New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being

by Eleanor Ainge Roy – The – 16 March 2017

Prince Harry paddled down the Whanganui river during a visit to New Zealand in 2015. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

After 140 years of negotiation, M?ori tribe wins recognition for Whanganui river, meaning it must be treated as a living entity

In a world-first a New Zealand river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.

The local M?ori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island has fought for the recognition of their river – the third-largest in New Zealand – as an ancestor for 140 years.

On Wednesday, hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law.

“The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have,” said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi [tribe].

“We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as in indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management.”
The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same.

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Historic Gift Helps Chile Protect Switzerland-size Land Area

By Elizabeth Royte – National – March 15, 2017
Former CEO of Patagonia pledges to hand over private parks

Tompkins bought plots of land surrounding Pumalín, increasing its size to 715,000 acres, and in 2005 the Chilean government declared it a Nature Sanctuary.
Photograph by ImageBroker, Alamy

In a ceremony on the edge of South America’s famed Pumalín Park, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet and the American philanthropist Kristine Tompkins today pledged to expand Chile’s national parkland by 10 million acres. In what has been billed as the world’s largest donation of privately held land, Tompkins—the founder, with her late husband, Doug Tompkins, of Tompkins Conservation—plans to hand over to the government slightly more than a million acres. The Chilean government, for its part, will contribute nearly 9 million acres of federally-owned land.

Kristine Tompkins—a California native who served as the CEO of the clothing company Patagonia before marrying Doug Tompkins, a founder of The North Face and Esprit clothing companies—spent more than two decades acquiring the land and restoring it to wilderness. But the couple’s tenure in southern Chile has not been without controversy.

Initially, locals bristled at what they considered a foreign land grab and at the couple’s successful opposition to a massive hydropower scheme. Some castigated the Tompkins for taking land out of production—logging and sheep and cattle ranching—and eliminating the jobs those industries produced in favor of restoring what the Tompkins considered degraded grasslands and forests.

As puma populations in the region have crept upward, so have complaints from ranchers who have lost sheep. Over the years, relations between locals and the Tompkins improved as their foundation involved the community in planning and created more jobs.

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Is Ryan a Religious Hypocrite? A Priestly Letter to Speaker of the US House of Representatives Paul Ryan from Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox

by Matthew Fox – – March 13, 2017

Dear Speaker and Congressman Paul Ryan,

As a priest who commemorates his 50th year in the priesthood this year (28 as a Roman Catholic and 22 as an Episcopalian), and as your elder, I am writing you this letter because I am worried about your soul.

We all know you take good care of your body, working out frequently in the congressional gym we taxpayers provide for those in Congress, and that is a good thing.  But I am concerned that you are neglecting your soul.  It too requires work-outs and practice to stay healthy.

You claim to be a good and a practicing Catholic Christian but I have serious doubts that you are.  Our Christian beliefs include these words of Jesus after all: “What does it profit a person if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”  These powerful words are surely important for anyone serving in public office or any other places of responsibility, whether in government or business or church or wherever.  Yes, they even apply to your close buddies the Koch brothers, upon whom you depend so fully for your income and ideas and campaigns and job.

You see, another passage that grounds Catholicism and Christianity is found in Matthew 25: “Do it to the least and you do it to me.”  Not to mention the Golden Rule which is found in Matthew 7:12 and is reflected in some form in every world religion since the time of Hammurabi: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Now I want to ask from a spiritual and theological perceptive how you can possibly reconcile these basic teachings of the Gospels with your continued efforts to create budgets for our entire nation that do the following:

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Ecological Art by Barbara Clark

Barbara uses collage and old Sierra Club desk calendars to express her love for Earth – and rage at it’s destruction. I find these nuanced and provocative soul responses to our time. Click on each one to see it up-close.

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Why I’m Not Devastated

Michael Dowd of recommended this essay to me recently. I share it with you.

By Erik – originally published by Transistion Milwaukee –
November 10, 2016

Actually I am a bit devastated, but not nearly as much as most people from my liberal neck of the woods, mainly because I am lucky enough to have stumbled, about eight years ago, into a world of political activism that lives beyond the current political divide.  Around 2:30 last night when I rolled over and emerged from my safe world of dreams, I made the mistake of rousing myself enough to check the results.  When I had gone to bed Trump was giving Clinton a scare, but all the big states except Ohio had yet to be called.  Certainly this couldn’t actually happen.  When I turned on my laptop in the wee hours and saw the sea of red—Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, even Pennsylvania–the air seemed suddenly sucked from the room and I was struck with that terrible sick feeling that so many others felt at some point last night.  I tried to fall back asleep, but couldn’t.  I read an article from Politico, turned to The Nation on line, checked in on Facebook.  No solace.  Too soon for reflection.   Then I lay in bed looking at the ceiling, breathing slowly and deliberately, breathing out the excited emotions, reflecting upon our country, our past, our shaky present, and our uncertain future with as much understanding as I could muster, freeing myself slowly from reactive fear and anger.

This midnight moment of self-liberation was, I think, much easier for me than most people outside of the deep sustainability world, largely because of an alternative view of history it has provided me, and thus very different expectations for the present and future than I used to have.  I am often misunderstood to be saying that partisan politics don’t matter, which is not actually the case.  Rather, I spend a fair amount of effort thinking about how much they matter, while suggesting that other things may be of far greater import.  The election of Trump is, of course, terrible short-term news, particularly for a number of Americans that aren’t pictured in Trump’s America, and may bring additional pain and suffering not only to us, but those living in lands far away.  I’m thinking, here, of my friend who asked, “what will happen to my health care”; of all the immigrant laborers whose invisible work is far too likely to go unnoticed; of my Muslim neighbor, who appeared utterly drained this morning as he backed his car out of his garage; and, finally, of the people living in embattled lands who may become victims of a Trump-ordered air-strike.

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The Writing of “Silent Spring”: Rachel Carson and the Culture-Shifting Courage to Speak Inconvenient Truth to Power

By Maria Popova – Brain

Rachel Carson at her microscope and her typewriter

“It is, in the deepest sense, a privilege as well as a duty to have the opportunity to speak out — to many thousands of people — on something so important.”

“Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others,” philosopher Alan Watts wrote in the 1950s as he contemplated the interconnected nature of the universe. What we may now see as an elemental truth of existence was then a notion both foreign and frightening to the Western mind. But it was a scientist, not a philosopher, who levered this monumental shift in consciousness: Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964), a Copernicus of biology who ejected the human animal from its hubristic place at the center of Earth’s ecological cosmos and recast it as one of myriad organisms, all worthy of wonder, all imbued with life and reality. Her lyrical writing rendered her not a mere translator of the natural world, but an alchemist transmuting the steel of science into the gold of wonder. The message of her iconic Silent Spring (public library) rippled across public policy and the population imagination — it led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, inspired generations of activists, and led Joni Mitchell to write a lyric as timeless as “I don’t care about spots on my apples / Leave me the birds and the bees / Please!”

A woman scientist without a Ph.D. or an academic affiliation became the most powerful voice of resistance against ruinous public policy mitigated by the self-interest of government and industry, against the hauteur and short-sightedness threatening to destroy this precious pale blue dot which we, along with countless other animals, call home.

Carson had grown up in a picturesque but impoverished village in Pennsylvania. It was there, amid a tumultuous family environment, that she fell in love with nature and grew particularly enchanted with birds. A voracious reader and gifted writer from a young age, she became a published author at the age of ten, when a story of hers appeared in a children’s literary magazine. She entered the Pennsylvania College for Women with the intention of becoming a writer, but a zestful zoology professor — herself a rare specimen as a female scientist in that era — rendered young Carson besotted with biology. A scholarship allowed her to pursue a Master’s degree in zoology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University, but when her already impecunious family fell on hard times during the Great Depression, she was forced to leave the university in search of a full-time paying job before completing her doctorate.

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A Movement Moment

by Kenny – February 15, 2017

…Reality is bearing down from every direction. As Paul Hawken once observed at the Bioneers conference, it’s hard to resist and create at the same time, and that’s exactly what we have to do.

The best case of what could yet emerge in the coming years at the federal level is a Green New Deal. It will solve many problems at once by employing large numbers of people to build green infrastructures to meet the overriding twin crises of climate disruption and extreme inequality.

It’s no accident that the right-wing plutocratic agenda for the past nearly 80 years has been to do away with New Deal reforms. The strategy since Reagan has been to demonize government because it’s the only force big and rich enough to stand up against corporate power.

Government policy has long been the source of all great wealth creation. The plutocrats don’t have a problem with government—only with whom it serves. I urge you to listen to the late Tom Hayden’s remarkable parting perspective at Bioneers on this perilous political moment and its close parallel with the 1930s and the battle against the 1% to create the New Deal.

I believe we’re witnessing the stirrings of a next American Revolution. Now the game turns to building political power, but it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about a transformation of what power means. We’re moving away from “power over” to “power to” and “power with”—power to create an ecologically vital and socially just world—power with each other to create beloved community.

A friend once counseled me that any truly transformative experience is preceded by dread. We’re in dreadful times indeed. We’re taking a collective hero’s journey, a descent through the crucible of the underworld to transform human civilization and ourselves. As Richard Tarnas has commented, “There’s no such thing as a pretend near-death experience.”

The big wheels are turning. This moment of radical breakdown opens the space for transformational breakthrough.

Terry Tempest Williams sees it this way:

“When one hungers for light, it is only because one’s knowledge of the dark is so deep. Democracy is an insecure landscape. It invites us to take risks. It asks that we vacate the comfortable seat of certitude, remain pliable and act, ultimately on behalf of the common good.”
“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions: Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up, ever, trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy.
“The heart is the path to wisdom because it dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power. Our power lies in our love of our homelands.”

This is the Revolution from the Heart of Nature and the Human Heart. Take heart, keep the faith, and as Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn, organize.”

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The fundamental political change has started . . .

by Mike Meyer – – March 4, 2017

…Our political system, and that of all other post industrial societies needs to begin to change immediately. This cannot wait. Destruction of our planet’s climate and the completely interrelated political and population upheavals can only be managed with effective planetary alliances supporting the well being of the entire population and entire biosphere. Allowing people to make policies destructive to our long term survival is not an option. Allowing the traditional models of semi-democratic rule to work on the assumption that common sense is all that is needed to determine the welfare of our communities in a time of complete change only guarantees failure. We cannot afford that . . .

Online, open communities need to self organize to address the political change that is needed. Direct democracy with ignorance actively denounced is the route to a new, effective human self government.

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New Opera Based on Writings of Teilhard de Chardin, in Honor of “Laudato Si”

Upon this Handful of Earth

World Premiere Opera 

Friday, February 24, 2017, 7 PM

Church of St. Ignatius Loyola
New York City, NY

A brand new opera from renowned Norwegian composer Gisle Kverndokk and librettist Aksel-Otto Bull based on the writings of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and in honor of “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ recent encyclical about the environment.

Upon this handful of earth explores the intersection of faith and science through the story of six people whose lives have been irrevocably altered by environmental catastrophe. Excerpts from accounts of environmental disasters, such as Chernobyl, tsunamis, pollution, and climate change, are read throughout, grounding the opera in the present.

The five-part opera also explores related social issues such as labor exploitation, wealth disparity, the high cost of progress, reliance on technology, and industry.

Upon this handful of earth is a meditation on the environment that seeks a way forward for mankind at a time when climate change is, once again, at the forefront of political debate.

This rare commission employs the magnificent beauty of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola for a site-specific theater piece with a strong point of view.

Tickets and complete information or call 212 288 2520.

Use the code OPERA50 when ordering to get 50% off any seat.
This discount is good for advance orders only, and will not be honored at the door.


Upon this Handful of Earth

Gisle Kverndokk, composer
Aksel-Otto Bull and Gisle Kverndokk, libretto
K. Scott Warren, conductor
Joachim Schamberger, director

Shannon DeVine, The Priest
Nadia Petrella, The Young Woman
John Tiranno, The Young Man
Kenneth Overton, The Businessman
Sara Murphy, The Wife
Sarah Hawkey, The Child

Choir and Children’s Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola
New York Opera Society Orchestra

Co-presented by Sacred Music in a Sacred Space
and the New York Opera Society

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New EPA Website Launched Until Government Regains Sanity – www.CitizenEPA.US


My friend Dennis and I started this today – from conversation to idea to website in about 12 hours.

It will have a portal to the last pre-Trump version of the website.

MUCH more to come. Stay tuned. Spread the word.

“We understand that the Environmental Protection Agency is more than a website. However, until our government regains its sense of full and robust responsibility as co-caretaker and co-protector of the land, water, air, and health of human and non-human creatures of this part of North America that we call the United States of America, now and for future generations, we will act as a clearing house and resource center for all things that are not but should be on the EPA website since January 20, 2017.”

“Why do we need the EPA? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 to protect the air, water and land of the United States, as mandated in the Clear Air Act (1963), the Clean Water Act (1977), the Wilderness Act (1964), and the Endangered Species Act (1973), and many other previous and subsequent laws passed by representatives of the citizens of the United States. These laws were not created and passed in a fit of ecological idealism. They were a response to serious and widespread industrial pollution, severe enough, for example, that it had caused the Cuyahoga River to catch fire twice (in 1952 and 1969) as it passed, laden with flammable effluents, through the city of Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo: Business as usual in the 1950s. Cuyahoga River (Ohio) on fire with flammable industrial pollutants.

Environmental protection has alway been a contentious issue in the United States because the creators of pollution don’t want to spend the money it would take to clean it up, or to keep it from happening in the first place. Behind the rhetoric of “getting government regulators off our backs” there are often industrial polluters who want to dump their toxic wastes in the nearest river, even if that means that the people downstream will get sick.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been our first line of defense against these industrial freeloaders (they get the profits now, we pay the costs later) for more than forty years. But with the advent of the Trump Administration, people with close ties to the polluting industries are taking over the EPA and intend to limit its watchdog role. We are convince that can only happen if the public is silent on issues of environmental protection. That is why the Circle of Conveners has started the Citizen EPA (Environmental Protection Alliance).

Participants in the Citizen EPA are bound together by a shared reverence for life, rather than by formal membership ties.”


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