Saturday, October 18, 2014

Watershed Discipleship

St. Margaret's Church, situated on the eastern extent of Shinall and Crystal Mountains, lies on a natural divide. Rain north of the church flows to the Arkansas River by way of the Maumelle and Little Maumelle Rivers, whereas rain on the opposite side flows into the headwaters of Rock Creek and on south then east to the Arkansas River by way of Fourche Creek. A ridge of mountains like this between two water ways is called a watershed. By analogy a "watershed moment" is a crucial dividing line or turning point when an outcome could go either way. We live in such a time.

The Watershed Moment

"Life, a miracle in the universe, appeared around four billion years ago, and we humans only two hundred thousand years ago. Yet we have succeeded in disrupting the balance that is so essential to life. In fifty years, in a single lifetime, the Earth has been more radically changed than by all previous generations of humanity." (Home) The decisions we make in the remainder of this century, especially the next few decades, will determine the survival of civilization, possibly even our species and certainly others. I refer not only to green-house gas emissions with resulting global warming and climate change, but to other forms of pollution of air and water, to never-ending war and violence in our streets and in our homes, to discrimination, oppression, exploitation, and inequality. This watershed moment calls for nothing short of radical discipleship, not denial.

Taking a Stand from My Watershed

The word "watershed" also has another meaning. It is the area of land that drains all rainfall and streams to a common outlet. I mentioned two of these above, one north and one south of St. Margaret's. The USGS has created a hierarchical system of watersheds, or hydrologic units, each assigned a unique code (HUC). The watershed containing Rock Creek and Fourche Creek is designated HUC 1111020702. It is one of six watersheds that make up the Lower Arkansas-Maumelle sub-basin (HUC 11110207). Another is the north slope of Shinall Mountain, which contains the Maumelle and Little Maumelle Rivers (HUC 1111020701). Why is this important?

Water is essential for life. All living plants and animals are inextricably linked to the natural flow of water within a bioregion (life territory), and although we try to insulate ourselves through a grid of waterlines to every location where we use water, we cannot escape these intricate connections between life and the flow of water. It has been, in fact, our attempt to shield our lives and our actions from our profound interconnectedness with the Earth that has led to the wanton destruction we see (or too often refuse to see) around us. In this way, the profound global issues facing us remain abstract and diffuse.

How can we care for the planet without caring for its millions of natural neighborhoods, each one different and distinctly precious from the others? Watershed Discipleship is based on persuasion "that the best way to orient the church's work and witness is through bioregionally-grounded planning and action which focuses on the actual watersheds we inhabit. Because this orientation is still foreign to our Christian communities, our task is to nurture watershed consciousness and engagement in our faith traditions. "

Becoming a Disciple of My Watershed

My watershed has much to teach me about interrelatedness and resiliency, but I am surprised at how little I know about it. Over the coming weeks I intend to rectify that.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rel B. Corbin, Guest

Peoples Climate March—my experience. I was #112, the last person to be accepted for the Arkansas buses to NYC. We left LR very early Friday morning, stopped at Oak Ridge, Tennessee for a program on Global Warming . Some of us had signed up too late for a security clearance to enter Oak Ridge so we had to spend that time on a nice beach on the Clinch River miles upstream from the ash dump at Kingston, TN.

We spent the night at the hamlet of Bulls Gap, TN, where we picked up the last to join us. We had folks from all over Arkansas and from Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. Ages ranged from early teens to around eighty. Families came.

Up early Saturday, to go the length of the Virginia's Shenendoah Valley, very briefly across West Virginia and Maryland and then half the length of Pennsylvania to arrive at Rochelle Park, NJ that night and up early Sunday morning to arrive beside Central Park in NYC to wait for our parade to start at 11:30. Many people were already there when we arrived about 7 AM. We had agreed to stay together, so we scattered. I was with a little core group but I would wander off among the people and out into Central Park occasionally (Central Park is huge with big overgrown areas. There were plenty of porta potties for 200,000 but not near enough for the 400,000+ who participated. I have found I was not the only one to water the bushes in wonderfully over grown areas.)

There were Vegans, Pacifists, Socialists, Communists, Lenin-Marxists, others strongly opposed to all these and then there were others. There were all colors of folks. I talked with a Pine Bluff, Arkansas native NAACPer who brought several teenagers from Milwaukee.

Sometimes New Englanders and New Yorkers would ask where I was from, I assumed because of my Arkansas twang, but I felt they were just curious. Folks were very nice. And interested to talk with someone from Arkansas.

I never felt pushed, physically or otherwise in New York.

There were cops everywhere. My seat mate for the trip, Guerlermina, was from Monterey, Mexico via Chicago and eastern Oklahoma, good Catholic, widowed in 1972 with 5 young children, who recently married a Republican Methodist. Mina got her photo taken twice with pairs of cops holding her arms from either side, all grinning.

This was an exhausting trip. I never heard a speech that moved me. But I felt the whole time (until the Monday night at 10:30 arrival back in Little Rock.) that this mass of people, many of whom probably sacrificed greatly to go, want to save God's Green Earth from the eminent disaster, (referred to as "Progress" by many) we are close to.

I am ready to go again.

By Rel B. Corbin, guest post.
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ryan Boswell, Guest

The People's Climate March was far and away a greater success that I ever could have imagined. My experience started at 5AM the Friday before the march. I jumped on a bus that would caravan from Little Rock with more than one hundred others from around the region. On the way to New York, we divided the drive into two days, and picked up a handful of passengers on the route from Arkansas across Tennessee. We stopped for the day after the first twelve hours of driving, which destined us for a visit to the Climate Change Science Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratories. We heard from three climate scientists about the impacts of climate change in the Arctic Circle and how trees are responding to increased temperature and atmospheric carbon. It was truly fascinating work – enough to keep one hundred people engaged after twelve hours on a cramped bus.

The next day we made the long and uneventful drive to outskirts of New York, where we rested up for the Sunday's big event. We woke early and traveled into the city. In a way it was eerie how quiet New York was that morning; the city that never sleeps seemed to be in a trance, as if it already knew what was going to unfold. Police and march organizers were everywhere, skillfully coordinating the more than 500 buses traveling from around the country. We were off the bus with three hours to go before the march began, but already the route was buzzing with people. I walked up and down Central Park West to get a handle the crowd.

I couldn't believe my eyes. People impassioned by all manner of issues were joining together under the common cause of climate change. The crowd was so diverse and sometimes at odds: from peace-loving grandmothers to youth demanding a climate-just future; anti-nuclear and pro-nuclear camps; vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores; indigenous communities, faith leaders of all stripes, anarchists, socialists, liberals, conservatives. It was unlike anything I've ever seen. Despite our sometimes polarizing motivations, when it came time to march, we marched together – all 400,000 of us – in recognition that we all share only one planet. As we milled about, waiting to march, my cell phone buzzed with a message from the PCM organizers.

"Moment of Silence at 12:58 PM. At 1:00 PM, sound the alarm on climate change."

I thought the quietness of the city was unsettling in the morning, but when a clamoring crowd of 400,000 suddenly fell silent in unison, it sent chills down my spine. More powerful yet was the moment the silence broke. I was somewhere near the middle of the mass of people and from both ends of Central Park West, the "alarm" of voices, instruments, and noise-makers came cascading through the streets like a battle cry.

The march lasted several hours and quadrupled the turnout anticipated by its organizers. The crowd slowly began to disperse, and I split off for my bus. At 8PM that evening, we departed New York and drove 26 hours straight through to Little Rock. By the time I made it home, my voice was mostly gone and my muscles were cramped from hopeless attempts at sleep, but I had never felt better. I knew that march was the most important thing I had ever done. For the first time in my life, I felt like I really knew what it meant to live in a democracy and to be a part of meaningful social change.

By Ryan Boswell, guest post.
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People's Climate March

My heartfelt thanks to the many of you who supported those of us who went to New York City for the People's Climate March (PCM) on your behalf. Here is our report back to you, beginning with a few numbers.

We took 110 passengers on two buses. Two-thirds were from Arkansas, nearly a third from Tennessee, and half-a-dozen from Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama. There were five families, a dozen teenagers altogether, nearly fifty college students (from UCA, Sewanee, and at least four other campuses), non-students in their 20s to 50s, and quite a few seniors (including me). The age range was 13-70. We had racial and ethnic diversity, a range of educational backgrounds, differing religious and faith perspectives, and varied life experiences. This diversity was by design and by providence.

So we did not agree on every point, of course, but what this motley crew had in common was (1) a commitment to fighting man-made global warming and climate change, (2) the awareness that this requires an equal dedication to justice and equality, and (3) a deep sense of compassion and consideration toward all. Our two buses were in essence a microcosm of the PCM.

I should add that on a trip like this there was plenty of opportunity for grumbling and complaining. What I experienced, however, as did all I believe, was patience, graciousness, and frankly love. Remarkable!

The big number is the size of the march itself. One early estimate was 310,000, but by the end of the day many counts were over 400,000. Expectations had been high, but we more than doubled these. The crowd spanned many NY city blocks, took hours to BEGIN marching, and had to be dispersed before the official end of the march due to its size. The motto had been, "to change everything we need everyone" and it seemed as though everyone had shown up.

Ours were among 550 buses plus a number of trains, vans, and rideshares, about 30,000 people from outside the region. In a sense we hardly mattered, with all buses being less than 8% and our own less than a fifth of 1% of the total crowd. In the important sense, though, this is exactly what the march was ALL about. We saw signs from nearly every state and we were representing many more who wanted to be there.

Furthermore, there were at least 2646 other events in 162 countries demanding action on climate change. "Now, more than ever, we are a big, beautiful, unified movement coming together around the world to demand a brighter and more just future for everyone."

The perspective I take from this experience is that humankind is indeed one. Until we understand this fact we are doomed to destroy the Earth and create our own hell. When we truly understand our interconnectedness, however, we can begin to build a world of justice, peace, and prosperity.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why March? A New Vision

When I asked the question "Why March?" three weeks ago, my vision was focused on the entire planet. I was looking for a glimpse of how traveling from Arkansas to New York City for the People's Climate March (PCM) might help "galvanize and catalyze action" at the UN Climate Summit. What decisive steps in reducing carbon emissions worldwide would likely come as a result? Perhaps such a global vision was too narrow. Maybe what I was and am looking for is a broader perspective that appreciates this opportunity to arouse action here at home.

Here is the vision now emerging.
The Arkansas bus trip to the People's Climate March shall be:


The Arkansas bus trip is clearly a collaborative effort, not just between bus co-captains, but among members of the team we are building and the organizations standing behind us and working with us: the Omni Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology, the Sierra Club (Ozark Headwaters and Central Arkansas Groups), Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light, to name a few. And honestly, no one and no group will be left out. As the PCM organizers state it, "To change everything, we need everyone on board." Our goal is to expand the number of Arkansans working toward good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.


Our intention is to recruit passengers of diverse age, gender, race, ethnicity, economic status, religious affiliation, and life experiences. This is to include students, those in a variety of jobs, professionals, and unemployed. Some participants may be relatively new to environmental issues, others old hands, and still others personally affected by the issues. For some, activism will have been a way of life, for others the march will be entirely new. I daresay it will be a unique experience for all. In fact, YOU too can sign up here. Our goal is to broaden the group/groups of Arkansans working keep our air and water safe and the Earth livable.


Participating in the PCM will be an education in itself, but the bus is equipped with WiFi and DVD player. We'll show Bill McKibben's Do the Math, Velcrow Ripper's Occupy Love, and other documentaries. Additionally, we plan a stop at the Climate Change Science Institute (Oak Ridge National Labs) to spend time with their experts. And there will be plenty of time for discussion on the bus. Then we wish to bring this knowledge back to those who have sent us. Our goal is to teach ourselves and deepen the level of understanding among our friends and neighbors.


As if participating in "the largest climate march in history" would not be inspiring enough, the plan as we march through Times Square is for video feeds from around the world to be shown on the massive screens. After the march we want to allow passengers who so wish to participate in the Religions of Earth multi-faith celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine before returning home. Our goal is to be inspired and to inspire each other to believe in a better world.


What would a bus trip be without music and games and snacks and laughter? Our goal is to celebrate life.


The cost of the bus trip per person is reasonable and many passengers will choose to pay their own way. We have also received a couple substantial donations and several sponsoring donations to help low-income individuals afford to come with us. But we think it would be great if a significant portion of the expense could be crowdfunded. What this means is many (up to 1,000) small donations (of $3-30). I am using my birthday wish list as an excuse to set up a crowdfunding page if you would like to be a part of this. Our goal is to allow everyone to participate as they are able.

Awareness Raising

(1) Before the trip, publicizing the event, recruiting passengers, and soliciting donations will help inform many across the state of these events who otherwise would not have heard. (2) As travelers and marchers, we will raise our own level of interest and understanding, and we will send back live tweets, text messages, and social media postings to those at home. (3) After the trip, we plan to document our experiences and publish them online and in the media. Our goal is to raise public awareness of issues throughout Arkansas and to inspire increasing public participation in their solutions.

Notice a Theme?

The People's Climate March is all about people. Our goals are to expand, broaden, deepen, and celebrate our experience as community. May it be so.

Three weeks ago I was simply one person seeking a way to become part of the largest climate march in history. Would I travel by myself, or could I find a group from around here to tag along with? Then to my surprise I found myself volunteering to become a bus captain. Are you kidding me? Me, a bus captain? Yet as I started tiptoeing forward, my home town bus company helped me see that the monsters I had imagined were not so scary. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all, but I was still feeling pretty lonely.

Fortunately, a kindred spirit from Northwest Arkansas, Edward Hejtmanek by name, had been asking the same questions and coming to much the same conclusions. After a mutual friend put us in touch, we decided to throw in together and become PCM bus co-captains. What a difference that has made. Details, lots of them, remain to be worked out, but what is emerging is the vision outlined above of how the global Climate Summit can help catalyze local action right here in Arkansas. But don't misunderstand. We ARE going to New York, and we DO still want to be part of this historic march. It is just that this trip is no longer about filling one more bus to meet up with 400 other bus-loads and tens of thousands more carrying signs and shouting slogans. This trip is about raising awareness here at home of others in our communities who are standing up for a just, safe, peaceful, and healthy world. It is about forging new connections and renewing old ones, about organizing and shifting power so that effective steps are imaginable. This is our emerging vision.

Please join the conversation on
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Find out more about it at
PCM: Arkansas Bus

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Friend to Friend

What can I say to a new friend who is not familiar with climate change, but who is neutral and open-minded? How can I help her understand the magnitude and urgency of the issues without overwhelming her or worse still sounding like a raving fanatic? What should I say to an unbiased person who genuinely wants to understand what climate change is all about? Here are a few bullet points:

  1. The Earth's climate has been stable for ten thousand years.
  2. Since 1900, the Earth's average temperature has increased substantially, a trend even more noticeable since 1980.
  3. Almost all of the warming is attributable to human activities, particularly emissions of greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and methane.
  4. Already we are seeing the destructive effects on human existence of climate change related to global warming.
  5. The dire consequences of continuing at this pace are hard to imagine and almost impossible to exaggerate.

The Science

  1. Consensus: 97% of climate scientists are in full agreement with points 1-3 above and in substantive agreement with points 4 and 5.
  2. Most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.
  3. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports provide detailed discussions of this position.
  4. The National Climate Assessment (NCA) Report of 2014 summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.

The Politics

  1. To mitigate climate change, aggressive reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are needed by the United States and other nations.
  2. The threatened fossil (carbon) fuel industry has been bankrolling an immense campaign of disinformation using "doubt and delay" tactics.
  3. This campaign is precisely reminiscent of a similar campaign by Big Tobacco against the health risks of tobacco several decades ago.
  4. Technology is available now to economically and effectively switch to renewable clean energy sources if we have the political will to do so.

The Moral Choices

  1. The effects of global warming will persist for hundreds of years. What are our responsibilities and duties today to help safeguard the distant future?
  2. The devastations of climate change disproportionately affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged. What are our responsibilities to "the least of these?"

The March

  1. In a bottom-up approach, nations take on self-determined obligations based on national priorities and circumstances: a “mosaic world.”
  2. In a top-down process, a growing set of nations take on increasingly ambitious greenhouse gas emissions targets and carbon markets playing a central role.
  3. Tension over these approaches are on display as nations commence serious negotiations to develop a post-2020 agreement to be concluded in Paris in late 2015.
  4. "UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action."
  5. The People's Climate March is "an invitation to change everything."

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Why March? Second Thoughts

I still want to join the People's Climate March (PCM) in NYC, and I still hope to help make it possible for a bus-load of others to go too. But if such a bus does not materialize, will I make arrangements to go myself or with a smaller group? That is my question this morning.

If I go by myself I will fly, of course, but the irony of taking a plane to a climate march is not lost on me. A bus trip is four times more carbon efficient per person. On the other hand, going by train or automobile (even my Prius) is only about twice as efficient and less convenient. Let's face it long distance travel in this country is carbon intensive no matter how you go. This leads me to ask:

What is important?

The occasion that has spawned the PCM is the planned UN Climate Summit two days after the march. This will be a crucial meeting at a crucial time, and global media attention will be (or should be) focused on New York City. Here is the semi-official announcement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action. He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.

Leaders from over five hundred organizations have seized this opportunity to make a demonstrate that 'the people' are serious about climate change and that we expect our leaders to share our concern by leading boldly.

With our future on the line, we will take a weekend and use it to bend the course of history. In New York City there will be an unprecedented climate mobilization – in size, beauty, and impact. Our demand is for Action, Not Words: take the action necessary to create a world with an economy that works for people and the planet – now. In short, we want a world safe from the ravages of climate change.

This is the invitation that grabbed my attention, and started me planning to travel to NYC and join this historic march. I hope there is a HUGE turnout and I want to be one of those present.

On the other hand

Even the march organizers acknowledge the limitations of what can be accomplished at the summit and by the march:

We know that no single meeting or summit will "solve climate change" and in many ways this moment will not even really be about the summit. We want this moment to be about us – the people who are standing up in our communities, to organize, to build power, to confront the power of fossil fuels, and to shift power to a just, safe, peaceful world. To do that, we need to act – together.

One of the participating organizations (the one most instrumental bringing the march to my attention) is Greenfaith. Here is what they have said on the People of Faith People's' Climate March Facebook page:

Thousands of people of diverse faiths will be taking part in the People's Climate March this September 21 in New York City. Thousands more will be holding observances in their own communities on the day of the March. This Facebook group is a place to find out what's going on in New York City and your own area, and how to find resources that will help your faith community mark this witness for a sustainable climate for all.

In other words, the march in New York City a big deal, but it's not the only deal and it's not the only way to participate in the movement.

A page from Peace Day's playbook

It has not escaped my attention that September 21 is also the International Day of Peace. Hundreds of organizations are promoting this event around the world, perhaps none more avidly than Peace One Day.

Peace Day is an opportunity for UN agencies and NGOs to focus their ongoing life-saving activities within a global context. The impact of a day of global ceasefire and non-violence cannot be underestimated. Throughout the years, millions of people have been active on Peace Day in every country of the world, and hundreds of organizations have carried out life-saving activities in areas of conflict.

Since 2007 humanitarian and life-saving Peace Day activities have take place all over the world, contributing towards peace-building, development, and aid, including the delivery of supplies like mosquito nets, food, and vaccines, particularly in Afghanistan. These activities have affected the lives of millions. But another major emphasis of Peace One Day is "simply" raising awareness of Peace Day around the world. It was estimated by McKinsey and Company 280 million people in 198 countries were aware of Peace Day 2012. Last year that number increased to 470 million people in 200 countries, and their goal is reach 1.5 billion people in 2014. That would be amazing. Really.

Raising Awareness

How many people are or will be aware of the UN Global Climate Summit, September 21 (and to what degree)? Without engaging a company such as McKinsey, we probably have little way of knowing or even estimating accurately. But the actual number does not really matter. What does matter is that for those who cannot go to New York City to participate in the PCM, what all of us can do is raise awareness of the march and the summit. This is no insignificant achievement. I encourage each who reads this to share with everyone you can in as many ways as you can.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Peace and Climate

Being the observant sort, I noticed that the People's Climate March and the International Day of Peace happen to fall on the same day, Sunday, September 21. Both are extremely significant, deserving close attention. Which one should I promote and support? It's not that I won't continue to give attention to both, but I can't be in two places at once. It seems as though I need to focus on one event or the other, but in truth the two causes are closely related, even though the specific events may not be.

Climate Change and Conflict

  • Eric Holthaus
    • Climate change (especially drought) is already destabilizing nations and leading to wars.
    • Climate change has been discussed as a "threat multiplier" for recent and future conflicts.
    • Climate change worsens the divide between haves and have-nots, hitting the poor the hardest.
  • David Biello
    • The genocide in Darfur was sparked, at least in part, by a decline in rainfall over the past 30 years just as the region's population doubled.
    • One degree Celsius warmer temperatures are associated with a 50 percent higher likelihood of civil war.
    • Temperature change offered a better prediction of impending conflict than even changes in rainfall.

Militarism and Climate Change

  • Alan Maki
    • The U.S. military-industrial complex leaves the largest carbon footprint of any industry.
    • What kind of carbon footprint is created in preparation for wars, by wars and rebuilding in the aftermath of wars?
    • The most effective way to fight global warming and climate change is to fight for peace by "beating swords into plowshares."
  • Barry Sanders
    • Until we address the attack that the US military is waging on the global environment, the things we do at home won't change a thing.
    • Military activity is the single-greatest contributor to the worldwide environmental crisis:
      • fuel emissions
      • radioactive waste
      • defoliation campaigns
  • H. Patricia Hynes
    • Militarism is the most oil-exhaustive activity on the planet, and growing more so.
    • The US Air Force (USAF) is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world.
    • The opportunity costs involved in fighting a war, rather than investing in clean technology, mean forfeiting future global health for militarism.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why March?

September 20-21 is not exactly a good time for me to be out of town, but I am nevertheless making plans to join the People's Climate March in New York City that weekend. Why am I considering this action?

Is global cooperation to curb greenhouse gas emissions important?

In a word, yes, extremely so. This is not the place to explain in detail why this issue tops my list of many crucial issues facing our planet and civilization, but briefly:

  1. The solid consensus among climate scientists agree that human activity is causing global warming.
  2. Every national or international scientific society has endorsed the position that climate change is caused by human action.
  3. Recent publications (IPCC 5th Assessment Report and NOAA Global Analysis June 2014, for example) indicate that the climate change situation is even more dire than previous predictions.
  4. The destructive effects of climate change disproportionately affect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Climate change is a moral issue.
  5. Carbon pollution is regularly linked to other forms of pollution, exploitation, and oppression world-wide. Climate change is a moral issue.

Can the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) make a difference?

There is reason for skepticism, but despite disappointments this body has produced some significant milestones. It represents the best forum for global cooperation in tackling climate change. Many leaders also acknowledge the need for unilateral steps by individual nations outside of agreements reached together.

  1. The UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 and later ratified by 195 Parties.
  2. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 to implement the UNFCCC and entered into force in 2005.
  3. The Copenhagen Accord of 2009 essentially collapsed by all accounts, but it did set some critical guidelines.
  4. In 2011, the Parties affirmed their will to conclude a new climate agreement in 2015, with entry into force planned for 2020.
  5. World-wide there is now a greater sense of commitment and urgency than ever before.

Will the UN Climate Summit 2014 on September 23 make a difference?

  1. The Climate Summit immediately precedes the October 2014 negotiating session in Bonn, Germany.
  2. Both of which precede the December 2014 Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru.
  3. All of these conferences are in preparation for the December 2015 COP 21 in Paris, France.
  4. Leaders from around the world will be present in September, including U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  5. There is a sense that change is in the air. "UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action."

Will the People's Climate March on September 21 make a difference?

There is no way to know for sure ahead of time, and we may never know the full impact. The outcome depends on so many intangibles and factors beyond our control. But still:

  1. Mass mobilization is one of the best ways known to shock the entire system into action.
  2. Mass marches don't always work, but they sometimes succeed in historic ways. The People's Climate March is an invitation to change everything.
  3. As of July 20, there are over 550 local, national, and international organizations participating in the event.
  4. Many of the participating organizations have long histories of successful marches and non-violent actions.
  5. The influence of the march may extend well beyond the UN Climate Summit.

Will my presence (or absence) in the Climate March make any difference?

Interesting question. If a thousand people come, my additional presence won't make the crowd appear any more meaningful. If ten thousand, a hundred thousand, or half a million show up, one more person or one less won't be noticed anyway. So why should I bother?

  1. I have done a lot of talking (and writing) about climate change. It's time for my feet (and the rest of my body) to get involved.
  2. My preparation and commitment to participate may encourage others to march as well. Every individual counts.
  3. This is about more than just the Climate Summit. It is about "people who are standing up in our communities, to organize, to build power, and to shift power to a just, safe, peaceful world."
  4. What a great way to meet others who share my concern for the Earth and its inhabitants, all of them.
  5. There will be so much I can report back to my community if I join the march.
  6. (And in a few years I want to be able to tell my grandson, "I was there".)

Please join the conversation at Face to Face on Climate.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Do You Support Peace?

Dear friend, I support peace. I have no doubt you do too, but how do we support peace in the Middle East? I am no expert, but I am willing to dig deeper and spend some of my time helping you do the same, even if (y)our time is limited. I begin with two short, recent videos that attempt to explain succinctly and clearly but from opposite (or at least differing) sides the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Then I examine an older and much longer documentary that exposes the deficiencies in American media coverage of the struggle. While this production may not present all sides equally, it does demonstrate why we in America tend to have a skewed view. Then I quote from a number of organizations that are working for peace in the region, and end with an article with excellent advice about posting on social media. I am posting this in advance of the National Day of Action for Gaza 7/24.

Two current video summaries

Regardless of your current views of the situation, I predict you will be disturbed by these videos. You may be troubled by the injustice on one side or the other, or both. You may be angered by armed violence perpetrated by the extremists or by cruel discrimination by the oppressors. You may be ashamed of U.S. complicity or proud of its firm support of Israel and efforts to broker peace. So as you watch these short videos, I invite you to watch your feelings as well. Just observe them without judging yourself or others. Then find a peaceful place within you from which to dig deeper.

Update (7/23 18:00 CDT): Several FB readers were confused by my bringing these two videos together. My purpose was to contrast the two messages. You can draw your own conclusions, but my opinion is that the first is a perfect example of the misleading PR strategy outlined in the documentary below them. YMMV.

The Israel-Arab conflict - on one foot (5:39) by Dennis Prager, Prager University and The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation

It is probably the easiest conflict in the world to explain. It may be the hardest to solve, but it is the easiest to explain. It a nutshell it's this: one side wants the other side dead. Israel wants to exist as a Jewish state and to live in peace. Israel also recognizes the right of Palestinians to have their own state and to live in peace. The problem, however, is that most Palestinians and many other Muslims and Arabs do not recognize the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist. This has been true since 1947 when the United Nations voted to divide the land called Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted the United Nations partition, but no Arab or any other Muslim country accepted it.

If tomorrow Israel laid down its arms and announced, "We will fight no more," what would happen? And if the Arab countries around Israel laid down their arms and announced "We will fight no more," what would happen? In the first case, there would be an immediate destruction of the state of Israel and mass murder of its Jewish population. In the second case, there would be peace the next day.

Israel and Palestine, an animated introduction (6:27) by Jewish Voice for Peace

What would happen if you built a refuge for a persecuted people in a place where another people aready lived? In the next few minutes you'll learn why this moral quandry is at the root of the struggle between Israeli's and Palestinians, and what you can do to help achieve a just peace for everyone in the region. First, there are a couple of things it's helpful to understand.

  1. One group of refugees found a much needed home, but in the process a new group of refugees was created.
  2. Israel was founded as a Jewish state, but now ask yourself, "What exactly does that mean?" What was created in practice was institutional discrimination against non-Jews.

So now what? The current world superpower, the United States, has been a terrible friend, enabling Israel's destructive and self-destructive expansion onto Palestinian land by funding the Israeli military, the biggest recipient of foreign aid in the world.

But there's another superpower that can make the difference, YOU. There's a movement with hundreds of thousands of people just like you across the world including Palestinians and Israelis protesting, educating, divesting, and boycotting all to bring nonviolent international pressure on Israel to stop violating human rights of Palestinians. Throughout history where governments have failed to push for justice, people just like you, like us, have taken the lead and won. Now it's the Palestinians turn for freedom and justice. We can pressure Israel to end the occupation and the discrimination. We want all people, Jews and Palestinians to have equality, human rights, and democracy. We can change history. Join us.

An older documentary

Because this documentary is now ten years old and nearly eighty minutes long, most of you will choose not to watch it in its entirety, which is fine. It strikes me, however, that the film is all the more prescient because the issues have not changed appreciably in a decade. If anything, they have only become more stark. If you can't find time to watch the video, please take a look at the study guide (link below). And for those who need something briefer, here is my summary of the guide. In fairness, I also want say that while I find the film's argument to be bold and detailed, it is not entirely unbiased. It ignores, for example, or at least downplays the inconsistent and self-destructive agendas of the Palestinian leadership. Nonetheless, I believe this documentary to be fair and accurate, if somewhat incomplete.

Peace, Propaganda, & the Promised Land (2004) (79:11) by Bathsheba Ratzkoff and Sut Jhally, Media Education Foundation

Study Guide: The video discusses the historical and political reasons for the pro-Israeli slant of American policy, and argues that unless American foreign policy changes, the media will not dare challenge it. And the only way for that to happen is if the public wakes up to the reality of what is happening in their name, and opposes it. — Life is unlivable for the Palestinian population under the longest military occupation in modern history. — The unemployment rate is over 60 percent, land and homes are bulldozed every day, and Israeli check-points prevent Palestinians from moving freely and are a constant source of harassment. — But Americans do not see this suffering at all. The absence of any such reporting in the media is such that people don't know there is an occupation going on.

  • PR Strategy 01: Hidden Occupation
  • PR Strategy 02: Invisible Colonization
  • PR Strategy 03: Violence in a Vacuum
  • PR Strategy 04: Defining Who is Newsworthy
  • PR Strategy 05: American Neutrality
  • PR Strategy 06: Generous Offer
  • PR Strategy 07: Marginalized Voices
  • Is Peace Possible?
    • The struggle for peace in the Middle East has to be waged in the U.S.
    • There is nothing anti-Semitic about condemning U.S. policy in the region.
    • Americans need to wake up to what is happening in their name.
    • Once people know the truth of the occupation, it is unlikely they will not react.
    • Public opinion in the U.S. is the starting point for change in the Middle East.

Organizations working for peace in the Middle East

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but here are a few organizations that seem to be doing excellent work. These are not radicals or extremists. These are people who believe peace is possible for all.

Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals. JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.

Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.

The organization endeavors to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population's everyday life.

Soldiers who serve in the Territories witness and participate in military actions which change them immensely. Cases of abuse towards Palestinians, looting, and destruction of property have been the norm for years, but are still explained as extreme and unique cases.

Our testimonies portray a different, and much grimmer picture in which deterioration of moral standards finds expression in the character of orders and the rules of engagement, and are justified in the name of security. While this reality is known to Israeli soldiers and commanders, Israeli society continues to turn a blind eye, and to deny that which happens in its name. Discharged soldiers who return to civilian life discover the gap between the reality which they encountered in the Territories, and the silence which they encounter at home.

In order to become civilians again, soldiers are forced to ignore what they have seen and done.

Breaking the Silence voices the experiences of these soldiers, forcing Israeli society to address the reality which it has helped to create.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) is a human rights and peace organization established in 1997 to end Israel's Occupation over the Palestinians. ICAHD takes as its main focus, as its vehicle for resistance, Israel's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and within Israel proper. ICAHD was awarded UN Economic and Social Council Special Consultative Status in 2010.

J Street gives political voice to mainstream American Jews and other supporters of Israel who, informed by their progressive and Jewish values, believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel's survival as the national home of the Jewish people and as a vibrant democracy. J Street's mission is two-fold: first, to advocate for urgent American diplomatic leadership to achieve a two-state solution and a broader regional, comprehensive peace and, second, to ensure a broad debate on Israel and the Middle East in national politics and the American Jewish community.

Just Foreign Policy is an independent and non-partisan membership organization dedicated to reforming U.S. foreign policy by mobilizing and organizing the broad majority of Americans who want a foreign policy based on diplomacy, law and cooperation. Although Just Foreign Policy will focus exclusively on foreign policy, we appeal directly to Americans for whom foreign policy is not a primary concern.

Combatants for Peace. We believe that only by joining forces, will we be able to end the cycle of violence, the bloodshed and the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. We no longer believe that it is possible to resolve the conflict between the two peoples through violent means; therefore we declare that we refuse to take part in the mutual bloodletting any more. We will act only by non-violent means.

CODEPINK: Women for Peace is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. The name CODEPINK satirized the Bush Administration's color-coded, fear-mongering "security" alert system that has since been phased out. CODEPINK is a lively call for the people of the world to "wage peace." (Sign here.)

AVAAZ. As a new round of violence kicks off in Israel-Palestine and more children are killed, it's time to take definitive non-violent action to end this nightmare. Our governments and companies have continued to aid, trade and invest in the violence, but we can help stop it if we call on key banks, pension funds and businesses to pull out their investments — add your voice now. (Sign here.)

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a diverse coalition of more than 400 organizations nationwide working for freedom from occupation and equal rights for all, by challenging US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Campaign is based on human rights and international law. Its strategy is to inform, educate, and mobilize the public, so as to change the US role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to support peace, justice, human rights, and international law.

Social Media

5 ways to turn down the social media flame by Jay Michaelson. Five questions to ask yourself before posting.

  1. What is the likely effect of my post?
  2. Am I angry?
  3. Is the meaning of my post,"The other side is evil"?
  4. Am I replaying spin?
  5. Why post at all?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Setting Goals

This morning I had conversations with a few friends about the feasibility of proceeding with a 1in7b film series this summer. I was counseled: (1) to remain sensitive to my own energy levels and (2) to be open to recruiting enthusiastic assistance from others. Good advice.

So this afternoon, as I began ruminating on all this, I returned to Films For Action's Guide to Hosting a Public Film Screening. Right there in front of me the first two sentences were, "Decide on an outcome. What do you want to accomplish with the event?" Then the page offered three or four suggestions. Well, yes! I DO want to accomplish ALL of those possible goals. Yet the question haunts me, "What do you want to accomplish?"

My first realization is that film screenings are LOCAL and my deepest goals are global. So what if thirty, or a hundred, or even a thousand (unlikely) people in Little Rock watch a documentary film? What difference will it make in the big picture? This is a crucial question. (but for that matter, what difference does it make if fifty or even several hundred read my postings on Facebook? Who knows?)

Either way, 1in7b as a Facebook page and a Website, has two goals, (1) to be a positive force globally, and (2) to be a positive force locally in Little Rock and in Arkansas. Except for promoting good films to a broader audience, the "1in7b Film Series" would contribute little to the first goal. But since film screenings are local the films could indeed contribute to the second. How would this project be helpful locally?

At this point, I want to emphasize that there are MANY groups and organizations doing outstanding work in Central Arkansas along the lines that I wish to encourage. My ONLY hope is to contribute to the wonderful work they have been doing for years. I could list many of these, but here I will only mention Just Communities of Arkansas. Believe me, there are many others.

What, then, could we hope to add to the efforts already being undertaken in the City and around the State? (1) We can support their ongoing efforts. (2) We can help raise awareness to the issues we all believe are important both here at home and around the globe. (3) We can help coordinate the efforts of disparate groups working toward the same ends. In any case, we must do the first. The second is always worthwhile, whether it involves arranging movie screenings or other activities. The third is more ambitious and clearly beyond my own personal skills (or my present calling), but worthwhile nonetheless.

There are many goals such as these we could adopt. If anyone ELSE wants to lead one of these I will happily contribute, and if anyone else has other suggestions I will gladly listen. Otherwise, I suggest that we might want to consider what it would take for Little Rock, Arkansas to become a "Compassionate City".

If we, as a city, decide to accept this goal, 1in7b would be more than happy to host screenings of documentaries to support this goal. This would include bringing to Central Arkansas films related to poverty and hunger, human rights and equality, climate and environment, and peace and non-violence.

Can we begin this summer? To be honest I see no rush, but I'm also open to moving forward. The goal of becoming a "Compassionate City" is clearly several years in the offing, but when do we start?

The bottom line is we (I) won't pursue a film series in 2014 unless I sense a ground swell of support for moving forward now. But this does not mean I have given up on the idea, not by any means. If we begin now we can (1) start this year, or (2) begin to coordinate our efforts and promote a bang-up series in 2015.

As always, I am open to the leading of Spirit. Thank you for reading, and thank you for responding.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Open Response to Sen. Boozman

A few days ago I sent an email to Senator Boozman expressing my concerns about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Here is his reply.

Thank you for contacting me with your opposition to a TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline. It is good to hear from you.

I certainly understand your concerns about the pipeline and the possible effects on our communities and wildlife. However, I also feel strongly that we need to use the vast oil resources we have in North America to lower gas prices and lessen our dependence on foreign oil from unstable regions. This pipeline would not only add more energy to the supply lines, but the profits from that energy would go towards American businesses and create more jobs. The best way to achieve sustainable oil and gasoline prices for Arkansas families is to increase domestic production. Also, the Canadians are developing their resources, so the questions are whether the United States will benefit or whether the resources will go to competitors, like China. While we do not see eye-to-eye on this issue, you should know that, at this time, a final determination on the pipeline has not been reached. Please be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind as we move forward debating energy issues like this pipeline.

Again, thank you for contacting me on this very important issue. Please be sure to visit our website at . I look forward to your continued correspondence.

John Boozman
U.S. Senator

Senator Boozman,

Thank you for your reply. Since you have welcomed my continued correspondence, I will respond.

You wrote, "I certainly understand your concerns about the pipeline and the possible effects on our communities and wildlife." I'm sorry, Senator, but I don't believe you do, or you would have responded differently. But for the moment let's say you do understand. You go on to write, "I also feel strongly that we need to use the vast oil resources we have in North America to lower gas prices and lessen our dependence on foreign oil from unstable regions. This pipeline would not only add more energy to the supply lines, but the profits from that energy would go towards American businesses and create more jobs. The best way to achieve sustainable oil and gasoline prices for Arkansas families is to increase domestic production." Here are my responses:

  • If we pursue using up the vast fossil fuel resources in North America, this action will:
    1. substantially exacerbate climate change in important ways, and
    2. significantly increase risks of other forms of air and water pollution.
  • There is no reliable evidence that such a course of action will lower gas prices. None.
  • There is no evidence that this course will lessen our dependence on oil from unstable regions.
  • The profits from tar sands energy will contribute insignificantly toward American businesses.
  • The profits from tar sands energy will not create a meaningful number of new jobs.

Then you make another questionable statement, and one I consider highly worrisome:

  • The Canadians are developing their resources, so the questions are
    • whether the United States will benefit or
    • whether the resources will go to competitors, like China.

Wrong. The Canadians are trying to exploit their resources, but they need our complicity to do so. Really, they do. And yes, they will continue to try without us, but don't think for a moment they will be able to destroy the planet nearly to the same degree without our collusion. We, however, will not benefit. Competitors, like China, will benefit either way, but not nearly as much if we just say NO to the Pipeline.

You claim that "the best way to achieve sustainable oil and gasoline prices for Arkansas families is to increase domestic production." You know, of course, that "Canadian" is not "domestic", but for the sake of argument let's say that the tar sands deposits were in Montana and the Dakotas. The best way to achieve sustainable energy and energy prices for Arkansas families is to increase production of renewable energy resources, which (1) are increasingly cost effective, and (2) and are being increasingly attacked by the fossil fuel industry (for obvious reasons).

Senator, in my responses I have challenged your statements, but it is not my intent to be confrontational. We are both citizens of the great state of Arkansas, and we are both citizens of the USA and planet Earth. We truly are in this together, and I sincerely wish to work together. Furthermore, I concede that I have made a number of unsubstantiated assertions. I believe they are defensible, though, and I would love the opportunity to examine the evidence with you, should you wish. Your call.

Finally, you acknowledge that "a final determination on the pipeline has not been reached." Yes, and that is precisely my reason for writing. To be frank, Secretary Clinton's Department of State was not entirely encouraging in this regard. They made mistakes, serious mistakes. And honestly I've not been much more encouraged by Secretary Kerry's State Department. If the Administration ends up making the right decision to deny the KXL Pipeline permit, Congress should endorse this position. If, on the other hand, the Administration folds to pressure and approves the permit, the American people will demand that Congress override this decision. Our country must do the right thing for ourselves, for our children, and for the children of the world. As a former president once said (and I paraphrase) we will be dead before our legacy is written, but is shirking our duty what we want for our legacy? Not me.

Please do not ignore the science.

Dr. Donnal Walter

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another cover

I had intended to take a few weeks, even months, to accumulate enough new profile pictures to create a new cover photo-mosaic for the 1in7b Facebook page. Surprisingly, I've had no trouble collecting images for a second cover in as many weeks, which has turned out to be a remarkably fulfilling creative outlet for me.

As you may have have guessed, I spend a fair amount of time online. While doing so, I pay close attention to the images on various web sites and Facebook pages. I am particularly interested in "profile images" that would fit well into the next mosaic. Take a look at the image for this week:

My technique has evolved and the image above is double resolution, but here is how I select and arrange the individual images to be included in this composite. Some of this profiles are from my own Facebook friends. Some are celebrities for one reason or another. Many are unknown to me. But they all have a story; they all have hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows. Each one is a UNIQUE individual, and all are alike in more ways that we often recognize. Some have lived a long life, even died, such as Maria von Trapp who was 99 years old at her death this week; others have their entire lives ahead of them.

I have enjoyed spending a few minutes examining each profile wondering about the person represented. Why is her or his picture online? What were their lives like before the picture? What has happened since? The point is that we are all unique individuals and we ALL have a unique role to play in our communities, our nations, and the world. I am one in seven billion people on this planet. One person can only do so much, but SO MUCH is what I can and must do.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

1in7b Cover

The Cover of 1in7b is a composite of profile pictures from around the globe. Fewer than ninety, these images are intended to represent the seven billion people who populate our world. A few of them I know personally and relate to regularly; most of them I have never met and may not even know their names. They are all real people with fears and concerns, dreams and aspirations.

Although I am not an artist by any stretch, my creative side would now like to make a new cover. Don't worry, I don't plan to abandon the concept of a few profile images standing in for the seven billion, but it seems appropriate to rotate these. I thought about just changing one or two occasionally, but on further reflection it seems better to change the entire Cover from time to time.

So here is my plan. First, I have been collecting images from various sources and saving them to a PowerPoint file. The originals are stored with full resolution so that when they are cropped and reduced in size, they will be as crisp as possible. Second, I will begin the process of cropping and reducing these to 53 x 53 pixel images, which will also to be stored on the same PPT file. This allows for easy manipulation and sorting. Third, I will move these images to a new composite image to be uploaded to Facebook, which will require cropping the top and bottom rows.

Here are the specs. Each of the profiles is 53x53 pixels. The space between each one is 3 pixels. There are 15x6 cells in the entire cover image for a total of 90. Some may be combined as 53x109 pixels or 109x53 pixels or 109x109 pixels. The edges are 7 pixels in width and 6 pixels in height. The entire image is 15*53 + 14*3 + 2*7 pixels in width and 6*53 + 5*3 + 2*6 in height or 851 x 345 pixels.