Druidry and climate change

I was privileged to be asked to give a talk on Paganism, climate change and activism at Medway’s Interfaith Network yesterday. Privileged, primarily because the quality of speakers that I listened to was simply superb.

Speakers from the Jewish, Catholic, Muslim and Baha’i communities all spoke brilliantly and with passion, often diving deep into the spiritual aspects of their religions much of which you could read across between us all.

I spoke from a Druid and animist perspective obviously, making a clear point that individual experience is key in Paganism and that my words were personal to me rather than representative of Paganism as a whole.

Probably the main area of disagreement was the notion of stewardship, i.e. the Earth is given to us to look after as if we are above it. This feels paternalistic and puts us above and separate from Nature. Instead I talked about harm to the Earth being a form of self harm.

A few other points that I made:

  • Animism can be viewed in polytheistic terms but also from a view of all encompassing spirit, everything is connected through life force and is part of a unified whole. [this point was made by one of the Muslim speakers too]
  • Human people are just one type of people that are part of the Earth.
  • Much of Paganism is Earth centred, i.e. the Earth is sacred to us.
  • Having something as sacred as the Earth under attack from the actions of one of its peoples (humans) is deeply distressing
  • When sacred things are openly attacked it triggers a set of reactions
  • We have organisations such as The Warriors Call fighting fracking and protecting the Earth.
  • Like most humans living in the western world, we are not great at walking the walk when it comes to sustainability. Pagans still fly, drive cars and so on, despite what I hope would be a slightly different relationship with the Earth than people of other faiths and none.

I finished by reading 3:23 by Drew Dellinger, the poem that keeps me going in my most despondent moments.

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What can Druidry offer in dark times?

Excellent piece by Dana on The Druid’s Garden…

The Druid's Garden

Things seem broken right now. These last two weeks have been a very hard week for many people. The national conversation here in the USA grows more difficult by the day, and it seems nearly every nation is facing many kinds of serious issues. These challenges are happening concurrently at many levels—internationally, but also in communities we care about, in our families, in our homes. Things are tough. They seem tougher for many of us today than they were yesterday. Many of us fear that they will likely be even tougher tomorrow. This is the reality of industrial decline, the reality of the climate crisis before us.

The questions that I’ve had for myself, and my fellow druids is a simple one: what can druidry offer us in these dark times?

I’ve been thinking about the role of druidry in all of this, this question a lot, not only over…

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Brave souls

Humanity is blessed with some very brave souls. The four who stopped lorries outside of the Preston New Road fracking site, three of who have been given custodial sentences for their non-violent action (you can help support them here). They are the first environmental protestors to go to jail since the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932 established right to road.

Tomorrow in Chelmsford the trial starts of 15 activists who stopped a deportation flight. They are being tried under little used legislation and could face life imprisonment for stopping the flight.

It is worth remembering that the UK uses a deport first, appeal later approach to asylum seekers. LGBT+ people are deported to Uganda where they face death, people who have lived with their families in the UK for years. Remember too that 41% of appeals are successful.

Amnesty are protesting outside the court with others tomorrow morning. If you are able to get there at 9am then please do. These are brave people who deserve our respect and support against an increasingly totalitarian regime focused on the destruction of human and non-human rights.

Jailed for defending the sacred Earth

Our sacred Earth is under attack yet three of those who chose defend it peacefully have been jailed. The Earth is not just under attack from random individuals or a terrorist organisation seeking to despoil the thing that we hold sacred, the Earth is under attack from our government, the judiciary and corporations.

The jailing of the three protestors at Preston New Road yesterday has appalled me. Indeed, this blog post is a day late as words failed me yesterday. I’ve long been aware of the games the government and police play to prevent dissension, but by and large the judiciary have been even handed. This was sadly not the case yesterday.

Just to remind people of what these three did (there were four but one received a suspended sentence). These people used their bodies to defend our most revered thing, the Earth that we are part of and who is part of us, the Earth that feeds and nourishes us, the Earth that is our home. They tried to stop the injection of millions of gallons of poisonous fluid deep into the ground which would release methane from the shale, methane which is then burnt to produce power and which accelerates climate change.

After a summer which started with the government rushing through a last minute agreement to allow fracking at the site and a summer which has been one of the worst globally for climate change induced weather disasters, the actions that these three men took make them heroes. They did not terrorise anyone, they did not attack anyone, they simply climbed on to lorries to prevent them moving.

These men comprised of a piano restorer, a teacher and a soil scientist. Their actions caused mild disruption to the people living nearby but they stopped the lorries for four days. They deserve respect not jail time.

Next week people I know are in court after stopping a deportation flight. They are facing even greater charges. My thoughts and prayers are with them and the PNR four as our totalitarian state grows in power.

I hope there is appeal against this appalling travesty of justice.

I will be at Preston New Road next month.

 

UN calls for young people to campaign on climate change

A few excerpts from Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General’s speech this week:

“We face a direct existential threat.

“Climate change is moving faster than we are

“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.
 
 
“And it is why I am calling on civil society, and young people in particular, to campaign for climate action.”
 
Is the UN Secretary General effectively declaring that politics has failed?
 
I suspect so.
Just 18 months to prevent catastrophic climate change that will be an existential threat to human existence while Theresa May focuses on a corrupt and illegitimate referendum, Putin focuses on convincing the UK that his assassins were just tourists and Trump, well… This sounds very much like an utter failure of mainstream politics to me.
People need to realise that 18 month figure. Unless we do something radical and very quickly we can kiss goodbye to future generations. It is their existence that is threatened. The hot house Earth report set out why. 60m sea level rises and so on. Indeed, Guterres’s speech mirrors some of that report.
Yes I know that scaring people doesn’t jolt a change in belief or behaviour but the bus is going off the cliff as the drivers have gone quite mad.

The Martian – life on a dead planet

I watched the 2015 film, The Martian, for the first time last night. Aside from being a riveting story, albeit a bit silly at the end, the one thing that struck me was the fragility of life in a hostile environment.mv5bmtc2mtq3mda1nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwoda3oti4nje-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot in case you’ve not yet seen it however, the protagonist plays an astronaut stranded on Mars who has to learn to survive. There’s not very much atmosphere, no water (in the film), the temperature is extremely cold at night, the “soil” is barren and lifeless, and all in all the planet is not tuned to life as we know it (Jim…)

It struck me that there are some significant comparisons with potential outcomes the Earth. As human animals continue to sterilise the planet through our use of pesticides, herbicides, GM crops, inability to stop dumping our crap in the Earth, Sea or Sky, or to stop digging up the remains of animals and plants long dead and then burning them to fuel our lifestyles while creating climate change, we are in danger of creating non-habitable zones on our lovely blue planet.

Watching the character, Mark Watney, try to survive in the hostile environment demonstrates quite clearly how ridiculous human behaviour towards our own planet is. As we create wastelands, knowingly or unknowingly, we are ensuring that the remaining areas are pushed harder. As we push harder on those remaining areas, they start to suffer and collapse. There is a vicious cycle, trigged by human action, that is grinding down our ability to survive.

Our only hope is survival. Long term survival doesn’t feature in the minds of most people, most corporations nor most governments. They / we think about short term survival: will I keep my seat in the next election, do I have enough food this week, are we making a profit for the shareholders. The short term survival goals are important, they were very important for the character on Mars, but they cannot be allowed to override long term survival.

The concept of thinking about the impact of decisions on a seven generation basis is not new but it is almost never considered. Friends of mine continue to campaign for the rights of future generations – an essential right that almost never gets airtime. How can we possibly survive in the long term if the impacts of decisions are only considered in relation to the hear and now / next few years?

The recent publication of the “Hot House Earth” scenario within a hundred years or so, along with a whole host of other information now surfacing, suggests our ability to prevent runaway climate change is rapidly fading but that doesn’t mean that our decision making should remain short term survivalist. If anything, we must learn that the short-termism is to blame for our predicament and that we won’t solve the problem by using the same type of thinking that got us here.

It is time to think 200 years ahead with every decision. How is what I’m considering going to play out for my 4 x great grand children? Most decisions we make won’t affect future generations but some will. Knowing what we are doing to our descendants is an ethical duty that most humans seem to have forgotten.

How’s things?

Alright? Well, it could be better:

  • Climate change
  • Brexit / Trump
  • Plastic
  • Fracking
  • Sixth mass extinction…

John Halstead recently blogged on Gods and Radicals “What if it’s already too late?”. This idea was explored in my last blog post too and Mark Green asks “What if we are all screwed?” on Atheopaganism.

The climate stats in particular suggest that we have lost the fight to stop catastrophic climate change. Even just typing that is hard as it depletes hope.

So let us ask again, what if it’s already too late?

What should we do? I suggested last week that partying like it’s 1999 is probably not the right thing to do. Simply rubbing salt into the wounds of the Earth is hardly a reverential way of treating something that we see as sacred!

So what then? Two things:

Firstly, humans will survive. We may be down to a few small pockets in time but we are highly resilient and adaptable. What those people will need is knowledge of how to live in a sustainable way. This is something we can try to help with. We have that knowledge now even if it is fragmented and not put into practice. We need to be putting it into practice when we can and we need to be spreading that knowledge to as many people as possible.

Secondly, we need to treat the Earth – our mother – with the respect she is due. This means more than living sustainably. It means living in right relationship with her. It means understanding our place on the Earth and it means honouring her through ritual, prayer and action. It means Active Druidry, both living in an honourable way and campaigning to protect the Earth where necessary.