” more confession: “We would be better off confessing our own weaknesses, our fears, our needs. Doing so will let others see the gaps more quickly, find their rightful places around the growing circle—and come to the campfire with fewer pretenses themselves” (111).
  5. Less “cheap patriotism,” more deep patriotism: “Some of us still believe in ‘a more perfect union’—and in making it more perfect every day. Some of us still believe in ‘America the beautiful’—and in defending its beauty from the clear-cutters and despoilers. Some of us still believe in ‘one nation, indivisible’—and in opposing those who profit by keeping us needlessly divided. Some of us still believe in ‘liberty and justice for all,’ and we won’t stop until that classroom pledge is honored from shore to shore” (113).

Van makes the point, well-known by many now, that though the United States makes up only about 4% of the world’s population, we emit 25% of greenhouse gases (not good), and are home to 25% of the world’s incarcerated population (also not good). It is clear that something must be done, and something can be done. Once again, this is not situation where we sit helpless and hopeless as the economy collapses and the environment deteriorates—things can be done to change things, but once again, a grassroots movement made of individual citizens, businesses, organizations, non-profits, and governments will be the driving force for change. It will require change on all levels, from recycling, reusing, and being more environmentally friendly to contributing to green job training, retrofitting and weatherizing buildings, and setting up a clean energy grid that will lay the groundwork for the next generation.

Such a green economy will be as expansive and enveloping (in a good way) as the current economy (in a bad way), comprising all five of the major subsystems of sustainability: energy, food, waste, water, and transportation. And already, the grassroots movement is beginning: people, organizations, businesses, and governments are all getting involved. Moreover, we have a ‘Green President,’ as Jones describes him, in the White House: in Barack Obama’s budget for the current year, there is a clear recognition that the way forward is to invest in the present and the future of renewable clean energies and climate-friendly jobs; see here for the White House fact sheet.

And go check out Green For All, the organization founded by Jones.

Yes, we can. Again.

Forming a Theology of Ecology

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Today is Blog Action Day 2009, an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. The aim of the organizers, including Change.org, is to raise awareness of said issue, and in so doing, to trigger a global discussion. This year’s issue: Climate Change.

So here’s my take on the story of environmental stewardship, according to the Bible:

God created the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

God created human beings. (Genesis 1:26)

God told human beings to look after the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

Human beings screwed up. (A large portion of the rest of the Bible.)

And that’s that.

Or at least, that’s the (over-)simplified précis.

A theology of ecology, a theology of creation care, is part of—and is consistent with—a grander biblical theology, woven through with themes that can be found throughout Scripture:

It’s about stewardship, about being respectful and responsible with the resources and the gifts that God has given us in his creation. It’s about sharing in God’s appreciation for the world which he called “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and recognizing, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).

It’s about the poor, those who have not are often the hardest hit by the excesses of those who have. The writer of Proverbs said, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (14:31), and even if we’re not directly treating them badly, such an injunction should at least make us think twice about how we live.

It’s about relationship and community, about a harmonious and healthy interaction not only with the people around us but with the world around us, realizing that what we do with the latter will always impact the former at some level. Jesus said that loving one’s neighbor was akin to loving God (Matthew 22:36-40), so if we love God as we claim to, we will love those with whom we share in the gift of God’s creation.

It’s about children, those to whom Jesus said the kingdom of God belonged (Mark 10:14). I have two nieces and three nephews, aged between 18 months and 13 years, and the world they will inherit depends on what we do with it. To quote a Native American proverb (yes, I know it’s not in the Bible!), “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Put more bluntly, those that follow us have to deal with our mess. Jesus values children; if I love Jesus, I will also value children, and I will care about what I leave to them.

It’s about justice, about recognizing that when a small proportion of the earth’s population exhaust its resources and the rest have to face the brunt of the consequences, that isn’t right. And when the God you worship, serve and follow, is described as a God of justice,* and when you’re encouraged to “do justice” (Micah 6:8) … well, it should probably make a difference on how we live, shouldn’t it?

Because, on the most encompassing level of all, it’s about God: the one who made the earth and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). Wendell Berry wrote, “our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy” (Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, 98). Whatever we do with what God has made or given—human or otherwise—is a reflection on what we think of God, the Maker and Giver.

I think the world might look very different if we lived like we knew that.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

(Genesis 1:1, 31)

* I’m not going to post all the references to God’s justice, because that would take up too much space (which says something in itself), but here are a few: Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Leviticus 25; Psalm 37:28, 103:6; Amos 5:23-24; Jeremiah 22:16; Isaiah 58:6-10. You can read more on God as a God of justice here.