Gun Country by Michael Murphy

What a week we’ve just had. Britons narrowly vote to leave the European Union, and Democrats wedge what might finally turn into a crack in the wall between gun control and the people.

Mind the Gap. That admonition is as much part of daily life in London as Big Ben’s chimes. Getting on and off the Underground, watch your step; don’t trip. We won’t know for some time whether the UK has tripped or over which of endlessly inter-connected moving parts. We can appreciate that Brexit is about accountable government, powerful multi-national corporations and political leaders who have lost their bearings. But this campaign, like others across the West, has also been about global isolation, resentment of newcomers, racial prejudice and nostalgia for times remembered by some when England was England. Some of us want to reclaim a time from our memory when America was America – even though the America that some remember never existed.

Meanwhile in the US, Democrats mounted a filibuster in the Senate and staged a sit-in on the House floor – both attempts to force their chambers to take up moderate legislation to keep guns away from people who should not have them. Speaker Paul Ryan called the sit-in a partisan stunt, and with a straight face Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed the filibuster for delaying the action that Democrats were demanding. The Democrats’ four Senate bills failed and the House recessed until after July 4 without taking action. But by the end of the week hope had emerged for at least modest bi-partisan compromises, and Democrats left for home districts promising that we have turned the corner.

The common denominator of these two stories is the people’s confidence in their representatives – the Brexit movement accusing leadership of being out of touch with ordinary people and frustration with Congress resulting from years of stonewalling on measures that most Americans want, even while gun carnage rages on.

Let’s acknowledge that honest and thoughtful people disagree whether legislation supported by most Americans will actually do much to reduce access to guns. I’m more hopeful. Even so, law serves another purpose that is not about measurable results. Law expresses our common will and highest expectations of ourselves. Law states our aspiration for universal suffrage. Law promises unfettered access to education and opportunity. Law seeks to guarantee blind justice. We can unite behind law to declare that our communities will be free of assault weapons. It’s within us through law to wrest our collective conscience from the stranglehold of uncompromising agendas – which would give quite a different meaning to taking back America.

In search of balance,
Jerry King

Last weekend I felt an intense swing of emotions. On Saturday June 11th, I took part in the Pride Parade in Indianapolis with a group from my church. We walked and celebrated the joy and freedom to be true to oneself. Sunday June 12th was a very troubling and sad day. Emotions that sweep over me on Sunday were ones of sadness and fear. I felt both sadness over the madness in Orlando and fear knowing that the person from Indiana, who planned to attack the Pride Festival in Los Angeles, could have struck in Indianapolis. I have never felt fear in walking in the Pride Parade, but I did on the 12th. Fear will not stop me from walking in future Pride Parades, but I will be aware of the potential risk. These emotions of joy and fear reminded me of the need to follow Principal # 16 in the Earth Charters which reads: “Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.” How does one accomplish such a seemingly unreachable goal after last weekend?

Let me suggest that things are not as bleak as are often portrayed in the media. I tend to be an optimist since I have seen positive change accomplished by non-profit organizations and small groups of dedicated citizens. For example, I am a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center which works to end violence based on hatred. This organization has successfully filed and won lawsuits against some of the larger Klu Klux Klan organizations. They have used the money received from the sale of assets of the Klan against other hate based groups. Social media, such as Twitter, can be used for positive activism such as responding to hate groups. Churches, for those of you who are so inclined, are a source of opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. It may be hosting a Farmers’ Market in a food desert or feeding people via a soup kitchen. Reach out beyond your doubts and fears. If you will do so, life will not seem bleak and violent. I take great hope in the fact that more people are now aware of hate based violence than before Orlando. Let the Earth Charter inform your actions to be part of the positive response to hate based behavior. Love will ultimately overcome hate.

For our neighbors, friends and family;
John Drake

I write to you from the beaches of North Carolina, a state that rivals Indiana for its anti-LGBTQ legislation. Of course attitudes and behaviors toward LGBTQ individuals are top of mind for me in the wake of the Orlando shooting at Pulse, a nightclub created to serve as a place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community. The name Pulse was chosen to honor the heartbeat of the club co-founder’s late brother.

Also salient is a Monday Memo I wrote a year ago in the wake of the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in in Charleston, SC. This shooting isn’t mentioned in media reports updating readers on the Orlando shooting, presumably because the death toll of nine wasn’t high enough to propel it into onto deadliest mass shooting lists, but I cannot ignore the links between Orlando and Charleston, how these most malevolent acts of which we are capable were directed toward systematically oppressed groups.

One way to respond to such wanton hate is to be an ally, to support people who belong to groups that are discriminated against or treated unjustly. This goes beyond education and confronting one’s own sources of discomfort. This entails listening and taking action to create sustainable change long after the pride parties have ended.

Thank you for all you do to advance the second principle of the Earth Charter by caring for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.

In solidarity,
Ali O’Malley

Every individual, family, organization, and community has a vital role to play. -The Earth Charter: The Way Forward

My next door neighbor recently told me she was very concerned about the way things were going in the world and didn’t think she could do a thing about it.

Of course, she is right to be concerned. We can all identify with that. The challenges we face as a species are daunting to put it mildly. Everyone who is paying attention should be worried. Proportional to the magnitude of the problems we face, our individual ability to change the outcomes we fear are like trying to move a mountain with a teaspoon.

In this frame of mind I attended the Spring Concert of our Village “Big Band” Friday night. The median age of the 15 musicians who made up the band was, I calculated, about 75. The audience of nearly 200 oldsters was delighted with the music and showed it by frequent applause, cheers, toe tapping and a standing ovation at the end. The synergy produced by an appreciative community and a talented collection of musicians, playing their heart out, was magical. I was truly inspired.

How did this happen? Every individual musician, every section of the band, every concert attendee had a vital role to play and did it well. A man sitting behind me, I happen to know, is 103 years old. The co-founder of the Big Band, a former music instructor at Ball State University, was sitting in his wheel chair just ahead of me. In an earlier year both of these individuals had marquee positions in journalism and music. Their role is different now but no less essential.

The Earth Charter is right. Everyone has a vital role. It’s up to each of us to find our niche in the collective effort. Together we can and are moving mountains.

For our children’s children,
John Gibson

P.S. “Songs of Sustainable Indiana,” a new CD album featuring 15 of Indiana’s top recording artists is now available to celebrate and promote Hoosier solutions as a Bicentennial legacy.

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

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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