Below are my words given at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County. The service was titled “Patriotism and Interdependence.” Prior to my speaking, Rev. Donna King and State College Borough Council member Jesse Barlow spoke on their own calls to service.
Good morning everyone. Thank you for being with me today.
Hope lives in action. The spirit behind this mantra pushes me to serve and lead. Lead and serve. But why hope? What kind of hope? I believe that through concerted and consistent action I have come into beautiful relationship with people and the land. These relationships and our commitment to their health give me hope. But allow me to start somewhere else.
Daily, we watch our collective problems run amok: the for-profit prison-industrial complex, presidential campaigns speaking in dog-whistled racial rhetoric, and regional and global environmental calamities. Because it’s the area I know best, I will focus on the last of those.
Environmental writer and activist Derrick Jensen writes that for his part, lacking hope about the planetary environment is “a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.” If we conceive of hope as empty faith in some inevitable good, Jensen is right. Hope can’t be a rose-tinted belief. Even some kinds of action come up lacking.
Let’s face it: policy makers and environmental organizations have “rationally” negotiated “in good faith” to try to cooperate with legally-incorporated fossil fuel cartels. From Louisiana to Alaska, from the Sahel region of Africa to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, the results of the thickening blanket of greenhouse gases are painful. Bear with me through some wonky language, but according to Carbon Brief, we have about 5 years of current carbon emissions left to have a 66% chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or 20 years left to have a 66% chance of preventing a 2-degree Celsius average warming of the planet. We are already over 1 degree C this year. In less wonky terms, we have a lot of work to do as eaters, farmers, foresters, policy makers, energy users and producers, and most of all as citizens to leave a decent stewardship legacy for our descendants of all species. Traveling down those paths, people bring the light of hope.
In my lifetime people who looked for heroes and then became those heroes inspire me the most. On the fight for climate justice alone I am awed by the actions and commitment of people fighting for the land they stand on. I have to name some of them from Pennsylvania: Barb Jarmoska. Jenny Lisak. Nathan Sooy. Steve Kleghorn. Gary Thornbloom. Karen Feridun. Melissa Troutman. Doug Shields. Pam Steckler. Braden Crooks. Don Brown. Cricket Eccleston Hunter. John Dernbach. Mike Mann. Richard Alley. Ed Perry. Nathan Larkin. Seamus McGraw. Dana Leigh Dolney. Elise Gearhart. I wouldn’t be surprised if I could make this list into a hundred people in a few minutes.
These are the people who form the backbone of a struggle for dignity, the dignity of our communities and our land. They — we — have pushed, pulled, dragged, screamed, cried, occupied, purchased, rallied, demanded, negotiated, laughed, fallen, civilly disobeyed, conversed, run for office, made poetry, filmed, and sung our way to an economy and society that grants just a little more dignity to our land than it did a few years ago. Does it have far to go? Oh my yes. But as Arundhati Roy says, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Ultimately I cannot be obsessed with perfect outcomes. That, too, leads to despair. Rather, I follow philosopher Dale Jamieson who writes in his book Reason in a Dark Time, “[We] find meaning in our lives in the context of our relationships to humans, other animals, the rest of nature, and the world generally. This involves balancing such goods as self-expression, responsibility to others, joyfulness, commitment, attunement to reality and openness to new (often revelatory) experiences.” And it is from those commitments that hope lives.
Hope is a revelation from living into that reality.
Hope lives in action.