Not so obvious connections

The idea behind this blog is to connect spiritual and religious traditions with environmental concerns and action. While the link between these two is fundamental — in my opinion — the connections aren’t always so obvious.

Not quite ten years ago, I started volunteering with the WITNESS human rights organization as their webmaster. I had also done some work with my local chapter of Amnesty International, but they didn’t need me as much as WITNESS did. I was floored, honored and a little intimidated to find myself in a key position of the organization’s information flow. I worked with some wonderful people there — some of whom have gone on to other organizations like Just Vision and 1Sky. I volunteered with WITNESS for about two years.

About a year or two after I first moved to Portland, Oregon, I was attending a networking event for media professionals sponsored by MediaBistro, and I was talking with a young man about climate change. I described my quandary of not knowing quite where to put my volunteer energy, because there’s so much I care about — human rights, stopping animal abuse, literacy, civil liberties, clean water and air, etc.

He helped me see that environmentalism really does trump all the others. Not only is a healthy, thriving planet a basic human right, it’s also an absolute necessity. If you don’t have a place to live, all those other concerns disappear — there would be no humans whose rights needed protecting, no vulnerable animals in need of help.

So if I ever find myself vacillating like that again, I just remember that conversation. That doesn’t mean I don’t do other charitable work. Climate change is just my priority.

As a spiritual person — and a religious studies scholar and trained interfaith minister to boot — I find this to be a natural spiritual issue as well. Religion — often referred to as simply “organized spirituality” — is frequently concerned with seeking balance and meaning in life.

Seeking balance within and balance without has a perfect companion in environmental awareness, with the outer world reflecting back what’s going on inside. The external world is also a brilliant canvas showing us the consequences of our actions, thoughts and attitudes. If we’re seeking meaning in our lives, we must also find and be mindful of the meaning in our actions and intentions, and what impact we have on others and the world around us.

So I’m just trying to tie it all together, sometimes admittedly more successfully than others. Where I can, I tie these environmental thoughts to specific religious philosophies and practices — or link climate change action to holidays or faith traditions. This blog has a growing list of “faith categories” — including 12-Step, Humanism and even the Law of Attraction at this point — but sometimes these musing here don’t fit so tidily into one basket or another.

There’s a heavy emphasis on Judaism — because that’s my own path — and Neo-pagan traditions, because of the inherent Earthiness and reverence for the natural world found there. But I’m keeping my eyes, ears and heart open for any and all texts, traditions and wisdom that honor, respect and protect this planet we live on.

I’ll keep posting here, and I hope you’ll keep reading and commenting. I’d love to hear your ideas, and to learn more about what you’re learning and discovering on your own journey.

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