Our Year on Climate Change: Expanding the Golden Rule

CRSL is part of Smith’s college-wide initiative on climate change. Director of Religious & Spiritual Life and College Chaplain Matilda Cantwell discusses the impact of climate change and its connection to the work of the CRSL.

My friend and colleague Rev. Jim Antal says that the work of people of faith in 2019 is to address the climate crisis. https://www.jimantal.com/  He says we should expand the Golden Rule, a version of which can be found in every tradition, to include future generations. Climate change amplifies all forms of injustice – hunger, refugees, racism, poverty, inequality, deadly viruses, and war – and hence defense of creation is a campaign for justice.

This year we are embarking on the Year on Climate Change, focusing at the CRSL on how climate change touches us physically, morally, and spiritually. We are asking questions about how and where we are called to confront climate change and environmental justice. But this can’t be a year on Climate Change, it must be a year when we begin all other years, as higher education has so many roles to play in this emergency. Luckily, we have each other in this community of learning to lament, brainstorm, and build a just community together in which the earth is honored and cherished and we move from latent despair to emergent participation.

We invite you to any and all of our programs, which we hope are an invitation to go inward to explore your own heart, in order to go outward to offer your heart’s treasures to the world.

To that end we share this invocation, some words of beginning our YOCC.

As we begin we note that confronting the climate crisis must come with the concurrent commitment to disrupt and dismantle the evils of racism, imperialism, and militarism, and with an assembly made up of all sectors of society, centering those who stand to lose, and have lost, the most, the soonest.

In the Hebrew Bible there is the phrase the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, yet fear is also aptly translated as awe.

The crisis of the climate calls for both—the urgent fear elicited by the immediate threat, and awe of the great earth which has sustained us and carries a great spirit from which all the intricacies of creation are woven.

What is as bountiful, plentiful, verdant, self-renewing and as eternal as human minds, I can imagine is also, it turns out, bountiful, plentiful, verdant, self-renewing and eternal only so in so far as human bodies can be its stewards and its faithful children, returning always, giving the care and nurture of our hands…

As hungry as are human bodies, as ingenious as are human minds.

So let the fear of immediate demise without immediate action be elicited in us, but let that fear unfold into awe, of a beauty from which we cannot separate and without which we cannot flourish or survive.

In words excerpted from a poem by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Aka Niviâna, from the Marshall Islands and Greenland respectively,

Sister of ocean and sand,
I welcome you…..
This is a story about
the guardian of the Sea.
She sees the greed in our hearts,
the disrespect in our eyes.
……From one island to another
I ask for solutions.
…Let me show you the tide
that comes for us faster
than we’d like to admit.
…from an ancient, rising sea,
forcing us to imagine
turning ourselves to stone.

Sister of ice and snow,
I come to you now in grief
mourning landscapes
that are always forced to change…

…From one island to another
I give to you these rocks as a reminder
that our lives matter more than their power,
that life in all forms demands
the same respect we all give to money,
that these issues affect each and every one of us.
None of us is immune.
And that each and every one of us has to decide
if we

In fear and awe and a hope with the power of ancient seas, let us vow that we will rise together, let us begin.



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