Climate Church, Climate World Book Group Notes

You can see the notes of each session by scrolling down on this page.

Climate Church, Climate World book discussion group, Session One 6/16/2019

Attendees: Telos Whitfield, Suzanna Liepmann, Margaret Gadon, Robin Jacobs, Gail Giovanna, Gretchen Harvey, Mark Harvey, John Frietag, Becky Bailey, David Webb, Ingrid Webb, Marcia Bushnell, Ken Bushnell, Danette Harris, Cat Spalding, Wally Smith, Barbara Smith, Cameron Speth, Gretchen Hannon, Marissa Mazzucco, Tom Kinder, Christina Robinson; Joey Hawkins

Small Group Takeaways:

    1. Disproportionate burden of the impact of climate change on the underprivileged. For those who have the capacity (by virtue of having ‘enough’), changing from a scarcity to an abundance mindset (p. 25), trusting that our needs will be met without the need to hoard.
    2. What is blocking us from action? Most of ‘us’ locally are doing our part. How do we undo the disproportionate impact of climate change (p. 6)? How do we deal with ‘dark $’? How do we heal, transform? Fear of change is an issue for churches, for people.
    3. What’s the best thing an individual can do for the climate? Bill McKibben: “Stop being an individual!” Collective action is key. There are so many issues needing attention, climate change is the umbrella issue which encompasses them all. The common problem is the mentality of greed and exploitation (Wendell Berry). We need to work on our dependences (fossil fuels, factory farmed food) and learn to embrace rather than fear change.

  1. Individualism vs the collective. We want what we want when we want it. Need for change in lifestyle poses a huge challenge to our individually-based culture. The science and technology are ready, the problem is psychological barriers: Doom, Overwhelm. Faith has an important role to play. We do the right thing in any case (despite being overwhelmed or not knowing if it will help) because it is the right thing to do.
  2. Individual versus collective action (p. 25). Collective action as a remedy for hopelessness and paralysis. California is the world’s 5th largest economy, so even if the US stays out of the Paris Climate Accords, California (and lots of other states) can adopt it. Trump pulled us out of Paris Accords but we don’t actually leave until 2020 – an opportunity for major collective action, to apply pressure to keep the US IN the Paris accords.
  3. People of faith can determine the trajectory (p. 3). Gus Speth focuses on the need for cultural and spiritual approaches. Churches have a huge role to play, they are respected and well-regarded icons in their communities, have served as leaders of social change in the past. They provide multidisciplinary and multigenerational wisdom, knowledge, experience. It is essential to speak the language and appeal to the core values of the people whose behaviors need to change. Speak their language – if it is economics, then find a way to use economic incentives.
  4. Denial is enormous and heavy. We need a vision of how great the future could be. We can build better societies around the science that we know. People are motivated by a positive vision, not by fear, or what they need to give up. Towns and communities as the unit of resilience. Start at that level and move up – cell structure of a revolution. Party politics have no place in this. Communities of faith have a history in social movements, have a rightful role here. Collective actions have a much greater impact if people have a shared vision. Climate change action can serve as a new calling for congregations, a source of power, which can bring courage to be active and embrace change.
  5. Faith – what does that mean? Faith in what? Some use faith as an argument for inaction – God is running the show and will fix it. People with morals, not only people of faith, have a key role to play. My Life, book which talks about spiritual vs religious faith. Living a life with meaning requires a commitment to something, entails loss. Finding meaning allows you to live a productive life.

Closing thoughts

  1. Subsidized plastic industry pulling us into a disposable vs re-usable lifestyle
  2. As a historian, concerned that the human project is more random than purposeful and guided by progress. Wants to restore her faith that the human project has a purpose, and so does her life.
  3. Church has an obligation to help lead in this moral issue.
  4. Look for models within the community to try to make individual lifestyle changes. Look at this group! Moving from thought to action brings hope.
  5. Earth Charter principles – cultural, social, environmental, spiritual. About to be launched 2 days before 9/11, country was eclipsed by fear and fear of difference. Climate change provides both crisis and opportunity. Don’t give up. Charter is still there.
  6. It had better not be important to be able to see an outcome from an action. Do the right thing with no expectation that it will solve the problem, simply because it is the right thing to do. Collective action involves meetings, to which i am averse. Individual actions – around housing, transportation, food (industrial farming system), some are easier than others.
  7. Collective action is vital. Some people might be put off by the call for people of faith to be involved, if they have been wounded or troubled by the actions of churches (eg saved vs condemned). It can feel exclusive.
  8. It is better to act even if the action isn’t perfect. Eg the League of Nations didn’t work but it set the stage for the UN, which isn’t perfect, but is helpful. Action brings hope.
  9. We are each responsible for our own carbon footprints. We can reduce our use and then buy carbon offsets. Supports collective action that doesn’t fall mostly on those with the least means.
  10. Vision, meta-transformations, high level legislation and treaties – interested in working at that level. We need strong communities to be better stewards of our resources and be resilient.
  11. Collaborative problem solving – we can solve this and we most for the sake of our kids and grandkids.
  12. Worried about having an impact in time, worried about kids fearing for their future.
  13. Recommitting to be part of the solution, to be more informed.
  14. Golden rule being extended to the planet and to future generations. If we don’t do something, kids will suffer.
  15. Wider view of the challenge ahead. Important to stay informed.
  16. I am an optimist, but am overwhelmed. WWII – National scale collective action – within 3 ½ years turned the entire economy around, consumer goods disappeared in favor of the war effort. That’s the scale of action that we need. No idea how to get there. Also overwhelming thinking about our small individual actions on the one hand and China and India and other developing economies wanting to improve their standard of living. Balancing needed.
  17. Hit hard by watching Greta’s video. Why are we thinking about anything else? Don’t we owe it to her? Can result in overwhelming paralysis. Needs to give herself over to a collective. Our choice here will forever impact future generations (quoting Moses?)
  18. Raised with a strong mantra of individualism – very damaging. Need to work collectively for the civic good. Attitudes toward and use of tobacco has changed dramatically, an example of positive change. Multidimensional approach needed, reach people at their core values. Show people how climate change interacts with things they value. Mobilizing the tremendous power of the church is important. Possibility of making policy change.
  19. It is overwhelming. I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint, while so many others couldn’t care less about it. Stages of change – pre-contemplation, contemplation. How to shake awake someone who is in the pre or contemplation stage. There isn’t time to get these people moving. Getting the people who aren’t on board to come on board is key.
  20. Individual action needed – talk to deniers, Trump supporters. Need talking points to use with deniers that aren’t angry or judgmental. Find a collective action and join a group doing something on a large scale, form a group if there isn’t one.
  21. Discern how to be involved. Green New Deal, Sept 20 adult climate strike (and week before). As a pastor and writer, working on articulating a vision, a new narrative, a change of consciousness. We all find our gifts and contribute them fully. Be all in. That’s it!
  22. Amen
  23. Seeking sources of hope to get me past paralysis. Collective actions for introverts that aren’t TOO far out of their comfort zone? Living in a way that can allow my daughters to actively hope for the future as opposed to living in denial and distraction. Facing the elephant in the kitchen and the carpool and respond individually and collectively to be the change we wish to see.

Climate Church, Climate World book discussion group, Session Two 6/23/2019

Attendees: Suzanna Liepmann, Margaret Gadon, Robin Jacobs, Gail Giovanna, Gretchen Harvey, Mark Harvey, John Freitag, Becky Bailey, David Webb, Ingrid Webb, Marcia Bushnell, Ken Bushnell, Danette Harris, Wally Smith, Barbara Smith, Gretchen Hannon, Marissa Mazzucco, Tom Kinder, Joey Hawkins, John Hawkins, Bill and Linda Williams

Small Group Takeaways:

    1. Embrace the concept of the “pubic trust doctrine.’ Counter the different ways it gets abused, especially the “growth at all costs” doctrine.
    2. It’s helpful to think of the Earth as God, including the Native Americana ethos. We need a spiritual approach to solving the climate problem, even more than a technological one. We know we need to take responsibility for the wages of climate change, but what does this mean/ what might it look like.
    3. Without having to agree on what God is, we struggle with Gus Speth’s comments (p.54) on the natural world being excluded from the economy and how to approach this problem, given the conflict between individual and community action.
    4. We like the story of the Benedictine monks in the 6th century restoring land ruined by the Romans. This is stewardship of yore! The Adenauer quote on p. 52 was significant. It can become too late to make a difference, but we don’t think that’s true with climate change yet.  To do something useful, we must listen thoughtfully and lovingly.
    5. We are struck by the idea of a “repurposed church.” What has the purpose been up to now? The Golden Rule, loving thy neighbor. A new purpose extends this to generations to come. We need to move away from only personal solutions to collective action, and from only individual spirituality to communal. We must not continue to only talk – we must act.
    6. We also are struck by the idea of a repurposed church. Bonhoeffer is a historical example of this, with redirected religious practice. So what can the church do? We are moved by the idea of Our Children’s Trust, which is now facing a day in court soon. This is a structure that is already in place. Is there some way the church can connect to that?

Closing thoughts

      • I have been working with John and Joey on projects like this for 40 years, nuclear weapons, Central America, etc., and they are models of effective activists. What I hope is to find a creative, effective way of addressing this current problem, and I am sure we can do it given what we have done in the past.
      • Jim Antal’s story of the Benedictine monks after the collapse of the Roman Empire grabs me. I am gardener and I love nature and I thought of the Shakers in Maine. They are getting old and there are only four left in their community managing a huge farm—maybe I should go join the Shakers and help!
      • The role of government and confusion about what the government should do even for us today, not to mention what it should do for future generations—the difference between the government’s aid and role in Europe vs. here. We need to figure out what is best.
      • Care for our common “address” and all its current and future inhabitants is the true purpose of the church, but we need to locate ourselves with others of other beliefs or no beliefs, so Our Childrens’ Trust seems like a good way for us all to join and work together.
      • Those who have gone before us—we are followers, they are our leaders, we have to look to them and also listen to the children of the future and let them lead us as well.
      • Need for economic change, Gus Speth’s book America the Possible, a manifesto for a new American economy—the difficulty is human nature, and that is where the church comes in, strongly promoting the Golden Rule and a more ethical vision.
      • Taking to heart “think globally and act locally,” I am hungry to be part of something bigger, along the lines of Abraham Heschel’s quote in the book and the meaning of this hour for me. I would be happy as a clam if a community of faith would lead the way and I could just fall in line and be part of that movement.  If it doesn’t happen I’ll find a group somewhere. I want to be effective, but on a bigger scale than my heretofore local actions.
      • In the 1960s Civil Rights Movement churches played an active role marching arm in arm. They put their all into effective, practical action on the issue of their time.  The Benedictines in the 6th Century did the same.  Whatever we end up doing now, I want the churches to be visible as actors on this problem, not just sitting in a circle talking.  I want the rest of the world to identify us as people of faith who are making a difference.
      • I would like to be working against climate change not as an individual but as a member of a community, but I am held back by the constraints I feel about the nature of the community with which I would want to work. I don’t want to do things I don’t want to do!
      • Question: how do we make the shift from personal to collective? We can act individually as an example but that’s not satisfying.  More is needed collectively.  And how do we take responsibility other than merely saying climate change is our fault?
      • Nature will repair itself given enough time, but humans can help move that along, like Chinese solders planting trees and in India each person planting one tree a day and reviving a rainforest.
      • The small ways to make a difference are important, drive a fuel efficient car, recycle, etc. People are more conscious of individual actions now, consciousness is being raised in small ways. Be diligent in doing all the small things, that’s all we can do because no one here can do a big thing.
      • I am so grateful for this book and this group as a structure to make good use of a good book.
      • How do repurposed churches act carefully to make the health of the earth central to the economy and to future generations?
      • I struggle with the word collective, I’d be happier with inclusive. The church can provide the moral grounds along the line of the Gus Speth quote—science can’t solve it, it is a moral, spiritual problem, and we must include everyone in thinking about this, but the individual should not be lost.  The repurposed church is a source of spiritual guidance and morality, church is the mother of the soul of people, teaching them to make moral decisions and look at what our moral criteria are for making decisions.  We need to give children criteria for making decisions based not on money but on morals.  The church has to battle that.  We shouldn’t try to do what other organizations can do better, but we can send people into the world as leaders.  We need individual leaders, we should train them and send them out, with the church as a banner, as spokespeople for moral and spiritual views.
      • I am stuck on wanting to act right now. How about at the Strafford 4th of July parade all the churches in town march under a Save The Earth banner?  That might be a doable action.  Also, a Native American critique is that spirituality is missing from the environmental movement.  The church can inject that.
      • Communities are important, not just individuals. We need to work with all groups, not just churches.
      • What is a church for? To help us move from our private faith to sacrificial work in the world.  In my old church the last thing in the benediction each week was, “Go forth into the world, for you are the church.”  So I felt it was my responsibility as I walked out the door to go live what I believed.
      • The Golden Rule is a core belief of all world religions including ours. There are no exceptions to our love of neighbor, for everyone on earth and now for everyone in the future as well.  We need to act to protect all people if we love all people.  Here is what love looks like: any action that makes sure all have a healthy earth to live in, now and in the future.
      • Live into the questions. It is very important and useful that we are asking ourselves questions like what it would look like to repurpose the church, what is our vocation, how do we fit into the landscape of other groups that are working on this issue.  It is equally important that we strive for clarity on actions we can take by the time these five weeks are over.

Next week: start on time (11:45), read Chapters 4 and 5 looking for what’s important and why. Session will have the same format, although please feel free to let Joey know if you have improvements to suggest.


Climate Church, Climate World book discussion group, Session Three, 6/30/2019

Attendees: Suzanna Liepmann, Margaret Gadon, Robin Jacobs, Gail Giovanna, Gretchen Harvey, Mark Harvey, John Freitag, Marcia Bushnell, Ken Bushnell, Danette Harris, Cat Spalding, Cameron Speth, Marissa Mazzucco, Tom Kinder, Christina Robinson; Joey Hawkins, Marty Cowden, Bob Cowden, John Hawkins, Linda Williams, Bill Williams

Small Group Takeaways from the Book:

  1. Material growth, convenience, and mobility are not religious or moral values (p. 82). J Antal stayed quiet about the McMansions. We must learn to push through fear, push through staying silent. This is easier to do from within community.
  2. Climate change has been identified as a ‘threat multiplier’ by the Department of Defense. People are not able to deal with climate change intellectually and emotionally. Passion and conviction are needed on our part in order to help people face what they do not want to face. It is crucial to build community resilience, and the Transition Towns movement can help with that.
  3. Gandhi on there is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed. Materialism is at the crux of the problem. Greed arises from the loss of a moral compass. Education in the home is important on things like diet, lifestyle, nutrition, preserving the environment.
  4. Must work to ensure that the burden and pain do not fall on the poor – e.g. regressive taxes on essentials (2 cents on each gallon of fuel) vs carbon tax on optional choices (air travel). Live as an example, with sacrifice and sharing as guiding virtues. So many crises and aspects to this crisis, it is hard to know what to do – we want to turn to a page in the book and have it say in big bold words: THIS is what you need to do.
  5. Church as a leader in protecting the earth (p. 68), following an ancient value (p. 70). Examples from abolition – change the system, and not just your clothes (cotton from plantations). More than individual level changes are needed.
  6. a) Example of abolition. Confessing complicity (p. 71). The scale of the transformation required now is comparable to the US moving from a slave economy. How it feels to put yourself in the position of a slave holder. The comparison brings hope – slavery did end. Although it did take a war. And its legacy lingers. Take home message: We can do hard things.
  7. b) Reduce consumerism. Now it is cheaper to buy something new than to fix something old. The Quest for the New drives consumerism and climate change. We need to make a change away from consumerism.
  8. c) The economy is a huge part of the equation. Frustrating, daunting, complicating.
  9. a) practical steps: solar panels, energy efficiency, carbon-free Sundays, divesting from fossil fuels (personal, church funds)
  10. b) Civil Disobedience. Increases public awareness, mobilizes and strengthens a political force to combat climate change
  11. c) Use your voice in other ways if civil disobedience is not your role.

Closing thoughts

  1. The issue feels so heavy and daunting, I feel so frustrated and small. Two things helped bring a shard of light this week: the US has tackled huge things before (change from slave economy), and specific individual actions we can take (divestment, civil disobedience)
  2. Living by example, educating kids changes behavior. Communities that embrace this work with passion are key to helping support individuals who are afraid that they won’t have sufficient impact on their own.
  3. Public education has whitewashed history. Slavery is not gone. It is important to get beyond what is taught in schools.
  4. Hard to be optimistic, the problems are so daunting. We need action on the scale of WWII and the Civil War.
  5. In favor of civil disobedience for those who can do it. For those who can’t, sign up to get alerts to contact congress to provide input on key votes from places like, Credo, Earth Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center. There is lots we can do even if we can’t get knocked down in the street. The UU church does a great job of seeing god’s mission as political.
  6. The root cause: valuing money over everything else. If you have money you can get what you want when you want it. Wealth brings privilege. It should be that simply being human, being part of the ecosystem, brings privilege.
  7. Waiting for the page that says: “DO THIS: . . .” Reduce consumption as an individual and as a community.
  8. We must learn from abolition and civil rights movements – build into our movement the moral conviction and persistence of both of these movements, and also explore why the legacy of slavery is still so strongly felt and what lessons are to be learned to guide this movement.
  9. Loss and grief are too painful to deal with, leads to denial. How to respond to deniers – use empathy and emotional arguments rather than science and education. “I know that it is hard to think about your kids living in a different world.”
  10. The authority of spiritual communities – we are repositories of moral wisdom about grief, greed, how to love our neighbor and live by the Golden Rule. Spiritual communities need to claim that authority, which feels difficult to do at a time when we no longer have the status we once had. We need to stand with conviction and passion, engage with people who think we are irrelevant. Civil disobedience, marches, but also listen deeply – spiritual communities need to be good at listening and host healthy community-wide conversations on difficult issues.
  11. The larger society doesn’t get it, allows people to compartmentalize, focus on one thing – the economy, or kids’ health, not seeing that everything is interconnected. Bill McKibben – we need to move faster to help society connect the dots. We need to be outraged that Green Mountain Power is involved with Enbridge, for instance.
  12. It is very hard to stay positive, that is the power of this group, of energy commissions, of Any group headed in the right direction makes you feel stronger.
  13. Ask in each case what can we do in connection with the institutions we’re involved with (eg where we work, where we volunteer) to push climate change issues. Investments, purchasing practices, as our consciousness is raised, look at other organizations / institutions.
  14. A list describing the economy we are striving for (Gus Speth’s book America the Possible). What are the steps needed for a national economy that doesn’t reward greed and pays a living wage? Who is working on this? Rapid rejiggering of the economy in WWII, with abolition (although the economy was making slavery less profitable, wasn’t just abolitionists that led to the end of slavery). I want to know more about a national economy that works with decent laws and tax structures, that works for everyone including the poor.
  15. Communities of faith need to change what it means to be religious.
  16. We need education from schools, church, and family to build leaders who will speak truth to power. American Independence was engineered by a group of highly educated morally convicted people who understood liberal philosophy and created a miracle. Regulation and control of selfishness and greed are needed. The New Deal was hated by many. We are dealing with very powerful forces in our country that we’ve lost control of. We need to educate and create new leaders, and the government needs to regulate selfishness and greed. We need to talk about leadership – make it a specific goal of curricula to train students to go into the world and change it, including training in conflict resolution. This group is training us to go out and do the same thing. We must take political action. We can’t simply talk people into giving up their power.
  17. G20 – US didn’t sign climate agreement. If we don’t change the political leadership of this country, nothing else matters.
  18. Truth and Reconciliation (p. 77): “Imagine people with conflicting ideological positions listening to one another with open hearts. . . . I believe that faithful congregations can and must convene such sacred conversations.” We here are preaching to the choir. How would faith communities do what Antal calls us to do? (One answer: we will be hosting three workshops in communication this fall, open to community, that are designed to train us to do exactly this.)

Next week: start on time (11:45), read Chapters 6 and 7 looking for what’s important and why. Session will have the same format, although please feel free to let Joey know if you have improvements to suggest.

Climate Church, Climate World book discussion group Session Four, 7/7/2019

Attendees: Suzanna Liepmann, Margaret Gadon, Gail Giovanna, John Freitag, Danette Harris, Cat Spalding, Marissa Mazzucco, Tom Kinder, Christina Robinson; Joey Hawkins, John Hawkins, Telos Whitfield, Becky Bailey, David Webb, Ingrid Webb; Jeannie Daniel

Small Group Takeaways from the Book:

  1. How will children interpret our inattention. Silence of theological ethics on intergenerational justice. Does the division of church and state work against us now? There is a moral obligation to act on climate change. During the civil rights movement, we were raised with a less clear division between church and state. Now we have discomfort bringing church to issues of the state. Civil disobedience (CD). Front Lines. Bodies and lives on the line. (p.98) Civil disobedience as discipleship, but it is out of bounds for some. We need some people who aren’t able to do CD to be part of a massive movement. Not that we should all aspire to CD and those who can’t do it fall short. We each contribute what we can. Start with talking to our friends and family.
  2. Stages of grief. Lots of people are stuck in denial. How to talk to deniers (p. 130). Future generations are no less our neighbors as far as the Golden Rule. (p. 131). Inner peace as the utmost priority (p. 129). Bring political action to the center of worship (p. 129). Keeping fossil fuels in the ground as a sacrament (p. 111). Free the pulpit from fear, speak to people at all levels of development.
  3. Pope Francis – climate change as the world’s greatest moral challenge (p 122). Combatting greed as part of the solution. Civil disobedience as the gold standard doesn’t work for all. How else to have a strong impact. Native communities planning for 7 generations, gives us hope – there are cultures who have lived this way and still do. It can be done. Golden rule 0 (p. 131). First European settlers here were sent by corporations. We got a bad start on this continent, exploiting natural resources into money for others.
  4. (Drawing from pages 105 and 135) A) Political vs Partisan  – important distinction to make. Quote from Gus Speth that Tom used in sermon this morning, speak to the heart about core American values. In conversation with someone you don’t agree with, peel back the onion to get to a shared core value. One on one. Sometimes you don’t get to a shared understanding, but you can plant a seed. B) Waking the sleeping giant. Churches have the potential to do work but they don’t always do it.  C) Idea of spending part of worship services affirming individual political actions. Ambivalence about having people stand up and say “I DID THIS!!” but think about other ways to share – “This is happening . . .” versus individual testimonials. Church offer and encourage opportunities to take action: civil disobedience, letter writing, etc.
  5. A) (p. 103) Climate talk in church – how much is enough, how much is too much. Very fine line. Partisan vs political. Line is between raising the issue of climate change but not being political and dogmatic. The right wing has become partisan and dogmatic and that hasn’t created a world in which people understand one another. Unclear solution to this very real issue.  B) (p. 128) Remind people of the beauty of the earth. We live in a beautiful place on a beautiful planet. Cultivate wonder. It is important to feel centered and hopeful versus doom and gloom. This is something we can hold in common. Active listening. Tom brings climate change in gently and delicately very well. Constant challenge to walk that fine line.

Closing thoughts:

  1. Several people commented: Denominations have tended to emphasize their differences.  Climate change is something we all have in common. The old differences don’t matter at all.  This group is an example. Intergroup walls have become doors. Heartening. This is the greatest moral challenge. Holocaust killed 6 million. This threatens the entire population plus all species of plants and animals.
  2. Last week I mentioned that I felt the most important thing we can do now to address climate change is make sure Trump is NOT re-elected. Today, with the distinction between political and partisan, I realize that Trump (and 40% of the US population) are—wittingly or unwittingly—destroying not just our shared environment but also the way we can address the problem as a nation—i.e. the ‘political’ discourse, the way governments are supposed to work.
  3. I want to learn more about stages of grief and how to work with them and not be stuck, for myself and my girls and anyone else I talk to. Thinking about church services as a dance between comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, providing hope and healing and then gently reminding us that the house is on fire, and then more hope and healing.
  4. I’d like to think there could be Golden Rule 2.0 for future generations. We are keepers of the earth not owners.  Also I think we need a song for the movement, like “War, What Is It Good For?”  (coal y’all what are you good for, making us dirty…)
  5. Important to contemplate the beauty of God’s creation in order to understand the need to slow climate change for generations to come.
  6. Fascinating to be part of this discussion as an out of town visitor. How did Gandhi do it?  The theory that the nation is divided into seven parts, each lobbying for their own views and needs. Churches will lobby for where they are. This is the biggest moral question—where are we on this issue, followed by the question what personal and religious community actions are we going to take?
  7. Interesting to observe what happened in the Strafford parade. A member of this group tried to recruit people to march about climate change and for various reasons it didn’t come together. Then at the last minute a large group marched about refugee children. There is a Global Climate Strike on September 20th and week of actions ending the 27th—this is very important, and the question is, will people rise up to meet it or will other issues with more immediate human interest capture the energy? We need a unified set of values and a common vision that are promoted by every progressive interest group so that when we are protesting children in concentration camps it is clear that we are at the same time fighting the fossil fuel industry and corporate greed that cause refugees, and when we talk about climate change or corporate control of our democracy it is clear that we are trying to protect child refugees.  If we all articulate the same common core values and vision of an ideal world, then every subgroup of the progressive movement will be lifting all the others when it is its turn to be addressed.
  8. There are huge segments of our economy, large corporations and so forth that really need to completely change. One example is promotional products. If a bank gives you a pen or someone gives you a free t shirt, incredible amount of waste—the t shirt or pen end up in trash, maybe used once.  We are drowning in trash that is being pushed on people, and that needs to go away.
  9. The moral challenge is greed—the p. 112 MLK Jr. quote about it being impossible for him to segregate his conscience in his revolution of values speech. Militarism, materialism and racism—impossible to divide the three. What is the lesson we can teach that gets at the root cause of the problem, to create a revolution of values.
  10. It’s a huge daunting kind of burden but it is real: we are the first generation to feel climate change and the last with the opportunity to make a difference. It is now or never. How can we stop it when economic materialism and greed are so overwhelming? There is hope in creating a new culture of wonder to replace the materialism. I feel despairing and nauseous and at the same time excited and hopeful. How are we going to go forward together?
  11. I am reflecting on how even though younger generations are affected and a lot of people are pushing forward in groups like Earth Guardians, and that is great, in churches we are an aging population. Where are the younger people?
  12. I love the idea that there is a social license that we can revoke from an economy and way of life that extracts from the earth and that endangers the long-term viability of life for all its inhabitants. Churches can be part of a movement about common values, not religious beliefs, that revokes that license. What’s next? What’s the lesson plan?
  13. This morning in church Tom told a story about a woman who wouldn’t allow violence in her home. Stories are of huge importance because people can latch onto big ideas through stories. That’s true for both kids and adults.  This is something we could do, think about stories, whether true or possibly true, as a way of making this issue real and hopeful.  People can connect to stories because nobody likes to see people suffer.
  14. I we are not going to do civil disobedience, what could we do that might have the same impact and would be big enough to reach not only those who agree but those who don’t? Write a song, or get a bunch of country music people and have a climate change concert with country music, like “We Are the World.” Organize an ongoing group of people beyond this book group to encourage and support these ideas.  Learn to discuss and debate without being dogmatic.  Support a candidate who says that climate change is the most important issue.
  15. Thinking back on section about Jim getting arrested, and two police officers approach. Jim didn’t know what was in big heavy bag—it’s water, “father give your flock something to drink,” Jim’s cuffs are removed and he’s able to give them water. The story is so moving.  They had consciously chosen to disobey the law and were prepared to get arrested but didn’t know what would happen, and this beautiful moment emerged.  People in the past have done actions because there were large enough numbers so the people could withstand pressure and create a wave big enough to cross boundaries, where no group was unrepresented.  Everyone needs to be in the wave and that’s the way we find common ground.  We need to find those very basic human values and reach out across boundaries.
  16. The challenge is to break down barriers and find positive actions that create understanding and do not cause more division.

Jim Antal will join us on September 1st, 11:45 AM to 1:30 PM. Joint service, too? Maybe outdoors? For July 14th, 11:45 AM, read the last two chapters in the book.


Climate Church, Climate World book discussion group Session five, 7/14/2019


Attendees: Suzanna Liepmann, Margaret Gadon, Gayle Giovanna, John Freitag, Marissa Mazzucco, Robin Jacobs, Tom Kinder, Christina Robinson; Joey Hawkins, John Hawkins, David Webb, Ingrid Webb, Marcia and Ken Bushnell, Bob and Marty Cowden, Mark and Gretchen Harvey, Bill and Linda Williams.


Small Group Takeaways from the Book:


  1. A) Crow Chief Plenty Coup: Because God is good, we will find a dignified passage across the abyss.
  2. B) 4 keys of hope: courage, trust, gratitude, and interdependence
  3. C) Gratitude leads to wonder and generosity
  4. D) There are powerful forces resisting the common good. What leads the individuals who resist the common good to do so, what blocks them from feeling grateful and generous? E) Individuals need to think and act collectively.
  5. F) Actions at Standing Rock were fueled by hope for a revolution fueled by love. Even though it wasn’t successful in the end, it brought together disparate factions that don’t usually stand together, it strengthened individuals and groups to continue to work
  6. A) This book looks at climate change from the Christian standpoint; other religious institutions have different perspectives on what we are called to do and language to describe it. Christians don’t have a lock on this issue.
  7. B) It is hard to grasp the issues that face us. List of where we are and where we need to go on page 164 – adopt resilience in place of growth, collaboration in place of consumption, etc. We are on the wrong end of each of those comparisons (growth, addiction, etc.)
  8. C) Big concepts. It is hard to know where to head. How to get our arms around the issues and what to do next. What specifically would a post industrial economy look like? It is hard to envision. America the Possible by Gus Speth. Gwendolyn Hallsmith – Vermont Alternative Economy.
  9. A) (p. 153) We were perplexed by the story of how we would respond to meeting St. Peter – did our checkbook and our calendar convict us as Christians? It seemed out of character for the book. Many who arrive at St. Peter’s gate are not / have not been in a position to give. What we denied ourselves would make St. Peter happy. Ask Jim about this story when he comes. (p. 162) Crow chief, Breuggeman – working for the common good vs. greed. Greed drives economics. Immense wealth can be immensely short sighted.
  10. A) (p. 156) Life in crisis requires an ‘accept no substitutes’ mindset. This is an opportunity for something new and different.
  11. B) Nothing that we do on this issue will matter if Trump is re-elected.
  12. C) Courage requires support – the example of Pantex plant where church encouraged people to stop working there and provided for families who did so. It helps people to know they will be supported if they take courageous action.
  13. D) (p. 140) witnessing truth in a public setting is important.
  14. A) How to critique and rein in market capitalism – apply the tenets of the Golden Rule. A short term focus does not serve humanity.
  15. B) Pantex – the role of the church was to get people to consider BIG choices and BIG changes in their lives (eg. Leaving their job). If people (consumers) demand / purchase bad (for the planet or people) products, corporations will be more than happy to sell them to them.
  16. C) (p. 140) Speak truth in a public setting. (p. 157) Expose lies. Do not allow the moral challenge to be ideologically framed by deniers. Fossil fuels are clearly a global commons. Why does oil belong to the fossil fuel companies? Maybe God put the fossil fuels there on purpose?
  17. (p. 141) Whistleblower – ineffective if alone, power comes from working together. (p. 167) embrace interdependence, we can’t do this alone. (p. 165) It takes courage to engage in civil disobedience. We strongly value our freedom. What are you personally going to give up? (p. 156-7) optimism and hope. Hope is an active virtue, a process. Hope as an act of defiance (eg. in the Holocaust. It is hard not to despair. Society rewards optimistic passivity – “Be quiet and get along.”


Closing thoughts:


This week the final question posed was where do we feel we need to go from here.  Our homework is to reflect on these notes and send more refined proposals for actions out to the whole group.


  1. Reread Gus Speth’s book, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy with both broad and specific steps to take immediately and longer term, to make the economy pivot from fossil fuels.
  2. Defeat Trump, identify corporations that are doing good consciously, read Gus Speth’s America the Possible, get involved in Transition Town movement.
  3. Small congregations should join with other churches doing actions.
  4. Continue education but not be paralyzed into inaction because of lack of understanding and needing to know more. Take action now.
  5. Support financially or as a volunteer groups that are now effectively educating people. Bring about legislation to change the laws to cope with climate change.
  6. Join with other churches.
  7. Have this group continue to share and support one another and undertake continued action in town as well as additional learning.
  8. Have this group meet twice a month. Have people in the group pick facets or issue areas related to climate change and research our area and do writing campaigns on listserv and other places. We each develop depth in an area and contribute it to all.
  9. Increase pressure on political system, as well as economic pressure. Work for changes.  Need to use higher taxes to affect the way people use fossil fuels—the problem is economic and we all will have to suffer to make it work. Stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.
  10. Write a novel set in future 10 – 20 years out that envisions what different economic life would look like, like Ursula K. La Guin’s The Dispossessed.
  11. Start telling the truth in public settings about what I’ve seen and heard. Organize a group to read this book in my home church.  Start a community Truth and Reconciliation process about climate as Antal recommends.
  12. Get involved in the presidential election. Try to listen more to Trump supporters, going out to breakfast with them and trying to understand where they are coming from.  Take personal responsibility, this is like the Vietnam War when I became a conscientious objector.  Set an example, do carbon offsets for our carbon footprint and put money toward weatherization (and live more simply), through a unified effort of people who want to take responsibility for their carbon footprints and put the money toward weatherization. We need to live what we believe and be impeccable in our living, we need to show the way.
  13. Pursue divestment question with my home church and get them to join with other local churches to read this book.
  14. Think about what needs to change in my life to free up time so i don’t require conveniences that depend on fossil fuels, and so i can put time into climate action.
  15. Take a topic periodically that relates to climate change, refugees for instance, and have a discussion here, reading something connected to it. Keep educating and keep meeting.
  16. Focus on the global climate strike September 20th and week of climate related activities September 20-27. Use the new sign out front for messaging aimed at conveying a new vision and helping change consciousness.  Try to unify all the related movements in one progressive vision that can work together to address the massive underlying structural problems, as Gus Speth urges us to do in America the Possible.
  17. Exchange sources of information and action – Marsha provided a variety of sources.


Jim Antal will join us on September 1st, 11:45 AM to 1:30 PM. Joint service, too? Maybe outdoors? For July 14th, 11:45 AM, read the last two chapters in the book.


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