Today I spoke at a rally on the front steps of Northampton’s City Hall. Pulled together in less than 48 hours, this public witness drew almost 30 people eager to express support for five young climate activists in the Sunrise Movement who, as part of their campaign “Nothing to Lose,” began a hunger strike today in front of the White House. The five Sunrisers intend not to eat until Democrats pass climate policy that matches the urgency and scale of the climate emergency. People who support their demands for bold climate legislation were invited to carry out a 24-hour fast.

This is a crucial week in the fight to include strong climate policy initiatives in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act, including the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) and the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP). Fifty Republicans and the corporate Democrats most captive to the fossil fuel industry – Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) – are pushing to gut the most significant climate legislation this country has ever tried to pass. Not incidentally, coal mining, oil and gas, and gas pipeline companies gave more to Manchin during the current election cycle than to any other member of Congress. Unless the U.S. passes meaningful climate legislation shortly, its leadership and credibility at the upcoming U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, COP26, will be substantially weakened.

I invite readers to phone the White House (888/724-8946) and urge President Biden to stop fossil fuel projects, including Line 3. I also invite my clergy colleagues to preach about the climate crisis. This new 20-minute podcast, “The Urgent Need to Preach on Climate,” delivered by my friend and colleague Jim Antal and released by Yale Divinity School, should encourage you.

Below are my remarks from today’s rally.

Speaking at the rally. Photo credit: René Theberge

My name is Margaret Bullitt-Jonas. I’m an Episcopal priest who works for the two Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts and for the United Church of Christ in Southern New England to help build a faith-filled, justice-seeking movement to stop climate change and create a better future.

I am fasting today, as some of you are, too. Fasting or not, all of us are standing with the five resolute young people in the Sunrise Movement who today launched a hunger strike in front of the White House to demand climate action from our government commensurate with the crisis we are in.

So, let’s think about fasting. Fasting is a spiritual practice in just about every religion. Moses fasted. Elijah fasted. Mohammed fasted. The Buddha fasted. Jesus fasted.

The ancient practice of fasting has spiritual and moral power and has played a part in many non-violent struggles for social change.

Why do we fast today?

We fast to break through the habits and routines of daily life and to say that something matters more than business as usual. Business as usual must stop.

We fast to break through the paralysis of disengagement and despair.

We fast to purify ourselves, to open our hearts and steady our minds, so that we can ground ourselves in the love that wants to be the center of our lives.

We fast to express repentance and remorse for whatever ways we have participated in, colluded with, and benefited from a system that is killing life.

And we fast to protest – to express in and through our bodies our deep grief and our moral outrage that corporate and political powers are driving this country – and this planet – to the brink of climate catastrophe.

We fast to proclaim that another world is possible. We can move beyond fossil fuels. We can create a society that lives more gently and more justly on God’s good Earth.

After the rally. Photo credit: René Theberge

To our friends in the Sunrise Movement, we say: we stand with you. We stand with climate activists everywhere who hunger for justice.

We stand with everyone who is hungry, especially those whose stomachs are empty because of poverty, injustice, or a changing climate, where drought or heat have withered your crops or where extreme storms and rising seas have destroyed your homes.

We join our hunger to yours. And we join our hunger to the hunger of every living being, human and more-than-human, that hungers for life and a healthy, habitable planet.

Our hunger pangs invite us to hunger for what really matters.

Today we re-commit ourselves to the struggle to fight for a society that invests in our families, our communities, and our future.

Let’s get it done! Let’s Build Back Better. Thank you.

On October 3, 2021, I helped to lead a multifaith service of prayer, celebration, and resolve at Old South Church in downtown Boston.  Organized by Rev. Fred Small, Policy Director of Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light, “Love. Earth. Justice.” brought together representatives of indigenous, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant, and Roman Catholic communities. Near the beginning of the service, I spoke about climate grief; at the end, I offered a blessing.

Lament for Creation

Friends, I want to acknowledge the courage and the tenderness in this room.  Courage, because it takes courage to see clearly what human beings are doing to our precious planet.  It takes courage to hold a steady gaze and to witness the melting glaciers, the bleaching coral reefs, the withered fields and bone-dry reservoirs, the flash floods and massive downpours, the record waves of heat.  It takes courage not to look away but to hold a steady gaze as climate change makes sea levels rise and islands disappear, as oceans grow acidic and full of plastic, and as vast populations of our fellow creatures disappear.


Thank you for your courage, and thank you, too, for your tender heart.  Thank you for all the moments – and maybe this is one of them – when you allow yourself to feel your emotional response to what we have lost and are losing as climate change accelerates and as governments in the thrall of the fossil fuel industry fail to take decisive, meaningful action to address the crisis.

Here in this quiet space and with the support of each other’s company, virtually and in person, I want to honor our tender hearts. Grief is the normal, healthy response to loss, but the culture we live in doesn’t handle grief well. Have you noticed that? Maybe we sidestep our grief because we’re afraid of looking weak, sentimental, morbid, or pathetic. Or because we’ve taken in the constricting message, “Big boys don’t cry” and “Nice girls don’t get angry.” And some of us avoid thinking about climate change because we fear that our emotions will overwhelm us.

Are we willing – can we allow ourselves – to take a moment, or maybe more than a moment, to feel our grief, fear, and outrage as parts of the world become too hot and humid for humans to survive, as children choke from asthma in our inner cities, as millions of climate migrants are displaced from their homes, or as the great redwoods burn, those ancient trees that survived for thousands of years and through hundreds of fires and could now disappear because of forest mismanagement and a changed climate?

Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman and Rev. Margaret before the service, briefly maskless

Are we willing – can we allow ourselves – to take a moment, or maybe more than a moment, to mourn the loss of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which once thrived in swamplands down South and this week was officially declared extinct?  According to the Washington Post, it earned the nickname “The Lord God Bird” “because it was so big and so beautiful that those blessed to spot it blurted out the Lord’s name.”  Actually, every creature, every species, is a manifestation of God.  As Thomas Berry says [The Dream of the Earth], “To wantonly destroy a living species is to silence forever a divine voice.”

And now “The Lord God Bird” is dead.

Can we feel it?  Can we pause for a moment and feel it?

We are blessed that many faith traditions provide rituals and practices for accessing and processing grief.  In my own tradition, lament is an ancient form of prayer found in the Book of Lamentations, in the Psalms, in the Prophets, and in the words and actions of Jesus. He wept at the death of Lazarus, he wept over the city of Jerusalem, and he cried out to God on the cross, using the lament of Psalm 22. Lament can’t be dismissed as just self-pity or whining. Lament is a deep outpouring of sorrow to God.  It means daring to share our anguish with God.  It means daring to feel what is breaking God’s heart.

The image on the cover of the worship leaflet was designed by Jamie Garuti, Director of Multimedia, Old South Church

And lament can be empowering. Theologians from Abraham Heschel to Walter Brueggemann (and many more) point out that lament is the beginning of criticism of an unjust social order.  The powers-that-be would much prefer that we stay too busy, too distracted and numb to feel our emotional responses to what unjust systems are doing to human beings and to the planet on which all life depends. What Brueggemann calls “the capacity and readiness to care, to suffer, to die, and to feel”1 is the enemy of any society built on refusing to hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. Grieving is how we begin to challenge an unjust social order, cultivate hope, and open a space for bold actions commensurate with the crisis we are in.

So, let’s dare to lament!  Let’s tell the truth. Our hearts are breaking, because that’s how fiercely we love this beautiful world that God entrusted to our care.

Where do you feel the ache of the Earth?  What is breaking your heart?

_______________________________________________________________

 

 

Benediction

May God bless us, my friends, for our bodies are one with the body of Earth.

May God bless us, for the rivers and seas run through our veins.

May God bless us, for the spirit of life breathes in our lungs.

May God bless us, for the fire of love burns in our hearts.

May we go forth as healers and justice-seekers, filled with God’s spirit.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), 41.

 

Sermon for the Feast Day of St. Francis (transferred) October 3, 2021 Delivered by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas St. John’s Episcopal Church, Northampton, MA Jeremiah 22:13-16 Psalm 148:7-14 Galatians 6:14-18 Matthew 11:25-30

Celebrating St. Francis

“Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea-monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and fog,          tempestuous wind, doing his will; Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; Wild beasts and all cattle,          creeping things and winged birds…Let them praise the Name of the Lord.” (Psalm 148: 7-10, 13)

Friends, it’s a joy to be with you this morning and to celebrate one last outdoor Eucharist at St. John’s as we mark the end of Creation Season.  Today is Creation Season’s grand finale and we honor St. Francis, whose feast day is tomorrow, and bless all creatures, large and small.

I’m going to keep this short, for we gather in the company of some favorite animals and even the most eloquent of preachers will not impress them.  Besides, the living world around us provides sermon enough.
Preaching under the sycamore tree. Photo by Annemarie Chapdeleine
Here we are, gathered at the foot of this big old sycamore tree, sheltered under its great canopy and breathing into our lungs the oxygen that this tree and all other trees and green-growing things are freely offering us.  As we breathe out, the trees and plants in turn take up the carbon dioxide that we release.  Simply by sitting here in the company of trees, we are giving and receiving the elements of life, praising God together.1 And here are our solid bodies, as solid as the earth beneath our feet.  Can you feel the place where your body meets the body of Earth?  Here she is, beneath our feet, holding us up, giving us support with every step.  Every time we walk mindfully, paying attention, with every step we can bless the Earth.  At the end of our lives, we will give our bodies back to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Earth and we Earthlings belong to each other, and together we praise God. Let’s take a moment to be aware of the inner motions within our bodies.  Maybe you are aware of gurgling in your belly or the throb of your beating heart.  Maybe you sense the circulation of blood as it moves through your body.  Most of the weight of our body comes from water, just as most of our planet’s surface is made of water.  Our blood is mostly water, and the saltwater content of our blood’s plasma is the same as the saltwater content of the sea.  It is as if within our bodies we are carrying rivers, lakes, and the ocean.  Let’s celebrate our bodies’ kinship with all fresh waters, and with the sea. We are praising God together!
Blessing the animals. Photo by Annemarie Chapdeleine
Everything around us is alive and relating to us. We are a part of everything, and everything is praising God. That’s what the psalmist conveys in those exuberant lines that we hear in Psalm 148. Jesus knew all about this, too.  He lived close to the Earth.  He seems to have spent a lot of time outside. We see him climbing mountains, spending weeks in the wilderness, walking along the shore, crossing a lake, walking dusty roads.  When he talks about God, his parables and stories are full of images of nature: seeds and sparrows, lilies, sheep, rivers, vines, branches, rocks.  Jesus was deeply aware of the sacredness of the natural world. Francis followed in the footsteps of Jesus, spending much of his time outdoors – he lived in such intimate relationship with the elements and creatures of the natural world that he spoke of Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind and Air, Sister Water, Brother Fire, Sister Earth, our Mother.  He experienced himself as kin with everything – he didn’t imagine that human beings were separate from the rest of the world that God created, much less that humans were “above” or “better than” the other creatures that God cherishes, or that we had any right to dominate or oppress them.  Francis is known for his beautiful “Canticle of Creation,” which echoes today’s psalm. It turns out that our identity doesn’t stop with our skin.  We have porous and permeable boundaries. My body is part of the Earth. The Earth is part of my body. God is giving God’s self to us in and as the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, the air, the trees, the bird, the pets we love. We live in a sacred world of interrelationship and interdependence. We belong to each other. We depend on each other.  Nature is not just so-called “resources” supposedly put here only for human beings to extract and exploit.
More blessings. Photo by Annemarie Chapdeleine
It’s easy to romanticize and sentimentalize Francis, but in an increasingly degraded natural world, what would it mean to take our place as humans who experience this kind of intimate connection with wild creatures and plants and all the elements that together create a balanced and healthy eco-system? Now is the time to reclaim the ancient understanding (which was never lost by indigenous peoples or by so-called ‘pagans’) that the natural world is sacred, that it belongs to God and is filled with God. Now is the time to reclaim our partnership not just with our human fellows but also with all living creatures. That’s the urgent task before us.  The life-systems of the Earth are deeply compromised.  The web of life is unraveling before our eyes and we risk ecological collapse. More than half the populations of all wild creatures have disappeared in the past 50 years. Human beings have wiped out 60% of the world’s mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fish since 1970. Because of the relentless burning of fossil fuels, the global climate has become increasingly disrupted and unstable and we have only a short amount of time in which to avert climate chaos. There is so much we can do, as individuals and as members of society, to heal and protect God’s Creation as we work together to keep fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong, and to push for a swift and just transition to an economy based on clean, renewable energy like sun and wind.  I hope that in the next day or two you’ll visit our diocesan website and look at the web pages about Creation care, which are full of suggestions for how to pray, learn, act and advocate for this beautiful, aching, and God-drenched world. I hope you’ll sign up for my monthly newsletter. For now, we praise God with Sister Sycamore, with Brother Wind and Air, with Sister Earth, Our Mother. We give thanks for Jesus, who is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29) and whose Spirit we breathe in every breath. We give thanks for Holy Communion, in which Jesus comes to us in the blessed bread and wine, reminding us that the natural world is filled with his presence. ____________________________________________________________________________________________  
  1. This paragraph and the two that follow are based on a longer meditation, “Kinship with Creation,” in Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, ed. Leah Schade and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), 76-77.

Looking for guidance as you prepare pastoral and prophetic sermons about the climate crisis?  Here is a short list of resources for preachers that was assembled in September 2021 by the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal (Special Advisor on Climate Justice to UCC General Minister and President) and the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas (Missioner for Creation Care [Episcopal Diocese of Western MA & Southern New England Conference, UCC] and Creation Care Advisor [Episcopal Diocese of MA]).  We may update the list from time to time.  If you have additions or corrections, please email mbj@revivingcreation.org.  To download a pdf, click here.

(updated 9/24/21)

Climate preaching resources from Jim & Margaret:

Jim’s website, JimAntal.com, posts news & thought about the interfaith climate movement, upcoming events, information about his book, and ways to take action.  His website includes a 3-page pdf of climate crisis resources for congregations and clergy that is packed with information and contains links to many UCC resources, resolutions, newsletter, etc.

Margaret’s website, RevivingCreation.org, includes about one hundred lectionary-based sermons about climate change and Creation care, plus blog posts, articles, upcoming events, videos, and books. Sign up for her monthly newsletter, Creation Care Network here.

Jim Antal, Climate Church, Climate World (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), especially the chapter, “Prophetic Preaching,” 121-135.  The book includes study questions and can be used for group study as well as individual reflection. Visit Jim’s Website to see what people like Bishop Desmond Tutu, Prof. Walter Brueggemann and Bill McKibben have to say about it.

Leah Schade and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, ed. Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).  This anthology of 21 essays on courage and spiritual resilience from a range of faith traditions includes stories and insights useful for climate preaching, plus study questions and spiritual practices.  It can be used for group study as well as individual reflection. For a 30% off discount, buy it from the publisher and use the code RLFANDF30.

Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, “Addiction, Climate Change, and Spiritual Liberation,” Religions (September 2021). Drawing from her long-term recovery from addiction and her decades of ministry as a climate activist, the author reflects on how understanding the dynamics of addiction and recovery can inform our efforts to protect the web of life and bear witness to the liberating God of love. Topics include, among others, climate grief, denial, and “Is climate change my fault?”

Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, “Preaching When Life Depends on It: Climate Crisis and Gospel Hope,” Anglican Theological Review (Vol. 103, 2), pp. 208–219. The author reflects on the power of sermons to awaken moral courage and considers six ideas for preachers: how to frame the climate emergency in terms of Christian theology; how to approach the lectionary; how to be adequately informed about climate science; how to connect climate change with other issues, such as coronavirus and racial and economic justice; why and how to infuse sermons with the empowering love of God; and individual and collective actions to encourage.

Other climate preaching resources:

Fletcher Harper, “Stop preaching about ‘being good stewards of the Earth,” Sojourners, Sept. 16, 2021

Peter Sawtell, “Three Layers of Environmental Preaching” (If clicking the link doesn’t work, use a search engine to find the article). Peter Sawtell’s archive of weekly emails to his 6,000 subscribers is a treasure trove of resources and reflection for clergy and congregations: http://www.eco-justice.org/E-list.asp

Let’s Talk Faith and Climate: Communication Guidance for Faith Leaders,” produced by EcoAmerica and Blessed Tomorrow, explains why our faith calls us to lead on climate, provides key talking points, and gives examples of “successful messaging.”

SustainablePreaching.org: This ecumenical Website provides lectionary-based sermons. You can look up biblical passages and read sermon suggestions.

Leah Schade, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015)

EcoPreacher 1-2-3: In an effort to encourage clergy to preach and teach on Christian ecology at least once a month, The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development and the Rev. Dr. Leah Schade have partnered to develop a new free resource called EcoPreacher 1-2-3. Drawing from Eco Bible, a Jewish ecological commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, Dr. Schade provides sermon preparation for preaching about caring for God’s Creation that is short, accessible, and based on a solid biblical foundation. EcoPreacher 1-2-3 offers a brief “eco-exegesis” for interpreting a Hebrew text from the Revised Common Lectionary for the coming Sunday, followed by one “eco idea” for the basis of the sermon, two “eco questions” to go deeper, and three “eco actions” to choose from to help a congregation put their faith into action. With this resource, preachers can use the sermon ideas in their own context and make it relevant for their congregation.  For information and to subscribe to weekly emails, click here.

Staying informed about climate crisis:

  • To learn about your region’s environmental concerns, contact your local chapter of Sierra Club. To view climate risks and clean energy opportunities in each of the 50 states, visit Climate Nexus.

Other faith-based resources: Web

      • Christianity and Climate Change is a nine-part video series for small groups featuring Katharine Hayhoe, the internationally renowned climate scientist and Evangelical Christian. The videos are only six minutes long, leaving plenty of time for discussion:
        • What the Bible says about the natural world,
        • Climate change is a poverty issue,
        • How to persuade others to care about climate change,
        • What we can do as a church,
        • Speaking to other Christians about climate change,
        • Grateful for fossil fuels but time to move on,
        • Climate change is a threat multiplier,
        • There can be a better future, and
        • It is not too late.

     

    • Episcopal Diocese of Western Mass. provides Creation-care resources in four areas: Pray, Learn, Act, and Advocate (The “Learn” section includes articles connecting climate change and racism, climate change and Covid-19.) The Website also includes links to many Episcopal resources.
    • Climate Change and Social Change”: Four presentations by T. Wilson Dickinson on how movements for food justice, climate justice, and social justice fit together, and the role that Christian communities can play

Other faith-based resources: Books

  • T. Wilson Dickinson, The Green Good News: Christ’s Path to Sustainable and Joyful Life (Cascade Books, 2019) – an environmental justice reading of the Gospels
  • Pope Francis, Laudato Si – Praise Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home (2015) (also available as a free download on the Web)

Other helpful resources:

    • National Issues Forum Institute has materials on controversial issues (e.g., immigration, policing) and a short video about how to moderate “deliberative forums,” in which people deliberate with each other on a variety of difficult public issues.
  1. Climate Solutions for Your Home and Neighborhood
  2. Climate Solutions for Your Workplace and Congregation
  3. Climate Solutions for Your Community
  4. Climate Solutions Advocacy with Policy Makers

Possible “asks” in your sermons:

Lighten your carbon load Inform your congregation about ways to reduce their carbon footprint – e.g. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/
For instance:
Eat low on the food-chain – moving toward a plant-rich diet is one of the most immediate and effective ways we can reduce carbon emissions. Eat local.  Eat organic. Waste less food.
Buy less stuff.  Get an energy audit of your home, so that you can identify ways to be more energy-efficient and perhaps save money (if possible, tell your congregation where to get an energy audit).
Drive less. Walk, take public transportation, carpool, rideshare or bike to your destination, when possible. If possible, purchase a hybrid or electric car. Fly less. If you must fly, buy carbon offsets (e.g., www.terrapass.com/).

Join the climate justice movement Pushing for systemic change is more important than making personal changes. Get politically engaged. Vote! … Join 350.org, the global grassroots network to stop all new coal, oil, and gas projects and build a clean energy future for all … Join ThirdAct.org, environmentalist Bill McKibben’s new initiative seeking to harness the wisdom and resources of elders (people over 60) to assure that we leave a fair, stable planet for future generations… Stand alongside marginalized, vulnerable communities in your area that are fighting environmental racism.

Restore the land and grow food Support local land trusts and farms. Cultivate a landscape that sequesters carbon and provides food for the homeless and low-income households. Launch projects such as composting, tree planting, habitat restoration, permaculture gardening, and growing produce for food pantries. Join the Good News Gardens Movement.

 

Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost Sunday, September 12, 2021 Delivered by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Agawam, MA Proverbs 1:20-33 Wisdom 7:26-8:1 James 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38

Creation Season 2021

I invite you to join me in a moment of silence as we remember those who lost their lives on 9/11, and as we pray for peace and healing… (silence) Gracious God, you love nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. Guide us with your wisdom and fill us with your love.  May only your word be spoken and only your word be heard.  Amen. What a joy to be with you this morning!  Thank you, Harvey, for inviting me to preach. It was just brought to my attention that you are celebrating ten years as rector of this parish, so it’s a special day to be with all of you. As you know, I serve as Missioner for Creation Care in our diocese and in the United Church of Christ in Southern New England.  I travel from place to place, speaking about God’s love for our beautiful, precious planet and about our call as faithful followers of Jesus to rise up together to restore the web of life that God entrusted to our care.  If you’d like to know more about this ministry, please visit my Website, RevivingCreation.org.
The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, the Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill, & the Rev. Terry Hurlbut at St. David’s, Agawam
So – let’s give a shout-out to your “green team” – your Creation Care team.  Thank you for your leadership.  I want to thank all of you for celebrating Creation Season.  As you know, the season begins on September First with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and ends on October 4, with the feast day of St. Francis.  During this 6-week period, millions of Christians around the world lift up our prayers and voices on behalf of what our prayerbook calls “this fragile Earth, our island home.” Now, a friend of mine who cares deeply about the fate of the Earth and the future of life on this planet sometimes grumbles to me, “Why do we need a Season of Creation?  Isn’t every day a good day to care for creation?”  Well, of course, that’s true. He’s right. But just as we mark the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and so on, knowing that it’s helpful to set aside some time to look carefully at a particular aspect of our Christian faith, so it’s likewise helpful to set aside a season to focus on how faith in God affects our relationship with the natural world. For a couple of reasons many of us may be especially glad to participate in Creation Season this year.  For one thing, at the height of the pandemic many of us learned again how much solace and comfort we experience in connecting with the natural world.  I know many people who during the lockdown deliberately spent daily time outdoors, feeling the wind on their face and savoring the trees and the open sky. I know a man who bundled up every morning, stepped outside, and to his amazement actually learned to love winter, and I know a woman who spent the pandemic happily exploring every trail she could find. What’s more, some of us may have been lucky enough this summer to visit an especially beloved place in nature – maybe a lake, a mountain, or a beach.  So, I wouldn’t be surprised if we arrive at Creation Season this fall with a fresh appreciation of the natural world and a deeper gratitude for the ways it conveys the presence of a loving God.
Monarch butterfly, summer 2021. Photo credit: Robert A. Jonas
In a turbulent and stressful time, nothing may quiet our minds and refresh our spirits so much as spending time beside a lake, watching the sun dance across its sparkling waves, or sitting down somewhere to listen to birdsong or rainfall or the sound of wind in the trees.  Creation Season invites us to come to our senses and to renew our felt connection with the living world around us, maybe to go out for a quiet walk and to bless the Earth with each step. Even a small tree in a city park can speak to us of the larger living world that surrounds us, and even if the night-time glare of a city conceals them, the shining stars still wheel overhead.  “The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” – so says Psalm 24.  And for that we give thanks in this Season of Creation. God loves the world that God made, and so do we. A second reason we may come to Creation Season with particular fervor this year is because, after this past summer, many of us are aware, as perhaps never before, how deeply imperiled the natural world is and how a changing climate threatens everything we hold dear. Across the country this summer – and around the world – we witnessed massive wildfires, record floods, historic drought, extreme storms, unprecedented heat.  In some places, people drowned in their basement apartments or were washed away in their cars by flash floods. In other places, families lost their homes, livelihoods, or lives as uncontainable fires raged. Out West, farmers stared at empty reservoirs and withered crops. Back East, regions soaked in record rain.  Nearly a third of Americans live in an area where a federal disaster was declared sometime in the last three months. The summer of 2021 will go down in history as the hottest on record in the United States, exceeding even the Dust Bowl summer of 1936. All seven of the warmest years on record were the last seven, and 19 of the 20 warmest years occurred since the year 2000. The climate is increasingly unstable, and if we continue with business as usual – if we keep on burning coal, gas, and oil, keep on filling the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases, keep on cutting down forests – we will leave our children and our children’s children a hot, unstable world that is very difficult to inhabit. So, to Creation Season this year we bring our uneasiness, our grief and fear, perhaps even our alarm. We may identify with that poignant image in the reading from Proverbs, which portrays Wisdom as a woman wandering the streets and public squares, crying out in search of someone who will listen to her counsel and warning that calamity will surely follow if the wayward and complacent refuse to listen (Proverbs 1:20-33).  Today, wisdom tells us that we have only a short span of time in which to change course, make a swift transition to clean renewable energy, and avert the most catastrophic level of climate change. At this hinge-point of history, when the choices we make are so decisive, will we choose life?  Will we listen to the voice of wisdom?  Today’s Canticle picks up the theme in a lyrical passage that brings a message of hope: “In every generation Wisdom enlightens holy souls, making them friends of God, making them prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:27b-28). I give thanks for the holy souls who listen to Wisdom’s call and who join the struggle to create a safer, healthier, more just and livable world. I give thanks that just a few days ago, for the very first time, three of the world’s top Christian leaders – Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Pope Francis, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – issued a joint statement on climate change and made an urgent appeal for the future of the planet. In this extraordinary statement, the leaders of the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox Church called on people – called on us – to pray for world leaders ahead of the U.N. climate change conference (COP26), which will be held in November. And these Christian leaders called “on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.” I give thanks for their clarion call, and for all the followers of Jesus who are rising up with people of faith and goodwill to mobilize a response that is commensurate to the crisis. You probably know that earlier this year, the Episcopal bishops in Massachusetts declared a climate emergency.  Our two dioceses have begun to work together in a more coordinated way as we discuss how we can pray, learn, act, and advocate on behalf of God’s Creation.  Our diocesan Website on Creation care is loaded with ideas about ways we can make a difference.  Some actions are simple, like eating less meat and moving to a plant-based diet, recycling more, driving less, protecting trees, and reducing our use of fossil fuels in every way we can.  Other actions are bigger and bolder and address systemic change.  That’s important, because the scope and speed of the climate crisis require more than changes in individual behavior – they require massive, collective action and a push for policies that help us move away quickly from fossil fuels, encourage clean renewable energy like sun and wind, and ensure that historically marginalized and low-income communities – which are those hurt first and worst by climate change – are protected. I invite you to join me at 11 o’clock tomorrow in a rally at the Springfield office of Congressman Richie Neal, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, as we urge him to fully fund the reconciliation package that some economists say “may well be our last chance to take serious action against global warming before it becomes catastrophic.” A number of faith groups are pressing Congress to pass this legislation as a moral imperative. I will be speaking at the rally not as a Republican, not as a Democrat, but as a follower of Jesus who believes deeply that God is calling us to live in harmony with Earth and with each other. I hope that you will stand with me or will pray for the rally’s success and for passage of this legislation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that the “supreme work” of Jesus Christ is to reconcile us to God, to each other, and to all of God’s creation. Can we do that together?  Can we support each other to make the swift, bold changes we need to make in our own lives and in society as a whole?  These are the questions confronting every community of faith as we clarify our vocation in a time of climate crisis.  I hope you will subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Creation Care Network e-news, so that we can stay in touch and encourage each other. Thank you for the ways you bless the Earth. Thank you for honoring Creation Season, and thank you, as my friend says, for making every day a good day to care for God’s creation. ___________________________________________________________________________ A note: After the service, I spoke with a number of you about ThirdAct.org – a brand-new initiative by environmentalist Bill McKibben to bring together people over 60 – Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation – who care about climate change and social injustice.  If, like me, you’re over 60, please sign up!  Welcome to our third act.  

Under bright skies, scores of people gathered on September 13 in front of the Springfield, MA office of Congressman Richard Neal to urge him to support full funding of the $3.5trillion budget reconciliation package. As Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Neal is playing a critical role in determining the size and scope of the human needs that this bill will meet and how fully it will invest in solutions to the climate crisis.

I spoke about the moral imperative to fund the legislation; other speakers addressed the bill’s impact on health care, housing, jobs, and poverty. This legislation is being actively supported by faith-based climate groups across the country, including Interfaith Power & Light, Creation Justice Ministries, Catholic Climate Covenant, Dayenu, and many more.

Some of my remarks are below:

I’d like to speak to Congressman Neal as one Christian to another.  We are members of different denominations: he is a Roman Catholic; I am an Episcopalian.  But both of us believe in a loving God who created the universe, pronounced the whole creation “very good,” and entrusted the Earth to our care.  Both of us believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ and in his mission of compassion, justice, and hope.  Both of us believe in the healing power of the Holy Spirit, who makes all things new.

Congressman Neal, as one Christian to another, I urge you to fully fund the budget reconciliation package.  Fully funding this legislation is a moral imperative.  It may be our country’s last best chance to slash the greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming, and it may be our country’s last best change to build resilience to the increasing devastation of climate change.

I’m sure you know that last week, for the very first time, three of the world’s top Christian leaders – Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Pope Francis, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – issued a joint statement on climate change and made an urgent appeal for the future of the planet. In this extraordinary statement, the leaders of the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox Church called on people – called on us – to pray for world leaders ahead of the U.N. climate change conference (COP26), which will be held in November. And these Christian leaders called “on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.”

Congressman Neal, we are listening to the cry of the Earth and the cry of people who are poor.  We appeal to you to demonstrate moral leadership.  We appeal to you to fully fund this legislation and to invest in climate justice and resilience.  

Climate justice is God’s justice. 

 

 

Climate Change, Addiction, and Spiritual Liberation 

This article by Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas was published by Religions on 1 September 2021 as part of a special issue, “Spirituality and Addiction.” 

1. An Addict’s World

The addict looks away. The addict sees but does not see. She does not want to see. There is nothing to see here. Change the subject.

The addict is empty. She does not have enough. She must be filled. She must be filled right now.

The addict carries out repetitive, compulsive rituals that disconnect her from self, others, Earth, and the sacred.

The addict functions like a machine. She repeats the same behavior over and over, despite its harmful consequences to herself and perhaps to others, too.

The addict is ruthless. She dominates, forces, and exploits. The addict treats everything, including herself, as an It.

The addict is cut off from her body. Who cares what the body wants? She ignores and overrides the body, its wisdom and needs.

The addict is cut off from the rest of the natural world.

The addict lies to herself and she lies to others. (There is no problem here. Do you see a problem? I do not see a problem).

The addict is numb. She does not feel.

The addict is self-centered, isolated, and alone.

The addict is used to this. This is normal. This is the way things are. Nothing will ever change.

The addict is powerless. She is trapped. She cannot stop herself. She intends to change, she plans to change, she promises to change, she tries to change. She does not change.

The addict hates herself. Her life is unmanageable.

2.   A Story of Recovery

Writing these words, I conjure up my state of mind forty years ago, when I was gripped by an eating disorder. As a teenager and young adult, I ate compulsively. To compensate for the binges, which I carried out in secret, I ran endless miles, tried every diet under the sun, and fasted for days on end. I made endless vows—this time I would not eat more than I needed; this time I would overcome my cravings—but my vows, however ardently expressed, had no power to set me free. Inevitably, I went back to the box of donuts, or the jar of peanut butter devoured hastily and with the shades drawn, lest anyone see me, lest I see myself.

My drug was food. As any addict knows, addiction distorts and numbs our awareness of the body. In those years of compulsive overeating, I paid little attention to my body’s rhythms or needs. Feelings did not matter. So what if I was sad or lonely? So what if I was angry, excited or bored? Whatever I felt, I swallowed it down with food and set out for another grueling run. Was it night-time and was my body eager for sleep? I did not care. I would stay up late, make a tour of the all-night supermarket, and eat until my stomach ached. Was I disappointed and needing to cry, or angry and needing to be heard? Quick—I would pave over those feelings and force some cheese or chocolate down my throat. Was my body aching from the abuse I dished out? Too bad. After a bout of bingeing, I would get up the next morning and go out for a seven-mile run, maybe start another fast or launch another stringent diet. Pummel and punish the body—that was my motto. Clear-cut the forest and move on.

Like every addict who has lost control, I could not stop what I was doing, and I saw no way out. At last, through the grace of God, at the age of thirty, I found a path to recovery. Now almost seventy, I sing the familiar words of the hymn “Amazing Grace”—I once was lost and now am found—and look back with gratitude to 13 April 1982, the day I walked into a Twelve-Step meeting and held up the white flag of surrender: Help. I give up. My life is unmanageable. I could not fight the battle any longer, for it was a battle I always lost. I needed help beyond myself. I needed a Higher Power. I had to make peace with my body or die (Bullitt-Jonas 1998).

Squam Lake at Dawn. Photo credit: Robert A. Jonas

That day was the turning-point of my life, the beginning of a journey to wholeness. One day at a time, I began practicing the Twelve-Step Program of Overeaters Anonymous and dug into the physical, emotional, and spiritual work of reconciling with my body, myself, and the important people in my life. I began to take responsibility for the first bit of nature entrusted to my care—my body. Day by day I began to honor its limits and listen to its needs. I met regularly with a psychotherapist and began to untangle my inner knots. Additionally, I embarked on a spiritual search. Impelled by an intense desire to know what was real, what was lasting, trustworthy, and true, I ventured back into the church I had long ago abandoned and sat in the shadowed back pew so that I could listen from afar. I longed to know who God was, and how to meet God in my own experience. I began to study and practice meditation and prayer.

My mind, it turned out, was as jumpy as water on a hot skillet. I was surprised by the inner racket: worries, memories, regrets, and plans. Arguments, scraps of music, commercial jingles. How could I love God, my neighbor, or myself if I was perpetually distracted? I learned to bring awareness to the breath and to return to the present moment, disciplining my attention so that I could perceive more accurately what was here. As my mind settled down, strong feelings surged through me. Shame, sorrow, anger, yearning— for years, they had been tamped down in my long bout with addiction, but now, here they were, roaring back to life. I sat with the feelings and breathed, learning to give them space and let them be. The feelings ebbed and flowed. They always passed. No one died. In fact, the more I allowed them to come and go, the more spacious I felt, and the more truly alive. Love kept showing up. When I welcomed everything into awareness,  clinging  to nothing and pushing nothing away, an unexpected tenderness would eventually rise up from within and gather me up like a child. I went off for a ten-day silent retreat at a meditation center in western Massachusetts. I followed the drill: You sit. You walk. You sit. You walk. That is it. You do nothing but bring awareness to the present moment.

One day I left the retreat house for a walk in the woods. I paid attention to sensations as they came, the feel of my foot on the ground, the sound of birds, the sight of birches, hemlock, and pine. My thoughts lay still. I was nothing but eyes and ears, the weight of each foot, the breath in my nostrils. At one point I stopped walking, overwhelmed by the sense that the whole world was inside me. I was carrying the round blue planet inside my chest. My heart held the world. I cradled it tenderly, weeping with joy.

I did not know it then, but that vision of carrying the world in my heart would become one of the core images to which I would return in prayer in the decades ahead, a place of consolation that renewed my strength for climate activism. Years later, someone gave me a contemporary icon of Christ bending over the world, his arms embracing the planet.1 I caught my breath in recognition. Yes, that’s right. That’s just how it is.

3.   Climate Change and Addiction

Two years after starting my recovery I finished what I was doing, made a swerve, and headed to seminary.  I needed to know: Who is the God who just saved my life?  I was ordained in the Episcopal Church in June 1988. Not two weeks later, I picked up the New York Times and was startled by its front-page headline, “Global warming has begun (Shabecoff 1988).” NASA climate scientist James Hanson had testified to a congressional committee that scientists were becoming alarmed about the so-called “greenhouse effect” of burning fossil fuels. Human activity—driven by an economy dependent on coal, gas, and oil—was pushing the planet past its limits. The relentless extraction and burning of fossil fuels was polluting the global atmosphere with heat-trapping gasses; therefore, the atmosphere was rapidly heating. Scientists were concerned that the relentless consumption of dirty fossil fuels would disrupt the fragile balance of life. Great suffering lay ahead if we did not change course. We needed to stop what we were doing.

From that day forward, I began to track news about climate change. It became increasingly clear that the society in which I lived was behaving with the reckless abandon of an addict. In the ruthless push to drill oil wells, construct pipelines, blow off mountain- tops, devour forests, and gobble up every last resource of the planet, we are laying waste to the land, air, and water upon which all life depends. The most vulnerable groups—low- income and Black, Brown, Indigenous, and people of color communities—are those hurt first and hardest by the effects of climate change, although even wealthy and privileged communities are beginning to suffer (Sengupta 2021). The resonance with addiction is haunting: as a society and a species we are caught up in highly destructive patterns of over-consumption and we have been unwilling or unable to quit.

In the months after James Hansen’s testimony, a question emerged that became the riddle of my life, a question that fuels my vocation as a faith-based climate activist to this day: If God can empower a crazy addict such as me to make peace with their body, is it not possible that God can empower a crazed, addicted humanity to make peace with each other and the body of Earth?

4.  The Shock of Climate Change

When I step outside this morning, I smell smoke. Haze blurs the heated air. Plumes of wildfire smoke that traveled thousands of miles across the country have reached us here in New England. With every breath, we inhale the residue of forests burning in western North America. Traces of distant trees that were set ablaze in massive fires sparked by unprecedented drought and heat now line our lungs. We are all connected.

Midway through the tumultuous, scorching summer of 2021, the damage caused by climate change is increasingly visible. Each day brings new reports of extreme heat, drought, fire, and floods. (Extreme precipitation is linked to global warming, because warmer air holds more water and therefore deposits more water when it rains—just as a larger bucket can hold and deposit more water). The American West and Southwest are gripped by megadrought, an extraordinarily brutal and persistent drought which is draining reservoirs, withering fields, and increasing the spread of enormous wildfires. The Pacific Northwest, a usually cool and foggy part of the world, has roasted in record-setting levels of heat. Hundreds of people died in what one expert called “the most anomalous heat event ever observed on Earth.”2 North America is not the only place experiencing record temperatures—so, too, are the Middle East, South Asia, and Russia (Tharoor 2021). Meanwhile, torrential rains have drenched the mid-Atlantic. As much as ten inches of rain fell in southeastern Pennsylvania in under four hours. In China, terrified commuters riding subways stood on seats and clung to poles to avoid floodwaters from record-breaking rains.3 Flooding recently killed hundreds of people in Central Europe, Uganda, Nigeria, and Italy. Famine stalks Madagascar as a drought tied to climate change dries up waterholes and crops. In Siberia, tens of thousands of square miles of forest are on fire, potentially releasing carbon into the atmosphere from the frozen ground below.

Today’s headlines are frightening and stark, and they come in rapid succession. Fossil fuel emissions have disrupted Earth’s atmosphere and biosphere even more quickly and dramatically than scientists predicted only a few years ago. If society is an addict dependent on coal, gas, and oil, then the addiction has reached its crisis point: Will we change course or will billions of us die, taking down with us the lives of countless other beings?

In a State of the Union address delivered in 2006, President George W. Bush warned of America’s addiction to oil (Bush 2006). Of course, our dangerous relationship with fossil fuels does not function exactly like a substance addiction—we are not busily injecting oil into our veins in an effort to get high or experiencing DTs if access to coal is withdrawn. However, our society and economy—indeed, our whole way of life—does function like a person with a behavioral or process addiction: we are wretchedly, tragically—as a Christian, I would add “sinfully”—continuing to carry out activities that quickly or slowly will kill us and that are already killing countless people and other living beings worldwide. More than one Secretary General of the United Nations has called our present course “suicidal”. Another word that comes to mind is “ecocidal.” Indeed, a global panel of experts is now drafting a law to make ecocide—widespread destruction of the environment—a crime that can be prosecuted under international law (Saddique 2021; Surma et al. 2021).

5.   Denial and Truth-Telling

What insights from the dynamics of addiction and recovery might inform our efforts to save what is left of the web of life and our struggle to preserve a habitable world? Six themes rise to the top: denial and truth-telling; isolation and community; grieving our losses; taking moral responsibility; praying the Serenity Prayer; and urgency, fear, and love. Let us begin with denial and truth-telling. Built into addictive processes is the addict’s insistent refusal or inability to perceive the reality or magnitude of the harm their behavior is causing themselves or others. Denial and minimization are characteristic ways that addicts avoid confronting their problem. As we wrote in Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, when it comes to facing the truth of climate change (Schade and Bullitt-Jonas 2019, pp. xx–xxi):

The American public’s widespread denial of climate change has had a stunning run. This is understandable, given that most people want to avoid thinking about something as deeply troubling as the Earth’s climate crisis spinning out of control. We humans seem to have a built-in knack for delaying as long as possible the recognition of particularly troublesome facts. Some of us even turn denial and avoidance into a fine art. As comedian George Carlin observed, “I don’t believe there’s any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can’t completely ignore.”

However, we cannot ascribe the robust denial of climate change among many Americans solely to a supposed national capacity for dodging reality as long as possible. Nor should we assume that the denial of climate change and addiction to oil is a purely internal, mental problem that springs from a disorder in the brain, as one science writer has proposed (Stover 2014). Nor is denial just a “defect of character”, to use the language of the Twelve-Step Program—it is actually being generated and amplified by external forces, vested interests that have been hard at work since the late 1980s, spending billions of dollars in a deliberate campaign of disinformation to keep the American public confused about the reality, causes, and urgency of climate change (Oreskes and Conway 2011; Gelbspan 1997; Union of Concerned Scientists 2007).

Today, as Michael E. Mann explains in his masterful new book, The New Climate War, because the devastating impacts of climate change are now obvious in the daily news cycle, “the forces of denial and delay . . . can no longer insist, with a straight face, that nothing is happening. Outright denial of the physical evidence of climate change simply isn’t credible anymore.” As a result, fossil fuel corporations and oil-funded governments that continue to profit from our dependence on fossil fuels are shifting tactics to “a softer form of denialism” based on deception, distraction, and delay (Mann 2021, p. 3). This is what Mann calls “the new climate war,” and the planet is losing.

Breaking through denial, whether its source be internal or external, is an essential aspect of climate activism. Climate activism faces outward: we have urgent work to do on the streets, in boardrooms, and in the backrooms where decisions are made. Mobilizing an effective, systemic response to the crisis at hand requires contending with political and corporate powers that seek to mire us in denial, distraction, and delay.

However, climate activism faces inward, too, as we reckon with our own layers of denial. You do not need to be a full-fledged climate sceptic who challenges the conclusions of mainstream science to be a person who slips into denial. Kari Marie Norgaard, a Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon, has written helpfully about what she calls “the everyday denial of climate change, (Norgaard 2012)” the way that ordinary people who feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis simply change the subject to more manageable topics rather than face their guilt, fear, and helplessness. She connects this with the work of Robert Jay Lifton and Richard Falk, who studied, in relation to nuclear peril, “the absurdity of the double life”: the way that people can live in two realities, being aware, on the one hand, of an enormous existential threat, while desperately clinging, on the other hand, to a pretense of conventional, ordinary reality.

We probably experience this cognitive dissonance in our own lives: although some part of us is aware that climate change looms over everything, we do our best to avoid thinking about it and we keep our focus on the immediate concerns of daily life. Friends of mine confess that even though they know that climate change is real, they do not pay very much attention to it: it is too painful to consider; they prefer to focus on more immediate, manageable concerns. In her brilliant novel, Weather, Jenny Offill evokes the difficulty of holding in mind both the close-in immediacy of our intimate, daily lives and the terrifying, large-scale reality of the unfolding climate catastrophe (Offill 2020).

Nevertheless, overcoming personal and collective denial is foundational to the on-going work of recovering from addiction and creating a more just and sustainable future. As a recovering addict, I know how hard it can be to face, and keep facing, the truth: I remember how, in the early months of recovery, I needed to be reminded multiple times a day that I was a compulsive overeater and that a good day was a day in which I did not hurt myself with food. Unless I stayed in touch with allies in the Twelve-Step Program and unless I used its tools and carried out its Steps, it was simply too easy to slide back into denial and into the “stinking thinking” that led to relapse.

Similarly, as a faith-based climate activist, I must renew my commitment every day to dissolve my denial and to face reality as it is, not as I wish it were. That is not easy. As T.S. Eliot put it, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality (Eliot 1971, p. 118).” Can I make daily space in my mind and heart for the reality of climate change? Can I do something each day to keep myself informed, honor my emotional response, and carry out whatever actions I can that will contribute to healing? Just as an addict must renew her commitment to her own recovery daily, can we who live in an addictive society renew our commitment to overcome denial of the climate crisis daily, and take some action, large or small, that leads to healing?

6.   Isolation and Community

The Twelve-Step recovery process is carried out in community. Part of the power of the Twelve-Step model is the candor of its small group sharing: in every meeting, addicts seeking recovery share the truth of their lives and their desire to be sober (or drug-free or abstinent). We encounter each other as equals, because everyone, whether newcomer or old-timer, is in some sense a beginner and as dependent as anyone else on a power beyond themselves. In that circle of sometimes raw self-disclosure, we share our vulnerabilities and our experience, strength, and hope. Addiction is often called a disease of isolation, and by attending meetings, making phone calls, sponsoring and being sponsored, and carrying out acts of service, we gradually learn to find our place in a larger community. If, as Ann and Barry Ulanov so aptly put it, “Sin is the refusal to get our feet wet in the ocean of God’s connectedness (Ulanov and Ulanov 1982, p. 96),” then the Twelve-Step model of healing in community is a release from sin. We are pulled into a current of connectedness that empowers us to set each other free: I may not be able to stop myself from overeating, but you can help me to stop; you may not be able to stop yourself from overeating, but I can help you to stop. To an addict who has white-knuckled countless lonely, failed attempts to kick the habit, entering the stream of relationships in a Twelve-Step Program can offer what feels like a miracle: buoyed by the support we feel all around us, it becomes much less difficult—perhaps even easy—to stay sober or abstinent, one day at a time. The antidote to addiction is connection.

I have never experienced a Twelve-Step meeting organized around recovery from addiction to fossil fuels or to exploiting the Earth,4 but I understand the power of relationships to sustain my work as a climate activist. Who are the people to whom I can confess my confusion, fear, grief and outrage about the devastation of Earth and Earth’s communities, both human and other-than-human? Who are the people seeking to move through their own despair and into a life of service? Who are the people trying to amend their lives so that they live more gently on the Earth and who inspire me to do the same? Who are the people committed to making sacrifices and taking risks for the sake of keeping fossil fuels in the ground and protecting life as it has evolved on this planet? These are some of the people I want to be close to, because I can learn from them and grow with them. Even if we never sit together in one room, even if they live someplace far away—indeed, even if I never meet them and never even learn their names—they are my circle of support, allies in my own struggle to live in harmony and balance with Earth.

“Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel”—those three core rules of alcoholic and dysfunctional family systems were laid out by Dr. Claudia Black years ago in her seminal book, “It Will Never Happen to Me!” (Black 1981). Some of the other rules include “don’t think” (about what is going on) and “don’t question” (what is happening). Whenever we gather to talk honestly about the climate crisis, trust each other with our truth, dare to feel our feelings, think about what is going on, and ask questions about what is happening, we transgress those dysfunctional dynamics and begin to build a more authentic and resilient network of relationships. Simply breaking the silence around climate change—speaking honestly to a friend about one’s worry or concern—can be the beginning of release from the paralyzing isolation that tells us that climate change is too big, too frightening, or too political to discuss.

Experiencing the healing power of connections extends to our relationship with the natural world. Just as addicts generally treat their bodies with violence or contempt, so most of us in today’s dominant culture were raised to override and ignore the needs of the living world around us. Nature was supposed to be at our beck and call, a limitless resource that human beings were entitled to drain—nothing more than commodities to be bought, sold, processed, consumed, and discarded. Many Westerners are only beginning to acknowledge our deep alienation from the rest of the created order and are only now discovering the deep wisdom of Indigenous traditions and our own mystical traditions, which speak of the essential interconnectedness, sacredness, and mutuality of everything that exists.

Learning to cultivate loving, life-giving relationships with other people and with the other creatures and elements with whom we share the planet is medicine for addiction of every kind.

7.   Grieving Our Losses

Facing addiction requires facing grief. Addicts who are beginning their journey of recovery will likely have many losses to grieve, such as a failed marriage, a lost job, a damaged reputation, or estranged co-workers, children, and friends. Furthermore, in relinquishing their drug of choice, addicts are also losing what seemed to be their lover or best friend, the substance or behavior to which they clung—even if they hated it—in order to manage their life. Not only that, when addicts stop using their drug, the feelings that had been suppressed by their compulsive behavior will likely come surging back into awareness: grief, shame, fear, anger, loneliness, confusion, the whole nine yards. Living into recovery, a day at a time, can be an emotionally turbulent process.

Confronting the climate crisis likewise requires acknowledging grief and other painful feelings. Grief is the normal, healthy response to loss, but the dominant culture in which we live does not handle grief well. Many of us tend to sidestep or suppress our grief, fearing that we will look weak, sentimental, morbid, or pathetic. We may also avoid thinking about climate change because we fear being overwhelmed by our emotions. What can we possibly feel in response to the acidifying ocean, the children choking from asthma in our inner cities, the rising seas, the ever-increasing droughts and floods, and the cascade of species being made extinct? Who wants to allow an emotional response to hearing that climate change is already making parts of the world too hot and humid for humans to survive (Mellen and Neff 2021)? Or that unchecked climate change could collapse whole eco-systems quite abruptly, starting within the next ten years (Berwyn 2020)? Or that the natural world is at a far greater risk from climate breakdown than was previously thought (Harvey 2020)? Stunned by the gravity of news such as this, many of us feel helpless and turn away. The scale of the problem feels too big in comparison with our one small life and our limited powers. We might as well cling to business as usual for as long as we can—drive, shop, send the kids to school, earn the promotion, fix supper, check social media—and let someone else handle the bigger problem, maybe the experts or maybe future generations. We might as well stay distracted, busy, and numb. We might as well zone out for as long as possible.

Emotional withdrawal is a natural response to trauma. We are all living in the context of ongoing and accelerating global trauma, even if our corner of the world has not yet borne the full brunt of climate change. It is understandable if we are inclined to anesthetize ourselves and shut down emotionally. However, shutting down is its own form of suffering. As Franz Kafka observed, “You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.”

It is easier to release into grief when we feel supported, understood, and upheld. This is where the power of community comes in. Like addicts recovering in the Twelve-Step Program, we do not have to tremble in fear or shed tears alone. A variety of circles have formed in recent years to help participants grapple with the spiritual and existential questions raised by climate emergency and other forms of collective trauma. Among others, they include The Work That Reconnects, based on the teachings of Joanna Macy; Rabbi Jennie Rosen’s organization, Dayenu; and Margaret Klein Salomon’s Climate Awakening.5 Psychological and psychiatric associations are increasingly aware of the mental health challenges posed by social and ecological breakdown and are training clinicians to address these issues in their work with clients.6 Parish leaders also have a golden opportunity to gather members of their congregation for prayerful, small-group conversations about climate change and to create communities of truth-telling that allow the honest expression of pain.

We are blessed that many faith traditions provide tools and rituals for accessing and processing grief. Learning practices of contemplative prayer and meditation can be helpful, because they give traumatized people a technique to calm down, steady the mind, and quiet the nervous system. Contemplative prayer, often defined as “a long, loving look at the real,” resonates with the Zen teaching, “Stay present to what’s happening.” In a time of emotional turbulence and agitation, contemplative prayer can help us cultivate trust and patience. We learn to sit still in the midst of uncertainty, to wait in the darkness, to relinquish our anxious and futile quest to stay in control, and to listen for the inner voice of love. To cite the psalmist: “Be still . . . and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:11).

From out of the stillness, feelings arise that may need expression—even visceral, bodily expressions, such as wailing, stamping, dancing,7 drumming, and singing. Expressive prayer is essential to articulating grief, whether we do it together or alone. Lament is an ancient form of prayer found in the Psalms, in the prophets, and in the words and actions of Jesus. He wept at the death of Lazarus, he wept over the city of Jerusalem, and he cried out to God on the cross, using the lament of Psalm 22. Lament is not self-pity nor is it simply whining. Lament is a deep outpouring of sorrow to God. Learning how to pray with painful feelings can help us to grow in intimacy with God and to experience solidarity with everyone who suffers (Bullitt-Jonas 2000). Spiritual directors with an awareness of the dynamics of addiction can help the people they guide to explore pathways of prayer that allow the expression of feelings (Bullitt-Jonas 1991).

Lament, especially public lament, can be empowering. Theologians such as Walter Brueggemann (Brueggemann 1978; Sharp 2011, pp. 179–205), drawing on the work of Dorothee Soelle, Jurgen Moltmann, and Abraham Heschel, have brilliantly shown us that lament is the beginning of criticism of an unjust social order. Articulating anguish and experiencing passion—defined as “the capacity and readiness to care, to suffer, to die, and to feel (Brueggemann 1978, p. 41)”—is the enemy of any society built on ignoring the cries of the marginalized and oppressed, the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. Lament can end in hope or praise, because in lament we experience the presence of a living, loving, and liberating God. Lament can lead to action, because the more we experience our unshakable union with a love which is stronger than death, the freer we will be to take actions commensurate with the emergency in which we find ourselves.

The climate crisis brings us to our knees. It also brings us to our feet.

8.  Taking Moral Responsibility

Basic to the process of recovery in the Twelve-Step Program is taking moral responsibility for one’s actions. Addiction is not “a moral issue,” if by that we mean that addicts are “weak” or “bad” people without moral principles; in fact, addicts are people with a complex medical disease or condition. However, addiction does have a moral dimension: you cannot be set free from addictive behavior unless you carry out a deep houseclean- ing. Seven of the Twelve Steps (Steps 4–10) engage recovering addicts in a thorough and ongoing process of growth in moral self-awareness, accountability, and responsibility.

Reckoning with our moral responsibility for contributing to the climate crisis is complex (Jenkins 2008, 2013; Moore and Nelson 2010; Northcott 2007; Rasmussen 1996). Climate change is a justice issue on many levels. For starters, it is an issue of social and economic justice, because impoverished individuals, communities, and nations are those who suffer the effects of climate change first and hardest; they are the ones least able to adapt, and the ones least likely to have a seat at the table where policy decisions are made. Climate change is also an issue of international justice. As the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, “The world’s countries emit vastly different levels of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere (Union of Concerned Scientists 2008)”. Climate change is caused mostly by the wealthy nations—developed countries and major emerging economies lead in total carbon dioxide emissions—but it is the poorer nations which are most vulnerable to its painful effects. The question of international justice becomes even more pointed when considering the per capita consumption of fossil fuels. Saudi Arabia and the United States are tied in first place for the world’s highest per capita carbon emissions, far outpacing the per capita outputs of poor nations (Statista 2021). One analysis reviewed public health studies of the effects of burning fossil fuels and concluded that the lifestyles of about three average Americans create enough planet-heating emissions to kill one person (Millman 2021).

Climate change is a matter of intergenerational justice, because right now we are stealing a habitable Earth from our children and our children’s children. If we continue with business as usual, we will leave a ruined world to those who come after us. No wonder so many members of the Sunrise Movement 8 and so many other young climate activists are angry!

Climate justice is likewise inextricably linked to racial justice. In the piercing words of Hop Hopkins, the Sierra Club’s Director of Organizational Transformation, “You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism (Hopkins 2020).”

Perhaps we must speak of interspecies justice, as well, because for the first time in the planet’s history, a single species, Homo sapiens, is in the process of wiping out vast populations of other creatures, and even entire species. Driven by climate change and other pressures of human activities, the world’s wildlife populations have plummeted by more than two-thirds in the last 50 years, according to a 2020 report by the World Wildlife Fund (Rott 2020). We are also in the midst of Earth’s sixth extinction event. With dismay, scientists are describing what they call a “biological annihilation (Ceballos et al. 2017).” Recognizing that we are now in an emergency that threatens human civilization, one expert commented, “This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is . . . This is actually now jeopardizing the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’—it is our life-support system (Carrington 2018).”

To push away the horror—and the responsibility—it might be tempting to shift the blame for the climate crisis onto the generations that preceded us. “After all,” we may tell ourselves, “burning fossil fuels began long before I was born; people have been burning fossil fuels since the eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution began.” However, adults such as me cannot get away with that attempt at moral deflection (which is so characteristic of an addict): more than half of all CO2 emissions since 1751 were emitted in the last 30 years (Stainforth 2020). That is, in a single lifetime—ours.

Clearly, the climate crisis is not only a scientific, political, economic, or technical issue — it is a moral issue, as well. What if members of a high-carbon, high-consumption society faced our guilt and took Step 4 (“Made a searching and moral inventory of ourselves”)? What if we carried out the Steps that follow and took bold, even radical action to address the moral injustice of climate change?

Taking personal responsibility means that each of us does our part to solve the problem. Many of us start reducing our personal and household “carbon footprint.” We recycle, we buy less stuff, we eat less meat and move toward a plant-based diet. We do whatever we can afford to do—install solar panels, buy an electric car, eat local, organic foods, upgrade insulation, turn down the heat, use less air conditioning. Taking these kinds of personal steps to reduce our carbon footprint is worthwhile in many ways: they align our lives more closely with our values; they can inspire friends and neighbors to follow suit, making it socially acceptable and morally normative to live more gently on Earth; and they relieve our sense of cognitive dissonance—we know that we are taking action to address an existential crisis. After all, as Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Making personal changes in lifestyle may be that vital first step on the ramp to more effective action.

However, do not be fooled—if we limit taking personal responsibility simply to changing our lifestyle and consumer choices, we are falling for the lie that individual behavior is enough. It is not. Turning off the lights and driving an electric car may be the right thing to do and make us feel morally “cleaner,” but moral action only makes a substantive difference when we join the fight for systemic change. A societal transformation from top to bottom is what is required to avert climate chaos—that is what the world’s pre-eminent climate scientists told us in the 2018 report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The only way to do that is to push for collective solutions, to become politically engaged, and to make it politically possible to do what is scientifically necessary to maintain a habitable world.

In the meantime, fossil fuel corporations are working hard to shift responsibility for the damage that their products cause (damage that these companies concealed and denied for decades) to individual consumers. Like drug dealers, they make a fortune by pushing a deadly product and then blame their customers if they buy it and become sick. A fascinating article by Amy Westervelt explains how, for over 100 years, various industries, including tobacco, beverage packaging, guns, and fossil fuels, “have weaponized American individualism, laying the blame for systemic issues at the feet of individual citizens.”9 Westervelt observes that BP “famously invented the ultimate tool for pinning greenhouse gas emissions on individual consumers: the carbon footprint calculator.10 As she points out:

This rhetorical framing flourishes not only because it taps into America’s individualistic identity, but also because it presents easy solutions: simply buy different things in your own life, walk or bike a bit more, and everything will be fine! It also provides a purity test that no climate activist can possibly pass. It’s the perfect setup for oil companies: The problem is consumers, not industry, and no consumer can ever reduce their carbon footprint enough to be a credible critic. (Westervelt 2021)

Framing the climate crisis in moral terms gives us an opportunity to understand that effective moral action includes collective moral action. To be blunt, do not be a consumer, be a citizen.

The scope and speed of the climate crisis require more than personal changes in behavior—they require collective action and a push for policies such as pricing or regulating carbon, eliminating fossil fuels subsidies, providing incentives for clean renewable energy, and ensuring that historically marginalized communities enjoy the benefits of clean energy. Climate scientists are increasingly concerned that if global warming continues unchecked, the Earth will soon pass so-called “tipping points” beyond which possibly irrevocable disaster will ensue (Harvey and Agencies 2021). Is it possible to create a social tipping point that would propel a swift transition to clean energy? According to one study (Otto et al. 2020), providing a moral framework for the climate crisis would contribute to a social tipping point and help activate “contagious and fast-spreading processes” that lead to global decarbonization. Using a term from the field of addiction, the study argues that revealing the moral implications of fossil fuels is an “intervention” that would accelerate a rapid global transformation to carbon-neutral societies. Let us start this addict on the road to recovery.

9.   Praying the Serenity Prayer

Like most recovering addicts in the Twelve-Step Program, I frequently turn to the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Based on a longer prayer by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, these words have helped countless addicts to search their minds and hearts as they sort out what to hold on to and what to let go, what is theirs to do and what is not. Implicitly, the prayer invites us to rein in our compulsive craving for control and to find peace even in the midst of trouble. It rouses us from passivity and inertia so that we change what we can (and should) change. Additionally, it recognizes that we do not see these things clearly, and need to ask for God’s help.

The prayer is immensely useful for everyone concerned about climate change. What is it that I need serenity to accept? What is it that I need courage to change? How do I know which is which? The questions themselves drive me into prayer, and the answers change over time as I listen and learn. I pray for serenity to accept the reality of the climate crisis and the painful manifestations of that crisis which emerge every day—and I find my way to serenity only as I pray my way through outrage, fear, and grief. I pray for courage to change the things I can—and I find that courage only as I keep entrusting my actions to God. I pray for the wisdom to know what is and is not mine to do—and I try to forgive myself when I get that wrong. The Serenity Prayer is pithy, enigmatic, and as pure as prayer comes—it does not give answers; it simply opens a door to God.

We bring into prayer what we know about the world, so it is good to be aware that many internal and external forces are at work, insisting that there is little we can do to slow climate change. I will mention only two. One is external: fossil fuel corporations are eager to amplify our supposed helplessness to quit using their products. They are delighted when “collapse-aware” people throw in the towel and accept that we are doomed, that it’s too late to take effective active to stave off climate catastrophe. As Michael Mann explains, “Doomism potentially leads us down the same path of inaction as outright denial of the threat.” He adds, “The surest path to catastrophic climate change is the false belief that it’s too late to act (Mann 2021, pp. 179, 223).”

A second message that dampens courageous action is internal: without knowing it, we tend to accept an increasingly degraded natural world as normal. It has been called “shifting baseline syndrome” or “sliding baseline syndrome”: each generation adapts to worsening circumstances over time, disregarding the abundance that previous generations knew, while peacefully accepting what remains as fine, or to be expected. We slowly adjust to unthinkable circumstances. As David Roberts explains, the scariest thing about global warming is that we could grow accustomed to it—grow used to massive fires, severe flooding, killing levels of heat—and never experience a moment of reckoning. We could sleepwalk our way to catastrophe (Roberts 2020; Campbell 2020).

Humans have been a successful species partly because we are so adaptable, but the capacity to adapt can also be a moral and even mortal liability. I think of the bitter comment uttered by Raskolnikov, the anti-hero of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment: “Men are scoundrels; they can get used to anything (Dostoevsky 1989, p. 22)!” I also think of the less bitter, but still bracing quote attributed to Thomas Merton: “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.”

When does our purported serenity to accept the things we cannot change in fact mask our apathy and amnesia? When does serenity camouflage the refusal to care—what Fr. James Keenan calls “the failure to bother to love”? Rabbi Abraham Heschel insisted that “Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods.” Subversive prayer breaks through cheap serenity. True serenity springs not from choosing comfort and avoiding conflict, but from the desire to seek only God’s will, to abide in God’s love, and to carry out what love requires, even when doing so is costly or difficult.

Once upon a time in the United States, people accepted many things as normal—slavery, Jim Crow, child labor, 80-hour work weeks, the disenfranchisement of women and African Americans, the indiscriminate use of DDT, and so much more. What awoke them from their “serenity” was the persistent, massive, collective efforts of countless ardent people who were unwilling to settle for so little. What is it that we, too, must refuse to accept as normal? Are we willing to join the movements now rising up around the world—the climate justice movement, the human rights movement, the Indigenous rights movement, and the coalitions—both faith-based and secular—that are pressing to eliminate dirty emissions, restore a safe climate, reverse the sixth mass extinction of species, and create a just society that works for everyone?11

10.   Urgency, Fear, and Love

People suffering with addiction do not walk casually into a Twelve-Step meeting. We are not there to pass the time. We are not there to virtue signal. We are not there to pass a purity test. We are there to save our lives. Urgency is what drives a person into recovery. We have reached the point of admitting, as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, that “half-measures availed us nothing”12—not launching another diet, not drinking only on weekends, not shooting up just once in a while. We need a thorough makeover, a transformation which is physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Urgency is what today’s climate prophets are conveying. Scientists speak with alarm about the very short time we have left in which to safeguard a stable climate; they speak about the urgent need for “rapid and far-reaching (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2018)” changes in all aspects of society. We cannot miss the urgency of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager with the round face, straight blonde hair, and fierce, un- yielding eyes, who spoke with such intensity to the U.S. Congress, the U.N. COP meeting, and the World Economic Forum, telling the world, telling the adults who failed to take action: “The house is on fire.” Our planetary home is on fire. It is going up in flames.

It is a precious moment when an addict listens, grasps the urgency, feels the heat, and makes the decision to choose life. It is a precious moment when an addict admits that their life is unmanageable, that they need help beyond themselves, and that the time has come for decisive action. It is a precious moment when an addict realizes that the old way of life has to die in order for new life to be born. Will our generation be able to look back with gratitude one day and sing “Amazing Grace”?

Fear is what forced me into recovery, and fear may be what forces society to awaken to the climate crisis at last. Given the predicament in which we find ourselves, we have good reason to be afraid. However, fear cannot sustain us over the long haul—only love can do that.

Therefore, I thank God for all the people who are willing to face their fear, to empathize with other people’s fear, and to stand together. I thank God for all the people who refuse to turn away from each other or against each other, but who decide instead to turn toward each other, to join forces and join hands. I thank God for the deep message of all the world’s religions: we are interconnected with each other and with the web of life.

As an addictive society wakes from its restless, deathly sleep, faith communities can help to restore our capacity to love God and neighbors. In a sermon, D’var Torah, and dharma talk; in prayer groups, worship services, and meditation groups; in pastoral care, outreach, and bold public advocacy, communities of faith and spiritual practice can renew our intention and deepen our capacity to act in loving ways, to respect the dignity of every human being, and to cherish the sacredness of the natural world. Faith communities speak to the heart of what it means to be human. When people are closing their eyes to a crisis or going mad with hatred and fear, only love can restore us to sanity.

We can be more than addicts on a self-destructive path. Additionally, we can be more than chaplains at the deathbed of a dying order. We can be midwives to the new and beautiful world that is longing to be born.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Notes

  1. Robert Lentz, OFM, “Compassion Mandala,”   https://robertlentzartwork.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/httpswww-trinitystores-comstoreart-productsrlcmm/ (accessed on 27 July 2021).
  2. Christopher Burt, quoted by (Cappuci 2021).
  3. This example and those that follow are cited by (Kaplan and Dennis 2021).
  4. One very interesting initiative that weaves together addiction/recovery, Christian faith, and care for the Earth is EcoFaith Based in the Pacific Northwest, EcoFaith Recovery is “a leadership development effort grounded in the Christian tradition and welcoming all who seek recovery from societal addictions to unsustainable ways of life. Our recovery begins as we come out of isolation and rediscover our relatedness to God, ourselves, each other, and the entire earth community of which we are a part.” See: http://www.ecofaithrecovery.org/ (accessed on 31 August 2021).
  5. https://workthatreconnects.org/, https://dayenu.org/, https://climateawakening.org/ (accessed on 30 July 2021).
  6. See, for example, Climate Psychology Alliance https://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org/ (accessed on 31 August 2021) Climate Psychology Alliance North America https://www.climatepsychology.us/ (accessed on 31 August 2021) and Climate Psychiatry Alliance https://www.climatepsychiatry.org/ (accessed on 31 August 2021).
  7. In 1992, Joanna Macy brought the Elm Dance to people living in areas that had been poisoned by the Chernobyl This simple circle dance, now associated with The Work That Reconnect, is intended for all who experience collective trauma, https://workthatreconnects.org/resources/elm-dance/ (accessed on 31 July 2021).
  8. The Sunrise Movement is a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process, https://www.sunrisemovement.org/ (accessed on 31 August 2021).
  9. (Westervelt 2021). In The New Climate War, Michael Mann addresses this topic in a chapter entitled, “It’s YOUR Fault,” pp. 63–97.
  10. “Calculate and offset your emissions”, https://www.bp.com/en_gb/target-neutral/home/calculate-and-offset-your-emissions. html (accessed on 31 August 2021).
  11. See, for instance, The Climate Mobilization, Indigenous Environmental Network, 350.org, Poor People’s Campaign, Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, Mothers Out Front, Interfaith Power & Light, GreenFaith, The Shalom Center, Dayenu, and many others.
  12. https://www.aa.org/assets/en_us/en_bigbook_chapt5.pdf (accessed on 31 August 2021).

 

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Copyright: © 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 4.0/).

Citation: Bullitt-Jonas, Margaret. 2021.  Climate Change, Addiction, and Spiritual Liberation. Religions 12: 709. To view the article as published in Religions or to download a pdf:  https://doi.org/10.3390/ rel12090709

Academic Editors: Bernadette Flanagan and Noelia Molina

 

Rev. Margaret’s article, “Climate Change, Addiction, and Spiritual Liberation,” was published on 1 September, 2021, by Religions, as part of a special issue on “Spirituality and Addiction.” Abstract of the article: Climate scientists have sounded the alarm: The only way to preserve a planet that is generally habitable for human beings is to carry out a transformation of society at a rate and scale that are historically unprecedented. Can we do this? Will we do this? Drawing on her long-term recovery from addiction and on her decades of ministry as a climate activist, the author reflects on how understanding the dynamics of addiction and recovery might inform our efforts to protect the web of life and to bear witness to the liberating God of love who makes all things new. To download a pdf, click here.