Last Thursday evening I attended the 1st Annual Faith and Action Project hosted at Clowes Hall by Christian Theological Seminary. For those of you who are not comfortable with faith based projects please be aware this is not a public tax dollar driven effort. The two members of the panel who discussed the subject of Poverty were David Brooks, columnist of the New York Times, and Tavis Smiley, best known for his radio show on NPR. While David Brooks made several valid points such as “Poverty is a relational problem,” Tavis Smiley spoke truth to power. He made the following comments that policies on poverty needed to be heard in our Presidential, Senate, and Governor races. Tavis correctly indicated that no one is these races is directly dealing with the rising rate of poverty in our city and state.
He also said the following:

    “Programs do not turn people around, relationships do.”
    “Cannot save if you do not serve.”
    “Everybody is worthy just because not due to wealth, status or power.”
    “Love should be the center of public policy.”

He advocated for a living wage, high quality education and health insurance for all.

Tavis sounds as if he is familiar with the Earth Charter. The Earth Charter reads as follows in Principle on Social and Economic Justice #10: “Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development and ensure access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.” I left Clowes Memorial Hall that night inspired despite the depressing statistics read off by the Mayor of Indianapolis. It was inspiring to see Clowes Memorial Hall almost full of people led by their sense of faith to want to continue to be involved in what can be a discouraging form of service.

The President of CTS announced that in 2017 organizations will be able to apply for grants to serve the needs of those in poverty. My bias on how to eliminate poverty is towards relationships versus handouts. Serve in love and advocate for public policies to end poverty.

For our children’s children,
John Drake

The Earth Charter urges us to “ensure that information of vital importance to human health and environmental protection, including genetic information, remains available in the public domain.” To me, there is hardly an area more vitally important than climate science that is both accurate and accessible.

It’s amazing to me how much science and data about climate change information is now available in very relevant, interactive, and data-rich formats. No matter where you find yourself on your journey of learning about climate change, it’s worth periodically brushing up on the facts.
I’ve recently come across a number of resources online that are not only fun and educational, but that can help me do a better job of explaining climate change to my friends and family. I’ll share a few that I think will be of some use to you:

1.) Here’s how communities in Indiana will experience direct impacts of climate change thanks to a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on state-by-state impacts.

2.) See the connection between CO2 emissions and global average temperature with this data visualization that was also featured during the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

3.) Wondering when the Paris Agreement will become a reality? Check this tracker to see how many countries still need to ratify the climate agreement.

4.) Compare countries to see how some places will be disproportionately impacted by climate change with this vulnerability monitor.
Sea level rise is one of the strongest climate change indicators.

5.) Compare sea level rise under various warming scenarios with this tool.

What are some of your favorite educational resources for explaining climate change? Join the conversation by posting on the Earth Charter Indiana Facebook or tweeting @ECharterIndiana.

-Lauren Kastner

People who live in Central Indiana are encouraged to get out of accustomed habits for one day and do something good for the environment by going Car Free this coming Thursday. The Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority (CIRTA) invites us all, for the first time to take the pledge and join into World Car Free Day. CIRTA serves Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Morgan and Shelby counties.

To take the pledge between now and Thursday, go to the Car Free Day Indy website. Then make plans for how you can reduce use of your car on Thursday. Some of us can get where we need to go by carpooling or vanpooling or by taking the bus. Some of us will consider riding a bike, and some short errands might be the occasion to get some exercise by taking a walk. In fact, CIRTA’s Commuter Connect page gives lots of tips and resources for how to reduce driving your car for more than just this Thursday as well as ways that employers can support their employees as commuters.

Of course you don’t have to live in Central Indiana to get in the spirit. People anywhere can take a good look at their plans for this Thursday and figure out how to take advantage of community resources to reduce driving and possibly even go car-free.

There’s a lot to like about World Car Free Day besides the well-known impacts on the environment, albeit for only one day. Like other days dedicated to life style changes such as the Great American Smokeout that encourages smokers to go without tobacco for a day (November 17) or Earth Hour, the global night to turn out your lights (March 25), Car Free Day can be one of those opportunities for many of us to throw off the confines of comfortable habit. Shaking up our customary patterns now and then can be healthy. As we gain new ideas about the kinds of adjustments we can make in our routines, we can adopt new habits that are healthy for the earth as well.

Thanks for reading Monday Memos

I was deeply moved by Sarah van Gelder’s (YES! Magazine) account of Northwest Canoe Tribes joining the Standing Rock Sioux in solidarity over their opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline. This was the first time since the Battle of Little Bighorn that all seven bands of the Sioux Nation have come together. And, dozens of other tribes have come as well swelling the ranks of those who care deeply about the land and water.
Showing up is no small thing. History has shown that when people make the effort to join hearts and hands in common cause it makes a difference.

We’ve experienced some of that here in Indiana at various rallies at the Statehouse. Several organizations usually co-sponsor; others join in cross-promotion. The people who show up are inter-generational and culturally diverse. This is the dream of the Earth Charter.

Ten years ago Earth Charter Indiana set out to discover and document examples of Earth Charter principles being implemented right here in Indiana. Sustainable Indiana 2016 was commissioned to celebrate these “Green Lights” as a Bicentennial legacy. Now over 200 models of sustainability have been cataloged and the “Celebrations” are underway.

The next Green Lights Celebration will be Thursday, September 15th, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Shelton Auditorium of Christian Theological Seminary, 1000 West 42nd Street, in Indianapolis. Following in quick succession are Muncie, September 17th, 4-6 p.m. at the Minnetrista Cultural Center; Bloomington, September 20th, 7-9 p.m. in the Wittenberger Auditorium (Memorial Union Building) at IU; Terre Haute, September 29th, 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Vigo County Main Library. Four more will be held in October. Details can be found on website.

Want to make a positive difference in these troubled times. SHOW UP! Support these solution-minded Hoosiers who are lighting candles of hope. Thank them, make connections, and forge bonds of common interest. This is the Earth Charter way.

For our children’s children,
John Gibson

I have heard the statement that there is power in words. One should choose carefully what and how one uses words to avoid hurting our family, friends, and strangers. I have been ruminating on this idea the last couple of weeks as the current election cycle continues to degrade into name calling and half-truths. Yes, I am referring to both Presidential candidates with this statement. My spirit grieves over the lack of actual discussion of policy versus how nasty can one be about the other candidate. You might say that the nastiness will end with the November 8th election. Let me suggest that unless we as followers of the Earth Charter make a stand for civility in how we treat each other, we have only seen the beginning of the nastiness. The Earth Charter in Principal 15 says: “Treat all living beings with respect and consideration”. I am sure that the writers of the Earth Charter understood the power of words to harm and denigrate others.

The rise of the “Alt – right” in recent months alarms me. It is really only the old hate filled language of the White Supremacist or Neo-Nazi’s. The power of the use of the new branding does not make it sound as bigoted or hurtful to immigrants, blacks or Jews. The hate oriented speech has not changed in words or tone according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracts the rise and decline of hate groups in the United States. However, I would hasten to add that while the left of the political spectrum does not tend to use hate filled language, one can quickly realize that one is not greeted with open arms if one does not agree with them on issues. Try to speak a different opinion with an academic in their area of expertise. My experience has been that a conversation with someone from the far right or left often is unpleasant due to their inability to recognize the validity of someone else’s ideas or approaches.

My growing concern is that the use of hate filled words and the unwillingness to consider words spoken by those with a difference of opinion will make it impossible to be able to discuss solutions. We need solutions to the real and growing economic, environmental, and social justice issues. I must admit that understanding the power of words has made me hesitant to speak my mind or explain my ideas. I, like most in our society ,do not want to be rebuked with hurtful speech or be ignored by those who disagree with an idea I believe with passion and conviction. Let us remember the spirit of Principal 15 when we hear ourselves or others treat people as less than human because we disagree. I will look forward to the end of the election if we can return to a more civil society.

For the next generation whose verbal freedom depends on us;
John Drake

If you’re like me and have spent far too much time with your eyes glued to the Olympics this week, you likely share the feeling of pride and awe at the incredible strength and ability of the athletes competing in Rio from 205 nations. Of the many incredible moments so far in Rio, the most striking moment came during the Opening Ceremony with the performance piece “Simple Idea that Helps A Lot” that beautifully highlighted the threat that climate change poses to people and the planet.

In a country that is already plagued by deforestation in the Amazon, lack of sanitation in the poorest areas, and the Zika virus, the Olympic Games are the latest world treasure to be threatened by climate change.

A new study published the same week as the Olympics shows that by 2084, the extreme heat and humidity due to climate change will make it nearly impossible and dangerous for most cities to host the Summer Olympics. Using widely-accepted climate models, researchers from the U.S. and Australia conclude that only eight cities in the Northern Hemisphere outside of Western Europe and no cities in the Southern Hemisphere could safely host the Summer Olympics’ outdoor events.

While it’s certainly shocking to think about the effect of warming temperatures on the world’s best athletes and their ability to compete, it’s even more poignant to consider the hazards to the more than half of the planet’s workforce that works outdoors, primarily in construction and agriculture.
The study’s authors rightly posit, “If the world’s most elite athletes need to be protected from climate change, what about the rest of us?”

In the same way that the Olympics unites the whole world to showcase feats of human strength and endurance, every nation must also keep working together to heal our planet or we risk having neither.

For our children’s children,
Lauren Kastner

Today, August 8, 2016 is Earth Overshoot Day (when the human species is plundering and polluting the Earth faster than it can regenerate). Last year, according to The Global Footprint Network, Overshoot Day was August 13, the year before that it was August 19 and in 2012 it was August 22. Beyond “Overshoot Day” mankind is creating an ecological debt and passing it on to future generations.

We Americans are especially gluttonous. With only 6 percent of the worlds population we consume 40 percent of the planet’s ecological budget. If the rest of humanity lived like Americans it would take 4.8 planets to sustain our collective appetite.

This is not new. We’ve known trend this for years. Yet, economists and politicians continue to call for and promise more and more economic growth. Alluring advertisements convince us that we need yet more stuff to be hip.

Thankfully, the current generation of Millennials seem to be trending toward a simpler, less hectic lifestyle. Tiny houses, healthier food, bikes, sharing, bartering, rent vs. mortgage, etc. are appealing alternatives to conventional debt-traps and illusionary bliss. Maybe, just maybe, the next generation of our species will actually take principle 5(e) of the Earth Charter seriously: “Manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do no exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of ecosystems.”

For our children’s children,
John Gibson

For those who were around during the 1960s and 70s, our nation felt the most divided then that most of us had ever experienced. The history is well-known: Civil rights action with jailings, beatings and murders; Black, Native American and Latino power movements; nationwide anger over the Viet Nam War; radical life styles that included drugs and freeing of sexual rules. We experienced movements that liberated and unified even while infuriating many of us. Young Americans stood up, acted out and shouted, while Nixon’s “Silent Majority” was sure we were going over the brink. In 1968 alone we absorbed the Tet Offensive, King and Kennedy assassinations, riots at the Democratic National Convention, and the George Wallace campaign.

We could hardly imagine then that we would ever be more divided, and many Americans still remember the time as doing unmitigated harm. But there’s another interpretation of that same period, that alongside the scars and alienation, good and lasting developments took root – not in spite of the turmoil but because of it. The times caused us to rethink equity and citizen engagement so that we saw legislation for voting reform, certain War on Poverty interventions and a host of initiatives to help redistribute power through access to opportunity, citizen advocacy, community economic development, early childhood nutrition and education, and community-based health care. Important gains that came with heavy cost.

Of course the present angry division, albeit exacerbated by election year rhetoric, brings this subject to mind. In fact, today can be seen as not separate from the 60s but as a deepening entrenchment over new layers of the same issues. We’re still struggling over race relations and law enforcement (My web search reminded me that the Black Panthers formed in Oakland initially to protect African Americans from police brutality), trust of government, respect for diversity across ethnic groups and accepting each other’s sexual orientation. Only the argument over climate seems new.

If it’s true that we actually saw progress come out of the painful divisions of the 60s, then we can hope that the result of today’s public debates will be that we learn more about what it means to honor people’s differences. As we experience obfuscation in government and corporate America, surely we become prepared to recognize and expect transparency. The Earth Charter brings both opportunity and resource to this time by giving us language to contribute to the outcomes and perspective to help lead us to a progressive consensus.


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,

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.


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

  • Got Courage? Sure You Do!

    Indiana Moral Monday
    Want more? Join Indiana Moral Mondays Coalition.
  • The Monday Memo

    • Tavis Smiley and Poverty

      Tavis Smiley and Poverty

      Last Thursday evening I attended the 1st Annual Faith and Action Project hosted at Clowes Hall by Christian Theological Seminary. For those of you who are not comfortable with faith based projects please be aware this is not a public…Read More »
    • World Car Free Day – Take the Pledge

      World Car Free Day – Take the Pledge

      People who live in Central Indiana are encouraged to get out of accustomed habits for one day and do something good for the environment by going Car Free this coming Thursday. The Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority (CIRTA) invites us…Read More »