This weekend I had the great, eye-opening opportunity to attend the Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization conference at Pomona College and hosted by a new organization and movement: Pando Populus.
This conference, a brainchild of John B. Cobb, Jr., was a combination of what are usually three gatherings: a meeting honoring, discussing, and applying the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead; a process theology conference; and a gathering of American and Chinese activists and academics working toward ecological change in China. The overarching themes, then, were process theology and thought, climate change activism, and an overall movement toward an ecological civilization. And my particular tract (one of 82 available) was hosted by Brian McLaren and Tripp Fuller and offered papers and discussion around “A New WAY for a New Day” – how Western Religions could and should work toward a better earth and earth community.
The conference caught my eye because of the number of speakers I’d cited in graduate school. Needless to say, it was heady, intimidating, and just what I needed to re-root myself in the big picture of awareness and activism with regards to the planet, poverty, and peace.
It’ll take me time to unravel all of what I heard, understood, and didn’t understand. In the meantime, here are a few ideas I’m excited about running with:
- Camp Stevens is, in many ways, a mini-ecological civilization. While we aren’t stopping pipelines or keeping ice from melting, we are influencing hundreds of people each year toward environmental sustainability through radical welcome and by inspiring, empowering, and challenging transformation in ourselves and others. This is a big deal.
- There are amazing BIG picture things happening out there. For example, Wes Jackson and The Land Institute have successfully worked with nature to produce a perennial grain that will undoubtedly transform agriculture, help small farmers on a global scale, and better utilize earth’s soil, a non-renewable resource that gets washed away each time a field is turned over for a new annual mono-crop. And Bill McKibben’s 350.org is a global initiative working to support rallies, initiatives, and programs that raise awareness regarding climate change and environmental issues.
- Christians have a tremendous opportunity to work with other religious traditions in addressing the problems of climate change, poverty, and war. Brian McLaren presented an inspiring narrative of the Christian tradition that includes creation, reconciliation, and liberation from his book A New Kind of Christianity that obligates people of faith to get their hands dirty here and now. (This narrative is different from a more traditional creation, fall, condemnation, salvation, eternal life.)
- And finally, process thought and theology appealed to me as a young evangelical in a Philosophy and Religion class in college (it also completely rattled me) and I’m re-inspired to dig back in, re-learn the language, and re-discover the implications on prayer, service, and community while working toward personal, social, environmental, and spiritual transformation in my own life and those around me.
And I’m going to accomplish all this amidst the quotidian of work and family life. Ha!
Transformation is slow yet life-giving work. Like the great aspen grove Pando Populus is named for, it’ll take a great, connected movement to work for planet, poverty, and peace. I hope you’re with me.