I’m so pleased to be able to share this news with you. A recent study at Ohio State provides evidence that popular pain relievers may dull people’s capacity for empathy. That’s right; acetaminophen, present in more than 600 medicines according to the report and an active ingredient in common OTC drugs, dulls not only our own aches and pains but also at least moderately our ability to share others’ pain. Had we only known the answer might be this simple.

Study participants were students at OSU. Those who took acetaminophen tended to make less of what they heard about others’ pain and hardships as compared to those who had taken no painkiller (The authors note that because the study took place in a controlled laboratory setting, further research is warranted).

The report says that approximately 23% of pain-averse American adults use medicine weekly that contains acetaminophen – and I think I know who those 23% are. Joking, of course; capacity for empathy doesn’t fall into distinct groups but along a continuum of infinite degrees and across countless variables. Oliver Sacks makes that point in a “An Anthropologist on Mars.” Autistic Temple Grandin had almost no capacity to respond to human emotion and interaction but possessed a profound, life-shaping sensitivity to feelings of animals and dedicated herself to their well-being. We’re all on that continuum somewhere; the dichotomy experienced by Temple Grandin I often recognize in myself.

In Monday Memos we look at the world through an Earth Charter lens. You know that the Charter is all about respect for diversity and shared responsibility but that’s not quite the same thing as empathy. So a worthwhile question is whether a framework of values like the Charter, or religious faith for that matter, can strengthen human caring or even implant it where it doesn’t exist. We often hear it said that legislation can’t change people’s hearts, but law can usher in new expectations in which tolerance can evolve to familiarity and to appreciation. So in the same way when we adopt social policies built on principles of respect for diversity and care for the community of life we create an environment where the roots, branches and foliage of human empathy will flourish.

Warmly,
Jerry King

Recently, I and several members of Bricks Alliance, an umbrella non-profit recently organized as a 501C3, were talking before the monthly Board meeting. One of the members of the Board works for a major pharmaceutical company here in Indianapolis. She had volunteered to go on a company visit to India to help spread information about Tuberculosis prevention and drugs available to deal with this disease. She mentioned that they were served tea each morning by the office assistant. Her learning concerning Indian culture was that this person came from a different social class than those she was serving. No one thanked her for the tea except my friend and fellow Board member. She indicated this was not the only time the office assistant was ignored and not thanked. Before we go too far with a predictable diatribe on the ills of the class structure in India, let us look at our own tendencies in the United States of doing the same inappropriate behavior.

Principle 15 of the Earth Charter which reads: “Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.” For me this clearly applies to class divisions wherever they may appear. One can find them in the United States sometimes based on religion, political preference or wealth. I and the Lilly employee have volunteered for several years as part of an anti-poverty program. One of the human tendencies we quickly became aware of is that people who live in poverty become invisible in our culture except to the social service agencies that serve them. If we come across them, we tend to look away or cross the street. As America becomes more polarized politically, we need to be aware of this tendency we demonstrate on a regular basis to ignore those with less wealth or whose political opinions we disagree with.

Let me encourage you to do that which may make you feel uncomfortable. Talk to that person you may meet who does not have all the clothing and language of the middle class. You will find they have a lot to offer you. Yes as a progressive, I do hesitate to talk to a Tea Party Conservative. As I offer this challenge to you to talk to such a person, I also remind myself that the only way to break down the class, political, and wealth walls is to put into action what the Earth Charter charges us to do. We are to treat all human beings with respect and consideration. It will be tough, but worth the effort.

For the harmony of the world we leave our children:
John Drake

The Earth Charter Initiative’s second action guideline asks that we be “a living example of the spirit of the Earth Charter” in our day-to-day life – at home, in the work place, and in our community.

Before I plug Earth Charter Indiana’s upcoming annual meeting designed in large part to celebrate living examples of the spirit of the Earth Charter, I’ll take a bit of space to extend my gratitude to Dr. Craig Auchter who retired from Butler University at the end of this academic year. Craig taught a 300-level political science course on the Earth Charter itself, and was instrumental in the sustained success of Butler’s interdisciplinary program in Peace and Conflict Studies. Student Eric Becker acknowledged Craig in a note accompanying Becker’s recently published manuscript on environmental non-governmental organizations, thanking Craig for showing him “why peace is the way.” Thank you, Craig, for your deep commitment to the Earth Charter. Additionally, many of you may enjoy reading Eric’s paper; he pays considerable attention to Earth Charter Indiana.

I hope to see many of you in two weeks as we celebrate Hoosiers working to shape a sustainable future in Indiana.

-Ali O’Malley

It’s time for Earth Charter Indiana’s Annual Meeting!

Earth Charter Indiana has been busy this past year and we’re proud to have increased our membership, partnerships, and presence across Indiana. We cannot do this without you, our friends and supporters. Because we’ve had a full year, it’s important that we remember to take time to celebrate these many accomplishments.

Please join Earth Charter Indiana for our Annual Meeting on Monday, May 23 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Indiana Interchurch Center. We have a full program for the evening, including time to thank our donors, honor volunteers, celebrate major accomplishments of the past year and tell you about exciting new plans we have in store. We are particularly excited that Earth Charter Indiana’s two main programs, Sustainable Indiana 2016 and Youth Power Indiana, are both picking up steam, expanding our reach, and attracting more and more community and individual support – both volunteer and financial.

The Annual Meeting is also a great opportunity to make your annual contribution to Earth Charter Indiana to accelerate these great programs.

Will we see you at the Annual Meeting? Click Here to RSVP.

Thank you for your commitment to our work and we hope you come celebrate with us at our Annual Meeting on May 23.

Sincerely,
Jim Poyser
Executive Director

Rosemary Spalding
President of the Board

In this 15th year of living with the Earth Charter I’ve come ‘round to summing up what the Charter is all about. It is about what you do if you give a damn that Mother Earth, in all her magnificence, is in a death spiral caused by human selfishness.”

David Korten, a contemporary hero of mine, ended his first article in a new series of biweekly columns on the “Living Earth Economy” for YES! Magazine, with these words:

Our knowledge and communications technologies give us the means to turn away from our destructive war against nature, our worship of money, and our dependence on institutions that separate us from one another and nature. Humanity has been acting like a willful child, demanding everything and leaving messes everywhere. It is time for our species to take the step to maturity, to acknowledge that care and cooperation are key to happiness—and even survival. Only then can we achieve the positive potential innate in all of us.

I couldn’t agree more and the place to start is by each of us redefining what we mean by success and happiness. If success is getting rich and wealth is measured by money we can kiss the planet goodby and our children’s happiness as well. On the other hand if success and happiness are measured by harmonious relationships with nature and each other as outlined in the Charter we have a chance to survive and thrive.

We know what to do: plant more trees, eat a plant-based diet, walk more, buy less, waste nothing, kick our addiction to fossil fuels, share abundance, celebrate goodness with singing and dancing, and vote for candidates who pledge to curb climate change and economic injustice.

For our children’s children,
John Gibson

The “Prays Well With Others” Circles logo is a trademark of The Fountains.

In the last decades of czarist rule hordes of armed citizens fell on Jewish communities, synagogues and shops across Russia and the Ukraine committing physical violence and destruction of property. In spite of their unlawful and destructive ways, the groups bore names that reflected that they were deeply religious and ultra-patriotic.  In fact, if I remember the history right, the groups thrived under the tolerance of Church and Romanovs – with some reason to believe that both Church and Czar privately condoned the groups for service that they could not acknowledge publicly.  I think of these anti-Semitic groups as being very much like the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana and elsewhere across the US at approximately the same time. Alongside the Klan’s violent, hateful nature, its members maintained the façade of honorable citizens, often being business and civic leaders. It’s commonly understood that the Klan controlled the Indiana governor’s office during much of the 1920s. So those were extreme times.

Today we recognize that societal acts of hate and divisiveness often grow out of fear which vulnerable people experience when familiar order is threatened – when new groups enter a fragile economy, new generations turn away from established morality, families redefine traditional roles, those with uncertain hold on power feel the little they have slip away.  The world turns upside down.  Then and always, power holds onto power. As the grasp loosens, more frantic is the effort to hold on.

Monday Memo readers know that the Earth Charter espouses a very different world view which is that we survive strife-filled times not with fear of what we might lose but with generosity and shared dignity.  Rather than fighting over access to power, our job is to fight for conditions that ensure opportunity, inclusion and respect for infinite diversity and variations of faith.  As often happens, the ways that the Earth Charter points us to that understanding are more than I have space to include. A profitable few minutes would be to read the Charter again to look for language that guides us toward gratitude for our shared life.

With gratitude,
Jerry King

Recently, I have been reading a book on the power of asking the right question for a given situation.  The name of the book is “Power Questions” by Andrew Sobel and Jerald Panas.  I am part of a group being trained to be leaders at the company for which I work. After our first session with the consultant being used to help the group develop their leadership skills, we were provided with a suggested reading list which included this book.  I was skeptical that it would be any different than other books on power lunches and the like.  However, the authors used a series of conversations that they had been part of with client or potential clients.  To arrive at key information they asked questions and did not talk about how great they had been for other clients. These conversations were stimulated by asking a timely and well worded question.

You might be thinking, that is a good idea, but what does this have to do with the Earth Charter? Today, most of the conversations in the public square are not actual discussion, but words aimed to make a political, ideological, or ego driven point.  A well thought out question such as, what has been your most meaningful event or conversation in your life, opens doors and conversation.  The premise of the book that questions can lead to fulfilling conversations or finding out useful information is much needed today.  We need to talk to, not past each other.  These kinds of conversations will lead to behavior that is key to Principal 15 of the Earth Charter: “Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.”  Asking a question shows you respect them enough to ask.

The next time you speak with someone who holds a dramatically different point of view than you on a particular subject ask a question.  For example, if you know someone is a Climate Change denier, I would suggest asking them why they hold that point of view rather than declaring that scientific evidence proves you are correct.  We all know that Climate Change is very real, but we cannot convince others with rhetoric, but questions.  Try it out and let me know what happens.

For the next generation who depend on us;
John Drake

I recently spent a day with Craig Anderson, a psychologist whose work focuses on aggression and violence. Craig grew up on a farm in northern Indiana, attended Butler University, went on to graduate school at Stanford, and is now regarded as one of the 100 most influential living behavioral and brain scientists (Sternberg, Fiske, & Foss, in press).

During his recent visit to Butler, Anderson spoke to a packed room of students and community members about the linkages between rapid climate change and human violence. Put simply, climate change is a recipe for social disorder. Anderson described three pathways by which climate change fuels violence:

  1. Does your road rage flare up when the temperatures soar? If so, know you’re not alone, and you can blame the heat effect. Heat increases aggressive behavior by enhancing the aggressive content of our thoughts and making us more likely to perceive others in a hostile fashion.
  2. Risk factors for being a person who tends to behave aggressively such as poor pre- and postnatal nutrition are enhanced under the environmental conditions (e.g., food and water shortages) associated with climate change.
  3. Rapid climate change increases group violence by creating resource shortages that trigger eco-migration. Migrants in pursuit of food, water, and shelter then tend to experience conflict with the people who already live in the region to which they migrated. Many (e.g., Gleick, 2014) have applied this argument in the context of Syria’s civil war.

Climate change directly interferes with our ability to uphold Principle 16 of the Earth Charter: the promotion of a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace. Please take a look at what Hoosiers are doing to promote climate solutions: http://sustainableindiana2016.org/. We hope you will add your own solution story!

Thank you for your ongoing support of Earth Charter Indiana,
Ali

The first time I met Josh Fox, the anti-fracking activist and Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, was in 2014 at the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Bloomington where he spoke to a packed room after a viewing of his film, Gasland II.

Because the climate movement is astonishingly small sometimes, I ran into Fox again later that year, this time in Lima, Peru at the United Nations negotiations leading up to the now-famous Paris climate talks.

I was at the negotiations in Lima with a delegation of other youth leaders from the U.S. and Fox was there after having just emerged from the Amazon where he and his producer had been following an indigenous community for a new documentary in the works about climate change. While the negotiations were at risk of breaking down, we chatted in line together for over an hour waiting to get into a stiflingly hot room to hear U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry give a press conference about the importance of every nation contributing to solve climate change. Fox told me his vision was to use film to showcase pockets of community resilience and resistance all over the world. Cool.

Fast forward a year and a few odd months later. The world adopted the Paris Agreement and Fox’s film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can’t Change, is premiering on April 20.

I recently came across the trailer for the documentary (at the link above) and the title of the film alone terrified and moved me. According to the film’s website, the project poses two questions to the viewer:

What is it that climate change can’t destroy? What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?

I admit that I would not have been prepared to ask myself these deeply introspective questions when I met Fox and I’m not sure I am any better prepared to now as I watch the movie trailer. However, I’m beginning to understand that answering these questions is the resistance that Fox set out to document in communities around the world. To me, climate calamity cannot destroy my sense of purpose and place if the community I build around me is strong. I think the dedication and love of one’s own community is in itself a radical form of climate resilience.

When we tie together the principles of the Earth Charter and think about the climate solutions we need in Indiana, I think we must transcend the politics and even accept some of the inevitable climate impacts that we cannot avoid. However, in order to resist the worst impacts of climate change and be truly resilient, we must first fortify our relationships and our communities – the things climate can’t change.

Lauren Kastner

After suffering with adult onset asthma for 20 years—wheezing, inhalers, nebulizers, emergency rooms—I finally found a doctor who announced his diagnosis with these words:  “The bad news is your lungs are in terrible condition, the good news is I can help you.”

He was right.  With new medications now available and skillfully monitored I breathe easier every day.  Can’t remember the last time I resorted to a rescue inhaler or a nebulizer treatment.  Of course, faithful adherence to any “good news” regimen of medications is also essential.

Back in 1992 world leaders gathered in Rio to diagnose the illness of and prescribe a healing path for our Planet Home.  Even then a death spiral of deforestation, massive pollution of air, land and water, extinction of species, over consumption of natural resources, etc. was evident.  Eight years later, following a global search for solutions, a complex prescription was drafted and sent ’round the world.   It was called The Earth Charter: Values and Principles for a Sustainable Future.

Basically it echoed my doctor’s conclusions: The bad news is that our beloved planet is in terrible condition but the good news is we can all help in the healing by careful adherence to these directions.

Now, after 15 years of dithering and quibbling, the world community is beginning to take the crisis seriously even though there are still merchants of denial, disinformation, and destruction to contend with.  A global chorus of grassroots activists of all ages, but especially the young, are insisting on a course correction.  Business, government, academic, health, and faith leaders on every continent now “get it” and are taking a wide range of actions from investment in renewable energy to technical innovation in support of food and water security.

Some will argue it is too little, too late.  They may be correct.  Others, however, take courage to believe there is still a window of opportunity to set things right.  I prefer the company of active-hope.  That includes the pulmonary doctor who had the courage to believe I could get better.

For our children’s children,
John Gibson

Welcome to Earth Charter Indiana

We are a grassroots organization bringing the Earth Charter principles of peace, sustainability and justice to our beloved Hoosier State. Our fun and practical programs aim to inspire everyone to join us as we tackle climate change and social inequality.

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Students from 17 schools came together for the first-ever Youth Environmental Civics Summit at Orchard School on Feb. 28.

Youth Environmental Civics Summit. In late Feb., we held what we believe to be the first ever Indiana Youth Environmental Civics Summit, showcasing youth effort to address our environmental challenges via policy engagement.

Eco Science Fair. Our third Eco Science Fair, as part of the Going Green Festival at the Indiana State Museum, is planned for April 8! Check out Jim’s photo/blog of the event. Prepare to be inspired!

Save the Bees. Our bee education project, with funding from SustainIndy, is visiting central Indiana schools, and in the spring, starting hives at a half-dozen schools. Check out our exhibit of 3D bee sculptures at the Artsgarden through the month of April.

The Promise Project. Maddie Adkins, a high school student from Carmel, is helping lead the way to establish climate recovery action on a city-based level. Numerous cities in Indiana are in the beginning stages of learning about this initiative. Stay tuned!

Other Projects:

Earth Charter Indiana Awards: May, 2015, Earth Charter Indiana held its first-ever awards ceremony for individuals whose work in the community upholds the principles of the Earth Charter. Categories included: Respect and Care for the Community of Life, Ecological Integrity, and Social and Economic Justice. Winners came from both adult and youth divisions. A wonderful time was had by all. Read more HERE. 

Do you know someone you want to nominate for this year’s awards? Contact Jim at his email.

Petition for Rulemaking: On June 11, 2014 ECI and its youth program,  Youth Power Indiana, launched a formal legal process known as a Petition for Rulemaking before the Environmental Rules Board. While that process is moving more slowly than we would like, we are nevertheless determined to get a Climate Action Plan for Indiana. To do so we need your help to educate your friends and neighbors about the scientific reality of our climate crisis, as well as the numerous solutions at hand.

 Demand for systemic change grows

Our friends at Our Children’s Trust announced in January, 2016, that Pope Francis had filed a brief to support a climate change lawsuit brought by youth. You can read about that here. This lawsuit promises to be one of the most exciting, most visible stories of 2016.

In early 2015, Pope Francis issued an Environmental Encyclical addressing the threat global climate change poses to clean air, clean water, and healthy environment which are the foundations of society. In it he reminds us all that “the Earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.”

In July, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was joined by climate scientists and fellow Nobel Laureates at the Global Compassion Summit in Irvine California. He spoke of active compassion as the answer to the problems caused by climate change and shared ideas about wisdom, vision and experience. “Taking care of the planet is like taking care of one’s own home.” Read Climate Change, Wisdom and Experience.

In April the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Calls Climate Change A “Serious, Immediate And Global Threat To Human Health” Calling the danger a “sobering truth.” Download Transcript Here.

And recently, COP21, a Global Gathering of Countries Our board member Lauren Kastner attended the conference, and issued reports at nuvo.net.



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  • The Monday Memo

    • An Environment for Empathy

      An Environment for Empathy

      I’m so pleased to be able to share this news with you. A recent study at Ohio State provides evidence that popular pain relievers may dull people’s capacity for empathy. That’s right; acetaminophen, present in more than 600 medicines according…Read More »
    • Class

      Class

      Recently, I and several members of Bricks Alliance, an umbrella non-profit recently organized as a 501C3, were talking before the monthly Board meeting. One of the members of the Board works for a major pharmaceutical company here in Indianapolis. She…Read More »