Hillcrest UU hosts a Scientist and a Theologian for Climate Change Discussion

On April 21st, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego held an Earth Day event in conjunction with the Church For Our Common Home and SanDiego350. Bringing together people young and old from diverse faiths and religions, the highlight of the event was a presentation by Dr Veerabhadran Ramanthan and Dr John B. Cobb, Jr.

Dr Ramanathan (left) and Dr. Cobb (right) speak about science and religion coming together in the fight against climate change Photo courtesy of James Long

Dr Ramanathan and Dr Cobb spoke on solving the current ecological and climate change crises. Dr Ramanathan is a distinguished Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, who joined the Pontifical Academy in 2004 and advised Pope Francis on the encyclical Laudato Si’, subtitled “On Care For Our Common Home”. Dr Cobb is a process theologian and philosopher who has taught in Claremont School of Theology for many years and has been influential in China’s growing movement towards “ecological civilization”.

Dr Ramanathan addressed the congregation first. He has studied climate change since the 1970s. Caused by the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, he says, “Nine hundred and fifty billion tons of carbon dioxide now blankets the earth.” He had predicted global warming impacts by the year 2000 and in 13 years predicts more dangerous droughts, fires, and mudslides if we do not curtail our carbon emissions. 

While the ramifications of climate change are dire, Dr Ramanathan proposed four solutions to help solve the crisis: 1) In ten to fifteen years, a total conversion to electricity generated from renewables – such as geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind 2) Get rid of super-pollutants such as diesel and methane by, for instance, converting all motor lawnmowers to electric lawnmowers 3) Plant more gardens 4) Have a biodigester in every restaurant and grocery store to produce biofuel and which would lessen emissions of landfill gases.

Locally, he proposed the formation of a coalition – a San Diego alliance of churches, doctors and nurses, various industries and scientists to fight climate change. In working with Pope Francis in 2014, Dr Ramanathan saw the church becoming a force in climate change resolution. He noted that doctors and healthcare workers were needed in the alliance due to the virus-borne diseases released from the polar ice caps with climbing temperatures.

Dr Cobb spoke on the topic of religion, spirituality, and being stewards of the earth in his segment on stage. At 93 years old, he is on a mission to bring sustainability and ecological awareness onto the world stage to counteract living in our present “unsustainable world.” Dr Cobb wants to lift up spirituality and sustainability in industrialized and Westernized society and discredits the notion that nature is something to draw from until the raw resources run out.

He proposed a California Collaborative for Climate Solutions with top scientists coming together with churches and other folks on a grassroots level – to effect change to address the climate crisis. Dr Cobb sees climate change as a moral issue that should not be politicized between the Democrat and Republican parties. He praised Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si as a document that bridges and intersects many sectors of society for the common good and for the health of the planet.

Having a whale of a time – kids being creative at the event Photo courtesy of Nanci Kelly

Together on stage, Dr Ramanathan and Dr Cobb then held a discourse on climate change. This ended with Dr Cobb being welcomed to come to the University of California, San Diego to speak to Dr Ramanathan’s colleagues about what actions they can take and changes they can make on climate change – in their positions as scientists.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir gave a stirring performance of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah following the dialogue. Festivities continued on the patio with an Earth Day Fair of various environmental and climate change action organizations. The public was invited to a free, vegetarian Sikh dinner at 5:30 pm. There was also dancing for the whole family to take part in. Reverend Bonnie Tarwater, who helped bring this event together, quoted Alice Walker, “Hard times require furious dancing.”

Interfaith Team Member Spotlight: Phil Petrie

Philip Petrie is the co-leader of SanDiego350’s Interfaith Team – a role he shares with fellow team member James Long. The Interfaith Team urges faith communities of all backgrounds to come together on the issue of climate change and climate justice.  Their mission is to seed creation care teams in faith communities of all denominations around San Diego and to build an Interfaith Climate Coalition of faith leaders in San Diego.

A self-proclaimed devout Episcopalian, Petrie believes religions approach climate change with a different perspective–that the universe has a divine origin and purpose, and that human beings are to take care of the earth and use its resources wisely.  “We may think that the world was made for us to do with as we please,” he says, “but really God made humans also as part of His divine creation, calling on us to treat animals and other life forms better than we have and to live in greater harmony with the planet,” said Petrie. [Read more…]

Interfaith Team Member Spotlight: Fr. Emmet Farrell

Fr. Farrell in his priest robes

Father Emmet Farrell is one of SanDiego350’s climate change action warriors. He is a member of our Interfaith Team and serves on the San Diego Interfaith Climate Coalition. The Interfaith Team – which formally came into being earlier this year – comprises SanDiego350 members who belong to various congregations and faith backgrounds. The team’s mission is to support the revival of the San Diego Interfaith Climate Coalition (which was formed in 2015) and to support creation care efforts in the diverse faith communities in our area.

A Catholic priest for 52 years, Fr. Farrell is originally from Iowa where he grew up on a farm. He is fluent in Spanish, having served sixteen years in Latin America – specifically in Peru. There he worked heavily on social justice issues such as inequality and helping the poor. During this foreign mission work, he spent eight years in a slum town on the outskirts of Lima, four years in Chimbote (a small coastal fishing and steel manufacturing town) and the last four years in a small mountain town in the Andes mountains south of Cuzco. Upon his return to the United States, Fr. Farrell continued to serve in the parishes of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in San Ysidro, St. Anthony in National City and, lastly, at St. Jude Parish in Southcrest before retiring from the priesthood. [Read more…]

Social Media and Climate Change Activism

Social media seems to be everywhere these days with over a billion people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and other social media platforms. In fact, it’s hard to overstate the power of social media in our society.

For the issue of climate change to be front and center in the lives of everyday Americans and people around the world, we can leverage the benefits of social media in connecting like-minded people and creating a larger awareness of the climate change crisis. Anyone even mildly interested in social media can learn how to better use it as a tool to spread the word about climate change. Here are some ways social media can increase awareness of climate change and maybe even spur people to become involved in climate change activism at some level:

  • Change how people view climate change by posting images, facts, statistics and hyperlinks to relevant articles and by featuring in your posts people who are taking positive steps to address it.
  • Create engagement with friends/followers and shares/likes – people want to be engaged and feel connected. That’s why social media is so popular.
  • Build a support network around this issue – create a web of people to spread the word to their friends and followers and follow this issue that they care about, thus building bigger networks of change-makers.
  • Extend the reach of your posts to people beyond your usual circle by including relevant hashtags and tags.
  • Possibility of post going viral – viral posts have upwards of thousands or even millions of views, shares, and likes. With that kind of visibility and exposure, more people will start to contemplate your climate change message who might not otherwise even be aware of climate change.

[Read more…]

San Diegans’ Letters to the Editor About Break Free from Fossil Fuels Campaign

Dear Editor,

Many San Diegans participated in last weekend’s Break Free From Fossil Fuels rally where thousands marched in solidarity to demand oil, coal, and gas be kept in the ground and move to 100 percent renewable energy sources. I admonish the Union Tribune for not covering this event because it was not deemed “local” or newsworthy.  The protesters are part of a worldwide event in which demonstrators converge in different cities to break free from the “chains” of fossil fuels.  Los Angeles, home to the biggest center for urban oil production, practices dangerous oil extraction in some neighborhoods with disregard to the health and safety of the people and for the environment.  Los Angeles elected officials should commit to a Climate Action Plan similar to the steps of San Diego’s CAP, which aims to reduce the greenhouse gas effect and work to create a fair, equitable and sustainable future.

Connie Castro

Mira Mesa

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***Published in the Union Tribune May 18th 2016***

Dear Sir/Madam,

I participated in the Break Free from Fossil Fuels rally in Los Angeles yesterday.  I was one of almost a hundred San Diegans participating. This was part of a global wave of actions in the US, UK, Philippines, Germany, Nigeria etc, calling for us to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to put the brakes on climate change.  It’s really important we get action on addressing climate change, which is threatening humanity on so many fronts and already creating climate refugees – including from island nations and low-lying parts of the U.S.. [Read more…]