Today's Leaders Have Arrived

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Recently I watched a video of a panel in Georgia where a member of the audience asked panelist Mary Evelyn Tucker, “Where are today’s leaders”? He referenced some names of famous adults; Tucker reminded him that Martin Luther King was 26 years of age when he started his crusade for freedom. The moderator noted that emerging leaders are even younger and challenged the audience to watch Greta Thunberg tell us how we are doing so far.

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You can see a recent talk here.

Thunberg says that she recognized the crisis on her own and her parents listened to her concerns. Her single action of sitting outside the Swedish Parliament She has inspired thousands of other teens to join her and has spoken at those who enjoy the title of leaders at the UN and Davos.

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At the recent WaterDocs festival I became aware of another young leader, Autumn Peltier, who sat at the feet of her great aunt. Josephine Mandamin, known as Grandmother Josephine. She was an Anishinaabe grandmother, elder and water activist involved with the Mother Earth Water Walkers.  They have riased awareness of the importance of water and our need to protect it.

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Her great niece, Autumn Peltier carries the torch after re great aunt’s recent death and has already spoken to the United Nations on World Water Day in 2018 and earlier berated Canada’s Prime Minister for his inattention to the importance of Water. She connected with Swedish activism by attending the Children’s summit where she shared her story of the sacredness of water from an indigenous perspective. You can see her UN address here.

Both of these young women in their mid teens have a long perspective - already imagining themselves as grandmothers and having to tell their grandchildren how negligent we were in facing up to reality. They already show the pain of their wisdom in their serious young faces when they speak. At very least it has inspired me to share the story of the Water Walkers with the younger children that I know. As information speeds up, they know too much already and will hold us accountable.

Artists and Water

I’m looking forward to attending the WaterDocs Festival in Toronto next week. One person heavily involved in the film festival before her death was Marjorie Sharpe who was also the founder of the Toronto Community Foundation. The arts organization that I headed up for in the 1980’s was the Foundation’s first grant recipient and it was a privilege to connect with her every year - and wonderful to learn only now of her passion for water and the need to care for it.

Thomas Berry stressed the need for all disciplines and organizations to converge in the great work of telling the new story. The young founder of Unify noted in a presentation at the 2018 Parliament of World Religions that film is the Shakespeare of our day in terms of impact -and his own film on water attests to this, Music is a natural too - and I look forward to coming performances of Missa Gaia.

But I was especially moved by Bill McKibben’s article last fall about the role of two young poets. One watches ice turn to water. Another sees her home go under water. The UN reports give access to real rather than alternative facts. But we human beings need stories to bring the truth home in a way that encourages us to change. It was Shelley who told us that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world". See how the poets help McKibben bring reality to this very important message.

You can see the full article here which also contains this video:

Out of Fashion

Fashion appears to be killing us. Fast Company tells us several really disturbing things about its effects.

  • Think you are helping by sending your old clothes to Goodwill? In California alone, the company spends seven million on dumping them.

  • In Vasteras, a town in Sweden, a power plant relies on unsold H&M products as a fuel source.

  • Every piece of unsold clothing has relied upon materials to make and package them and fuel to transport them. Now destroying them takes additional resources that are destroying us.

  • Clothing companies are making 53 million tons of clothes. Much of it ends up in landfill or in oceans; much of it includes plastics.

The writer of the article notes that some companies are trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Nevertheless 100 billion pieces of new clothing for the seven billion humans on the planet in 2015 and that number has doubled in 15 years. The 80-20 rule also applies. We wear 20% of what we have 80% of the time.

The journalist’s solution is to buy better quality and more expensive and fewer clothes. But she doesn’t deal with the reality that those of us in the West have far more clothes than we need already - or that our identity is tied so closely to what we wear. Other kinds of beauty are all around us. We’re not the most important species on the planet and the most clothes or the most luxurious clothes will never change that.

A recent documentary of CBC’s The Passionate Eye documents the real cost of cheap fashion to those who produce it ad you can watch it here. The effects of the use of water is particularly sobering and the devastation of the environment is heart-breaking. The telling moment is when some of the young women who promote fast fashion on their websites saw this for themselves, they changed their attitude. Telling the full story to the consumers is our greatest challenge.

A Challenge from our Youth

A letter published in the Guardiian Today

“We, the young, are deeply concerned about our future. Humanity is currently causing the sixth mass extinction of species and the global climate system is at the brink of a catastrophic crisis. Its devastating impacts are already felt by millions of people around the globe. Yet we are far from reaching the goals of the Paris agreement.

Young people make up more than half of the global population. Our generation grew up with the climate crisis and we will have to deal with it for the rest of our lives. Despite that fact, most of us are not included in the local and global decision-making process. We are the voiceless future of humanity.

We will no longer accept this injustice. We demand justice for all past, current and future victims of the climate crisis, and so we are rising up. Thousands of us have taken to the streets in the past weeks all around the world. Now we will make our voices heard. On 15 March, we will protest on every continent.

We finally need to treat the climate crisis as a crisis. It is the biggest threat in human history and we will not accept the world’s decision-makers’ inaction that threatens our entire civilisation. We will not accept a life in fear and devastation. We have the right to live our dreams and hopes. Climate changeis already happening. People did die, are dying and will die because of it, but we can and will stop this madness.

We, the young, have started to move. We are going to change the fate of humanity, whether you like it or not. United we will rise until we see climate justice. We demand the world’s decision-makers take responsibility and solve this crisis.

You have failed us in the past. If you continue failing us in the future, we, the young people, will make change happen by ourselves. The youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again”..
The global coordination group of the youth-led climate strike

Paul Winter and Missa Gaia

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There are a number of personal strands in the announcement that Paul Winter will receive the Thomas Berry Award at the coming conference of the American Teillhard Association annual meeting to be held at the Cathedral of St, John the Divine in New York City. While I am a supportive newcomer to the worlds of Berry and Theillard, I had a small connection with Paul Winter several decades ago.

Winter is a jazz musician of considerable prominence. His original sextet toured the world and was the first jazz combo to play at the White House. His later Consort has existed for years with a rotating membership. In the 1970’s Winter became interested in another species and its ability to make music - whales - and travelled with Greenpeace to try interaction with them and his soprano saxaphone. This encounter later produced the Missa Gaia or Earth Mass, which had its world premiere at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1981 and continues to be performed there each year. Performers include a chorus, vocal soloists, the jazz consort and an assortment of recorded whales, wolves and other animals, whose songs often provided the inspiration for the melodies. You can hear the entire mass here as well as several selections on YouTube.

It’s not surprising that Winter and Thomas Berry connected in New York City when they were both involved in shifting our consciousness to the beauties of the natural world and our responsibility to protect it. My own threads are many. I taught at a small Episcopal School near the Cathedral from 1960 -1963. The school at the time was in the process of raising funds to build a new facility and used one the Cathedrals’s chapels for the school to start the day. The work was premiered in Canada as part of the Joy of Singing International Choral Festival in 1989 by the Consort with the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir conducted by Robert Cooper. As the Executive Director of the provincial service organization for choirs at the time I was a last minute adult recruit buried in the alto section when the conductor thought it needed an extra voice two. It was one of the most inspiring and enjoyable performing experiences of my life.

While I probably won’t make the award ceremony, it is gratifying to know that I will hear the Missa Gaui performed again in Toronto by a local choir and joined by some of Canada’s best classical, jazz and gospel musicians.

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You can find more about the Toronto concert here. And it is also good to know that Thomas Berry wrote a beautiful poem after attending a Winder Solstice performane of this work, which is the last entry in one of his books. You can find a brief quote from it elsewhere on this site.