From Jesus Radicals
Tools for anarchist + Christian thought and action
Vol 2. No. 2
Earth, Ecology, and the End of the Age
Guest editor: Morning Wilder
Table of Contents
- Introduction by Morning Wilder
- New Wine by Pablo González
- A Chapel for the Global Climate Strike by Benjamin and Rianna Isaak-Krauss
- Inevitable Transition and Other Poems by Joann Renee Boswell
- Attend and Listen for the Time to Come by Janeen Bertsche Johnson
- Environmental Apocalypse by Theodore Kayser
- A Practice in Revelation by Morning Wilder
- Advent Apocalypse by Rianna Isaak-Krauss
- Apocalyptic Hope Against Climate Despair by Benjamin Isaak-Krauss
This issue of Rock! Paper! Scissors! is being released at the start of Lent, the annual Christian observance in which some people intend to abscond from eating animals or processed sugars; check e-mails only once a week and disavow Facebook; avoid shopping; or pencil in time for a personal practice that might hopefully be worthwhile.
These are, of course, acts generally meant to signify contrition, repentance, and denial of self in anticipation for Easter, the remembrance of when the body of the Word Made Flesh was slashed, punctured, and put on display for our errors.
I don’t mean to be glib about the fasts or disciplines people choose to undertake; I think that even acknowledgment of this rite can help us remember our humanness, reset our objectives, and encounter personal growth. I do, however, want our interpretation of the word “observation” to deviate from its meaning of “a customary practice or procedure as for a particular occasion” to another of its meanings: “the habit of regarding attentively or perceiving.”
This year for Lent I am abstaining from driving. This is not an exceptional challenge; in the past I have gone for years without a car, biking year-round in a large, cold city. Yet now I am in a considerably smaller, slightly warmer city and still sometimes drive. The only reason my vehicle fast seems a challenge at all is because my lifestyle now includes a motor vehicle, so excluding it feels like a deprivation. But the truth is that there are no great reasons for me to use a car. In fact, the inverse is true: there are great reasons for me to not use a car. One of these is that personal vehicles account for 17% of annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Another is that the planet’s atmosphere has already been force-fed 416 parts per million of CO2. Another is that the demand for gasoline leads to wars, desecration of indigenous lands, and State violations of indigenous sovereignty. Another is that microplastics are endlessly released by car tires, devastating waterways and aquatic life.
This line of thinking likely holds true for most things people might be giving up this season. There are environmental shortcomings from eating animals, using the internet, drinking coffee, and buying food. Consider animal-eating: Raising livestock accounts for at least 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is responsible for 80% of Amazonian deforestation (usually through total burning). It is also brutal and oppressive. Regarding the other habits mentioned above: Internet servers require massive amounts of land, conflict minerals, and energy. Coffee farms are yet another monocrop, displacing forested lands. Purchasing food ignores the fact that 1/3 of the world’s food goes to waste, producing methane in landfills, and maintains the status quo of the food industry.
It is a shame that we might welcome this simple, peaceable season of introspection, take great care in our intentional practices during these six weeks, gain communal and personal benefit, understand the importance of our actions, yet at the conclusion of the season carelessly default back to our ‘normal’ habits.
We need to shift from observing “customary practices” to being attentive, perceptive people. Because of the plight of the natural world, this shift is needed now.
While Jesus didn’t explicitly talk about increasing mass transit or educating girls (two of the items on the list), he did communicate a “preferential option for the poor,” as the church would say. “Truly I tell you,” says Jesus, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Some of “the least” of these currently live in the warm rising waters of Bangladesh and India, in the diminishing rainforests of the Amazon, in the melting Arctic. (As an aside, about twenty percent more humans are displaced because of intense weather events and land losses due to global warming (61%) than are being displaced from war and threats of violence (39%).) The actions we could be taking in support of human kin are also actions that support all of our kin, including non-human animals, plants, waters, air, ecosystems, climates. Some of these actions, outlined by Project Drawdown, include reducing food waste and diverting it to those who can eat it; giving people clean cookstoves; giving resources to women in small agriculture; supporting land management by indigenous peoples; increasing access to family planning; and insulating peoples’ homes. These are deemed climate actions yet they are also corporal works of mercy.
Let me be clear: the actions God expects us to take in care of our brothers and sisters are the same actions that support all living beings and the entire biosphere.
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the [kindom] prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you replenished the soil, I was thirsty and you protected the water, I had asthma and you shut down refineries, I was a refugee and you celebrated my arrival, my lands were burned and desecrated and you resisted in solidarity.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we remediate your soil? When did we protect your water? When did we care for your asthma? When were you a refugee whose arrival we celebrated? When were your lands desecrated that we resisted with you?”
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. … As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”… This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Morning Wilder lives in the Midwest US. She is active in civic engagement, waste diversion, and ruffling feathers.