Monthly Archives: March 2015

Your small actions won’t save the planet

I’m sure you know the drill as well as anyone. We’re told that if we do our part for the environment, if we recycle, eat more plants, maybe bring our own shopping bags to the store, buy a hybrid car and drive a little less, or even some more extreme actions, we can save the earth.

But what’s the point of a few people making small changes, when at the same time we’re hearing about the drought in California. How there’s one year of water left when the state grows a good amount of the produce consumed in the country but bottled water still reigns supreme and Nestle continues to bottle water in the state. What’s the point, when clothing manufacturers can continue to go to the poorest countries on Earth to make cheap clothes and dump chemicals in the water supply? (And cause the local spirits to rise up and speak through the women?) What’s the point when corporate entities have the power to influence legislation so they can continue to exploit people and land which isn’t in the CEO’s back yard?

When did consumerism come to trump citizenship? Instead of actually putting laws in place to halt and try to reverse the damage, now it’s buy more products which are Green (or “green”) so you can sleep easier at night. Easier to spend money (and possibly sneer at people who don’t) than fighting for bigger change.

Art by Shauna Aura Knight, used with permission

It’s easy to become depressed and apathetic when seeing this kind of information. It’s also tempting to don some kind of hair shirt or take up flagellation. And not everyone is able to take time off for rallies or actively work to lobby politicians. So what is there to do?

Go outside. Take the radical step of connecting with your local ecosystem. No matter what type of pagan (polytheist, etc.) you are, you do need the land around you. Even if you’re in a concrete jungle, there are still animals and plants and minerals around. Even if you’re a technopagan, your electronics would be useless without the metals inside, which come out of the earth. (and I’ll avoid discussion of the issues around rare earth mining today.) “Saving the earth” can seem remote if you have no idea of the land around you. Pick up some trash, identify the plants around you (and even find some you can use in your practice if you’re lucky), connect with the other primates living nearby even if they have forgotten or would deny any sort of connection with the ecosystem. Help them out if you can. Even a wave of acknowledgment can turn around their day.

Instead of trying to spend your way to a better planet, save a little money and work on making it a little better nearby. In this culture, it has become revolutionary.

With thanks to Alley Valkyrie for planting the seed and providing resources.

Additional resources
Sustainability is destroying the earth (though I have problems with some of Deep Green Resistance, like their gender essentialism and anti-trans* stance.)
The myths of sustainable consumption
Myths that support sustainability
The climate is changing

Racism, Rape Culture, and Pagan Events

3210478_xl–Shauna Aura Knight

Having just taught workshops at three of the big four Pagan conferences, and having attended a number of large Pagan festivals, I wanted to offer a bit of context for how some of these larger events have handled issues of social justice. While these events don’t represent the entire Pagan community, they do reflect issues and trends that ripple out to Pagans across the globe.

I’ve noticed a definite contrast in how specific events/communities are dealing with issues of racism, rape culture, harassment, cultural appropriation, transphobia, and other related issues. Some communities and events are actively embracing dialogue, and others don’t address these issues at all.

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Elder Care – Who Cares for the Caregiver

RevKess  his HP Balor MacLugh

RevKess with his HP Lord Balor

Over the last several years there has been a lot of talk about Elder care within the Pagan community. With the loss of such notable Elders as Isaac Bonewits, Judy Harrow, Peter Paddon and Morning Glory Zell, it has become a topic of conversation for many who are seeing the “old guard” pass on to other realms. What I do not see a lot of is talk about taking care of those who take care of our Elders.

I’m not going to dwell on what  makes someone an Elder.  That is a discussion that many have already tackled. I’ve even addressed it in podcast a few times with both “old guard” and the newer generations of Pagans. Instead, I’ll address taking care of both the Elders and those who take care of them. Continue reading

Detail Oriented Activism

As the weather changes here in New England and the feet of snow dropped on us this Winter begins to melt, the thoughts of many may turn toward causes that have lain dormant, hibernating through the cold months or only visible online as we huddled for warmth inside.

With Spring likely comes new Moral Monday protests.  And, as the 2016 campaign season begins, there will likely be fuel from both sides of the aisle to feed the flames of activism.  Even events of these past few months are likely to result in some work, for example the budgets by various governors slash eduction funding in their state which hits close to home considering I work in higher education within one of them, not to mention the continuing work that people are doing throughout the nation regarding race and law enforcement.

As we begin to get involved, don’t forget that the devil’s in the details.  When one works to fight authority, authority fights back, and it does so with all the bureaucratic might at its disposal.  To deal with that requires that at least some part of your organization work within the system.

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Our Power as Consumers

baby-elephantYou may have heard recently that Ringling Brothers is phasing out elephant performers.

I don’t usually write about “single issues” because I like to go after the fundamentals – compassion, moral exclusion, and so on. But the news that Ringling Bros. will free 13 Asiatic elephants is exactly why we take action: to save innocents from misery.

Going to the circus seems innocent, and for the attendees it is. I’m not ascribing malice to them. People like to watch elephants perform and marvel at them, at their beauty and skill. It’s the same for Seaworld, aquariums, or zoos. People don’t go to those places because they dislike animals or want them to suffer. They go there to celebrate them.
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Peace & Planet II

My last post on Pagan Activist I wrote about Peace & Planet events happening in New York City April 24-26, 2015. They’ll be an interfaith service which I hope Pagans will take a lead on. There’s a Panel Discussion planned for Thursday, March 5th, 7p-9p at the All Saint’s Church which I also have hope for Pagan attendance. (If you’re wondering why I’m not participating it’s because I live in Boston. Also, as the event is happening on my weekend to work, I won’t be able to attend, sadly.)

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Shark fin syndrome

Today’s post was inspired by a panel at Pantheacon two weeks ago, Gods and Radicals. I recommend reading the ‘zine after you finish with this post. During the discussion (in a tiny room meant for 25 and upwards of 75 were trying to take part), I found myself thinking of ideas to expand on for this blog. Eventually I decided to write out a pet theory I’ve had for several years.

If you are not familiar with the food, shark fin soup is a delicacy thought to have originated in China over 1,000 years ago. It was a delicacy found at special events such as weddings. Now it has become a more common dish, often found at business lunches as a sign of prosperity. In order to sate the demand for shark fins there is now a booming business of finning: cutting off the dorsal fins of sharks and throwing them overboard. Without this fin, sharks are unable to move, sink to the ocean floor, and die.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mO7hvOtYnck&w=560&h=315]

When I was younger my dream was to be a marine biologist. Sharks were one of my favorite aquatic life forms. Now they are a commodity. This is problematic on multiple levels. First, as apex predators, sharks serve a vital role in their ecosystems. (I’m not going to be going into details of that here but if you’re interested in learning more I highly recommend the book Where the Wild Things Were.) Second, and what led to my naming of shark fin syndrome, is the waste. The fin is not the only part of the animal which has been considered edible. I imagine that at least part of the reason why the fin was originally made into soup was to minimize the amount of leftover shark after it has been consumed. Instead of respecting the animal, and the hunt, now it’s simply another commodity. And who’s to care about dead sharks or decimating the cycle of life in the oceans? Sharks may not be the prettiest animal in the ocean and have the man-eater reputation thanks to Jaws. But that does not make them unnecessary, or only valuable by what prestige they can bring to humans.

I see this kind of thinking rampant in our cultures. With foods, it’s the wanting of specific cuts of meat, or latching on to a “super food” billed as a panacea when other, more common fare can have the same benefit but does not have a good PR department behind it. While my syndrome applies to things where we want a small amount of something while ignoring the totality, I think it applies well to other aspects of our society. Our overculture teaches us that if we want it and can put out the money for it, we should just be able to have it without consequence. If we want cheap goods, we have a right to them, along with overseas slave labor to make it and people receiving below-poverty level wages to sell them to us. Cheap food? Sure! Complete with migrant workers to pick it, monoculture grains (corn, wheat, and soy primarily) genetically engineered to withstand synthetic fertilizers and pesticides hosed over them and made stronger every year because the bugs feeding on them quickly become resistant, and causing the food which does come to our plate depleted of nutrients. Diamond jewelry or rare earth metals? War in African countries. A full wardrobe? Sweatshops in Bangladesh collapsing and killing workers.

How do we combat this waste? I wish I knew. Despite its marketing, making individual choices isn’t going to do much when the people in power are able to sell personality responsibility over making major ideological changes to the world at large. The back of the Gods and Radicals zine reads “An Other World Is Possible.” We need to actively work toward this world.

Resources

Shark Truth
Shark fin soup and the conservation challenge