Each person's personal experience brings us here together
today. Let me say a little bit about mine. I grew up in Colorado, my
father a uranium geologist. During the uranium boom, it is fair to say
that people did not understand the effects of radiation; we played in
mine tailings brought from the mine to our sandbox. During my teen
years, I worked with migrant workers, made trips to the Navajo
reservation in Arizona and felt deeply the beauty of the land in the
West. In my experience, God was in those mountains! At the same time, a
different kind of love of urban areas brought me to Barnard in 1968;
meeting Union Theological Seminary (UTS) chaplains at Columbia--bright,
concerned with social justice, ultimately brought me to UTS. Following
ordination, I developed an ecumenical ministry to the elderly in New
York City, focused on work in welfare hotels on the upper Westside. But
my anguish about environmental crises compelled me to pursue an M.A. in
Environmental studies at New York University. The great experience of
working at CODEL (Coordination in Development), a Christian ecumenical
agency supporting small-scale environmentally sustainable development
projects around the world, brings me to a quote from Dr. Cornel West in
the wonderful public course held at Union this spring,
"Christianity and the U.S. Crisis": "Issues must be felt!
Think critically; certain conflicts need to be felt to discern causes
but also felt to think that it is worthwhile to struggle to change
I began to feel the issues at CODEL, which over forty years
supported one thousand small-scale projects--organic farming,
women's literacy, micro-enterprise, and organic forestry through
funds from Lutheran World Relief (LWR), United Church Board for World
Ministries, Maryknoll Sisters, and Heifer Project Intl. among other
Christian groups. At one village in India, we saw groups of men standing
around an excellent check dam, in which water collected so that three
crops instead of one could be grown in a year. This looked like an
environmental success, but apparently it was not a social justice one
for the women, who were still unfortunately standing off in a circle,
not directly involved at least at that public moment. I saw a farm in
Uganda, in an area devastated by AIDS, with orphaned children sitting
along the dusty street corners; yet this family farm, given one cow from
LWR and Heifer Project, was flourishing; there was a biogas unit run by
the farms' waste; a huge kitchen garden with melons the size of
pumpkins; and the female head of the family farm even sold melon wine. A
perfect image of the peaceable kingdom, a family living well on the
land, a model farm.
The secrets of these successes were not hard to see and partly
describe: they were small-scale, grassroots enterprises, with the health
of the communities and of the soil being paramount. Whatever profits
were made were returned to the community, to communities intact enough
to write proposals for and receive community development funds.
Out of this experience I coauthored with Don Kill, a Columbian
priest from the Philippines, a book, Ecological Healing: A Christian
Vision, which incorporates a description of what can be right or wrong
from the standpoint of justice, community life, and the environment. As
part of our work toward rightness, we imagined two prayers for the
graduation of Inday (an imagined student in the Philippines) from
agricultural school, one a Prayer of the Earth Community and the second
a Prayer of the Modern World.
Prayer of the earth community
Prayer of the modern world
As we can see in contrasting these two prayers, to consider
environmental justice brings up basic questions that we must lay on the
table: What is poverty? What is development? Progress? The Good life?
How does the profit motive affect how people treat each other and the
Earth? What is Justice/community? A beneficial human relation to nature?
How does an understanding of justice and ethics criticize the power of
corporations and the global market? What is abundant life? Some of these
questions I will begin to consider in the next few moments.
Overview of concept
Many people know that the root of the word economics is the same
root for ecumenical (oikos, meaning house) and for ecology, too. We
might say that environmental justice brings us to the largest question
imaginable: How is all 6.6 billion of the world's human population
to live together in one house, the earth? How are they to arrange their
affairs (economics) and their life attitude (spirituality, religion,
ecumenism) wisely and well and care for their homeland (their house, the
Earth)? What does this mean for their political arrangements, governing
how they live together in community, whether in the city or in rural
areas, in their homeland?
Environmental justice promotes a special and crucial site from
which to explore these questions, ones often overlooked by those who
measure economic "progress" according to a single "bottom
line." While injustice does not always have an environmental
dimension, often it does. And environmental abuse, more often than not,
directly and negatively affects human communities, and disproportionably
affects people of color or lower class in all countries, especially
poorer countries, populated by people of color. Environmental injustice
lodges the toxic effluent of industry in communities of people
marginalized by race, class, or gender and offers the benefits to
others. To create and use natural resources and luxury commodities
(cotton, sugar, gold, coffee, ivory, diamonds, and oil)--resource
extractors have inflicted untold suffering and exploitation of humans,
animals, and the larger natural world. It is not difficult to understand
that violence against the creaturely world and against ecosystems that
are the global commons, yet that are owned by a nation-state or
corporation for the single purpose of power or profit, results from the
goal of maximizing immediate returns, often beneficial for groups who
have already benefited and thus producing goods for an elite.
Conversely, healthy ecosystems over the long term foster human health
and strengthen community.
We will consider environmental justice in North America, first,
then in India, Africa, and Latin America. We will find that perspectives
that are widely shared teach foundational principles, while unique
voices give culturally and ecologically nuanced insights.
Voices from North America
The environmental justice movement in the United States spans
thirty years or more. Its foundation is the age-old fight for
empowerment against human rights abuses, which, it is worth mentioning,
for the Native Americans in the Americas is perhaps five hundred years
old. Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, The Sea Around Us, and The
Edge of the Sea, can in some ways be considered an early harbinger of
the environmental justice movement. Carson protested the profligate use
of synthetic pesticides after World War II, chronicling their
devastation of the natural world, as well as their threat to humans. In
response, she was attacked by the threatened chemical industry and some
in government, sometimes dismissed as a "hysterical woman."
Carson's scientific knowledge, however, included awareness of the
vulnerability of humans to toxics, a key for consciousness raising and
empowerment of the environmental justice grassroots movement in the
In many localized situations, grassroots struggles lead to
successes in stopping or remediating socially and environmentally
harmful projects. In addition, such struggles "restructure social
relations through systems of localized environmental decision
making." (3) As marginal communities have been transformed from
"passive victims to significant actors" (as Luke Cole and
Sheila Foster put it), they have potential to change and restructure
wider political and cultural discourses and arrangements. (4) The Native
American struggle for a voice ("We speak for ourselves")
becomes the courageous impetus that insists on wider change.
The strands of the tapestry of the U.S. environmental justice
movement include the grape boycott and unionizing successes of the
United Farmworkers' Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, as
well as Lois Gibbs's successful battle against toxic terror in Love
Canal. When, in 1978, Gibbs discovered that her son's school and
her whole neighborhood was built on a toxic waste site, she formed the
Love Canal Homeowners' Association, leading to the resettlement of
833 families and the eventual cleanup of the site. Her subsequent
organization, the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, has
helped 10,000 groups to mobilize to protect themselves against chemical
risks. In the 1980s, the ecojustice movement accelerated. In 1982,
protests erupted in Warren County, N.C., against a PCB (Polychlorinated
Biphenyl) dump, led by local church officials and by the Rev. Dr.
Benjamin Chavis, a longtime civil rights activist and, at that time, the
head of the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial
Justice. Dr. Chavis is now considered by many to be the father of the
environmental justice movement. The resulting Commission's landmark
1987 study, conducted by Charles Lee and Vernice Miller and published as
Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States, galvanized the movement. It
"found that three out of five African Americans and Latinos
nationwide live in communities that have illegal or abandoned toxic
dumps" (5) and that race "is the most potent variable in
predicting where commercial hazardous waste facilities were located in
the U.S., more powerful than household income, the value of homes and
the estimated amount of hazardous waste generated by industry." (6)
(The follow-up report twenty years later corroborated those findings:
host neighborhoods of toxic waste sites are 56 percent people of color,
whereas non-host sites are areas of 30 percent people of color.) Thus,
despite hypotheses to the contrary, race was consistently more the
predictor for toxic waste sites than class.
Ecojustice struggles successfully moved McDonald's away from
Styrofoam in 1986 and Microsoft away from PVC plastic in 2006. Some
struggles focused on freeways, routed through African American or Latino
neighborhoods, such as the Cross Bronx expressway. Along the way
environmental justice movements criticized mainstream environmental
organizations, which they perceived as caring only for wilderness (where
people were not), as having in their power positions few people of
color, and in disagreeing with them on the very definition of
environment. Ecojustice groups define environment as "the place you
work, the place you live, the place you play." But, putting humans
at the center of environmental discourse is a grave error, mainstream
environmentalists have argued, ". . . because humans are the
perpetrators of environmental problems in the first place. [But]
environmental justice activists maintain that some humans, especially
the poor, are also the victims of environmental destruction and
pollution and that, furthermore, some human cultures live in ways that
are relatively sound ecologically. They therefore contend that the
mainstream environmentalists' invention of a universal division
between humans and nature is deceptive, theoretically incoherent, and
strategically ineffective in its political aim to promote widespread
environmental awareness." (7)
In 1991, the National People of Color Environmental Leadership
Summit, held in Washington, D.C., attracted over three hundred delegates
from fifty states. To me, their statement of 17 principles took steps to
heal these rifts and importantly advanced the movement. (It was followed
by the Second National Summit in 2002, attracting 14,000 individuals, of
whom 75 percent came from community-based organizations.) (8)
These principles, for me, summarize poetically, yet concretely,
good practices toward environmental, social, emotional, and spiritual
healing. They reflect for me a vision of the Kingdom of God, the
Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah 11:9: "They will not hurt or destroy on
all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the
Lord as the waters cover the sea."
For Vernice Miller, who followed her work with Charles Lee on
toxics and race, to provide impetus to the struggle in West Harlem to
mitigate the odor from a new sewage treatment plant located on the
Hudson River, the goal, too, is social transformation. She writes of
coalitions at the local, community, and national levels, which "
... at their best, challenge economic practices that threaten vulnerable
groups and ecosystems, while they support policies that serve the common
good. This, of course," she continues, "is quite consistent
with the expectation of social transformation expressed in the biblical
vision of the Kingdom of God coming on earth." (9)
Similarly, the Native American critique of Western culture's
value of individualism to the expense of community undergirds a
spiritual dimension to ecojustice in the United States and throughout
the world. Heartbreakingly tragic is the story of indigenous people who
have experienced themselves "part of the created whole" yet
whose lands have been used for all U.S. nuclear testing (10) as well as
oil and gas exploration and extraction around the world. Native American
self-determination (which means "self-sufficient, cultural,
spiritual, political and economic sustainability" (11)), when
achieved, will strengthen our U.S. culture toward democracy and
Voices from India
We move outside the United States in our consideration of
environmental justice to hear other voices of great passion and
eloquence and to witness powerful grassroots movements.
The Chipko movement in India began in the 1970s with a spontaneous
action of non-violent resistance of hugging trees to stop them from
contractors' axes. The village activists, including thousands of
women, successfully pressured the Indian government for an ecologically
sensitive natural resource policy, with the protests encapsulated in the
slogan: "What do the forests bear? Soil, water, and pure air."
A powerful voice from India is that of Vandana Shiva. Shiva, her
father a forester and her mother a lover of nature, received a Ph.D. in
Philosophy from University of Western Ontario with a thesis:
"Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory."
Renowned for organizing movements for sustainability, women's
rights, biodiversity, property rights, and agriculture, she has won
major awards for her activism, (including in 1993 the Right Livelihood
Award, also known as the alternative Nobel Prize). Her emphases and
passion are captured in one of her books, Soil Not Oil; in it she
asserts: "the shopping mall and the supermarket are temples of
consumerism through which global corporations seduce us into
participating in the destruction of our productive capacities, our
ecological rights, and our responsibilities as earth citizens. Soil
teaches us how to be earth citizens. ... As globalization violently
pushes peasants off the land, the soil symbolizes another culture, a
culture of non-violence, ... permanence, ... dignity in work, a living
culture for the protection and renewal of life. ... Earth Democracy
grows in the fertile soil shaped by the earth, the human imagination,
and human action." (13) For Shiva, development is not
industrialization or profit-driven but "refers to self-directed,
self-regulated, and self-organized evolution from within?" (14) The
solution "to climate change ... and poverty are the same," she
writes, "protecting, enhancing, and rewarding livelihoods, work,
production, and consumption patterns centered on people, not on fossil
fuels. Food, economic justice, and energy equity demand more small
farms, not fewer ... more localization and less globalization. ... And
small ecological farms and local food markets are solutions for the
North and South." (15)
For Shiva and many ecojustice leaders, globalization is often
nothing less than eco-imperialism, which is profit- and fossil-fuel
driven, energy intensive, polluting, unjust, and wasteful, destroying
the freedom and sovereignty of the other--whether other communities,
countries, or species, especially the most vulnerable. They demand that
we rethink poverty and wealth, because trading the non-tradable--water
or biodiversity--for profit creates poverty, not wealth, and spurs on
limitless consumerism and rapacious environmental abuse. She and others
argue that we need a paradigm shift toward a holistic worldview, moving
from a mechanistic, industrial paradigm to an ecological one, and a
different definition of being human: from consumer to conserver. And,
women are key; they have participated asymmetrically in much economic
and social "development." (16) The recent article "Why
Women's Rights Are the Cause of Our Time" in The New York
Times Magazine, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, reports that a
focus on women's health, education and micro-enterprises have
proven records for success and are keys to solving poverty and
But many experts point to the successes of the Green Revolution,
which maximized food production in India, China, Mexico, and the Middle
East, averting massive famine. It intensively used irrigation,
fertilizers, and selective high yield seeds on a large scale. But such
large-scale efforts cannot be repeated, because water is scarce, soil
depleted, because small villages lack access to irrigation, and because
such large-scale agriculture does not protect local seed diversity or
enhance local communities or ecosystems. We need alternate ways!
Voices from Africa
To turn to Africa, Wangari Mathai continues these arguments as a
renowned leader in environmental justice in Africa and internationally.
Native of Kenya, the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a
doctoral degree, she served as Chair of the Department of Veterinary
Anatomy at University of Nairobi and then Chair of the National Council
of Women of Kenya. At the National Council, she introduced tree planting
by women's groups to improve the health of the environment and
women's lives. Her leadership blossomed into the Green Belt
Movement; women planted 20 million trees on farms, schools, and church
compounds. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
The successes of the Green Belt movement and the life-giving image
of millions of green trees planted and protected by women provide a
contrast to environmental injustices associated with extractive
economies, especially a volatile commodity such as oil, sometimes called
black gold. Conflict and injustice permeate the Niger Delta as an
example. Nigeria is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the United
"Nigeria has about 36 billion barrels of crude oil reserve and
19.2 billion cubic metres of natural gas. It is estimated that the
country has realized about $600 billion since 1956 from oil and gas. ...
Sadly, despite the huge revenue from oil, Nigeria is ranked as one of
the poorest countries in the World. The 2005 UNDP Human Development
Report ranked Nigeria 158 out of 177 poorest countries of the world. ...
[and] 70 per cent of Nigerians are classified as living in absolute
poverty of less than $1 per day." (18)
Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian author, and winner of the Goldman
Environmental Prize, was a member of the Ogoni people, whose homeland in
the Niger Delta has been targeted for oil extraction since the 1950s.
Saro-Wiwa organized the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people.
This movement developed a non-violent campaign there against
environmental and social exploitation by the multinational oil
companies, especially Shell, and sought to obtain a share of the wealth
for the people of the Delta. Saro-Wiwa also openly criticized the
Nigerian government. In 1995, the military government arrested, hastily
tried and hanged him. This execution provoked international outrage and
resulted in Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations.
Happily, some headway is being made in these David and Goliath
struggles; we can take heart that the lawsuit brought against Texaco in
Ecuador in 1993 is continuing against Chevron (Texaco's owner),
which could face the largest damage award ever handed down in an
Voices from Central and South America
Everywhere, poverty of the environment exacerbates true poverty of
the poor. Unjust land distribution, stemming from land appropriations by
colonial powers and land owned by foreign-owned and foreign-operated
corporations, as well as lack of enforcement of environmental laws when
they exist, creates profound human suffering. This is especially true in
From Latin America come stories of tragedy and hope. Latin America
and the Caribbean region " ... have the world's largest
reserves of arable land and sixteen percent of the world's degraded
lands (1900 million hectares), ranking it third behind Asia and the
Pacific and Africa." (19) The pace of human-induced forms of
environmental degradation and resource depletion has increased
throughout Latin America owing to a combination of increasing demand for
agricultural products, improving means of exploitation (logging, mining,
and industry), and the lagging pace of conservation and control.
Erosion, a main cause of land degradation, now affects 14.3 percent of
the territory in Latin America and 26 percent in Central America.
Alan B. Durning in a Worldwatch Institute Paper (92): Poverty and
the Environment, Reversing the Downward Spiral (1989) writes of his
However, one of many success stories Alan Durning tells is this
Latin American liberation theology, itself a great sign of hope,
contributed greatly to these issues in a Christian context. In A
Theology of Liberation, published in 1973, Gustavo Gutierrez set the
stage: "Salvation--the communion of human beings with God and among
themselves ... embraces all human reality, transforms it, and leads it
to fullness in Christ," the Liberator. "To reflect upon the
presence and action of the Christian in the world means, ... to go
beyond the visible boundaries of the Church. This is of prime
importance. It implies openness to the world, gathering the questions it
poses, being attentive to its historical transformations." (22)
According to Gutierrez, Latin America was born in the context of
"the dynamics of the capitalist economy [which] led to the
establishment of a center and a periphery, simultaneously generating
progress and growing wealth for the few and social imbalances, political
tensions, and poverty for the many". ... creating ". ... the
untenable circumstances of poverty, alienation, and exploitation in
which the greater part of the people of Latin America live ... "
(23) Gutierrez argues, however, that there is a universality of
salvation, because "persons are saved if they open themselves to
God and to others, even if they are not clearly aware that they are
doing so. ... We can no longer speak properly of a profane world. ...
Salvation. . . is something which embraces all human reality, transforms
it, and leads it to its fullness in Christ. ... The absolute value of
salvation--far from devaluing this world--gives it its authentic meaning
and its own autonomy, because salvation is already latently there. To
express the idea in terms of Biblical theology: the prophetic
perspective (in which the Kingdom takes on the present life,
transforming it) is vindicated before the sapiential outlook (which
stresses the life beyond)." (24)
Gutierrez's theology is particularly effective, I believe, for
environmental justice issues because he views salvation as the Kingdom
of God, which embraces all life, the fullness of oikos (house, home,
economics, ecology, and ecumenism). His is a grounded and embodied
vision, heartbreaking, passionate, and hope filled all at once. His
poetic writing and appeal is as beautiful as a love letter, grounded, as
he movingly reminds us, in John XXIII's reflection that the church
is called to be the church of the poor.
This brief overview of environmental justice struggles around the
world reveals many glimmers of light. But let us step back for a moment:
how will all 6.6 billion people live on this planet, sustainably,
protecting it for the next generation? One billion people at the bottom
lack basic life necessities. The First World (6 percent of the
world' population) consumes 25 percent of its resources and is
largely responsible for climate change. It would take four Earths to
live as the First World lives, yet our biggest export product is
Jared Diamond in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive,
and E. O. Wilson in The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth
catalog environmental and social pressures. At an accelerating rate,
humans are destroying natural habitats (forests, for example, which
provide timber and raw materials and ecosystems services, are half what
they were originally, and another quarter will be converted in another
half century). Diamond tells us that the rate of permanent loss of wild
species, populations, and genetic diversity is at a rate 100 times
faster than before humans appeared on Earth and may become 1,000 times
faster soon. Human population grows exponentially, but the consumption
and waste footprint of a person in the United States, Western Europe,
and Japan is 32 times that of a person in the Third World. Soils of
farmlands are being carried away by water and wind erosion at rates
between 10 and 40 times the rates of soil formation. Climate change has
already begun and will continue to affect the most vulnerable
populations along sea coasts and in sub-Saharan Africa, causing violence
and thousands of ecorefugees. Around the world, humans absorb thousands
of toxic chemicals through food and water, and breathing, and we endure
birth defects, mental retardation or permanently damaged immune and
reproductive systems, as a result. (25)
To turn from Diamond and Wilson to an underlying issue to which we
have briefly alluded, economics must be addressed. The present global
economic system, founded on the profit motive, in which the United
States is the largest player, may be criticized for its lack of
humanistic democratic values, founded on Judaism and Christianity (human
dignity, equality, and justice), and for its scandalous inattention to
the erosion of nature's capital. The rise of Protestantism, the
Enlightenment, and the forces pinpointed by Max Weber in The Protestant
Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism all require theological critique and
re-envisioning. Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda (who received her Ph.D. at Union
under Larry Rasmussen) in Healing a Broken World: Globalization and God
(26) outlines four powerful and inextricably linked global market myths:
growth benefits all; freedom is market freedom; " ... human beings
are essentially autonomous rational subjects rather than
beings-in-community, competitive rather than cooperative, and
consumerist rather than spiritual" (27); and that corporate-and
finance-driven globalization is inevitable.
Moe-Lobeda goes on to lift up Martin Luther's theology, with
his belief that "earth's creatures are filled to the utmost
with God," as grounds for creation of an impulse of
"subversive moral agency" desperately needed today. Her
theology has deep meaning for me, as I often think of Luther's
argument that God is incarnated everywhere, even in a leaf (28) as
foundational to ecojustice; her embodied justice, based on Luther, is
very much needed today (and parenthetically Luther's largely
under-recognized potential for environmental theology lies behind much
of the Lutheran early entrance into environmental justice theology,
beginning with Joseph Skier, at the University of Chicago, and continues
through Larry Rasmussen).
In the UTS course "Christianity and the U.S. Crisis,"
Professors Gary Dorrien, Serene Jones, and Gomel West exposed the
economic roots of the problems the world faces, as they summarized in an
interview with Bill Moyers:
David Korten (who worked for the World Bank and CODEL, where I
worked) learned from Vandana Shiva and most recently authored Agenda for
a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to New Wealth: Why Wall Street
Can't Be Fixed and How to Replace It. He describes the capitalist
system as fostering greed and corporate power (parenthetically, the size
of corporations is larger than some governments; in the early twentieth
century, we remember it was ruled that corporations have legal
personalities akin to individuals). The capitalist system has the
corrosive power to universally disenfranchise persons. (32) As Korten
argued in January of this year at Trinity Church: The wanton human
destruction of the earth that sustains us is unconscionable: the unjust
distribution of the earth's resources, maintained by violence,
constitutes crimes against God and ourselves by our own collective hand.
As Korten sees it, as individual humans we appear intelligent;
collectively, we appear to be pathologically suicidal. We either heal
collectively or die together.
Korten echoes Moe-Lobeda: the problem is a pervasive collective
story, which leads us to believe that the economy is functioning well
when it is killing us. The pervasive story is that economic growth, and
rise in Gross Domestic Product, increases human happiness; that the
faster we consume the wealthier we become; that greed is good; and that
financial advantage is the highest value.
In fact, the richer we are, the more we pathologically convert real
resources to toxic waste. Korten asks what purpose we expect the economy
to serve and reminds us that "No one can serve two masters."
We need to create a new economy devoted to the service of life
("Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" [Matt.
22.211), a choice we must make as a society.
The best course I took, as I worked on my M.A., was environmental
economics. As some have always perceived, and yet many do not know, we
are not even truly guided by our economic measurements: Gross National
Product and corporate budgets do not measure negative
"externalities," such as pollution and injustice. The Exxon
Valdez oil spill made us look richer than before the tragedy occurred.
John Cobb and Herman Daly wrote For the Common Good, in which they
analyzed the American economy and annual budget in light of negative
externalities and determined that we are half as wealthy as we think we
We need proper measurements, even to economically value what nature
gives us for free! To return to Korten, real wealth is nature, labor,
land, knowledge, and human resources, anything that has intrinsic value,
such as love, healthy children, a job that provides a sense of meaning,
a healthy environment, and peace. Alternative measurements, such as the
true wealth assessments of groups such as Redefining Progress (and
corporate shareholder resolutions presented by groups such as the
Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility) are needed. I often
wonder, what if hourly on the radio we heard indicators about the health
of our children or pollution in streams and rivers, rather than the rise
and fall of the DOW Industrial Average? Korten argues that 93 percent of
people in the United States agree with the statement that we are too
focused on money and not on community, yet we seem paralyzed, unable to
act according to our shared values. It is my view that such paralysis is
a sin, which may remain our personal truth but is not often heard in
public discussion and too infrequently in our churches.
As we know, many battles are pitted as "jobs versus
nature," and the repetitive argument becomes fatiguing and
circular. Resource wars that become newsworthy reveal a tragic trend:
increased injustice over time and loss of sense of place and degradation
of creation. In the United States, we have seen this repeated countless
times, in conflicts over ancient redwoods in the Pacific Northwest, rich
deposits of low-sulfur coal underneath the Black Mesa homelands of the
Hope and Navajo, oil and gas reserves under the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, and mountain top removal in Appalachia.
This utilitarian destruction repeats itself worldwide, as we have
seen. Lawrence Summers is infamous for writing a December 12, 1991,
memo, as he was then chief economist at the World Bank, in which he
stated that "the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic
waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable," and that the Bank
should be "encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to
the Least Developed Countries." (33)
Far from creating a reasonable world, the shadow side of unbridled
capitalism embraces suffering, struggle to right the situations, and
even consequent martyrdom. Whether focused on gem stones, especially
diamonds, oil, bananas, roses exported for Valentine's Day, rubber
from Brazil, coffee (the second largest export crop), palms for Palm
Sunday, or dams for hydropower, we can trace these themes. Environmental
justice martyrs include rubber tapper Chico Mendez in Brazil, Ken
Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria, and U.S.-born human rights activist Sr. Dorothy
Stang in the Amazon in 2005.
Solutions from the Christian perspective
The churches have become ecojustice advocates, based on the
conviction of the integrity of creation, responsibility to steward
God's creation, and conviction that justice, peace, and
environmental protection are linked. The National Council of Churches of
Christ's ecojustice working group, the Justice/Peace/Integrity of
Creation program emphasis of the World Council of Churches of Christ
(WCCC), as well as the major denominations individually have produced
conferences, study trips, statements and impetus for change. Several
months ago, a panel of economists and theologians told a WCCC hearing in
Geneva that ecological debt keeps growing and that when ecological debts
of industrialized nations are factored into the world's financial
accounting, the poorer nations of the global South are creditors, not
Coffee's popularity in its many forms in Starbucks has not
translated to higher incomes for coffee growers. Further, canopy trees
are often cut to grow coffee, destroying bird habitat in some of the
most important migratory regions. LWR, Audubon Society, Equal Exchange,
and other organizations provide information on fair trade, shade-grown
coffee (grown by coffee cooperatives that ensure a fair wage to coffee
growers), which is being sold and served more and more by knowledgeable
I buy Tres Mariposas Organic Coffee, fair trade, shade grown, from
Dominican Republic Blend, whose package reads:
In ecojustice feminist analysis, theology, democracy, and
nature's well-being go hand in hand. As leading Latin American
theologian Ivone Gebara states in her article "The Trinity and
Human Experience," "To leave behind ... [a] crude and highly
patriarchal, hierarchical, materialistic, individualist, dependent, and
class-biased understanding of God and of the Trinity seems ... an
essential step for the present and the future ... We are constantly
being invited to return to our roots: to communion with the earth, with
all people and with all living things; to realize that transcendence is
not a reality 'out there,' isolated, 'in itself,'
superior to all that exists, but a transcendence within us, among us, in
the earth, in the cosmos, everywhere." (34)
Gebara offers images and concepts that I feel are essential for us
to embrace in this time, in particular, an embodied theology in which
the divine permeates the web of life, which challenges the understanding
of God as separate from the created world, taken to an extreme in the
fundamentalist notion of the Rapture. It is vital to the situation we
are facing to value bodies, as Sallie McFague has argued so beautifully
in her books beginning with the Models of God: Theology for an
Ecological and Nuclear Age.
Some do feel they need to move beyond Christianity: Chung Hyun
Kyung writes, "Many eco-feminists reject the spirituality of
traditional Western Christianity, which is based on Greek and
Hellenistic dualism, hierarchy of beings and an androcentric bias. ...
Therefore, when we incorporate African or Asian indigenous spirituality
to eco-feminist spirituality, ... The earth becomes sacred. ...
Reaffirming our commitment to the struggle of liberation of our people
and nature, we would share the symbol of a tree as the most inspiring
symbol for the spirituality of eco-feminism." (35)
While I am sympathetic to Kyung's position, I disagree that we
have to move beyond Christianity. Christianity is large enough to
encompass and undergird a response to environmental injustice. The
incarnation; the suffering of Christ on the cross, as representing the
suffering of vulnerable and disenfranchised people and God's
suffering with them; an understanding of the goodness of the cosmos
("for God so loved the world," or cosmos; John 3:16); the
motif of the Good, Promised Land; and Jesus' teachings all provide
inspiration to become true to the values needed to carry us and succeed
in the future. Dr. James Cone articulated the Black Theology of
Liberation as early as 1970, followed by Gutierrez (with an emphasis on
South and Latin America) in 1973. In the forty years since, highly
esteemed theologians have articulated the cry of the Earth and the
disenfranchised: Jurgen Moltmann, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Larry
Rasmussen, Leonardo Boff. As Boff writes.
Bill Moyers's interview of Union Theological Seminary
professors about ecojustice continued:
The changes needed illumine the roots of Christianity, and we need
the roots to flourish as Christian environmental justice advocates. As
Luther wrote, we need to distinguish the theology of the cross from the
theology of glory: "That person does not deserve to be called a
theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they
were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened
[Rom. 1:20]. ... He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who
comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through
suffering and the cross. ... A theology of glory calls evil good and
good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
In my thinking, it seems that always oppression of the powerless is
an ironclad law of sin (catastrophic for the invisible); yet don't
we in the churches need to reaffirm how sin is met by the theology of
the cross? Theologian David Tracy has written of the unknowability and
darkness of God, which he finds in Martin Luther and the mystic Meister
Eckhart, the hiddenness of God in the suffering and abandonment of the
cross, which gives Christians eyes to see the underside, the shadow, the
vulnerable. For Prof Cone, the Cross is the Lynching tree, where despite
all, God hears all, even when there is no one human listening (Serene
Jones). In the Hebrew scriptures, lack of care for justice is seen as
causing pollution of the land. We find our roots, too, where Jesus'
marginality and death and openness to all human experience and
revolutionary Kingdom of God point to a preferential option for the
poor. When Christians discover that we actually need clean water for the
rite of baptism, perhaps we will wake up even more. May we see the
biblical cosmic Christ and the Spirit of Christ in all things, through
taking to heart the description of Logos/Christ in the Prologue to the
Gospel of John and Colossians 1:15-20, through whom and for whom all
things have been created. Don't we have an obligation to remember
that Jesus pointed to the lilies of the field as an icon for God's
care and radical faith claim that we need not think for the morrow or
amass riches? Doesn't that criticize a profit economy and the greed
that drives it? And the mutuality embraced by ecofeminism (as Rosemary
Radford Reuther defines it: "Ecofeminism claims an alternative
principle of relationship between men and women, humans and the land--a
mutuality in which there is no hierarchy but rather an interconnected
web of life" (39)), reminds us that Jesus is a nature mystic and
ecofeminist, because those were his concerns, too.
In the United States, the call for a renewed vision to reorient
ourselves sounds deeply outside religious bodies, as well. In my
reading, I have found this call articulated variously as deep
spirituality, deep ecology, the new consciousness, or deep democracy.
From my vantage point, the values expressed there are akin to those we
find in Judaism and Christianity: values such as justice, love,
compassion for all beings, valuing the physical, material world, while
shunning materialism. Movements that are challenging capitalism and
"nature as resource" are more alike than different from
Christian environmental justice movements and provide forms of hope and
insight that both contribute to and complement theological views. Gus
Speth, dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale
University, writes in The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism,
the Environment and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability (40) of the
need for a rapid evolution to a new consciousness. He appreciatively
quotes a range of thinkers and writers: Vaclav Havel, Aldo Leopold, and
Paul Raskin (whose Global Scenario Group favors a New Sustainability
worldview where society turns "to non-material dimensions of
fulfillment ... the quality of life, the quality of human solidarity and
the quality of the earth" (41)). In addition, Speth calls on
authorities on religion and ecology Profs. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John
Grim, who underline the need for a new consciousness. As Speth insists:
"Today's dominant worldview is simply too biased toward
anthropocentrism, materialism, egocentrism, contempocentrism,
reductionism, rationalism, and nationalism to sustain the changes
To create a world of peace and justice, we Christians must join
passionately with those who are part of salvation (Gutierrez) even if
they do not know it, because they are finding life-giving counter
arguments to the present system.
The Earth Charter, a document created by many groups around the
world, provides a radical blueprint for a sustainable world, and it
needs more energy behind it to move from blueprints to plans and
implementation. The development researcher Paul Collier in his book The
Bottom Billion (43) offers measures toward a sustainable world (many in
beginning stages), which include internationally agreed-upon charters
for extractive industries and post-conflict governments, appropriate
aid, and trade by international actors who have solely the well-being of
the bottom billion as the problem of focus.
Jeffrey D. Sachs, of the Columbia Earth Institute, outlines in his
book The End of Poverty nine steps: commit to ending poverty, adopt a
plan of action (including the Millennium Development goals, supported by
many major church denominations), raise the voice of the poor, redeem
the role of the United States in the world, rescue the IMF and the World
Bank, strengthen the United Nations, harness global science, promote
sustainable development, and make a personal commitment. (44) Achieving
these would be excellent first steps, but we need to commit the
resources to putting them into practice soon.
Charles Lee writes of a collaborative model to achieve
environmental justice. (45) Prof. Gary Dorrien is quoted in Newsweek:
"If we democratize economic power and the process of
investment--expanding the cooperative sector, investing in full
employment and green technology, strengthening social market sectors
that serve the needs of communities, and creating public banks--we get
better choices. ... Economic development that does not harm the
earth's environment requires dramatically expanded cooperative and
public-bank sectors." (46)
Solutions to these problems, basic to ecojustice, may be summarized
in what is a working phrase: "sustainable development." In the
so-called developing countries, as we have seen, they include
empowerment of women, restoration of the environment, sustainable
agriculture (rotational cropping, seed diversity, rotational grazing,
organic farming, garden/farm agroecosystems, gravity flow and drip
irrigation, and diversified kitchen gardens), land reform, conditions of
peace, and community initiative. In many areas, ecojustice includes a
substitution of Last Values (rural, low cost, labor-intensive, organic,
small, untidy, and unpredictable) for First Values (urban, high cost,
capital-intensive, large, modern, exotic). How we would do that in the
First World is being explored and thought about and experimented with!
In this David and Goliath struggle, there are many points of light,
if we look. Paul Hawken in Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in
the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (47) says that
there are one to two million organizations globally working toward
social justice and environmental sustainability. We can be inspired and
participate in ecojustice organizations close by. Many people are
modeling their lives after ecojustice principles: justice,
sustainability, participation, solidarity, and sufficiency. (48)
If we keep minds, eyes, and hearts open, we will be pulled into
pain, compassion, and joy and understanding. For seminaries and
churches, the struggle for "justice [to] roll down like
waters" brings, as it always has, renewal and abundant life.
Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and
Humans Harvard, ed. by Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford Ruether
(Harvard, 2000); esp. "Social Transformation through Environmental
Justice," by Vernice Miller-Travis.
Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots, by
Robert Bullard (South End Press, 1993); esp. "Beyond Toxic Wastes
and Race," by Charles Lee.
Defending Mother Earth: Native American Perspectives on
Environmental Justice, ed. by Jace Weaver (Orbis, 1997); esp. "An
American Indian Theological Response to Ecojustice," by George E.
Environmental Injustices: Political Struggles: Race, Class, and the
Environment, ed. by David E. Camacho (Duke University Press, 1998); esp.
Stephen Sandweiss, "The Social Construction of Environmental
For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the
Environment, and a Sustainable Future, by Daly, Herman E., and John B.
Cobb, Jr. (Beacon, 1989).
From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the
Environmental Justice Movement, by Luke Cole and Sheila Foster (New York
University Press, 2001); esp. Ch. 1, "A History of the
Environmental Justice Movement."
The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots
of American Environmentalism, by Aaron Sachs (Viking, 2006).
The Struggle for Ecological Democracy: Environmental Justice
Movements in the United States, ed. by Daniel Faber (The Guilford Press,
1998); esp. Rodger C. Field, "Risk and Justice: Capitalist
Production and the Environment."
Theology for Earth Community: A Field Guide, ed. by Dieter T.
Hessel (Orbis, 1996); esp. "Environmental Justice: The Power of
Making Connections," by Manning Marable; "Environmental
Justice and Black Theology of Liberating Community," by Thomas L.
Hoyt, Jr.; and "EcoJustice and Justice: An American Indian
Perspective," by George E. Tinker.
Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, ed. by
William Cronon (W. W. Norton, 1996); esp. Giovanna Di Chiro,
"Nature as Community: The Convergence of Environment and Social
The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What
Can Be Done About It, by Paul Collier (Oxford University Press, 2007).
The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment,
and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, by James Gustave Speth (Yale
University Press, 2008).
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, by Jared Diamond
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, by Jeffrey
D. Sachs (Penguin, 2005).
The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics
of Pollution, ed. by Robert D. Bullard (Sierra, 2005); esp.
"Environmental Justice in the Twenty-first Century," by Robert
D. Bullard; "Tierra y Vida: Chicano Environmental Justice Struggles
in the Southwest," by Devon G. Pena; "Alienation and Militancy
in the Niger Delta: Petroleum, Politics, and Democracy in Nigeria,"
by Oronto Douglas et. al.; "Addressing Global Poverty, Pollution,
and Human Rights," by Robert D. Bullard, et. al.
Power, Justice, and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the
Environmental Justice Movement, ed. by David Naguib Pellow and Robert J.
Brulle (MIT Press, 2005).
Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, by
Vandana Shiva (South End Press, 2008).
Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and
Religion, by Rosemary Radford Ruether (Orbis, 1996); esp. "Let Us
Survive: Women, Ecology and Development," by Vandana Shiva; and
other articles in Part 3: Asia.
EcoTheology: Voices from South and North, ed. by David G. Hallman
(Orbis 1994); esp. "Social Ecology: Poverty and Misery," by
The Mystical and Prophetic Thought of Simone Weil and Gustavo
Gutierrez: Reflections on the Mystery and Hiddenness of God, by
Alexander Nava (State University of New York, 2001). A Theology of
Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation by Gustavo Gutierrez (Orbis,
1988); esp. chs. 9 and 13.
Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and
Religion, by Rosemary Radford Ruether, (Orbis, 1996), see esp.
Introduction and Part 1, Latin America, including "The Trinity and
Human Experience: An Ecofeminist Approach," by Ivone Gebara; and
"Latin America's Poor Women: Inherent Guardians of Life,"
by Gladys Parentelli.
The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics
of Pollution, ed. by Robert Bullard (Sierra Club, 2005), see esp.
"Alienation and Militancy in the Niger Delta: Petroleum, Politics,
and Democracy in Nigeria," by Oronto Douglas, et. al.
Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil, by Ike Okonta
and Oronto Douglas (Verso, 2003).
Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and
Religion, by Rosemary Radford Ruether (Orbis, 1996), see esp. Part 3,
Women and Environment in the Third World, by Irene Dankelman and
Joan Davidson (Earthscan, 1988); see esp. Ch. 12, "Working Together
for the Future."
Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and
Religion, ed. by Rosemary Radford Ruether (Orbis, 1996).
A Christian response to environmental injustice
Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and
Humans, ed. by Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford Ruether (Harvard,
2005), see esp. Part V, Christian Praxis for Ecology and Justice,
including "Global Eco-Justice: The Church's Mission in Urban
Society," by Larry Rasmussen.
Christian Environmental Ethics: A Case Method Approach, by James B.
Martin-Schramm & Robert L. Stivers (Orbis, 2003).
Earth Community, Earth Ethics, by Larry Rasmussen (Orbis, 1996).
Earth Habitat: Eco-Injustice and the Church's Response, ed. by
Dieter Hessel and Larry Rasmussen (Fortress, 2001).
Ecological Healing: A Christian Vision, by Nancy G. Wright and
Donald Kill (Orbis, 1993).
Healing a Broken World: Globalization and God, by Cynthia D.
Moe-Lobeda (Fortress, 2002), see esp. "Subversive Moral Agency
Today: God 'Flowing and Pouring into All Things."'
A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming, by Michael S.
Northcott (Orbis, 2007).
Theology for Earth Community: A Field Guide, ed. by Dieter T.
Hessel (Orbis, 1996).
(1.) This paper was originally given as a lecture at Union
Theological Seminary at the invitation of The Rev. Dr. Sam Cruz.
(2.) Nancy G. Wright and Donald Kill, Ecological Healing: A
Christian Vision (Orbis, 1993, p. 47).
(3.) Luke Cole and Sheila Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental
Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (New York
University Press, 2001), p. 13.
(4.) Ibid., 14.
(5.) Daniel Faber, ed., The Struggle for Ecological Democracy:
Environmental Justice Movements in the United States (Guilford, 1998,
"Introduction," p. 6.
(6.) "Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty," at
(7.) Giovanna Di Chiro, "Nature as Community: The Convergence
of Environment and Social Justice," in William Cronon, ed.,
Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (Norton, 1996), p.
301; see also Cronon's famous essay "The Trouble with
Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature," in the same
(8.) Robert D. Bullard, "Environmental Justice in the
Twenty-first Century," in Robert D. Bullard, ed. The Quest for
Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution
(Sierra Club, 2005), p. 22. The Preamble is available at
http://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.html, accessed April 19, 2010.
(9.) See Vernice Miller-Travis, "Social Transformation Through
Environmental Justice," in Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford
Ruether, Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and
Humans (Harvard, 2000), p. 571.
(10.) George E. Tinker, "EcoJustice and Justice: An American
Indian Perspective," in Dieter T. Hesse], ed. Theology for Earth
Community: A Field Guide (Orbis, 1996), pp. 184, 169.
(11.) Ibid., p. 184.
(12.) Quoted in http://www.rightlivelihood.ord/chipko_speech.html.
(13.) Vandana Shiva, Soil Not Oil (South End Press, 2008), p. 7.
(14.) Ibid., p. 13.
(15.) Ibid., p. 41.
(16.) See Vandana Shiva, "Let Us Survive: Women, Ecology and
Development," in Rosemary Radford Ruether Women Healing Earth:
Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and Religion (Orbis, 1996), p.
(17.) Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "Why Women's
Rights Are the Cause of Our Time," The New York Times Magazine
(August 23, 2009).
(18.) Leo Atakpu, "Resource Based Conflicts: Challenges of Oil
Extraction in Nigeria" (Berlin, 2007).
(19.) See "Latin America and the Debate Over Environmental
Protection and National Security," by Robert M. Mcab and Kathleen
S. Bailey, in DISAM Journal, December 2007, p. 6.
(20.) Wright and Kill, p. 7.
(21.) Alan Durning, quoted in Wright and Kill, p. 120.
(22.) Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation (Orbis, 1998,
revised version of the original 1973 original English version, with new
introduction by the author), pp. 9, 85.
(23.) Ibid., pp. 51, 55.
(24.) Ibid., pp. 84, 85.
(25.) Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or
Survive (Penguin, 2005), p. 487-96.
(26.) Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Healing a Broken World: Globalization
and God (Augsburg Fortress, 2002), chapter 3.
(27.) Ibid, p. 59.
(28.) Luther: "The power of God ... must be essentially
present in all places even in the tiniest leaf." In Luther,
"That These Words of Christ, 'This Is My Body,' etc.
Still Stand Firm against the Fanatics," Luther's Works 37:57,
quoted by Moe-Lobeda, Healing in a Broken World, p. 112.
(29.) Bill Moyers Journal, PBS, July 3, 2009.
(32.) David Korten, "Navigating the Great Turning: From Empire
to Sustainability" (Trinity Institute Lecture, January 2009).
(33.) Daniel Faber, "The Political Ecology of American
Capitalism: New Challenges for the Environmental Justice Movement,"
in Faber, pp. 47.
(34.) Ivone Gebara, "The Trinity and Human Experience,"
in Rosemary Radford Ruether, Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on
Ecology, Feminism, and Religion (Orbis, 1996), p. 20.
(35.) Chung Hyun Kyung, "Ecology, Feminism and African and
Asian Spirituality: Towards a Spirituality of Eco-Feminism," in
Ecotheology: Voices from South and North, ed. by David G. Hallman
(Orbis, 1994), pp. 176-78, passim.
(36.) "Spiritual Rebellion: Interview with Leonardo
Boff," at the World Forum for Theology and Liberation, Brazil,
January 21-25, 2009; found on World Council of Churches, resources for
Advent 2009; http://www.oikoumene.org/gr/news.
(37.) Moyers interview.
(38.) Quoted in Bernhard Lohse, Martin Luther's Theology: Its
Historical and Systematic Development (Augsburg, 1991), p. 38.
(39.) Reuther, p. 11.
(40.) James Gustave Speth, The Bridge at the Edge of the World:
Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability
(41.) Ibid., p. 201.
(42.) Ibid., p. 205.
(43.) Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries
Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (Oxford, 2007).
(44.) Jeffrey D. Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities
for Our Time (Penguin, 2005), pp. 365-67.
(45.) Charles Lee, "Collaborative Models to Achieve
Environmental Justice and Healthy Communities, in David Naguib Pellow
and Robert J. Brulle, eds., Power, Justice, and the Environment: A
Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement (MIT Press,
2005), p. 221.
(46.) Gary Dorrien, Newsweek web article; July 10, 2009.
(47.) Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the
World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (Viking, 2007).
(48.) James B. Martin-Schramm & Robert L. Stivers, Christian
Environmental Ethics: A Case Method Approach (Orbis, 2003).
We thank you God, our nurturing Mother on Earth, for the many
opportunities we have to enhance the Earth community today. We
are grateful for Inday's ability to listen to and to learn
from all things that interact to nurture the fertility of the
soil and community. We pray that she may continue to live in
harmony with the natural world. Bless her family, whose
concern for the soil has taught her the wisdom of living
lightly on the Earth. Guide her to use that wisdom to promote
the health, fertility, and diversity of all beings here and
throughout the Philippine archipelago. Lastly, we thank you
for the food and the solidarity we share with all creatures.
We pray for all who are denied a nurturing habitat. Guide us
to appreciate in a mutually supportive way the life-enhancing
role of every being so that all things can join the liturgy of
all creation in praising You. Amen.
We thank you God, our almighty Father in heaven, for the many
things that satisfy our needs in the modern world today. We are
grateful for the culmination of Inday's professional course of
studies enabling her to make the soil more productive and
We pray that she may find gainful employment. Bless her family
who, through hard work and self-denial, saved the money for her
professional training. Guide her to use her technical expertise to
help industry and commerce flourish and to increase salaried
employment for the human beings of our place and of our nation.
Lastly, we thank you for this food and the solidarity we share
with the people around us. We pray for people who do not have
enough to eat. Guide us to steward carefully and to distribute
fairly all things among human beings so that all people can enjoy
the riches of the Earth and give You praise. Amen. (2)
WE, THE PEOPLE OF COLOR, gathered together at this multinational
People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, to begin to build
a national and international movement of all peoples of color to
fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities, do
hereby re-establish our spiritual interdependence to the
sacredness of our Mother Earth"; to respect and celebrate each of
our cultures, languages and beliefs about the natural world and
our roles in healing ourselves; to ensure environmental justice;
to promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the
development of environmentally safe livelihoods; and, to secure
our political, economic and cultural liberation that has been
denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression,
resulting in the poisoning of our communities and land and the
genocide of our peoples, do affirm and adopt these Principles of
1. Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth,
ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the
right to be free from ecological destruction.
2. Environmental Justice demands that public policy be based on
mutual respect and justice for all peoples," free from any form of
discrimination or bias.
3. Environmental Justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced
and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the
interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living
4. Environmental Justice calls for universal protection from
nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of toxic/
hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the
fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.
5. Environmental Justice affirms the fundamental right to
political, economic, cultural, and environmental self-
determination of all people.
6. Environmental Justice demands the cessation of the production
of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and
that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable
to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point
7. Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal
partners at every level of decision making, including needs
assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
8. Environmental Justice affirms the right of all workers to a
safe and healthy work environment without being forced to choose
between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the
right of those who work at home to be free from environmental
9. Environmental Justice protects the right of victims of
environmental injustice to receive full compensation and
reparations for damages as well as quality health care.
10. Environmental Justice considers governmental acts of
environmental injustice a violation of international law, the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the United Nations
Convention on Genocide.
11. Environmental Justice must recognize a special legal and
natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government
through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming
sovereignty and self-determination.
12. Environmental Justice affirms the need for urban and rural
ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural
areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of
all our communities, and providing fair access for all to the full
range of resources.
13. Environmental Justice calls for the strict enforcement of
principles of informed consent, and a halt to the testing of
experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations
on people of color.
14. Environmental Justice opposes the destructive operations of
15. Environmental Justice opposes military occupation, repression
and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life
16. Environmental Justice calls for the education of present and
future generations which emphasizes social and environmental
issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse
17. Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make
personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother
Earth's resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and
make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our
lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present
and future generations.
In the Guatemalan village where I lived in the late 1970s, I used
to marvel at the elegance with which poor farmers could optimize
every available scrap of resources--every ridge of land, every
surplus hour of time, every channel of water, every angle of
sunlight. Though the Indians where I lived are surely poor, they
do own their own plots of land. They depend upon and care for what
is theirs. When I go back to the village, I always find that my
friends' fields look just as I remembered them.
Ten years ago, I also worked in Guatemala's northern Quiche
province, which, for many reasons, is much poorer than the town
where I lived. There, I recall watching in horrified fascination
as an Indian farmer and his son planted their plot of corn on a
forested slope. The land was so steep that the son had to be held
in place with a rope looped around his waist. As he hopped from
furrow to furrow, his father let out the slack from around a tree
When I returned to that spot recently, I was not surprised to find
that the farmer and his son were no longer there. And neither was
the hillside. What remained was a reddish, eroded nub-which looked
just like the next and the next and the next former hillside.20
In the rugged Yungas region north of La Paz, Bolivia, hundreds of
impoverished peasants take high school-level courses in market
towns when they come to sell their produce. The curriculum,
designed by a dedicated independent group call CETHA to be
relevant to local conditions, also offers intensive week-long
vocational courses during the agricultural slack season. Most
important, the effort has managed to enroll nearly as many women
as men. Studies on every continent show that as female literacy
rates rise so do income levels, nutrition levels, and child
survival rates; at the same time, population growth slows, as
women gain the self-confidence to assert control over their
CORNEL WEST: I think it has to do a lot with the profound
spiritual crisis, a kind of spiritual malnutrition, an emptiness
of soul, a whole culture of indifference that says, in fact, that
you can possess your soul, by means of possessing commodities. . .
GARY DORRIEN: That's why I'm for economic democracy, because I
think that economic democracy is essentially an attempt to sort of
hold down, serve as a kind of a break on human greed and will to
SERENE JONES: But that's also why we need to re-craft the story of
want. And this comes back to the whole question of love. What does
it mean to begin to nurture communities? And this is why I think
it's crucial for democracy to thrive. (31)
Your purchase of our coffee supports The Dream Project, a
nonprofit organization working to improve educational
opportunities for children in rural areas of the Dominican
Republic. .. . We dream that from this place named Alta Gracia,
high grace will spread to our neighbors beyond our small farm and
beyond our small country.
The protest of Liberation theology against suffering is not
limited to a single region. Every kind of repression, every cry of
the poor, of the oppressed, of the marginalized anywhere in the
world is an appeal to theology. ... is it possible to live in
peace and happily when you know that two-thirds of human beings
are suffering, hungry and poor? It's not only the cry of the poor
we must listen to but also the cry of the earth. We must do
something to change the situation--there won't be a Noah's Ark to
save only some of us. (36)
SERENE JONES: Justice is nothing but love with legs. Justice is
what love looks like when it takes social form. CORNEL WEST: Part
of it has to do with trying to get beyond the labels. What we're
really talking about, I think, is a certain kind of moral clarity
and a certain kind of moral courage, and a certain kind of genuine
moral compassion. And it comes from a variety of different
traditions, ... so that we don't want to get too obscure in our
discourse, and not really just put on the table something that's
very simple. How deep is your love? What is the quality of your
service to others? Are you concerned about those on the margins,
or do we define a catastrophe only when it relates to investment
bankers and Wall Street elites, as opposed to the precious
children in chocolate cities?
... What costs are we willing to actually undergo? You can't be
a Christian, if you're not willing to pick up your cross. And, in
the end, be crucified on it. That's the bottom line. The rest of
it is just sounding brass and tinkling symbols. How deep is your