Earth Day

Need a new religion-related angle for Earth Day? Here's how to get started

Need a new religion-related angle for Earth Day? Here's how to get started

If you pay attention to news about climate change you're undoubtedly aware that the warnings about the potential catastrophes facing human civilization are increasingly dire. I pay close attention to the subject and its clear to me that the warnings are coming in greater volume and getting ever-more threatening.

I'm crawling toward my mid-70s so I'm probably too old for the worst of the predictions to manifest fully during my lifetime. But I can't help but think that my children and certainly my grandchildren will experience climate events that could upend human life as we know it.

Just last week, for example, saw coverage that the massive ice sheets covering Antarctica appear to be collapsing faster than previously thought. That means a steeper rise in sea levels, which is terrible news for coastal populations worldwide. Click here to read how The New York Times covered the story.

Of course I'm aware that not everyone agrees about the reality of climate change or to what degree, if any, it's human-caused. But this post is not about arguing the issue's merits.

Like the preponderance of scientists who study the issue, I believe that climate change is a real threat and that the increased levels of atmospheric heat-trapping gases result directly from humanity's continued reliance on fossil fuels, in particular coal and petroleum.

Disagree? Think liberal media has blown the issue out of proportion? Say so in the comment section below. Give us some mainstream URLs for your facts and claims.

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Whose yoga is it? Journalists, proceed with care because the details matter

Whose yoga is it? Journalists, proceed with care because the details matter

One of my most uncomfortable experiences as a journalist was a story I did in 1995 to mark the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. I worked in Washington for Religion News Service at the time, and my task was to come up with a story with national appeal.

I decided to check in with Native Americans to learn what the day meant to them as members of a culture that non-Indians such as myself naively believed still held closely to traditional spiritual beliefs about humanity's place in a holistic world order. (In truth, there were dozens of distinct indigenous cultures spread across the Americas prior to European colonization.)

I'd connect environmentalism with indigenous beliefs for mainstream newspaper readers (RNS's main client base at that time). It was, I thought, a story sure to get widespread national play.

So I started making calls, beginning with the editor of Indian Country News, then the leading national publication covering Native American interests.

Did I get a tongue lashing.

What a silly premise, he told me. Poverty-stricken contemporary Native Americans cared more about day-to-day survival than Earth Day. Nor did he wish to indulge some white reporter's attempt to link contemporary environmental concerns with some generalized, romanticized and fantasized indigenous spiritual trope.

You took our land and now you're after our beliefs! I was, he bitterly insisted, committing cultural appropriation.

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