As 2012 begins to unfold, I am called to reflect on the amazing world wide pro-democracy movements that were birthed to everyone’s surprise in 2011. Three of the legislative advocacy initiatives of the NC Council of Churches are implicitly connected to this prodemocracy movement – “establishing economic justice”, “promoting clean elections” and “supporting good government”. These are clearly issues of the 99%.
But when I look at all of the official programs of the NC Council of Churches, along with all of the advocacy initiatives currently listed, I am amazed at how many are currently being affected or will be seriously impacted by climate change, the fundamental work of North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light. Climate change is and will continue to make the issues of human health, both individual and public, farm workers, rural life, immigration and peace significantly more complex, more dire, and harder to solve, and will require clean elections, good government, and establishing economic justice.
From Occupy Our Food to Occupy the Seminary, people of every race, religion and class are connecting the dots, and are beginning to bring the very diverse constituency of the 99% together in a spontaneous, creative movement to hopefully correct the many injustices that have plagued our country since its inception in 1776, and have been brought into clear focus since the economic collapse in 2008.
In a beautifully crafted essay, Compassion Is Our New Currency: Notes on 2011’s Preoccupied Hearts and Minds, Rebecca Solnit brings the full force of the religious message that we are our brothers (and sisters) keeper into clear focus:
Think of Cain as the first Social Darwinist and this Occupier “(an)…older man next to her with the baseball cap is holding a sign handwritten on cardboard that states, ‘We are our brothers’ keeper’.” as his opposite, claiming, no, our operating system should be love; we are all connected; we must take care of each other. And this movement, he’s saying, is about what the Argentinian uprising that began a decade ago, on December 19, 2001, called politica afectiva, the politics of affection.
If it’s a movement about love, it’s also about the money they so unjustly took, and continue to take, from us — and about the fact that, right now, money and love are at war with each other. After all, in the American heartland, people are beginning to be imprisoned for debt, while the Occupy movement is arguing for debt forgiveness, renegotiation, and debt jubilees.
Solnit doesn’t limit her essay to the most obvious and egregious impacts that the financial crisis has on our lives. She clearly understands the relationship between the control the 1% have on our body politic and the climate crisis.
I was myself so caught up in the Occupy movement that I stopped paying my usual attention to the war over the climate — until I was brought up short by the catastrophic failure of the climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa. There, earlier this month, the most powerful and carbon-polluting countries managed to avoid taking any timely and substantial measures to keep the climate from heating up and the Earth from slipping into unstoppable chaotic change.
It’s our nature to be more compelled by immediate human suffering than by remote systemic problems. Only this problem isn’t anywhere near as remote as many Americans imagine. It’s already creating human suffering on a large scale and will create far more. Many of the food crises of the past decade are tied to climate change, and in Africa thousands are dying of climate-related chaos. The floods, fires, storms, and heat waves of the past few years are climate change coming to call earlier than expected in the U.S. (including North Carolina)
It is clear. If we continue to allow the interests of the 1%, who own and direct the big energy and natural resource corporations to decide climate and energy policy, we and our children will pay the price in all dimensions of our lives.
Our faith traditions call us to compassion and justice whether through the story of Cain and Abel or the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Never in the history of humanity are the implications of these instructions so clear and profound. The reality of the climate crisis requires that we connect the dots, demand the best of ourselves, and bring our faith into action through the politics of affection. Solnit’s reminder that “money and love are at war with each other” provides the opportunity to reflect deeply as people of faith on the importance of bringing our values into the public sphere.
At NCIPL we are actively engaged in creating a positive energy future for all North Carolinians. In 2012, we will have many opportunities for you to learn more about our mission, goals and programs. It will be a critical year for advocacy, as we work with our social justice, consumer advocates, and environmental allies in our coalition, Consumers Against Rate Hikes, to prevent Duke Energy and Progress Energy from getting the ability to charge citizens for power plant construction without review by the NC Utilities Commission. The Council’s Governing Board weighed in last year on this issue with a Resolution opposing such legislation.
We ask all members of the Council to join NCIPL. You will receive important updates about our programs, important events, and advocacy opportunities. We also have several volunteer programs, including working on our Energy Audit Teams, Pre-weatherization Team, and Earth Sabbath Celebrations. You can contact Allison, our volunteer coordination, to learn more at email@example.com.
— Richard Fireman, NC IPL Public Policy Advisor