Yes, I see risks ahead, more suffering in the world, climate instability. These are serious issues. But typically I do not feel gripped with fear. I am concerned but not frightened.
Open ceremonies of National Museum of African American History and Culture
What is the opposite of fear?
Instead I feel: What an honor to be one of the people on the planet today. What an honor to join in with fellow earthlings to pursue solutions, not simply to avoid a catastrophe, but to work together to make the world a more stable, just, and peaceful place. It is an awful honor in ways, but one all the same to be not only witnesses to these vast global changes, but to also be able to take part in looking after each other as we provoke our specie to be humane in a time of climate change.
And strange as it may seem, I feel hope and faith–particularly in humans. I know it is the default setting these days to expect the worse in everyone. We have carved out our lives into warring camps. It is easy to lose confidence in government (corrupt! rigged! dysfunctional!)
Looking ahead and behind
But in addition to looking ahead to what the future may hold for us, I also study history. I look at how our ancestors faced massive challenges. They never responded perfectly. They made mistakes. At times there were outright abuses by some. But so often they rose to the challenge. They acted in extraordinary ways. They committed extreme acts of humanity.
I do not feel fear. I feel hope. I feel determination. I feel honored to be on the planet today. And I feel confidence that you will be historically significant in these strange and uncertain days ahead.
Y.E.C.A. Steering Committee members with three Y.E.C.A. Congolese Climate Leadership Fellows at a natural science training in Mwamba, Kenya. (from Left to Right, Andrew Kinzer, Diane Kyanga, Rachel Lamb, Faden Simbamtaki, Ben Lowe and Jolie Sifa Kpaka)
My Tangles with Evangelicals
Yes, I have had negative encounters with Evangelical Christians in the past. There was that whole period in my life when I struggled with being gay, and often well-meaning but misguided Evangelical Christians assisted in trying to destroy my gayness (and a bunch of my personality with it.)
Now I am in a new world of climate action. I know lots of people thinks Evangelicals + Global Warming = Denial in Jesus’ Name. Turns out there is a growing group of Evangelicals concerned about climate change.
Evangelicals Gone Climate Wild!
I recently spoke with Rachel Lamb from Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. As their name states, they are young Evangelicals speaking out to both their peers and faith leaders to act regarding climate change.
It was a fascinating conversation. In it we talked about development projects around the world and missionaries. Can these folks serve as eye-witnesses and trusted sources who will report back to their congregations in the USA about the dangers of climate change?
David Michael Terungwa (hand upraised) introducing low energy cooking stoves in a village.
He tells a moving story of how he has seen firsthand the effects of climate change. He also reveals how climate change affects women and girls in Nigeria and throughout much of Africa. They experience the effects of these rapid changes more than men in their communities.
If we want to see robust and meaningful action around climate change, than faith communities and leaders will need to be on-board. This is already happening. You can hear my interviews with Rachel and David Michael.
Missionaries as Climate Witnesses
Also, I imagine the role of Christian missionaries and their testimonies regarding global warming. In a radio report from the future, we discover just how instrumental these witnesses can be.
Check out this third episode of Citizens’ Climate Radio. We consider a variety of voices and have a monthly puzzler question. This is not a gloom and doom, fear and guilt podcast. Rather we offer hope and solutions, and I seek to do it with a professional, well edited audio magazine with great music. Enjoy!
June 16, 2016 / Climate Queer / Comments Off on Creativity and Comedy–a well-needed distraction
Vigil for victims of Orlando shooting at LGBTQ club (credit ABC news)
Suffering is a constant companion
Like many people I feel paralyzed this week even as I press through to get work done. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the future threats we face from climate change when the heart is so filled with anger and grief over the relentless assaults against LGBTQ bodies and lives today, particularly trans people and especially trans people of color who have been living under the threat and reality of extreme chronic violence for years.
The scale of the recent Orlando shooting is staggering; just as the number of names read at Transgender Day of Remembrance and the level of violence they endure are crushingly overwhelming.
Yes we have work to do and all that but the need to mourn and rage cannot be ignored. Grief is work and stirs up so much inner turmoil from the many injustices seen and faced that have been stuffed away daily in order to survive.
And I am someone far removed from the recent violence. I think of Puerto Rico where more than half the victims have family. The LGBTQ community there has been hit hard again. But this violence ripples far touching many people from all backgrounds. It reminds us of our past pains and current fears. It disrupts the narratives that so often comfort us about things getting better, a truth that is often not balanced with the harsh reality of how recent and tentative and selective the advancements are.
I write simply to make sense of my feelings and to acknowledge that this shit is hard. And obviously much harder for those closer to the tragedy.
Like many people I have needed distractions from the collective pain that has paralyzed many of us as we process the devastating tragedies in Orlando, Florida and the massive loss of life with the death and injuries of LGBTQ people, many of whom where Puerto Rican.
Finding comfort and escape through creative work
To comfort myself I have turned to food, obsessive Internet browsing and social media, porn, prayer, and gardening.
Working for myself at home this week has meant I’ve needed to detach from the Internet and plug myself into some creative work. Out of pain comes creativity and even comedy. I do find something comforting about creating art–even short silly videos with serious messages in them.
This week I produced the 50th and final episode of the Climate Stew podcast. I imagine most people who read my blog have not yet heard this show–most people don’t listen to podcasts. How can I describe it? Imagine a show produce in an NPR studio with some queer activists, a climate scientist, and the cast of MadTV (which I hear is coming back!)
The final show is a celebration, but also audio performance art with lots of storytelling and comedy.
Using comedy to explore violence and oppression
I have had a running feud between two of my characters–Marvin Bloom and Elizabeth Jeremiah. He is gay and married to a trans man; she is straight, and out and proud Conservative Evangelical preacher. As you can imagine, they get into lots of tussles. But in a surprising twist, we discover why Elizabeth Jeremiah has been so hard on Marvin. Her backstory is no doubt the first on a climate-themed podcast.
Back in the day when I attended Pentecostal Holiness churches, in addition to believing most people were chock full of demons, my ministers also warned us of generational curses. The sins of the fathers fall upon the heads of the sons to the third and fourth generation.
Is it a Demon, a Curse, or Both??
When no amount of repenting rid us of our homosexual inclinations, the ministers assumed we have a naughty ancestor (usually a sailor) who must have diddled with another man. As a result, like a demonic gene mutation, the man on man lust got passed along to us. They insisted we must break the power of these curses if we wish to live a good, clean life in the future.
Well, drawing on that experience, I present to you Elizabeth Jeremiah, a fierce minister of the Gospel, with a word for you. And like often happens with this character, she doesn’t end up where you might expect her to go.
Introducing Elizabeth Jeremiah!
February 25, 2016 / Climate Change / Comments Off on Dr. James Hansen and Me? Seriously??
My man, writer Glen Retief consulting the rail map
These days I get to move in and out of weird circles and meet some pretty extraordinary people. With my husband deep in the world of writing, I have the absolute joy (and at times anxiety-filled doubts) about meeting amazing writers. Breakfast with Melissa Banks, lunch with Carolyn Forche, dinner with Lydia Davis, a chat with Claudia Rankine and G.C. Waldrop, and drinks with Garth Greenwell. As soon as we finish, I feel compelled to dive into a book, well 12 of them.
Now that I am in the world of climate change and climate action, I find myself getting all giddy around a whole new set of luminaries. I am compiling a list of climate action figures. In the past year I have had close encounters with Elizabeth Kolbert, Katherine Hayhoe, José Lobo, and Halldór Björnsson.
When it comes to climate change, perhaps the Biggest Action Figure of them All is Dr. James Hansen.
He is best known for his research in climatology, his 1988 Congressional testimony on climate change that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change. In recent years he has become a climate activist to mitigate the effects of climate change, on a few occasions leading to his arrest. -Wikipedia
I heard Dr. Hansen speak twice before, both times at the Citizens Climate Lobby annual international conference. He was swamped by eco-fans; I was too shy to elbow my way in and I worried I might step on someone’s sandaled clad feet or get snagged on someone’s 100% natural hemp poncho.
I will get nice and close to Dr. Hansen when he speaks at Arcadia University on Friday March 4 as part the regional gathering of Citizens Climate Lobby. Armed with my audio recorder, I may even grab an interview with the Hansen himself.
As the leader of my local Citizens Climate Lobby chapter, I will attend the conference AND on Saturday March 5 I will perform a special presentation: Confessions of a Climate Action Figure. It is a comedy routine about the weird new world of climate activism, well weird and new to me.
If you are able to come to the conference, which is right outside of Philadelphia, check out the website for more information. Come and see Dr. Hansen open for me 😛
Coat?!? My NIV Study Bible points me to the only other reference to the same garment: 2 Samuel 37:3 “the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore.”
After questioning the idea of being Stewards of the Earth, and concluding that perhaps we are more like parasites and taking a new view of the passage about blaspheming the Holy Spirit, we end our three part series with the story of Joseph in Genesis.
One can easily read the book of Genesis with an eye towards water. So many wells. So many conflicts over wells. Then there are the droughts. The book is loaded with climate migrants escaping famine in search of greener pastures.
There also is a climate connection with Joseph. As Neil Grungras pointed out to me, he predicts climate change and devises a plan to adapt. During each the 7 years of amazing crops, he stores 5% of the bumper crop. Then during the 7 very lean, dry, famine years, there is food for the people. Ah, but as Fr. Joao Gwann Xerri, who I met in Malta years ago, suggested, Joseph’s plan was effective but unjust. In order to get the food from pharaoh it cost the people dearly.
First Joseph gave out grain if the people paid for it with the money they had. When they ran out of money, he took all their livestock. Still the famine raged on. If they wanted food from Pharaoh’s emergency manager, they needed to pay for it. The people begged for relief.
Why should we and our land perish before your very eyes? Take us and our land in exchange for food, and we will become Pharaoh’s slaves and our land his property; only give us seed, that we may survive and not perish, and that our land may not turn into a waste.”
So Joseph acquired all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. Each of the Egyptians sold his field, since the famine weighed heavily upon them. Thus the land passed over to Pharaoh,and the people were reduced to slavery, from one end of Egypt’s territory to the other. Genesis 47:19-21
Breaking this story down for us is my favorite character, Marvin Bloom. Listen to his telling of this important story. I think there might be a lesson for us today. (transcript below)
Hi, This is Marvin, Marvin Bloom, and this is your moment with Marvin
Have you ever seen the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. I like the book version better, in the book of Genesis, in the Bible. It has more details and less singing.
So Joseph is one of the youngest kids in a large blended family. His father Jacob, who changes his name to Israel has at least four sexual partners, I mean wives, I mean I don’t understand that lifestyle at all. Anyway there is a lot of tension in the family about inheritance rights; who’s gonna get all the stuff?
Since Joesph is the favorite son, and a bit of a brat, his brothers get rid of him. They ship him off to Egypt where he becomes a slave. He then gets in trouble, does jail time and ultimately becomes 2nd in command of the whole kingdom. And then he saves his family from starvation.
And that is the part that is interesting to me—the climate part of it. You see Pharaoh was having weird dreams. They hauled Joseph out of prison to interpret them. It was his thing. He said there would be 7 years of amazing weather with huge harvests. Then he warned of 7 years afterwards of horrible drought, famine, and potential starvation. He predicted temporary climate change AND he came up with an adaptation plan.
He suggested that Pharaoh grow as much grain as possible and stash it away in storage for a rainy day, well, many days with no rain. Then when the people are hungry and needy, there is food for them. And it was a successful plan. Thefamine hit and Pharaoh had mountains of food to feed a starving nation.
It was an effective plan, but it was not a just plan. It wasn’t fair. There is no such thing as a free lunch. In order to get Pharaoh’s grain, people had to sell everything they had and give it to the ruler. This turned Pharaoh into the ultimate 1% leading to oppression and slavery.
So what lesson do I get from this? In coming up with solutions to address the physical needs of people in a time of climate change, we need to calculate how the plan affects people’s right. Because climate change is a human rights issue.
This is Marvin and this has been your moment with Marvin.
March 12, 2015 / Climate Change / Comments Off on I snapped when yet another climate denier story circulated
As many of you know, I write a lot about climate change. As a result, lots of my supportive friends send me articles about climate change. Many of these are about climate deniers. In fact, I get swamped with these stories. Then I see the same climate denier stories go round and round on social media. Some environmental organizations even use these stories to raise more money and enlarge their email list
Sure we recycle, change a bunch of lightbulbs, eat less meat and post stories about yet another Conservative who refuses to read the handwriting that is clearly visible on the wall. But for many of us, those acts absolve us from any further responsibility. By calling out and mocking the extreme climate denier, we shield ourselves from the ways that we are not fully embracing the enormity of global warming.
The article you posted is not a climate story. This is a partisan story that actually distracts people from looking at real climate stories. It is also one that ignores liberal lawmakers, who say they are concerned about climate change but do not seriously address it. Our promoting this denier story over many other much more vital stories undermines progress.
As we share it over and over, we also widen the gap between “us and them” as we dehumanize those people who have not yet acknowledged the reality and severity of climate change. We reduce them to simply “deniers” — ignorant hacks devoid of emotional complexity, values and reasoning. These attitudes extend beyond our opinion of denying lawmakers, but also to our family, friends and co-workers.
I remember when I first came out and began to read about LGBTQ people in history and literature. It struck me that we are a people with a history who have made a mark on the world. I think every marginalize group finds that empowering, especially when pushed down by the mainstream.
In looking at LGBTQ recent history, it is hard to avoid the HIV/AIDS Crisis. It affected more than just gay men, but so many trans women, queer youth, people of color both in the USA and on the African Continent and the Caribbean. Our ancestors faced a plague in the midst of a government that refused to acknowledge the problem, let alone act. So LGBTQ people acted up.
This week I interview Rev. Nancy Wilson who was on the front lines of the HIV/AIDS Crisis (originally called GRID–Gay Related Immune Deficiency) in Los Angeles. Her short powerful interview reveals much about our resiliency and the lessons we have to share today.
I realize I talk a lot about global warming and how I do not see it as an environmental issue, but a very human issue, an LGBTQ issue, a faith issue, and a justice issue. But I have not share a lot personally about how that is and how I got all caught up in the climate parade. This week on the Climate Stew Show, I get personal and reveal how I went from being a queer Bible comic scholar guy to the host of Climate Stew.
My very first promo card deigned by Tina Encarnacion
Here’s an excerpt:
Perhaps it’s time that I tell you a little of my own story. For those who know me and the work that I have done over the past 12 years, it is surprising that I have jumped onto the climate action wagon. Truth be told, I’m not really an environmentalist. Not that I don’t care about the planet. But when I say I’m not an environmentalist, I mean that it has not been the focus of my activism until now. It’s not my jam. I have worked primarily as an LGBTQ rights advocate and as a scholar looking at gender non-conforming people in the Bible. I’ve been concerned with religious violence against LGBTQ people and have tried to tell stories that bring out our humanity. Using my voice, my comedy, and my art to address the climate crisis? That’s something new.
Let me give you some back story: As a kid in the Catholic Church growing up in New York, I seriously considered becoming a priest. I felt a stirring to know God and serve God. At age 17 I left the Catholic Church to study at a Christian and Missionary Alliance College. As an Evangelical Christian, I then determined to be a missionary in a foreign country telling the good news of Jesus. For nearly 20 years that’s what I pursued doing mission work in New York City, Ecuador, and Zambia. But I had an abiding problem that interfered with my Christian service. I was a guy attracted to other guys, which was forbidden in the churches I chose to attend. From the age of 17 I desperately tried to de-gay myself.. I spent 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents in hopes that I would find the elusive key to become straight and more masculine. I believed a lot of faulty science mixed in with Bible teachings. Bad science mixed with biased ideology inspired destructive choices.
You can hear the whole piece over at the latest episode of Climate Stew where we even speculate about how will we cope with warmer winters. I mean, what about all the winter sports?!? Some creative solutions ahead.
It gets weirder. In episode nine of Climate Stew I interview an infant who is pretty darn smart when it comes to global warming and air pollution. We also dive deep into the seas to try and figure out where all the heat is going, and from the year 2164 we learn about the role of the artist in climate history. As always we have great music. Listen here or on iTunes, and Stitcher.