You might be wondering which James Brown I am referring to with this name. Is it the singer or the Hall of Fame football player? Recently, I had the opportunity to go to the Indiana Black Expo Corporate Luncheon. One of the honorees that afternoon was James Brown, the football player, actor, and activist. The company I work for is minority owned and purchases a table at this luncheon each year. When I responded to the email indicating that I wanted to take one of the available seats, I had no idea who would be given awards. Besides James Brown, the honorees included Dionne Warrick, Colts Coach Chuck Pagano, actor and filmmaker Lorenze Tate, and LeRoy Robinson. The acceptance speech that I remember the most came from James Brown.

After football and acting, James Brown decided to give back to his community. He founded Vital Issues which taught life management skills and personal growth techniques to inner-city gang members and prison inmates. He could have rested on his success as a Hall of Famer and actor, but he understood that as a role model he needed to give back. Remember that he played football in the era before the big dollar contracts became common. He had to earn the money he needed to be an activist. His life as an activist illustrates how to actualize Principle 10 of the Earth Charter: “Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all level promotes human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.” While we may not have the fame that comes from a football and acting career, we can choose to make a difference in the lives of those who need and want a hand up.

You might be thinking that it is great that James Brown used his fame to benefit of his community. Most of us are not inclined to start our own program. However, there is a cause or group in Indianapolis to help you fulfill your need to make a difference in the economic development of all our citizens. One such group is Results. Results is a grassroots advocacy group with a chapter in Indianapolis. Its mission is to put an end to poverty through educating volunteers to advocate for public policy and educate the public to put an end to the scourge of poverty. I give you but one example of how to act out Principle 10 of the Earth Charter. Even if you do not have time to work with this group, be encouraged that others are working to help our under-resourced friends.

For the future of our city and its children,
John Drake

“Many human conflicts appear extraordinarily difficult to resolve even when outsiders can see the contours of a rational resolution. Ideological opponents risk the health of their economies and their planet because they are unable to make political compromises. Ethnic and religious groups across the world engage in mass acts of violence, rejecting solutions of mutual benefit that involve sharing power, land, or religious sites. Why are so many conflicts so intractable when people on both sides could gain from a compromise?”(Waytz, Young, & Ginges, 2014)

Principle 16 of the Earth Charter urges us to promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace. But surely you, sensitive to the domestic and international happenings that defy this principle, join me in echoing Waytz et al.’s question, How do we overcome seemingly intractable conflict?

I look to psychological science for a partial answer. In a series of studies involving American Republicans and Democrats, Israelis, and Palestinians as participants, Waytz et al. (2014) tested the concept of motive attribution asymmetry. To make sense of this of concept, we must first recognize humans’ tendency to automatically sort the social world into ingroup and outgroup members. Ingroups are social groups to which we belong (i.e., “us”); outgroups are those to which we do not belong (i.e., “them”).

We think very differently about ingroups and outgroups, and one important aspect of this thinking is how we explain behavior. Here, the behavior of interest is involvement in conflict. We constantly speculate why ingroup and outgroup members behave as they do – what are their motives for behaving aggressively rather than peacefully? Motive attribution asymmetry suggests that there is a pattern to our explanations for aggressive behavior such that we believe ingroup members’ aggression is motivated by love for the ingroup, whereas outgroup members’ aggression is motivated by hate for the outgroup. In other words, we fight out of love, but they fight out of hate. It must be noted that this attribution pattern reflects a cognitive bias; a large body of social science literature suggests that conflict is more firmly grounded in ingroup love than outgroup hate (see 7-13).

The practical implication here is that we strive to recognize love as a shared motive, a potent commonality uniting ingroup and outgroup members. We stop asking “why do they hate us so much?” and remind ourselves that the outgroup, vile though it may seem, is as capable of love as we are.

Thanks for reading,
Ali

It has been emotional and sobering week as we are once again confronted with the reality of systemic racism and out of control gun violence in America.

I am angry and sad about the deadly police encounters with Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in St. Paul and the deadly attack on five police officers in Dallas who were protecting protestors. But as a white person, I will never know the extent of the pain that my black friends and colleagues are experiencing and have known their whole lives. I can take steps to challenge the deep racism that runs through our institutions and offer some modest advice to other white folks who are committed to helping.

First, offer gentle support to black friends and coworkers. Listen with the goal to understand, not to respond with your opinion. Your offer will most likely be appreciated, but that doesn’t mean the door is open for you to ask probing questions or burden them with your own emotional load.
We must unconditionally, tenaciously, and frequently speak the words “Black Lives Matter” and challenge those who say “all lives matter” to escape personal accountability for institutionalized racism. Despite good intentions, many white folks are questioning the simple statement, “Black Lives Matter,” and are distorting the term into “all lives matter.”

Let’s explore this through a great analogy that a friend shared online.
Can you imagine if you broke your arm and upon rushing to the hospital seeking medical attention, the doctor tells you, “I won’t fix your arm because all bones matter”? Naturally, you would be horrified. Yes, of course you know that all of the bones in your body matter. But right now one particular bone is broken and it deserves immediate and compassionate attention.

The Earth Charter tells us that every form of life has value and that all human beings are inherently and universally dignified. In other words, all lives do matter. However, the Earth Charter also tells us to “recognize the ignored, protect the vulnerable, serve those who suffer, and enable them to develop their capacities and to pursue their aspirations.”

We must treat the crisis of racism in the same way and we must work tirelessly to create deep change.

To do this, we must participate in community actions organized by the Black Lives Matter movement and grassroots community leaders in Indiana. White allies are needed to act in coalition with the Black Lives Matter movement, but remember that the movement is not for you or about you, and black folks are more than capable of organizing themselves.

And finally, attitudes about race will not change overnight. We must regularly engage other white folks in tough conversations about race and challenge stereotypes as protests and more information unfold in the coming weeks.

All of this will be uncomfortable, but necessary.

All in,
Laura Kastner

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

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.

GroupOnStage

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

    • James Brown

      James Brown

      You might be wondering which James Brown I am referring to with this name. Is it the singer or the Hall of Fame football player? Recently, I had the opportunity to go to the Indiana Black Expo Corporate Luncheon. One…Read More »
    • Biased Attributions of Love and Hate: Us Versus Them

      Biased Attributions of Love and Hate: Us Versus Them

      “Many human conflicts appear extraordinarily difficult to resolve even when outsiders can see the contours of a rational resolution. Ideological opponents risk the health of their economies and their planet because they are unable to make political compromises. Ethnic and…Read More »