Category Archives: Green Sangha Chapter News

Civil Discourse: How Do We Do It?

A report on our August 17 workshop at BioMarin San Rafael

Opening meditation by Maeve Murphy

Moderator:  Stuart Moody


  • Maureen Parton, Marin County Supervisor’s Aide
  • Renee Goddard, council member, Town of Fairfax
  • Ella Ledyard, Ross Valley School District alumna
  • Mary Kay Sweeney, Executive Director, Homeward Bound
  • Andy Peri, former advocacy director, Marin County Bicycle Coalition

Closing flute rhapsody by Michael Davis, US Pure Water

Like many counties across the state, Marin County is facing challenges that won’t go away easily.  Some may be unique to our area, but others are common to many municipalities.  Homelessness, traffic congestion, climate change, and the relentless pressure of rising populations all need our attention.  And they need faster response than we have given them in the past.

How do we get traction on issues when emotional temperatures rise?  How do we create solutions that serve the greater good and build community instead of dividing it?  These are the questions we pondered together on August 17.

Andy Peri gave one answer, in his story of facing Hal Brown’s anger over the Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s “taking” of a 150-foot strip of roadway.  The strip had been much-used by local parents for parking and drop-off at Kent Middle School along College Avenue and was now designated for a bike pathway.  “Listen for the needs,” Andy said.  “If you can identify the needs, then you can generate solutions.  Dichotomies are never true, and they’re guaranteed to create conflict.”

“How do you get beyond dichotomies?”  Peter Graumann and Greg Brockbank asked this question for many of us.  So many issues that come before decision-makers are constructed as dichotomies:  do you approve the project, or do you deny it?  Do you vote for the proposal, or against it?

Additional answers appeared in many forms through the evening.  Here is a summary of thoughts from the other panelists, followed by principles and practices embedded in their presentations and in the larger conversation.

Maureen Parton.  “What seems like a blessing may be a curse. What seems like a curse may be a blessing.”  Her example:  Charles McGlashan’s recovery from unexpected opposition by local grocers to his proposed ban on plastic tote-bags.  Going back to the drawing board, Charles and team (including Maureen) built a coalition of advocates, grocers, and county officials.  Over a series of meetings, this group came up with a plan that was better than what Charles had initially proposed.  The ban passed at the Board of Supervisors without any local opposition.  Photo:  Charles Mc Glashan & Susan Adams interviewed by KCBS.

Renee Goddard.  A metaphor for our public conversations:  what if we were to see community projects and issues as nature treks – shared journeys where cooperation is essential, where participants extend helping hands whenever needed to ensure that each member of the group is safe and successful, and where beauty and wonder are all around?

Many “C” words express the soul of civility:  compassion, concession, conversation, constructiveness.  Another key word:  crisis.  Crises in public policy can become opportunities for growth when we see them through the lens of the cooperative nature trek.  Differences in opinions, then, cam drive solution-making, as each participant has the potential to bring at least one new idea, skill, or piece of information to the process.

Ella Ledyard.  Anonymity can degrade civility.  This is the danger of social media:  it’s easier to say things without thinking through the possible effect on their readers.  Level-headed discussion takes more time, but it can prevent hurt feelings.  The ease of typing out one’s thoughts and opinions makes it all the more important to take a step back and look at what you’re saying before you send it.  Be conscious of what you are saying!

Mary Kay Sweeney.  Example of civil discourse at work:  the Dominican Sisters’ “Yellow Hallway” project.  The Sisters followed a stepwise procedure:

  • Hosting a reception for neighbors in a quiet, comfortable, holy setting. Sitting in a circle with wine and cheese, Sister Maureen described the plan.  The sisters calmly listened to all the concerns raised by the neighbors.
  • Meeting with City officials to review zoning concerns and how to apply for an easement.
  • Speaking before the Planning Commission
  • Speaking before the City Council

Three elements of their approach:

  1. The sisters were clear on the goal, and stayed focused on their motivation:  “We have space, and we want to share it.”
  2. Proponents spoke calmly, knowledgably, and eloquently.
  3. They showed how the project was part of the solution to a larger problem that the whole community acknowledges.

Photo:  volunteers at Homeward Bound’s New Beginnings Center, Hamilton Parkway, Novato:

Anna Pletcher, attorney, complemented these ideas with a reminder of the power of story.  Recounting an experience or series of events, when done authentically and with good will, can stimulate imagination and draw people into exploring ideas with you.

Sashi McEntee, Mill Valley city council, pointed out that when citizens come to council meetings and other public hearings, it is usually because they have a complaint or a concern.  They are also giving up something else that they would rather have been doing, such as having dinner with their family or taking care of their home.  They are thus likely in a state of discomfort or tension.  Recognizing the inconvenience, if not discomfort or suffering, inherent in this situation can help public officials remember to stay compassionate and considerate.

More principles & practices

Vision.  Begin with a plan.  Define clearly the outcome you hope for.  Keep the goal in mind.

Prepare.  Do your homework.  Get to know the issue as thoroughly as you can, so that you can present your ideas clearly, and be receptive to others’ input.

Outreach.  Concentrate on friend-raising.  The underlying agenda for every issue campaign or project is building community.

Listen.  Take time to listen, so that you may truly understand each other.  Be open to learning from those whom you came to persuade.  They may persuade you as well.

Empathy.  Think of the other side.  They have needs and goals, too.  Listen for these needs, acknowledge them, and talk together about how these needs can be fulfilled at the same time that yours are being addressed.

Respect.  Remember that each person is to him or herself the most important person in the world.  Remember that everyone is trying to avoid suffering and to find satisfaction.

Flexibility.  In the light of what you learn from others, explore what kinds of adjustments might improve your original plan.

Patience.  Give your project time to take shape and ripen.

Calm.  A modicum of inner peace helps with all of these elements above.  A clear and tranquil mind can think more effectively, listen more easily, and see more deeply our shared humanity.

If you can do these things, the resulting compromise (i.e., the co-created solution) can bring more benefit than the plans that advocates, opponents, and/or decision-makers had originally brought to the table.

Finding your balance

Sat Aug 19, 3-5 pm
Stress Management Center, 1165 Magnolia, Larkspur

Good balance is essential for an active and satisfying life. As our bodies age, it seems, our sense of balance slowly slips away.  Yet most of this decline is due to stress, inactivity, and fatigue. You can reverse this effect through activities which awaken your awareness of gravity, movement, and space. These exercises are easy to learn and fun to practice.  You will learn:

  • A self-massage routine
  • Gentle, enlivening warm-ups
  • Simple yoga poses
  • Breathing and relaxation techniques

Mark your calendar and get ready to relax, unwind, and energize your system in a hands-on, hearts-on workshop with Stuart Moody, MA, Registered Yoga Teacher.

Cost:  $20

Sign up here.

Upward lift“Balance is the natural state of life, because the basic characteristic of the fundamental element of life, pure consciousness, is complete balance.” — Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Students comment:

“Stuart is a very knowledgeable and gentle teacher.”

“This class is wonderful for stress reduction.”

“I feel more relaxed now than I have in years.”

Space is limited.  Buy your ticket here.

Maeve Murphy, Green Sangha activist

Maeve portraitMaeve Murphy is a Green Sangha member and group leader. She discovered Green Sangha through a talk on Rethinking Plastics sponsored by Sustainable Fairfax.  She subsequently attended a retreat at the home of Sita Khufu in San Anselmo, and soon was taking the Rethinking Plastics speaker training.  She works for the California State Bar, and is helping her organization reduce waste through recycling and more mindful consumption. Since 2012, she has served as Beach Captain for the California Coastal Cleanup at McNear’s Beach (her report on the 2015 clean-up is here.)  Maeve spoke with board member Stuart Moody on February 10, 2016.

 Q: What are your roots in the environmental movement?

 Thousand Lakes Wilderness - USFS LassenA:  When I was a child, my parents took me and my siblings into the outdoors a lot.  From age 6 to 13, I spent my summers in Lassen National Forest, where there were no paved roads, no electricity, no telephones. We were free-range kids and played, swam, fished, and explored every day for the whole summer. I formed a deep connection to nature.

Q:  How did you get started in taking care of the environment?

A:  The first environmental action that I remember was when I was 12 or 13:  I started picking up litter in the woods, mostly along the roads.

Q:  Did your parents tell you to do this?

A:  No.  I felt saddened that people would litter the forest and disrespect it with their carelessness.  No one else was cleaning up the litter, so I did.  I would take a bag with me on walks and pick up what I found.  I delivered a lot of bags of litter to the ranger station.

Q:  How did you discover Green Sangha?

Maeve collection 1A: I saw a little article in the Pacific Sun about a talk in Fairfax.  It mentioned plastics, which was an issue I felt strongly about and I had done some work on, so that piqued my interest.  What you and Andy said in the talk resonated with me – taking a mindful approach to a very difficult environmental problem.

Q: What do you like about Green Sangha?

A: The actual programs – initially plastics.  And, the message of environmental action grounded in spirituality.  In my activism perhaps I could be a little over-zealous at times.  Sometimes I’d feel angry when people seemed oblivious or apathetic and perhaps that showed.

So, I liked in Green Sangha the approach of a more loving activism.  I think more carefully now about the way a message might be received.  I’m more aware of how it lands, how it might touch the heart of the listener. But I’ve also learned to be more accepting of ‘what is,’ how things really are instead of how I think they should be.

There were times when I’d get passionate about an environmental problem and my friends would say, “Well, that’s your issue,” meaning that they were not so exercised over the problem.  Green Sangha has helped me be more aware of how I’m coming across.  For example, I was riding on the ferry and saw a man toss a beer bottle into the trash.  At one time I might have said, “You know, that’s recyclable,” or maybe scowled.  But this time, I picked up the bottle and said with a smile, “Did you know they have recycling bins here?  I’ll put it there.”  He smiled back, and thanked me.  And maybe next time he’ll think about where he puts his bottle.

Q: What is your current involvement with Green Sangha?

Quiet shadeA: I am a supporting member.  I have been a chapter facilitator, and occasionally lead the meditation at special events. I also represent Green Sangha as Beach Captain on Coastal Cleanup Day at McNear’s Beach. I took the Rethinking Plastics training, too. Now, working full-time for the State Bar of California, I am finding ways to gradually engage the organization in reducing their waste.

I had led group meetings in my previous environmental projects, and given talks, but I never thought that I would be leading a group in meditation!  It feels good to be able to do this small thing to help increase people’s consciousness.

Q: What excites you about Green Sangha and the environmental movement now?

A:  The opportunity to make change collectively.  An individual can do something, but the effect is limited.  I feel buoyed being around and working with people who share my passion and are committed to action.

Q: Do you have any advice for mindful activists like yourself?

A:  Speak your truth, because if these issues that we think are important are not in the conversation, nothing changes.  And if you can speak that truth with respect, empathy, and grace, but still with passion, you can effect change. It’s still a challenge for me, trying to do this with awareness of how it will be heard.

Find a way to connect with people.  After all, they are you and you are them.

Dominican team w Maeve

We marched for climate!

Saturday, November 21, 2015
On a brisk, sunny November morning, Green Sangha joined hundreds of citizen-activists to march for real action at the upcoming UN Climate Talks. Matt Eremko, Chuck Trumble, and Linda Currie were among the participants. “It was quite a special day to participate in,” said Matt. Here are some of his photos, beginning with the pre-march meditation with the Buddhist Climate Action Network:

Pre-march meditation 2 has been a major leader in climate awareness-raising, and climate actions, from rallies to the carbon divestment campaign.  We enjoyed joining forces with them and everyone there.  Other organizations present included Occupy SF, Environmental Justice Working Group,, and the Party for Socialism & Liberation.

Banners on the street 2

As on Moving Planet Day in SF (Sept 24, 2011), we appreciated the degree of love and goodwill expressed by participants.  As Jonathan Gustin and Diana Winston wrote in the Green Sangha Principles of Activism, “We see in our lives the same greed and confusion that we oppose. This helps us to have compassion for others. We fight the confusion that causes suffering, not the person who is confused. There is no ‘other’ to fight against anyway; we simply meet ourselves.”

Love banner 2

“As we walked toward downtown Oakland,” Matt reports, “the temperature warmed, the sky was blue, and the energy was felt.  There was a marching band, drummers, a portable PA system with chanting of environmental slogans — all together provided a powerful sense of purpose for us all.”

Banners 2

The camaraderie was everywhere, and infectious.  Below, Chuck Trumble (center) and Linda Currie (to his L) had a happy reunion with fellow participants in the 2014 People’s March for the Climate (the T-shirts they are wearing were designed by Linda for their trip across country via Amtrak).

Climate Train reunion 2

In The World We Have (2008), Thich Nhat Hanh wrote: “Our spiritual life is the element that can bring about the energies of peace, calm, brotherhood, understanding, and compassion.  Without that, our earth doesn’t stand a chance.”

Mindful steps required

We hold in our hearts and our hands the miracle of mindfulness in action.  With a deep bow of gratitude, we acknowledge all those who took mindful steps on November 21 on behalf of our home, planet Earth.


Teri Gerritz, mindful activist

Linda, Matt, Teri

Teri (R) celebrates Arbor Day in 2015 with Linda Currie and Matt Eremko at Green Gulch

Teri Gerritz, Green Sangha member and group leader, has been hosting meetings and retreats at her home in Berkeley since 2010.  An avid hiker, bicyclist, and world traveler, she has worked on political campaigns, habitat restoration, and plastics awareness.  She spoke with board member Jonathan Billig on Wednesday, August 12, 2015.

JB: How did you discover Green Sangha and why were you drawn to it initially?

Teri: I heard about Green Sangha from a friend who lives in Marin. Compassionate action is what really drew me to Green Sangha. My mother was an activist, but she was always in tears about the state of the world, and I didn’t want to be upset all the time as she was. I wanted to find a way to become involved that wouldn’t take such a heavy toll on me.

JB: What are some of the things that you learned through your Green Sangha experiences?

Teri: Finding common ground with other people instead of focusing and playing up on the differences is very helpful, and Green Sangha has helped me with that. I have a good friend whose politics are very different from mine, and her husband has VERY different politics, yet I can find common ground with him. Before my time with Green Sangha, I’m not sure I could have done that.

One of the things that I learned was that you never make anyone else into the enemy. It’s a matter of education, and we question ourselves and know that we might have something to learn, too. You can be a lot more effective if you hear where other people are coming from, and you might find a better entry point.

JB: What is your current involvement with Green Sangha?

Teri: The East Bay chapter meets at my house every month, even sometimes when I’m gone. I also work a lot of the events. Every meeting I provide the coffee and tea in my house and set up and clean up afterward. I also pay membership once a year.

JB: Are there any specific techniques that you have found useful?

Teri: Green Sangha gave me the meditation and the activism components of Buddhist practice. I did do a silent meditation retreat about ten years ago, but I had some trouble applying what I learned to everyday life because I wanted a more active process. Because of Green Sangha I have been involved with a regular meditation group, so the connections have been very helpful. I like Margaret Mead’s idea, that change can be significant even if it seems small, and it has to start with you, not with other people.

JB: How is your experience with Green Sangha connected to the work you currently do?

Teri: Well, for one thing I really like the Green Sangha principles. They’re on the wall in my office!

I work with an organization for retired teachers, and I’ve introduced some Green Sangha practices at the retired teachers meetings. I’ve found that the board meeting is more productive, calmer, and people listen to each other more after we do a simple body scan. At our most recent meeting, I led part of Jack Kornfield’s forgiveness meditation. I also share mindfulness with some of my students, many of whom suffer from anxiety. It helps them a lot.

JB: Do you have any advice for mindful activists or social-change oriented educators like yourself?

Teri: It’s easy to feel like we’re not doing enough, and I try to remind myself that I’m doing what I can and that other people are doing what they can. Mainly it’s Principle 5 from Green Sangha’s list: we meet injustice without becoming lost in it. That sums it up. I just think it’s a fun journey.

Also, I find that when you sit with other people it’s more powerful than sitting alone. Even if they’ve never meditated before, there’s something about the group energy. Something about being in that room together, and community – it’s very powerful.

Teri (back R) with fellow watershed stewards Allison Vogel (L) and Rebecca ines (R)

Teri (back R) with fellow watershed stewards Allison Vogel (L) and Rebecca ines (R)




The real Columbus Day

Each week, the Metta Center for Nonviolence sends out a daily “metta-gram” – a thought-provoking, heart-touching message connecting the life and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi with issues of our day. Copied below is today’s essay, reflecting on the real meaning, and the real potential, of Columbus Day.

You may recall that Berkeley, CA, became the first municipality to change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992. South Dakota preceded even Berkeley, re-naming the second Monday of October “Native American Day.” This year, Seattle and Minnesota joined the list of municipalities changing the designation of this holiday. Sixteen states do not recognize the holiday at all. In Arizona, we have one state legislator carrying the torch.

To get on the Daily Metta list, write to

“True economics stands for social justice.”

–Gandhi (Harijan, October 9, 1937)

Columbus Day, a national holiday in the United States, seems to be a celebration of Christopher Columbus, the man, the adventurous, courageous Italian explorer who convinced the Spanish king to send him on a sea-mission. Though really, it is a subversive celebration – a condoning – of his actions, his violence, and his economics. More than an explorer, Columbus was something far more problematic, and even emblematic of modern culture: he was what we would call today an “economic hit man,” opening an entire continent up for colonization.

Our national choice to uphold him as one of our “great people” only signals to us that we have yet to fully transform our consciousness around the need for ethics in economics. Is it any wonder the malls are packed with sales on this day? It’s a day to celebrate stuff, meaningless material goods with little regard for those who made them, or are forced to sell them. But, here’s the important piece: it’s not enough for those of us committed to nonviolence to stop with such a negative analysis. Our goal must be to understand why he was who he was and what we might do differently.

I wonder what would have transpired in world history, our collective legacy, had Columbus refused to dehumanize those whom he encountered in his travels. What would have been different if instead of a mission acting as a gateway to colonization, he spearheaded a goodwill mission for mutual interdependence and knowledge sharing?

But no one taught or trained Sir Columbus in nonviolence. No one gave him the insight that to be “manly” and brave meant anything else besides violence and dominance. No one helped him to understand that there was no such thing as cultural inferiority. He had only been taught that his identity was superior. If Columbus had learnt these lessons before taking off across the ocean, perhaps a holiday in his name would be worth celebrating. For now, let’s use the day to do better by those around us.

Experiment in Nonviolence:
What can we do differently today that would help to transform the values upheld by celebrating Columbus Day?

Arbor Day success!

Watershed restor'n 12-14Ten years ago, Sukey Parmelee initiated the Watershed Stewardship program at Green Gulch.  Early projects focused on removing invasive plant species such as poison hemlock and cape ivy, planting native shrubs and grasses, trail improvement, and general upkeep.  Green Sangha joined the project, working the earth, breathing the fresh air, and diving into silence in the Zendo at the end of the afternoon.  Every February, we celebrated Arbor Day with tree planting and the other ongoing tasks of land stewardship.

By 2013, with grants and visions in hand, the Watershed Stewards began to chart out the largest project yet:  restoring the meander to the stream flowing through the property to the sea.  Here’s what Sukey’s wrote shortly before Arbor Day:

Joyful woman

“Our new beautifully sculpted meander — complete with large woody debris, willow mattresses, gravels, rock work and inviting pools — is the centerpiece for this year’s Arbor Day/Restoration Day.

“We are so excited to be able to plant hundreds of perennials, shrubs, and trees along this 720-foot stretch of creek. These plantings will provide habitat for many creatures of water, air and land to come and settle into this jewel in our lower fields.”

Sixty volunteers attended Arbor Day. Twenty of them came through Green Sangha.  We were honored to be acknowledged at the opening ceremony, and exhilarated to be part of this great day of planting.

UHS volunteers - Arbor DayAs Sukey wrote after this radiant work party:  “You made it happen! All of the work you put into the restoration site over the past year and a half helped make the space ready for the machines and heavy work of last summer. You came to work party days. You came to work week. You came and helped dig up alder trees last April, came and planted them in December and came back last Sunday for the big planting. What a blessing!

“A group of third graders came out yesterday and enjoyed racoon tracks, newts, crossing the creek in a variety of ways, and planting and weeding. Everyone is involved!”

Come to our next day of Inner & Outer Restoration at Green GulchSunday, May 10, 12-6 pm.  RSVP for lunch reservations and carpooling: or (510) 532-6574

Linda, Matt, Teri





Houston, we have a problem

The following article was published January 13 on the Daily Kos:  The author, Bill Carney, is president of Sustainable San Rafael.  

Apollo 13I didn’t own a TV in 1970, so my knowledge of the Apollo 13 tragedy-turned-triumph is pretty much limited to the Tom Hanks movie twenty-five years after the fact. But as I watch our new Republican Congress assume the controls of climate policy, I find myself repeating, in quiet desperation, “Houston, we have a problem.”

It wasn’t just that I didn’t own a TV back then. It was also that I trusted the spirit, ingenuity and tenacity of the American enterprise to pull through and save the day. That youthful confidence in America turned out to be well founded.

But with climate change, I’m not so sure.

Which is why I’m directing this communication primarily to my friends, relatives and countrymen in Texas—arguably Mission Control for both the oil industry driving climate change and the political climate beclouding effective action to fix this potentially catastrophic malfunction in the human stewardship of spaceship earth.

Paper mill smokestacksAs inside Apollo 13, our main problem now is the build-up of carbon dioxide to life-threatening levels. Just as the metabolism of the three men on board overwhelmed the life-support systems of their craft, the metabolism of our industrial technology—fueled by two centuries of burning coal, oil and gas—is overwhelming the natural systems of our planet.

That carbon overload is trapping sunlight and heating up the atmosphere like a locked car in a hot Texas parking lot. The heat kills directly, 70,000 people during a single European heat wave. Rising temperatures also trigger a cascade of broader failures in planetary functions that are critical to human wellbeing—storms spiraling to immense dimensions; ice caps and glaciers melting; storm surges and inundation teed up by rising sea levels; floods from intensifying rainfall; increasing droughts and wildfires.

Then come the related disruptions to human systems, agricultural, economic, humanitarian, security. And to our fellow species, precipitating the sixth mass extermination in geologic history.

“Houston, we have a problem.”

The Apollo astronauts were able to solve their atmospheric crisis, with a great deal of help and ingenuity from below, by salvaging a square carbon filter and jury-rigging it to fit onto a round hole. They literally tore apart their instruction manual to get the materials needed to make it work.

That’s the kind of creativity we need to bring to the climate crisis, along with the national teamwork to brainstorm solutions and the discipline to get the job done.

Redwood trailNature already has on board the necessary carbon filters. We can restore and replenish vast carbon-absorbing forests, coastal marshes and agricultural soils. We can also conserve what the Apollo team called “critical consumables”—mainly energy and water—with far greater efficiency and even elegance in the way we live.

But such remedial actions will only work if we simultaneously reduce the root cause of climate change, which is burning fossil fuels. Here we have a huge capability that the Apollo astronauts did not. We are able to change the industrial metabolism that’s emitting all that planet-baking carbon dioxide in the first place.

Again, we can do so with existing technologies and resources. We can convert our power grid from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy like wind, solar and hydro. We can construct zero-net-energy buildings, and ramp up an emission-free transportation network of electric cars and transit.

The challenge is how to harness the power of the marketplace to redirect the economy towards such choices. One ready method would be to gradually gear up a ‘fee-and-dividend’ program—charging the fossil fuel industry for the carbon pollution it emits, while returning the cash to consumers to purchase cleaner alternatives and offset any costs.

This is the kind of approach that conservatives should champion, since it would encourage economic innovation, diversification, and predictability. There are jobs to be created and money to be made.

Apollo 13 Command Module approaches splashdown. 4-17-70.

Apollo 13 Command Module approaches splashdown. 4-17-70.

The final challenge to the Apollo 13 mission was to manually adjust the trajectory needed to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere without burning up or bouncing off. The movie shows the team’s white-knuckled mastery of this near miracle by keeping the craft’s small porthole firmly aligned with the one fixed point available, the earth itself.

That’s exactly the point of reference that we need now to avoid the imminent disaster of a collapsing climate. The way home is to keep the earth clearly in view in all our decisions. Moreover, as the planet quickly warms towards irreversible tipping points, it increasingly looks like we may only get one shot to nudge our trajectory back on course. And it needs to be soon.

The first step is to get our new Congress—the actual Mission Control of climate stabilization—to hear clearly, we have a problem, and then provide the leadership to mobilize the ingenuity and spirit of our nation to return us to a healthy planet.

Bill Carney instructs the troopsBill Carney has organized multiple public events, including lectures and rallies such as Marin County’s contingent for Moving Planet Day in San Francisco on Sep 24, 2011.  As President of Sustainable San Rafael, he has kept Climate Protection and Climate Protection at the top of the agenda for city and county government.

Ten minutes of silence

Have you heard of the book by John Francis, PhD, called Planetwalker: How To Change Your World One Step At A Time?  In 1971, John lived in Inverness, CA.  Like so many coastal residents, he was deeply disturbed when two oil tankers, the Arizona Standard and the Oregon Standard, collided beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, spilling 840,000 gallons of oil into the water and onto the shores. He joined hundreds of volunteers trying to clean the beaches and save marine life.  He wanted to respond in an even deeper way, and decided to stop riding in motorized vehicles. Our cars, after all, were the machines that had led us on the path to the oil spill and so much other pollution.

John’s friends tried to persuade him that his symbolic action would make no difference. He argued with them, but did not like the way he felt after these arguments.  So he decided to keep his mouth shut for a day, and then another day . . . He felt so much better, and found such peace in communicating non-verbally, that he maintained silence for 17 years (with a one-hour hiatus). When he was accepted to graduate school in the Midwest, he wrote back to request a delay in matriculation, since he would have to walk to get there.  As a graduate assistant, he led undergrad seminars without speaking.  Discussions were so lively that there was a waiting list to join his section.  Having mastered the art of silence, he now speaks beautifully.

ItzcuauhtliI thought of all these things when I read this week about an even younger environmentalist, a Native American boy named Itzcuauhtli, who in October took a vow of silence until world leaders do something real about climate change.

On December 10, we will be joining people all over the world, observing 10 minutes of silence in solidarity with this 11-year-old activist.  You may do so at any time of the day, but we especially encourage you to take silence at 3:50 pm PST – a reference to the upper acceptable concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (350 ppm) and to the group that has done so much to raise awareness of this issue,

Here is more detail from one supporter: An 11 year old indigenous environmental activist has taken a vow of silence until world leaders finally act to effectively deal with climate disruption. This young man is not just any 11 year old. He and his 14 year old brother are well-known eco-hip-hop artists who perform at events around the world. In just a few weeks his creative approach to his spiritual despair has impacted tens of thousands of people. And in my imagination, it could blossom into a heartful global shock-wave of silent children, upending business as usual everywhere – as was envisioned by a 1987 political fantasy movie….

Dear friends,
I have been deeply moved by the action of an 11 year old – Itzcuauhtli (Eat-Squat-Lee) Roske-Martinez who stopped talking October 27, 2014 “until world leaders take action on Climate Change.” Itzcuauhtli makes it clear that he thinks all of us are at least as important for climate action – if not more so – as officially recognized world leaders. I will be joining him and thousands of others being silent on December 10 for the same purpose.
But there’s a bigger possibility pulsating behind this simple act by one child. I think a major reason his action struck me so deeply was a movie I saw 25 years ago, “Amazing Grace and Chuck.” In it Chuck, a 12 year old Little League baseball star pitcher, is so upset about the possibility of nuclear war – for some of the same reasons that Itzcuauhtli and I are upset about the potential impact of climate disruption – that he stops playing baseball, an act which reverberates throughout his small Midwestern town, with small but potent ripples reaching national media. A growing number of professional sports players and teams soon join his protest by stopping playing their sports. When his biggest ally, basketball star Amazing Grace, is assassinated in a plane explosion, Chuck takes a vow of silence like Itzcuauhtli’s “until there are no more nuclear weapons.” He inspires millions of children around the world to join him. Pressure builds rapidly for the US and Russian leaders until they finally sign a major disarmament pact. Here are some video clips.
The movie was panned by most professional reviewers as far-fetched – with an interesting exception being Siskel and Ebert, who took it seriously.
Itzcuauhtli says: “Join me in this vow until world leaders: 1) Agree on and implement a Global Climate Recovery Plan to get us back to a safe zone of 350 ppm; 2) Mass[ively] reforest the planet to help absorb all our excess carbon and; 3) Support renewable energy solutions to replace the dirty fossil fuel industry.”
To that he could well have added “become vegetarians” or at least “publicly reduced their meat consumption” since the profound role of meat production in disrupting climate is becoming painfully obvious.
I invite you to explore this remarkable kid – and his 14 year old brother Xiuhtezcatl, both talented eco-hip-hop artists who perform at events around the world – and their family and youth organization Earth Guardians