“When something we love is threatened, our natural reaction is to save it.” ~ Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Last week we were thoughtfully asked, “What are we willing to do?” to fight climate change. I have another question for you that perhaps will help you answer the first: What are you willing to love?
I invite you to think about what it feels like to love deeply, that unconditional care we have for those that are most dear to us. What would you do to save your child? Your spouse? Your parents? We know in our hearts that we would do almost anything, and that is because we have allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and opened ourselves to our love for them.
I was born a natural empath. I possess an involuntary inclination to feel what others – human and non-human alike – are feeling. This ability to easily “feel” what others are experiencing leads to a great deal of vulnerability and love for the world around me and the creatures that I share it with. As you can imagine, it also leads to no small amount of pain, particularly recently with all of the dire news about the state of our natural world.
The pain that I inevitably experience often leads me to shut myself off and attempt to shut down that empathy. A small example: I am driving home from work, listening to NPR, and a story comes on the radio about the demise of whales. I quickly attempt to find a pop tune to avoid the pain that is about to come. I tell myself, “I know what is happening. I don’t need to hear more.” But I realize that leaving myself open and vulnerable to that love, and perhaps discomfort, is what will keep me in the game.
While we may say that we love everything about nature or our natural world, it is difficult to love and save “everything.” I ask you to think of one thing that you love and let that inspire you to do the work. I truly believe that when we are doing the work in honor of that which we love, we can find great joy in it.
Maybe you visited the outermost tip of Cape Cod and fell in love with the life and community that has been built around fishing from the sea. You know that 90% of fish populations have been lost since 1950, which is heartbreaking. But it is the love of this community and the people in it that keeps you inspired to do the work of ocean and fishery conservation.
Perhaps you are enamored with a particular species, like the majestic elephant that I wrote about several weeks ago. The fact that they are losing their habitat at an alarming rate can feel overwhelming. Your love for this beautiful empathetic creature is what makes you keep going in your effort to conserve wildlands.
It may be that you are in love with the forest, from its towering trees to its life-giving fungi.It is this deep-rooted care that gives you strength to save what is left of one of our greatest gifts and resources.
During a recent environmental writing workshop, participants were guided through a meditation of sorts where we were asked to envision a right whale breaching, making purposeful, personal contact with us. We were then asked to write a letter to the whale. In my mind’s eye, I was able to connect with that whale and, yes, fall in love with the whale. I could sense her imploring me to somehow make things right. The experience was both beautiful and painful. Instead of shutting down, I decided to hold on to the beauty while allowing myself to still carry the pain. There is not one without the other. In my letter to her, I promised that I would not look away. I promised to keep my heart open, to keep loving, and to fight for her.
What is it that you are willing to love?
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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you. Yes, you. Because you want to act on your love for the planet and because you need caring companions as you navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our next meeting in person on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 1:30 PM in the church sanctuary.
Why celebrate World Elephant Day? If, like me, you may simply be in awe of this beautiful animal, not only for their majesty but for their intelligence and empathy, and that is enough to care about their survival. Their unique fabulousness aside, there are reasons to care beyond the grandeur of the individual species.
You may have heard that the oak tree is a keystone species. The majestic oak has gotten a lot of (well-deserved) press lately, but you may not know that the magical – and also majestic – elephant is a keystone species in both Asia and Africa. This means that this particular species helps define an entire ecosystem. Without its keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.
The African Wildlife Foundation states: “As the largest of all land mammals, African elephants play an important role in balancing natural ecosystems. They trample forests and dense grasslands, making room for smaller species to co-exist. Elephants also create water holes used by other wildlife as they dig dry riverbeds when rainfall is low. Herds travel over vast rangelands, and they disperse seeds in their dung, which helps generate new green growth.” That’s the main reason for those amazing tusks.
But elephant populations are in danger.
Elephants are most at risk from poachers, who kill them for their tusks and bushmeat. In fact, 96 elephants are killed for their ivory tusks every day in Africa. They are also in danger of being hunted by farmers because they have the ability to wipe out entire harvests, in turn jeopardizing people’s livelihoods.
In Asia and Africa, they are viewed by farmers not much differently than deer and rabbits here in the United States. Fortunately, there are organizations like Conservation South Luangwa that are working on the ground with farmers to create barriers to elephants that do nor bring them physical harm.
In addition to the individual clashes with humans, climate change and human land use are degrading wild lands, breaking up essential elephant habitats and impeding ancient migratory corridors. “With the growth of commercial agriculture and infrastructure development, as well as extractive industry across the continent, the future of this keystone migratory species is at risk — and so are the fragile ecosystems that depend on it.”
So, what are we to do? Here are some ideas to get you started.
You can sign a pledge to “support a world that protects elephants, wildlife and their habitat” at World Elephant Day.
With the summer months in full gear, you may find yourself traveling more often than you normally do. If you’re like me, the ramifications of that travel do not escape you. Over the past month, I have traveled to the Northeast by plane and to the heart of South Carolina by car. I find myself unable to make these excursions without thinking about the energy expenditure involved and the cost to the climate that they create. For me, both of these trips were to share time with my family, and the value of this time is incalculable and the travel, non-negotiable. So, what is a responsible, climate conscious UU to do?
That’s where the UUCA Carbon Offset Fund comes in. The Carbon Offset Fund (COF for short) was created to help “offset” the carbon footprint that we create when we travel. As we are aware that these contributions are not a 1:1 offset in the true sense of the word, I like to think of them as softening the footprint we make. When you travel, you can make a donation to the fund in any amount you feel good about. The monies that are collected in this fund can only be spent to mitigate climate change. In other words, it can be used only for projects that lower the carbon footprint of UUCA’s building, grounds, and operations. Programs and projects are introduced to and voted on by the Climate Action Team for funding from the COF.
Making a donation to the Carbon Offset Fund is simple. Just click HERE, follow the prompts, and you’re all set. And don’t forget: you don’t have to wait until you travel to make a donation. You may want to donate in honor of a certain person or for a particular occasion. You may be in a situation where you would love to purchase an electric vehicle, but it just isn’t realistic for you at this time. You can contribute to the COF so that the congregation can take on climate friendly projects on your behalf.
And let’s face it, there are times when a monetary donation is not a feasible option. We’ve got you covered there, too. We would love to have you join us for one of our Climate Action Team meetings. No pressure to join – simply attend and see if it’s a fit for you. Not into joining? Try some of the suggestions we offer here in the blog or borrow one of the many publications in our lending library for ideas on offsetting your footprint.
When it comes down to it, we all want to do our best, but we may not know the most beneficial place to start. The Climate Action Team is here to be a resource – for you and the larger congregation. Let’s make a difference… together!
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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our next Zoom meeting at 7:30 PM on Monday, August 21.
It’s hard to believe it’s already June! It seems like I was just digging in on the latest research and recommendations for Pollinator Week 2022, but here we are – back again to celebrate the birds, bees and butterflies!
The Pollinator Partnership, which sponsors Pollinator Week internationally, is focusing on the link between pollinators and climate change this year. The negative aspects certainly remain – continued loss of habitat leading to the death of pollinators globally. On the flip side of that, though, is the effort to support pollinators’ habitats “can help combat climate change by supporting healthy ecosystems, air, soil, water, and plants.”
One of the most important things we can do on an individual or community level is provide habitats for these beautiful and essential creatures. If you are not sure exactly where to start, there are many planting and buying guides available to help. The National Wildlife Foundation has developed Garden for Wildlife, where you can purchase plants and plant groups directly that have been curated for your specific location. Pollinator Partnership has also developed planting guides based on ecoregion that can help you begin your helpful habitat.
If you already have a pollinator garden and want to take it to the next level, NWF offers certification as a wildlife habitat. Check out details here to get started. Join the other 1209 certified gardens in the Atlanta area that have already been certified. It’s cool to know that we are among the top five cities gardening for wildlife in the nation!
Don’t forget about the FUN! You can celebrate at the 2023 Pollinator Week Festival with Bee City USA in Decatur on June 24. For the kiddos, Atlanta Botanical Garden is throwing a Pollinator Party on June 23 with crafts, seed planting, and honey tasting.
Last but definitely not least, if you have garden knowledge, inspiration, or curiosity to share, UUCA’s garden team welcomes you. If you would like to get involved, reach out to me here.
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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund grant opportunity. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our special in-person potluck in the social hall on Monday, June 19.
We need you. We need to hear your thoughts and feelings about how we can help our congregation to be better stewards of the earth. We are coming away from all of the festivities and learning opportunities offered by Earth Month, including an inspiring sermon from Rev. Taryn on rewilding – our world and ourselves. Our question, though, is this: How do we help each other move forward?
We know the task ahead of us seems daunting, but it is also exciting. We have so much opportunity for what Joanna Macy calls the great turning. We have been challenged by the sermon several weeks ago to wonder, “What if it turns out okay?” That leads me to consider what needs to be done by all of us now for that to happen.
That’s where you come in. In celebration of Climate Action Week, the Climate Action Team offered several congregation events, including a screening of a short documentary produced by one of our own members, a gardening day, and an in-person film screening about alternative electricity production. The quality of discussions and energy of those who participated was fantastic, and we are so grateful to have shared that time with them. The downside is that we had far less participants than we would have hoped. Perhaps these were not the offerings that are relevant to you. Maybe you have ideas for programs you would like to see.
In essence, the CAT would love to hear from you about what we can do to help you take your passion for the earth – which we know that you feel – and take your next step. Would you like book clubs? Are you more into film screenings? And what types of films interest you? Do you want to get your hands dirty? If so, how would you like to start digging in? Are you interested in participatory learning or are you more comfortable in a classroom type of setting?
We want to be a resource to you, a support for your environmental journey. We would love to hear your thoughts about how to accomplish that goal. If you see any of us at Sunday service or in another congregational activity, reach out. Ask us a question in Realm or check in with us when our team tables in the social hall after service.
We want to hear from you. For that matter, let us know how you like the blog and what else we can offer here that would benefit you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We all look forward to partnering with you on this adventure!
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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund grant opportunity. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us on Zoom for our next monthly meting on Monday, May 15.