18-year-old Environmental Activist Kehkashan Basu to Speak at UN High Level Meeting

Report from UNFOLD ZERO:
 

Ms Basu, who is originally from United Arab Emirates and now lives in Canada, was selected by the President of the UN General Assembly to address the September 26 United Nations High Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament as one of the two representatives of global civil society. She states:

The nuclear arms race, in particular, should be halted and the $100 billion global nuclear weapons budget be redirected towards ending poverty, reversing climate change, protecting the oceans, building a sustainable economy and providing basic education and health care for all of humanity…

Instead, the nuclear armed States are squandering resources and keeping their nuclear weapons poised to strike. One mistake would cause a humanitarian disaster, robbing children and youth of their health and future, and maybe even ending civilization as we know it.
 
Ms. Basu was named as one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence for 2018 and was the winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize.
 

Toward a Greener Attica: Preserving the Planet and Protecting its People

Report by Grove Harris, Representative to the United Nations for the Temple of Understanding
The Saronic Islands, June 5-8, 2018

The Temple of Understanding’s Executive Director Alison Van Dyk and Representative to the United Nations Grove Harris were honored to participate in the Green Attica Symposium. The symposium brought together 200 diverse thought leaders, including theologians, scientists, political and business leaders, activists, and journalists from around the globe.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is famous for seeing environmentalism as a spiritual responsibility and has hosted such symposia since 1996. Settings have included the Adriatic Sea, the Amazon River, the Arctic Ocean, and the Mississippi River. His environmental writings set the tone for the event:

His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, known affectionately as the Green Patriarch

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Photo © Sean Hawkey 2018

Climate Change and Social Justice

If human beings were to treat one another’s personal property the way they treat the natural environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social and illegal.  We would expect legal sanctions and even compensation.  When will we learn that to commit a crime against the natural world is also a sin?

Sacrament and Sin

We have traditionally regarded sin as being merely what people do to other people. Yet, for human beings to destroy the biological diversity in God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by contributing to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying it’s wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, land and air – all of these are sins.

Healing and Repentance

Ecology cannot inspire respect for nature if it does not express a different worldview from the one that prevails in our culture today, from the one that led us to this ecological impasse in the first place.  What is required is an act of repentance, a change in our established ways, a renewed image of ourselves, one another and the world around us within the perspective of the divine design of creation.  To achieve this transformation, what is required is nothing less than a radical reversal of our perspectives and practices.

Water

Any abuse of our earth’s resources – and, above all, of water as the source and symbol of life and renewal – contradicts our sacred and social obligation to other people, and especially those who live in poverty and on the margins of society. Water is a fundamental human right… [Read Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s full Statement on Water]

The Symposium was a stunning opportunity to visit Greece and connect with old and new friends for more inspired and connected work towards climate justice. We spent three days visiting the islands of Spetses and Hydra, with intense program sessions considering religion and science, economics and the market, refugees, and the future, all including faith perspectives.

Dr. Vandana Shiva addresses the symposium, calling for protection of the world’s sacred waters, and also of the farmers who enable us to have sacred bread.
Photo © Sean Hawkey 2018

 

You can read a detailed description written by Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and the Washington Post article “Climate change is a top spiritual priority for these religious leaders,” both on the website of our colleagues at the Forum on Religion and Ecology.

Prior to the Symposium, we visited the world heritage site of Delphi, to meditate in the place considered the navel of the universe in ancient Greece.

The circular temple at Athena Pronaia Sanctuary at Delphi, the navel of the universe in the ancient Greek world, likely honored an even more ancient earth goddess. Photo by Grove Harris.

 

At the Symposium, the Temple of Understanding:

  • responded to Dr Jeffrey Sach’s economic presentation by reminding him that people of faith make an even more prophetic call for radical action, based on love and faith demanding more responsive action to redress environmental wrongs
  • convened a small round table with water justice expert Maude Barlow and other participants towards more effective actions after the Symposium
  • called for ethical guidelines to constrain economic growth, as part of the Symposium’s inclusion of corporate responsibility
  • promoted the Water Justice Guide

His All-Holiness with TOU Executive Director Alison Van Dyk
Photo © Sean Hawkey 2018

 

After the symposium we visited the island of Aegina and learned of the water challenges there, where most of the water is shipped to the island by tanker, and people buy bottled water to drink. We supported local activism with connection to the water justice work and Sustainable Development Goal 6 at the United Nations, as well as with ideas about local plastic recycling, including the Plastic Whale, a project that takes people out to fish plastics from Amsterdam’s canals and then processes the plastic into boats. Back at the UN in New York City, we raised concern about the water supply and plastic bottles during the Voluntary National Review provided by Greece during the High Level Political Forum.

The Temple of Aphaia on Aegina. The temple is a house for this lesser known goddess, with a large outside altar for worship. On a clear day one can view the Acropolis in Athens from here, potentially connecting the temples in a triangle with the Poseidon Temple. Photo by Grove Harris.

 

TOU at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions

The Temple of Understanding is thrilled to be presenting four programs, collaborating on another, and having our representative to the UN speak at still two more programs at the upcoming Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, November 1-7, 2018.

Our first program on Friday features our colleagues at the United Nations, for a more nuanced conversation following our introductory program last Parliament.

This will be the second Parliament where we have worked to bring Dr. Vandana Shiva, with her prophetic wisdom combining science and activism towards earth democracy. Theologian Carol Christ writes that Vandana Shiva “is telling women to confront ‘deceitful, dishonest, brutal power.’ She is telling women to teach those who rule the world how to live with nature, how to share, how to care.” (Read more: A Prophet in Our Midst: Vandana Shiva by Carol P. Christ) Women, as the majority of farmers in the world, need access to land ownership to protect localized agriculture from the devastating impacts of industrial agriculture.

Programs featuring Vandana Shiva and other stellar speakers include:

The TOU will also present:

Our UN Representative Grove Harris will speak during the following additional sessions:

Citizens’ Debt Audit for Puerto Rico

From Grove Harris, TOU UN Representative:

I have enjoyed meeting some awesome activists from Puerto Rico who are organizing a historic citizen’s debt audit. Puerto Rico is crippled by debt, some of which is illegal, and all of which needs to be transparent in its sources, expenses, and uses.  

Organizers write that “Citizens debt audits have been conducted in over 18 countries, including Brazil, France and Argentina, and these audits have produced concrete results without government participation. “

Their brochure lists irregularities and illegalities, including violations of the constitution, conflict of interest, excessive profiting, false representation, omission of risk factors and lack of legal authorization.

“Many PR creditors are hedge fund and US financial speculators, who bought bonds cheaply for as little as 5 cents but insist on a total re-payment – some for a return of investment of 1,900%! These are abusive profits for unscrupulous speculative investors in exchange for our public services.”

The video on their website is powerfully inspiring. with diverse citizens calling for debt audit NOW. 

http://www.auditoriaya.org/english/

The debt crisis, which includes “harsh austerity measures to ensure payment for a legally dubious public debt”, is a human rights issue, as is the environmental pollution, exploitation and privatization.

It is my privilege to listen to courageous women tackling systemic problems, and my responsibility to share their model towards real change, and the request to support it.

Gender Action Plan Integrates Gender Issues into Climate Policies at COP23

Via the Women’s Major Group, one of TOU’s partners representing the rights of women worldwide in the United Nations processes on Sustainable Development:

PRESS RELEASE: Adoption of the Gender Action Plan at COP23, by Women & Gender Constituency

Adoption of the first Gender Action Plan under the UNFCCC
(United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
15 November 2017

 

WHAT

On Tuesday November 14, 2017, the first ever Gender Action Plan to the UNFCCC was adopted at COP23. Its overall goal is to support and enhance the implementation of the gender-related decisions and mandates so far adopted in the UNFCCC process through a set of specific activities to be conducted within the next 2 years.

 

Kalyani Raj, All India Women’s Conference

“The adoption of the Gender Action Plan (GAP) is a positive step forward. It goes to reassure some of our work at the national level particularly relating to gender integration into climate change policies and related schemes. We would be happy to work with our government at the implementation level and hope to close bigger gaps impeding gender inequality with the GAP.”

 

Bridget Burns, co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency and co-director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)

“We are well beyond the time for real action on gender-just climate policies.The Gender Action Plan (GAP) serves as an important accelerator in advancing multiple mandates for gender equality that exist under the UNFCCC. But, the test will be in the implementation. We will be holding governments accountable, both developed countries in putting serious financing into gender-responsive policy development as well as all countries in fulfilling human rights via their climate plans. For a truly gender-just climate change framework, we must continue to demand climate justice from the entire process.”

 

Shradha Shreejaya, Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

“The proceedings on GAP have been reassuring. Keeping in mind however the urgency of the climate crisis, especially in Asia-Pacific and Africa, we need strengthened action and solidarity from developed countries in terms of committing to finance GAP as well as Loss and Damages, something that’s still amiss from COP 23 decisions.”

 

Dinda Yura, Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia

“We now have Gender Action Plan, as one step of the milestones for gender equality and women’s empowerment through inclusiveness of women as well as gender sensitive and responsive policies and actions in all elements of mitigation, adaptation, capacity building, technology transfer, and finance. What we need to think and do further in the implementation is how to use GAP and mainstreaming gender justice principles and be integrated in policies and climate actions, in particularly at national and local level, to ensure there is no climate policies and actions that violate women’s rights and the rights of women can be protected in the midst of climate crisis.”

 

Gotelind Alber, board member of GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice and co-founder of the Women and Gender Constituency

“The Gender Action Plan is a milestone in our longstanding efforts to integrate gender into the international climate process. If properly implemented, resourced and monitored it bears the potential to move us closer to achieving women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the UNFCCC process and the development and implementation of gender-responsive and human rights based climate policies in all thematic areas of the process as well as on national and sub-national levels.”

 

Priscilla M Achakpa, Director of Women’s Environmental Programme and gender expert on the Nigerian Delegation

“Now that the GAP has been adopted, it is time to work collectively from the regional to the global level while ensuring that resources and made available for the full implementation of the GAP. We cannot afford to fail, grassroots, indigenous population and communities must be fully integrated in the GAP.”

 

Anne Barre, Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) International

“The GAP is essential because there is still so much to do to bridge the “gender gap” and have more efficient climate policies! For example in climate finance, according to the OECD 2017 report, less than 5% of climate funds have gender as a main objective. Thus women’s priorities are being totally neglected, and women have no direct access to climate funding. And yet, many innovative solutions on the ground exist today that should be  upscaled with direct access to the Green Climate Fund. In turning the patriarchal system upside down, we will be able to reach the goal of the Paris Agreement.”

 

Marta Benavides, social movements, El Salvador, Latin America

“Women have been at the forefront of human development, for women caring for the planet and the well being of nature and humans in their families and communities. The Gender Action Plan is an affirmation of that. As it is the affirmation of the indigenous peoples path. It was a historical debt for the climate process. We now expect to start working for the essentials of the climate process: to work effectively and urgently to keep global warming under 1.5°C and to move effectively on all needed levels towards a just transition and to ensure that really and for good No One Is Left Behind.”

 

WHO

The Women and Gender Constituency to the UNFCCC

 

WHEN

Tuesday, 14 November, 2017

 

WHERE

COP23 climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany

 

WHY

Climate change is one of the most daunting global challenges of our time. As changing temperatures, weather patterns, and ecological systems threaten communities all over the world, the effects will be felt differently between the global North and South, various social classes, and between men and women. Just as any disaster can exacerbate existing social differences, climate change can be expected to worsen the distinction between men, women, and gender-nonconforming individuals in terms of opportunity, safety, and general wellbeing. In addition to the looming threat posed by climate change, gender distinctions in relation to environmental issues can already be observed. According to the Women’s Environmental Development Organization (http://wedo.org,) only 12% of federal environment ministries worldwide are headed by women, as of 2015. Women on average make up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and around 50% in sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2010, only 15% of land in sub-Saharan Africa is owned by women. Females are more likely to be killed by natural disasters and/or are systematically killed more often than males. In Malawi, gender inequalities in agriculture cost USD $100 million. At the current rate of increase, gender parity in negotiations will only be reached by 2040.

The Gender Action Plan represents a landmark opportunity to improve the quality of life for women worldwide, as well as ensure their equal representation in climate policy and planning.

 

ABOUT

The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) is one of the nine stakeholder groups of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Established in 2009, the WGC now consists of 27 women’s and environmental civil society organizations, who are working to ensure that women’s voices and their rights are embedded in all processes and results of the UNFCCC framework, for a sustainable and just future, so that gender equality and women’s human rights are central to the ongoing discussions. As the WGC represents the voices of hundreds and thousands of people across the globe, members of the Constituency are present at each UNFCCC meeting and intersessional alongside the UNFCCC Secretariat, governments, civil society observers and other stakeholders to ensure that women’s rights and gender justice are core elements of the UNFCCC. In this action the constituency is joined by other stakeholders committed to advancing women’s human rights, peace and climate justice.

http://womengenderclimate.org

 

MORE RESOURCES

Women and Gender Constituency Key Demands:

http://womengenderclimate.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/WGCKeyDemands-1.pdf

 

Spiritual Leaders Deliver Interfaith Climate Declaration at COP23 – By Bicycle

Via the Parliament of the World’s Religions:

(Bonn, November 10, 2017) Scores of religious leaders and people of diverse faiths and spiritualities on bicycles, some wearing traditional religious clothing, delivered a multi-faith statement to the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP23), pledging to adopt sustainable behaviors themselves and calling on their followers and world leaders to do the same. The delivery also marked the launch of a new international, multi-faith sustainable lifestyles initiative.

Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California was among faith leaders carrying the message to the UN meeting on bikes, symbolizing a commitment to sustainable transport. “By changing our own lifestyles, the lifestyles of our congregants, and the consumption habits of our congregations, we can help make good on our commitment to the Paris Agreement,” he says. “For us, it’s a way to state loudly and clearly: We’re still in.”

The COP23 Interfaith Climate Statement on Sustainable Lifestyle, entitled Walk Gently on Earth (Download Here), represents a shared assertion by religious leaders globally that widespread sustainable behavior change is required if global temperature rise is to meet the targets established by the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Read more about this initiative coordinated by GreenFaith >>

Photo by Dorothy Breuer, DorotheeBreuer at gmx.net

Stand Up for the Earth: Affirm the Paris Agreement

The Temple of Understanding, one of the oldest interfaith organizations in North America, stands with our many partners, the Parliament of World Religions, faith leaders of all traditions, corporations, universities and concerned citizens in condemning President’s Trump’s unconscionable action pulling out of the Paris Agreement.  We will continue to work towards a sustainable future in our towns and cities regardless of the lack of support from our misinformed US government leadership. 

Show your support for the Paris Agreement and Climate Action >>


In a recent sermon entitled “Defiant Hope,” Rev. Dr. Jim Antal of the United Church of Christ urged his listeners to speak up about climate issues:

Defiant hope believes that we are called by God to change what appears to be inevitable, and that God has given us everything we need to engage. […] So our first task is to end this silence. And it turns out that the biggest predictor of people’s willingness to take action to defend creation is whether they are in regular contact with others who believe and act like them. In other words, by breaking our silence and sharing our views and values with others, we will empower one another to take action.

And this is where church comes in. Looking back, slavery would not have ended if it hadn’t have been for church. And just as the church responded to God’s call over 200 years ago, God is calling the church of today to defend God’s gift of creation. Humanity will not make the changes science says we must unless the church becomes a center for conversation, discernment, support and action.


From the Parliament of the World’s Religions Statement:

The Parliament of the World’s Religions condemns in the strongest possible terms the President’s decision to renege on the commitment of the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement, a pact signed by 195 nations and formally ratified by 147 nations.

The decision is wrong from every relevant perspective:

  • Scientifically, it is unsound and indefensible.

  • Economically, it undermines the ability of the United States to build a competitive economy for the future, sacrificing US jobs at almost every level of production and service, sacrificing American competitiveness in every market.

  • Medically, it condemns hundreds of thousands to unnecessary sickness and premature death.

  • Politically, it undermines the United States’ credibility and trustworthiness with its strongest allies as well as its fiercest competitors, and thus strikes a self-inflicted blow against national security.

Our condemnation of this decision is based on our conviction that the decision is wrong, but not just in the sense that it is incorrect. This decision is wrong in the sense that it is evil—it will result in devastation to life on Earth for generations to come. Its global consequences and impact on every living being on the planet makes it fundamentally immoral.


From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Statement:

The Paris Agreement remains a historic treaty signed by 195 Parties and ratified by 146 countries plus the European Union. […]

The Paris Agreement is aimed at reducing risk to economies and lives everywhere, while building the foundation for a more prosperous, secure and sustainable world. It enjoys profound credibility, as it was forged by all nations and is supported by a growing wave of business, investors, cities, states, regions and citizens. We are committed to continue working with all governments and partners in their efforts to fast forward climate action at global and national levels.

 

Faith Groups at People’s Climate March, 4/29/17 (Photos)

Muslim environmental activists at the Washington DC People’s Climate March, 29 April 2017

 

Grove Harris represented the Temple of Understanding at the April 29 Climate March in D.C. as part of the Interfaith Groups mobilization for People’s Climate Marches. Rev. Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith led the interfaith contingent in sitting down in silence, then joining in a common heartbeat rhythm, and finally rising up in voice, as a special part of the march.

Overall, more than 200,000 gathered in Washington DC and millions joined in over 375 marches around the globe, all standing up in concern for our climate and against regressive politics. The 91 degree heat in April did not deter marchers; rather it reinforced concern.

Faith in Place: Faithful People Caring for the Earth provided reflections on the People’s Climate March.

All photos by Grove Harris.

Rev. Fletcher Harper (right) and activists leading the crowd in a group heartbeat

 

2017 UN Commission on the Status of Women Report (CSW61)

The Temple of Understanding collaboratively organized three successful sessions and an interfaith service of remembrance during the 61st Annual Commission on the Status of Women

TOU board members and attendees at CSW61

 

For the overall proceedings, we suggest this report by colleague Kate Lappin, of APWLD and the Women’s Major Group, who assessed Four wins at CSW this year:

  1. Committing to gender responsive just transitions in the context of climate change
  2. Recognising the role of trade unions in addressing economic inequalities and the gender pay gap
  3. More detailed methods to ensure the redistribution of unpaid care work
  4. Referring to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP)  [Read more]

Also recommended is the Report on CSW61 and Analysis of the Agreed Conclusions by Ms. Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.

 

Interfaith Service of Remembrance, CSW61

 

This year’s interfaith service again remembered women murdered for standing up for their rights. Four months after the death of Berta Cáceres, her colleague Lesbia Yaneth Urquia was murdered for the same work: trying to stop a hydroelectric project that threatened water and land. The Council of Indigenous People of Honduras (Copinh) is quoted as writing, “The death of Lesbia Yaneth is a political femicide that tries to silence the voices of women with the courage and bravery to defend their rights.”

 

Roberto Mukaro Borrerro, Grove Harris, Betty Lyons

 

Our joint DPI/NGO session was entitled “Women as Roots of Change: Sustainable Food Production and Sovereignty.” Speakers included Sister Celine Paramunda, Medical Mission Sisters; Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation), American Indian Law Alliance; Roberto Mukaro Borrerro, International Indian Treaty Council; and Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief, New York UNCTAD. It was a pleasure to collaborate with DPI colleagues Hawa Diallo, who brilliantly introduced the panel, and the production team including Krystal Fruscella and Chioma Onwumelu (all pictured below).

Our full crew: Women as Roots of Change DPI/NGO Session at CSW61

 

The complete session can be viewed on UN Web TV by clicking the image below: 

 

Our session “On a Gender-Just and Sustainable Trade Agenda,” co-sponsored by UNCTAD and the Women’s Major Group, both highlighted the need for more advocacy towards a gendered understanding of trade policies, and commended women’s activism in pushing for it. UNCTAD has a set of online publications that are part of their gender initiative. They write, “Taking into account gender perspectives in macro-economic policy, including trade policy, is essential to pursuing inclusive and sustainable development and to achieving fairer and beneficial outcomes for all.”

This event, held in the Ex-Press Bar, was hugely successful. The room was filled to capacity (over 80 people) and the audience included a graduate class of women training in international affairs.

Grove Harris, Kate Lappin, Chantal Line Carpentier

 

Grove Harris moderated and showed the film, Roots of Change: Food Sovereignty, Women and Eco-Justice. Speaker Kate Lappin was brilliant, explaining that development funding reverts profits back to the donor countries and further demystifying trade. Then Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier congratulated women’s activism, which has driven UNCTAD’s new gender and trade initiative. After the panel, Dr. Carpentier expressed appreciation for the opportunity to keep working with the NGO community on trade and financial concerns.

Speakers from the floor included Alina Saba, an Indigenous youth from Nepal who spoke to a community perspective, rather than an implicitly individualistic one. Nick Anton spoke on the new People’s Water Guide, and Ana Alvarez brought up the issue of corporate power. Theresa Blumenfield questioned UNCTAD’s uncritical acceptance of the corporate strategy of developing robots to avoid paying human workers.

Celine Paramunda, Crystal Simeoni, Grove Harris

 

Our session “Roots of Change: Reclaiming Economics for Women and Community” gave the audience an opportunity to exchange personal views and voice heartfelt concerns. We are especially grateful for the presence of speakers Crystal Simeoni of FEMNET and Sister Celine Paramunda of Medical Mission Sisters. Simeoni’s background in rural economic development and fighting inequality was coupled with clarity and insight. Sr. Paramunda offered heartfelt remarks on women’s leadership and spirit. She also led a brief meditation about breath and relationship, relating us to trees and the cycle of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

FEMNET, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, offered a set of Red Flags expressing grave concerns about the direction of CSW61. Naming eighteen areas of concern, they warn, “The 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is heading toward a weak, even regressive, outcome that fails to address the current state of the world of work, let alone address future challenges.” These areas will require ongoing monitoring and activism.

 

 

#NoDAPL – Comfort and Action as Construction Resumes

Via the Mining Working Group at the UN:

As I am sure many of you have heard, the easement has been granted for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. While I am deeply heartbroken, I think it’s crucial to stay involved and aware of all coming updates and opportunities to unite.
 
 
 
We also recommend the Viceland series on Standing Rock, one of the best collections of footage of the demonstrations.