Category: Climate Change

Prescott’s Climate Links #4

For years I endured unnecessary and harmful gay conversion therapy in hopes that I would at last one day be 100% heterosexual and masculine the way the world around me demanded. The gay to straight “ex-gay” leaders at the time repeated the mantra, Change is Possible! While I was distracted attempting to change my sexuality, right under my nose the planet changed, the atmosphere grew toxic, and the temperature continued to rise. Today I am happily gay and genuinely alarmed about Global Warming. But as Prescott reveals in the links he sent me this past week, all sorts of changes are happening all around us–yes the planet we live on but also our fellow earthlings and how we respond and adapt.

As always, from the many articles Prescott forwarded to me, I have selected just three Climate Change links. Let’s begin with a story of change:

Some like Tom Steyer, a long time Wall Street investor, are waking up to the crisis upon us all and making big changes in their lives. Steyer used to invest in fossil fuels, but through a recent editorial in Politico, he set the record straight and explains how he left his investment job to take on Global Warming action as his life’s work.

140714_steyer_portrait_gty

Let me be clear—climate change is bigger than any one person. I believe it is truly the most pressing issue we face, and one that if not addressed will have profound consequences for our kids. As a very senior and very conservative investor friend told me, “You never put the entire enterprise at risk. That’s bad business.” And yet, that’s what our society appears to be doing.

How Climate Change Changed Me by Tom Steyer

———————————————————————————————

The one issue I have with Steyer’s piece is that he falls back on a common belief often among liberals that, “If we each just do our part, we will beat this thing.” Change the car you drive and those lightbulbs and don’t forget to recycle. That feel-good, we-can-do-it message is a form of climate change denial. All those individual changes are good, don’t get me wrong, but we need to come to the place where we understand and accept the science. Global Warming has been ignored so long and has proceeded so far that our individual actions at home and on the road will make little difference. We need to act on larger scales. We need governments and businesses to change the way they operate. Prescott gives a good example from a town in Austria. Each citizen immediately has a lower carbon footprint because of this one big move by their town.

Vast amounts of hot water from household appliances, businesses and factories gurgle down the drain every day, wasting not only H2O but also another precious resource: heat energy. Not, however, in the Austrian town of Amstetten, where a pilot project by the local utility company is “recycling” this energy from a place where normally few dare to tread — the sewer.

Austrian town ‘recycles’ heat from unlikely source — its sewers

austrian-sewers-afp-2

If you want to learn about how cities in Sweden have been so successful in getting energy from burning their trash (without polluting) that they have a garbage shortage, read Sweden imports waste from European neighbors to fuel waste-to-energy program.

———————————————————————————————

While Alaska recovers from record flooding, the drought in the Southwest of the United States worsens. Ian James wrote a moving, informative, and thorough piece about alarming water shortages hitting the Southwest.

The biggest reservoir in the United States is dropping 1 foot each week. Lake Mead’s rapidly sinking water level is set to reach an all-time low in July, driven down by a 14-year drought that scientists say is one of the most severe to hit the Colorado River in more than 1,200 years.

The water behind Hoover Dam supplies vast areas of farmland and about 25 million people in three states, and this critical reservoir stands just 40 percent full.

(snip)

Some researchers say climate change in the Southwest is also essentially “water change” because the biggest, most difficult adjustments may be forced upon the region by worsening water scarcity.

Vanishing Water–An Already Strained Water Supply, Threatened by Climate Change 

WaterSupplyUse800

 

Check out previous editions of Prescott’s Climate Links and feel free to leave your comments below.

 

 

And Ain’t I a Queer? LGBTQ Human Rights and Global Warming

At the 1995 National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce Creating Change Conference, Ibrahim Farajaje (then Elias Farajaje-Jones) highlighted the many, diverse intersections connecting LGBTQ people in the world along with our interconnected quest for human rights. Revealing to a mostly white audience the vast diversity of people that make up the LGBTQ rainbow collective, Farajaje evoked and updated the famous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech that Sojourner Truth presented to a group of white activists at the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. According to Lorraine Hutchins, who heard Farajaje’s Creating Change speech live and teaches it in her university classes, Farajaje named an array of people with multiple intersecting identities such as a Filipina lesbian mom, and a bisexual Dominican in a wheelchair echoing the refrain, “and Ain’t I a queer?”

truthsojournerbio1

It has been a century and a half since Sojourner Truth asked, “And Ain’t I a Woman?” and LGBT communities of color have spent several decades challenging mainstream white, middle-class queer groups on our frequent failure to build coalitions of the oppressed or holistically respond to oppressions faced by poor people and queers of color. Our movement is only beginning to acknowledge the wisdom of the late civil rights leader MLK Jr.: “None can be free until all are free.” Yet there is a critical gap in that conversation. Now, more than ever, and as we consider the global impact of climate change on LGBTQ people near and far, we need to hear the essential question over and over, “And Ain’t I a Queer?”

Although many people, queer and straight alike, seem unaware, global warming is the most urgent human rights issue in history. The world’s leading climate scientist, James Hansen, has described climate change as the “world’s greatest crime against humanity and nature.” With the World Bank and IPCC projecting a 4º C (7º F) or more rise in temperature by 2100 at current rates, we face the submersion of thousands of coastal cities, hundreds of millions of refugees from coastal and island nations, war, starvation, desertification, and the eventual uninhabitability of large parts of the Global South (Hansen 2014).

Is it an LGBT rights issue when a Filipino gay couple loses their home in a hurricane intensified by the emissions-heavy lifestyle of queer and straight Canadians and Americans? The homeless Filipino queers might well ask us, and Ain’t I a Queer?   When a same-gender-loving woman in Uganda gets scapegoated, attacked, and imprisoned for the ongoing droughts and food shortages that have increased because of global warming, is she worthy of our attention and concern?  When a trans* teenager in Harlem, who has suffered from severe asthma since she was a toddler and faces daily persecution at school, continues to miss class because of hazardous localized air pollutants in addition to the hostile learning climate, is not her need for environmental justice and a safe space to be herself, a challenge to the rest of us to get off our asses and work together with her and her community to make sure It Gets Better?  If our communites’ well-being includes their needs and safety as well as our own, what then must we do to move beyond reactive outrage to a place of engaged, sustained, informed action that benefits all of us?

To some, sexuality may seem to be an unimportant topic,” Gayle Rubin wrote in 1984, “a frivolous diversion from the more critical problems of poverty, war, disease, racism, famine, or nuclear annihilation. But it is precisely at times such as these, when we live with the possibility of unthinkable destruction, that people are likely to become dangerously crazy about sexuality.

The reverse is, of course, also true. If we are to stop people becoming “dangerously crazy about sexuality,” LGBT organizations must confront the prospect of unthinkable destruction described in current mainstream scientific reports about climate change. That destruction affects us all and desperately requires our full attention.

IMG_1483

Climate change is a human rights issue that already directly affects LGBTQ people and our movement worldwide. Not only do we stand in solidarity with everyone who faces “conventional” human rights abuses and civil disenfranchisement, but we also have many LGBTQ community members whose realities are harsh and whose rights are diminished simply because they are transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and queer. This is true worldwide: in parts of North America and especially across the Global South, throughout the African continent, Eastern Europe, and in the Middle East.

The places where our queer siblings suffer persecution and a dearth of civil rights will also be hardest hit by climate change and will likely suffer even greater losses of rights and security. As a movement, we can help prepare for this eventuality by promoting and securing asylum options and refugee support for LGBTQ people living in hostile Global South societies. As energy prices continue to rise, and rise dramatically, we can develop strategies to provide aid and community support for the most vulnerable LGBTQ people in the Global North: trans* people who are under-employed or unemployed; elderly LGBTQ people on fixed incomes who have little family support; queer people of color disproportionately affected by under-employment, workplace discrimination, violent prejudice, and poverty; and others who can no longer afford to live alone. We can do what we often do best–build community, construct alternative families, and creatively care for each other.

The LGBTQ community can bring essential knowledge and skills to the table in pursuing government-level action regarding climate change. In our own recent history, gay men, queer culture, and the fledgling queer rights movement faced possible extinction through the early HIV/AIDS crisis. Through that crisis, we learned how to look after each other and fight for our rights while governments refused to acknowledge us and our needs, let alone act on our behalf. We acted up, educated the queer and straight masses, told our stories, harnessed the media, raised money, and in a very short time moved nations and industries to act not only for citizens in countries like the US and Canada, but also for people in other nations that can’t afford to subsidize the expensive drugs we fought so hard to have developed.

During that crisis, groups and individuals who opposed HIV/AIDS research and proactive public health initiatives also promoted gay conversion therapy using faulty research and cherry-picked results to dehumanize us and deny us our rights. Their strategy, designed to harm queer people, also hindered HIV/AIDS education among straight people and produced denial that persists in some communities to this day. In the last few decades, these same conservative forces have used identical tactics to deny the reality and significance of climate change. They have again stirred up doubt and controversy, promoted public inaction, and imperiled all of us.

This is an unprecedented time with the potential for real suffering and an international erosion of LGBTQ rights. We still have hope that action can be taken to slow the effects of climate change while we make necessary lifestyle and social adaptations to cope with the changes ahead.

As a people, we cannot sit on the sidelines assuming our governments will eventually act, or that our peers, already in desperate circumstances, will get the support they need in time. Climate action is a queer issue that requires our attention and our action. We need to use our creativity, intelligence, and experience to ensure our rights and to build strong community ties on our Planet Home. Its climate may be new to us, and our future here uncertain, but we cannot afford denial. We have to act—for all of us.

 

 

IMG_1485
Special thanks to my team members, Glen Retief, Keisha McKenzie, as well as to Loraine Hutchins, and Ibrahim Farjaje for their contributions and assistance in writing this piece.


 

 

Peterson’s Quickie Interview with Nancy Wilson, Moderator of the MCC

Daily Devotions to White House Visits to Climate Change & Ever Evolving Social Justice

Meet Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, a queer national treasure

I first saw Nancy Wilson sitting next to Paula, her wife/partner/significant other (she addresses Paula’s title below) in the front row of a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Florida laughing her ass off while I performed Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House. We then met up a few years later at the European Forum of Gay and Lesbian Christians.  That time I got to see Nancy “perform” as she gave a keynote address. Hearing her speak with such authority, compassion, and cutting edge insights about gender and the queer movement, I began to understand why she has been such a cherished leader both in the MCC and in the wider queer world. I have been impressed and, yes, blessed by the Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, and I have just three questions for Nancy. She doesn’t waste a word and packs her answers with insight, wisdom, and humor. She is also freakishly photogenic!

If you do not know this amazing person, here is a bio from the MCC site:

Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson

Nancy WilsonRev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson has been Moderator of MCC since 2005. She began her ministry with MCC at the age of 22 as Associate Past or at MCC Boston in 1972.

Rev. Wilson is an Associate Minister with The Fellowship, and in 2011 was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Advisory Council of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Rev. Wilson obtained her B.A. from Allegheny College, her M.Div. from St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, and her D.Min. from Episcopal Divinity School.

Question One: In 1972, when you were 22 years old, you began your ministry with the Metropolitan Community Church, and you have been with the MCC ever since. What are some ways in which you are similar to that 22 year old Rev. Nancy Wilson, and in what ways are you radically different today?

I believed then, at 22, that young people could change the world, with our passion for change, justice, with our undiminished hope. I was someone who had already been stirred by the civil rights movements and the anti-war movement, which had a huge impact on my consciousness.  I had a pastor’s heart then, and do now, it is one of the most powerful lenses I have on the world. I loved the prophets and identified as a follower of Jesus. That has not changed.

At 22, I was not as sophisticated about racial or sexual and gender politics.  Since then, I have been through our holocaust, AIDS, and the suffering and redemptive relationships, dealing with life and death on a daily basis when I pastored MCC in Los Angeles has changed me. I also became a cross-cultural learner, who pastored a bilingual congregation, and have had the privilege to travel the world, meeting with activist, sharing the message of MCC’s transgressively inclusive gospel.

I am a little more skeptical about politics, and feel like my eyes have been opened about the destructive power to corrupt – money and politics.  I know that activism cannot be episodic, it must be sustained, fearless and committed, even when hope seems dim.

I have become a birdwatcher!  And that view of nature has also radicalized me even more about the planet, our health and survival.

I have to say that marriage equality seemed like an impossible dream to me at 22 – then, I thought of marriage as only an oppressive, patriarchal institution!  Maybe as women have changed heterosexual marriage in some cultures, and as same sex marriage has gained acceptance, my view has shifted. Paula, my wife of 37 years, likes me to call her “wife,” though that seems like a really alien to me – she says it is clear and unequivocal, and she is right. I am adjusting.

Hopefully, I am still as eager to learn, and change, and be challenged as I was . . .

At 22, I had no idea I would be a frequent guest of the White House, and also march for equality in Jamaica, and speak at an LGBT Center in China about religion and homosexuality! The world is a surprising place, thank God!!

1896860_756263727718022_289398168_n

Question Two:  Great leaders and influential people of faith are often highly disciplined people with important and sometimes mundane daily routines that keep them grounded, informed, and sharp. What are some regular disciplines that you have developed through the years that sustain you and have become essential in your life, relationships, and work?

It seems I am a person of habits, and many are good (not all. . .). I am a morning person, and I read the New York Times, and pray my way through it. That can take a while.  . .Then I journal some. I try to be accountable in the journaling, for commitments to myself, in particular, and reflect on the day before. The journal is full of prayers, intercessory prayers.

I then read from 2 or 3 daily devotional books. I am a fan of God Calling, a very dated devotional, but, it is uncanny in it’s prescience.  Sentimentally, I still include it. I have used the Celtic Daily prayer book (Richard Foster), a rich compendium. I am currently using Your True Home by Thich Nhat Hanh. He is amazing – I did a retreat with him more than a decade ago with a close friend. That friend and I text daily about the reading – we rarely both miss a day – and that is wonderful. You have to have soul friends who are drawn to the same teachers and sources.

I try to read 4 scripture texts, daily, but, sometimes only get to one. If I have only time or patience for one, I read a Psalm. I read a Hebrew scripture passage, a gospel passage and an epistle passage, I just go through it all, and start again from the beginning of each of these. I have done this since New Year’s Day in 1981.

And, of course, since I preach, there is study and reflection time for that as well. It is always challenging to find new sources, new commentaries, new perspectives. I preach from the lectionary, since it forces me to preach from scriptures I may not be as fond of. . .

Besides morning, I love to walk, and bird watch. Mostly, during that time, I try to just be grateful, open and curious.

Rev. Dr. Mona West introduced me to some online sources – like gratefulness.org which I love. I love the virtual labyrinth, and lighting virtual candles.  I use those occasionally.

When I am in my car, I often listen to news. But, in the last year, I have fasted some from that. Then, I listen to classical music instead, or, I try to just be present and attentive and quiet.

Al anon was a life-saver for me years ago. I still think of the 12 step caution, “HALT: don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.” They have great tools, like the “Detachment” pamphlet, and prayers like “Just for Today.” Those are incredible, in very tough times.

When I am discouraged, in a deep way, I create gratitude lists, and I find that simple exercise lifts my spirit.

Also, change your routine, from time to time. Spent more time outdoors.  For me, being near water is healing.

If I get too far from these helps, I make poorer choices, am less kind, less healthy.

Traveling makes this difficult at times. I have had to find creative way to bring my routine on the road, and to forgive myself when it gets interrupted, and always to get back on my path.

When I travel, I often find friends to walk with, that is enormously helpful.

I also write poetry, that is spiritual in nature. I don’t care much about publishing them, they are really like my children. I polish them and nurture them, and improve them from time to time. They are rarely finished. A few are perfect!

I also play the piano, not enough. . . It is a percussion instrument, so it is physically taxing, which makes it therapeutic for me. I love playing old hymns. . .

1618582_756263624384699_488211017_n

Question Three: Lately you have expressed a concern about global warming. As a queer person of faith, what are your concerns and where do you look for hope?

Well, lately indeed!  This is a conversion process, and I got invited to go deeper, and accepted the invitation – and it has really rocked me. So many of us think that someone, somewhere, smart scientists and powerful people will figure this out and outsmart the forces of climate destruction. But, I fear it is not true!

My hope is in a movement – where diverse groups come together and this issue moves quickly to the top of our agenda, not as issue #7 or 9 that we care most about.  This is going to take a political and spiritual movement, incredible will. People are making a lot of money off of fossil fuels, and we are addicted, and the resistance to radical change is enormous.  I have hope that that will change.

In the eradicating human traffic movement, we say that trafficking is a high profit, low risk business, and we have to reverse that. The same is true of fossil fuel production. A carbon tax, and the kind of campaign that targeted smoking, times 10, is needed. At present, climate change is the most divisive issue in the US, politically, more than guns – why? Because fossil fuels are making some people huge amounts of money. Period.  This must change.

1795506_757155404295521_793872362_n

Thank you, Nancy, for taking the time to visit with us. I am growing more and more excited about working together with you on Climate Change, well, shoot, really anything. We can just gather around the piano and belt out our favorite hymns. Your magnetic personality and your depth are not only attractive, they are needed in the world today.

 (photo credit “Towards a free and equal world” Bill Owen)

If I were an Evangelical pastor talking about Climate Change

I have been considering various Faith Responses to Climate Change. For much of my life I identified as a born-again, Bible-believing, Republican Christian. I then read the Bible not as an ancient text to study but as a holy guidebook for living in the modern world. I sat through thousands of sermons in Fundamentalist, Evangelical, and Pentecostal churches where preachers used the Bible as the authoritative text for our lives.

What if one of my pastors grew alarmed about climate change and the effects greenhouse gases are having on humanity and our future peace and prosperity? What might a sermon look like?

If I think like an Evangelical pastor (NOT like a Bible scholar) I make the following connections based on a verse from the book of Numbers:

The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.   (Numbers 14:18.)

The belief that the consequences of sinful actions from a previous generation can plague the current and future generations comes up multiple times in scripture–both Old and New Testaments. Many people can see this when we hear of a father burning through the family’s savings with his gambling or drinking. Not only are there financial consequences, but the turmoil in the home can leave lasting scars. Something someone does in our past can affect us in the present, and the harm left unaddressed, may get passed on to our children who will have to deal with it in their lives.

Zulu Village

God created a beautifully designed system where carbon dioxide is naturally released into the atmosphere by our own breathing as well as through decaying trees and decomposing animals.  This carbon dioxide helps keep the earth warm and full of life. Through living trees, plants and the oceans that cover the earth, the carbon dioxide is new absorbed and transformed and provides more life. The process of releasing and transforming a CO2 particle can take one hundred years–generations.

But God’s once perfect system has become overtaxed through pollution. While our ancestors did not understand the impact burning greenhouse gases would have on their offspring, today we know what will happen if we do not stop and address this problem. Looking at the warning in Numbers 14 that the sins of the parents fall on the heads of the children for generations, we see a direct application to the greenhouse gases trapped and stockpiling over our heads, poisoning the seas and warming the planet, altering natural weather patterns, causing drought, floods, and suffering for the people of the earth in the USA and beyond. Greenhouse gases released by humans have clogged the earth’s renewal process, something that will take generations to resolve. Here we see a perfect example of the cycle of parental/child sin and consequence–a generational curse.

The proper response? Repentance. Turn from the harmful behavior and start anew in a new direction, one that will bring blessing and not a curse to our children for generations to come. We have the power to bless our offspring for generations if we repent from polluting and clean up the mess that we inherited.

As believers we are required to care for our loved ones:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

The rewards that come to those who obey the call of repentance not only affects our own family, but benefits the nation.

Deuteronomy 28:1-68

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

IMG_1413

We often think of sin in terms of individual moral failings, but as a nation and as a people we can engage in long-term sinful actions that reap a bitter harvest. Consider the institution of slavery in the United States supported by churches and ministers of the day. We needed to repent of our actions as a nation, and today we need to continue to address the harm caused by racism and inequality. We have been in a process of healing for over 150 years, and we are not done yet.

We do not live on the same planet earth that was created in the book of Genesis. It has changed and bears scars and suffers from a deep sickness that we inadvertently inflicted upon it. We have the confidence that with thorough and thoughtful repentance comes healing.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Closing the sermon, the minister gives the congregation an opportunity to commit to action:
Deuteronomy 30:19

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live

The minister then provides practical plans of action: read a particular book or article, join a committee that explores the church’s role on a changing planet, join the Citizens Climate Lobby, and as a member of the congregation, lobby our members of congress. They sing a hymn, perhaps, All Creatures of our God and King, then meet for coffee in the Narthex.

Of course this is just a thought experiment of what an Evangelical sermon on climate might look like. I’d love to hear your thoughts, responses, and ideas in the comment section.

For my next sermon, I will look at a Bible hero who predicted climate change, created a plan that helped deal with the immediate crisis but had unexpected consequences.

Prescott’s Climate Links #3

Over the past three weeks Prescott has stuffed my inbox with over 50 articles climate related articles. I have selected just three for you to read. This curated list of climate related articles are specially chosen to give hope and direction as we see the world changing around us.

Three Climate Links

The Brat is Back! No doubt you have been hearing speculation about how bad the next El Niño cycle will be. Samantha Larson at Grist offers a simple to understand tutorial about the whole thing replete with cute stick figures and a video.

Everything you need to know about El Niño–and More

image

——————————————

When someone has proposed legislative action to address climate change (Carbon Tax, etc) immediately the cries of “JOB KILLER!” rises from the collective heap of do-nothing  but moan politicians. Turns out addressing climate change will NOT harm the economy.

Hunter Stuart at Huffington Post writes: No, Cutting Carbon Emissions Won’t Ruin the Economy. If this topic is interesting to you, also check out the new REMI study results that outline the positive economic impact in the USA of a Carbon fee and dividend.

image

——————————————

Audrey Quinn has created an engaging comic about Climate Change in the Muslim world. Facing Serious Climate Impacts, some Muslims put their faith in going green.

image

Out of Africa: Friendship & Climate Change

I just returned from a two week trip to South Africa. Glen Retief, my partner, and I took a group of Susquehanna University students on a cultural immersion tour of South Africa in Kwazulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Venda, and Gauteng provinces. We mostly did home stays in rural villages and in the township of Alexandra where we lived with families, hung out, and got to know them.

It was part of the course Travel Writing in South Africa, and was made all the richer because Glen is from South Africa and has spent a lot of time researching and writing about his experiences and South African history.

Because of the deep community ties they have from their work in South Africa, our tour organizers, Nettie and Cedric de la Harpe, helped us to get beyond simply being tourists to enter a real world of travel and immersion. The local communities received the money we would have spent at backpackers and restaurants, and the cultural exchanges seemed to flow back and forth in both directions. At many points both the South Africans and our students took out their cell phones and took selfies with each other or got up to swap dance moves.

For those two weeks we lived simply–sleeping on dung floors, taking baths in little basins, taking care of our business in a bucket or a field or a “long drop” outhouse, and living off the grid without electricity and internet for days at a time. We settled into a place of being present–sitting, talking, listening, feeling. image

We talked a lot about weather. Mpumalanga Province recently experienced severe flooding like they never encountered before. Major roads were wiped out, which forced us to take a longer, pothole ridden route north through Swaziland. When we drove through Kruger Park on our way to Venda Province, we learned that thousands of trees and important scrubs along rivers had been washed away leaving a barrenness that has driven animals to other parts of the park to seek food and shelter. At the villages where we stayed, the farmers I spoke with raised concerns about how the climate is changing.

Like most places in the world, Southern Africa is expected to face more extreme weather, longer summers, along with water and food scarcity. With these changes come increased pain and suffering for the people living there. I imagine they also will continue to demonstrate ingenuity and determination in facing their challenges.
image
The changes are not all about the science of climate change; on the ground changes mean harder lives for subsistent farmers–often women, and for women and children who collect water. Our friends and host families will face an increase of pests and diseases, and more demand for limited resources with a growing influx of immigrants that may lead to conflict.

Throughout our trip I was continually reminded of oppression that people experience based on class often along race lines. The rich will fair better as the climate changes–both rich nations and rich individuals have more resources to adapt and protect their lifestyles. Like the many posh dwellings we passed in Pretoria and the suburbs of Johannesburg, fortified with high walls and razor wire, the rich will barricaded themselves and protect their stores as the climate and civilization changes all around them.

I wonder about the many ways my head and heart are fortified from seeing and feeling the disparity in the world, the growing risks, and my role on this changing planet. It helps to live simply for a time, to live off the grid, and sit with folks whose lives are very different from mine but who share many of the same values, hopes, fears, and desires.

Prescott’s Climate Links #2

Prescott has been busy finding links about Climate Change for us. Below are three links. The first two are definitely scary, but offer some direction for how to respond. The third shows a community creatively (and cheaply) adapting.

But first:

A college that hosts an annual talk to highlight the seriousness of climate change recently rejected our proposal to present, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? In his rejection email, the scholar organizing the climate event stated:

The performance you describe is not the sort of thing we want to do. The goal of our climate change series is to get everyone’s attention to the seriousness of the situation and I wouldn’t want to introduce what you’re calling a “human rights” perspective at this time.

(Try reading it aloud with a posh British accent)
I understand that comic queer performance art is not everyone’s bag, and he likely doesn’t understand exactly what I do to help my audience grasp the seriousness of the issues I present to them, but what I found close minded in his response was the refusal to include a human rights lens to climate change. This is not just about weather or the extinction of species–huge serious stuff I know–it’s about people, humanity, society, civilization.

Three Climate Links

Nasa Study Concludes when Civilization will End, and it’s Not Looking Good for Us Hold onto your seats as you read the following article.

Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it? Too bad it’s not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses.

-snip-

The worst-case scenarios predicted by Motesharrei are pretty dire, involving sudden collapse due to famine or a drawn-out breakdown of society due to the over-consumption of natural resources. The best-case scenario involves recognition of the looming catastrophe by Elites and a more equitable restructuring of society, but who really believes that is going to happen? Here’s what the study recommends…
-FilmsForAction.org by Tom McKay

——————————————

U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citiing Heat and Floods It’s here. It’s Queer how it is happening. It’s Climate Change in the USA.

The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.
-NY Times by Justin Gillis

See the map
image

——————————————

Mexico Experiments with Adapting to Climate Change Naturally–and on the Cheap Mexico and Central America have already been hard hit by storms, soil erosion, and other effects of climate change. Here’s an example of an effective local response to climate change.

Hernandez acknowledges, sure, the government, NGOs and others working here could build expensive things like levees and concrete walls to keep potentially vulnerable communities safer, but The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with local NGOs, wants to show that an ounce of natural prevention can go a long way to improve the region’s resilience to climate change.
-PRI.org by Jason Margolis

Prescott’s Climate Links #1

Welcome to a NEW regular feature of this blog–Prescott’s Climate Links. Prescott Allen Hazelton is a team member focusing primarily (but not exclusively) on climate change related topics. In addition to providing us links to the most current news on climate change, he also keeps his eyes open for any climate action news that also ties in LGBTQ issues, environmental justice, and faith communities.

Of the scores of links that Prescott sends me weekly (he is a busy bee) I select a handful of what I think are the most important and interesting. Hopefully the curated content will help in your own learning. And it will not be all gloom and doom. While it is important that we honestly face the serious of the current climate before us, we also need to remind ourselves that it is not hopeless. There is still time and there are lots of  people seeking solutions to stave off the crisis and to adapt as it worsens.

Three Climate Links

Americans are Outliers when it Comes to Climate Change This article also has a great graph that reveals that Great Britain and Canada are not far behind Americans in our lack of concern about climate change. Discover which world citizens are most concerned about the climate crisis.

As President Obama sets out to convince the public that climate change requires immediate attention, he has his work cut out for him.
New York Times by Megan Thee-Brenan

 ——————————————

The Change Within: The Obstacles we Face are not just External This is an excellent, thoughtful, insightful, informed, and inspiring essay which is also beautifully written. I suggest a cup of tea, a quiet space, and ten minutes to read and reflect.

Another part of what makes climate change so very difficult for us to grasp is that ours is a culture of the perpetual present, one that deliberately severs itself from the past that created us as well as the future we are shaping with our actions. Climate change is about how what we did generations in the past will inescapably affect not just the present, but generations in the future. These time frames are a language that has become foreign to most of us.
popularresistance.org by Naomi Klein

 ——————————————

Using Weather to Deliver a Climate Change Message Meteorologists are among the most trusted sources in the news business, yet many have been climate deniers. This is changing.

Jim Gandy is the chief meteorologist on WLTX in Columbia, S.C., and makes a point of incorporating links between bad weather and climate change into his daily broadcasts.

“In Columbia, the only thing that separates us from hell in the summertime is a screen door,’’ he said in an interview. “And all of the climate models indicate that it’s going to get worse if we don’t do something about it.”
New York Times by Coral Davenport

My Pastor Didn’t Warn Me About This–Sin and Repentance on a New Planet

As a young adult, I attended the Times Square Church in New York City with the fire-and-brimstone-preaching minister, David Wilkerson. Brother Dave authored the famous book The Cross and the Switchblade made even more famous with its film staring Pat Boone as David Wilkerson, and a hunky underwear-clad Eric Estrada as gang member Nicky Cruz.

Brother Dave presented himself an Old Testament Prophet cross-bred with a Colonial Puritan pastor in modern garb and big thick 1980s-style glasses. Several times a week he stood at the pulpit to remind us that the USA was going to hell in a hand basket because of our iniquities–these included abortion, divorce, sex on TV, secular humanism, and of course homosexuality. As a result, an angry God was going to rain down vengeance on us in the form of economic distress, weather disasters, and naked dancing in the church (no joke.)

image

Time Square Church

Since 1973 Brother Dave issued his dire warnings often using fire imagery to get his point across. His last major prophecy in 2009 uttered shortly before he retired, moved back to Waco, TX, and then tragically swerved died in a head on collision with a tractor trailer truck, speaks of fires and violence in New York City.

An Earth-Shattering Calamity is About to happen. It is going to be so frighting. We are all going to Tremble, even the godliest among us.

For ten years I have been warning about a thousand fires coming to New York City. It will engulf the whole megaplex, including areas of New Jersey and Connecticut. Major cities all across America will experience riots and blazing fires such as we saw in Watts, Los Angeles, years ago in August, 1965. There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting — including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath

I sat under a steady diet of these types of messages including warnings of marauding gangs of homosexuals prowling the streets looking for young prey (which sounded more like what we did during our street evangelism outreaches and abortion clinic protests than anything I witnessed in any gayborhood.)

Yet with all these warnings of sins and consequences, I do not remember Brother Dave speaking out against our flamboyant, impure fossil-fuel lifestyle that has brought about dire consequences for God’s creation and all life on the planet. While he warned of increasing floods, tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes, his prophecies never spoke of the natural consequence from overloading the atmosphere with greenhouse gases warming the planet leading to a disruption in ecological harmony. The sin was almost always sex, and the result was God’s wrath with lots of fire.

While he missed the details of how Earth-Shattering Calamity was about to happen, he no doubt felt something big coming. Pastor Dave highlighted an important principle of cause and effect, sin and consequence, indulgence and the resulting pain. Recently I wrote about Generational Curses, something Pastor Dave stressed often–how the sins of the parents will live on in their ancestors up to the seventh generation. What a fitting metaphor for exactly what has happened on the planet for the past 150 years as our ancestors stockpiled greenhouse gases in the atmosphere delivering a crushing blow on us their children and grandchildren. Like many addictions, the fossil-fuel addiction cycle continues, so that we add to the buildup started by our ancestors leading to genuine end-of-the-world scenarios.

Brother Dave ended each sermon with an altar call–Repent. Turn away from your filthy deeds. Start Anew. It is not yet too late. Again fitting words for the current crisis we have inherited. It is not yet too late to find solutions, to radically reduce our fossil fuel emissions, but as Pastor Dave often reminded us, individual repentance is not enough. We need revival–the nation and all nations turning to something new and leaving off the old.

 

—————————————————————-

Where to begin? Check out Citizens Climate Lobby to learn about a grassroots effort to lobby for a carbon fee and dividend, what I see as the most elegant and effective solution to curb our consumption of fossil fuels while providing a means to energize the economy and look after the energy needs of  working class and poor people.

From Homo No Mo and Beyond–Web Launch!

Back in October 2002 I sat in my tiny apartment in Hartford, CT considering a play I had in mind which would reveal to the world the 17 years I spent receiving gay conversion therapy and especially the two horrible years I endured the notorious Love in Action ex-gay residential program in Memphis, TN.

I did not feel I had to speak out, but that it was an option if I wanted. I also sensed that I was looking at a five year commitment. As I sat in my room, I said yes, I would produce the play and walk down that path. Almost immediately and over the next six months, ideas came to me about how to create the work, how to present it, how to pitch it, how to promote it. It was like a vast file was downloaded into my mental hard drive.

image

Peterson officially comes out of the closet in January 1999

In February 2003 in Memphis, TN I premiered, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, then spent the next five years traveling through North America, Europe, and Africa telling my story and connecting with others to learn about their experiences. With the help of my friend, Christine Bakke, a fellow ex-gay survivor, we launched the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement

Then in 2008 five years was up. We had accomplished so much in that time, and I felt released from the work while also sensing a leading to new work, particularly a need to address the oppression against trans* people at the hands of gays and lesbians and by churches. This led to the creation of Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible, a blend of performance and scholarship that looks at non-conforming gender outlaws in the Bible.

Art by Mila and Jayna Ponder

Again I felt like I knew what steps to take to let the public know about the work. I understood I needed to get to seminaries and places of worship–Christian, Jewish, and Muslim–to share some good news about gender non-conformists in the Bible who stand as the most important characters in some of the Bible’s most important stories. For the past six years I have been doing this work, and I expect I will carry on doing it. This summer I will finally film the play and then have it available for distribution.

But something new started up for me a little over a year ago. After reading, listening, and having some long teary conversations with my husband, Glen Retief, I became alarmed about the reality of Climate Change and what it means for us as a civilization. I understood that I wanted and needed to respond to the growing crisis in the only way I knew how–with art.

I have spent the last year researching climate change and how to communicate effectively about it. I am creating a new play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? A Comedy about Broken Bodies–Large and Small, which will premiere in the early fall (Details TBA).

Decked out in Eco-Drag, wonders, "What Would Walt Whitman Do?"

Decked out in Eco-Drag, wonders, “What Would Walt Whitman Do?”

As I ask questions like, What is a Queer Response to Climate Change? What role will you take on a new planet? How will churches and other places of worship refashion themselves to be relevant in a new climate? I also have gained insights into how to get this work out to the wider world.

So I have pulled together a dream team who have partnered with me to advise, contribute, reach out, and create with me. Over the next few weeks I’ll introduce you to the various team members. And today I launch my new and improve website replete with new presentations as well as tried and true performances. A podcast is in the work and lots of social media. My hope is to create a hub where we can talk about climate change as a queer issues, a pastoral care issue, a human rights issue, and as a community issue. There is so much we can do and so much we will do to face this crisis with creativity, wisdom, and love.

Welcome to the new site. It’s good to be back!

(Original art by Kevin Miller)