Bearing Witness for the Future

PUC Hearing Net-Metering Rules Oct 17

Photo by Livio Filice, via Facebook. (I am in the front row in a yellow solar shirt.)

Yesterday I participated in the public hearing held by the Public Utility Commission for new net metering rules in Maine.  From one testimony, I learned that these proposed rules are the most regressive, anti-solar rules in the nation.  In another testimony, Conservation Law Foundation attorney Emily Green questioned whether this process is even legal, since the changes are drastic enough that they are no longer really net-metering rules, but rather serve to eliminate net-metering–and thus are not within the purview of the Commission. Also noted was the fact that no economic impact statements had been prepared, prior to the hearing, as required by regulation.  Sadly, none of this made it into the story run by the Portland Press Herald today.

I gave testimony, too, but not on technical details or the effects on jobs or existing solar customers.  I spoke in my role as a minister, taking a look at the bigger picture.  Here is what I said:

I want to speak of our responsibility to the future generations, our grandchildren and their grandchildren.  Every gallon of oil we use today is a theft from the quality of life for those future generations.  If we take our responsibility seriously, we should be doing everything possible to shift all of our energy use to renewables, as soon as possible.

That responsibility to the future generations is why my family downsized from a 2000 square foot home to a 1000 square foot home–so we could afford to put solar panels on our roof and use less oil.  It only works for us because of some kind of net metering–solar produces energy during the day, and more during the summer, so we need to draw from the grid at night and in the winter, from the credits we build up during the sunshine. Net-metering makes it work.

But even so, there are only so many things I can do as an individual.  We need to be moving collectively toward an energy policy that will leave a livable future world for our grandchildren.  It is that serious!  We are creating in our time the story that the future generations of human beings will live.  Will it be a story of hardship?  Wars over declining resources? Chaos, and violence? Or will it be a story of human beings living in mutually beneficial relationship to each other and to all beings of the earth?

I know which story I am committed to–and I think we all want that.  It means doing everything possible to encourage the transition to renewable energy.  I pray that you will go home tonight and think of those future generations–our grandchildren and their grandchildren.  I pray that we might leave them a beautiful world–a world we know is possible.

We were told that all testimony was recorded and will be able to be seen at the website of the commission, but it is not posted yet, as far as I can tell.  The website is very difficult to navigate. If you want to find out more about this rule making case, you can follow this link.  If you want to make a comment on these proposed changes, you can do so at this page, using the case number 2016-00222.

There is a lot more to say about all this, but for today I will leave it with my prayer–that we might leave a beautiful world for the future generations.


Future Fruit Trees

Wood chips JackWood chips LizThanks to help from Margy’s sister Liz and brother-in-law, Jack, we were able to spread wood chips over a part of our yard that we are envisioning for future fruit trees.  The soil in the yard is quite compacted, and we have a big pile of wood chips from the old maple tree that was cut down last year.  Lisa Fernandes of Resilience Hub had suggested that the best easy way to start improving the soil for growing trees was to spread wood chips now so they can percolate over the winter, and help the soil to develop fungal infrastructure.

It seemed like a huge job, and Margy and I hadn’t been able to start it on our own.  But when Liz and Jack came to visit for the weekend, they offered to help with a project.  Margy immediately thought of the wood chips.  The three of them began on Saturday afternoon, and then we all worked on Sunday afternoon to expand it and finish it.  Margy coordinated our efforts and documented it with these photos.

We had a wonderful visit, and this morning I feel so happy looking at the space that is no longer raggedy lawn, but imagined and hoped for cherries, apples and peaches, imbued with the spirit of the old maple, and the loving hands of family.dsc06784



Why I don’t celebrate Columbus Day

Every October and November in the United States, we find ourselves once again in a season of false and misleading stories about European settlers and Native Americans.  First there is the story that Columbus discovered America in 1492.  (Later there is the story about the Pilgrims and the Indians at the first Thanksgiving.)  It is astonishing to me, after all the work done by Native activists and their allies in the last forty years, that these stories keep returning unchanged year after year.  In 1991, the organization Rethinking Schools published Rethinking Columbus, an excellent resource that pointed out for educators the fallacies of the stories we are told and offered practical alternatives.  Certainly in some places a lot has changed.  But there has also been a backlash.  Rethinking Columbus was one of the books banned from Arizona school systems in 2012.

Perhaps many people are willing to acknowledge, if pressed, that when Columbus supposedly “discovered” America, it was already full of people.  But the use of the word “discover” has a more sinister history that is not so often talked about.  Prior to 1492, European church leaders and monarchs had collaborated in a stunning series of proclamations, which became known as the Doctrine of Discovery.

In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued a papal bull declaring that the Catholic king of Portugal had the right to conquer any Muslim and pagan peoples and enslave them.  A few years later he wrote a second letter, declaring all the Christian kings of Europe had the right to take the lands and possessions of any non-Christian people, and keep them in perpetuity.  If the pagan inhabitants could be converted to the Christian faith they might be spared, but otherwise they could be enslaved or killed.  The Doctrine of Discovery was also later claimed by the king of England in 1496, authorizing English explorers to seize any lands not already discovered by other Christian nations.

The Doctrine of Discovery became the legal basis for the “discoveries” of Columbus and others, and for the resulting attempts to conquer and colonize the western hemisphere, and unleash a genocide on its peoples.  It was also the legal basis for the slave trade.  And its influence did not remain in that distant past.  It is still a source of oppression to this day.  It became the basis of U.S. Indian Law, beginning in 1823, when Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that “Christian people” who had “discovered” the lands of “heathens” had assumed the right of “dominion,” and thus had “diminished” the Indians’ rights to complete sovereignty as independent nations.  He claimed Indians had merely a right of occupancy in their lands. This decision has never been overturned, and is still cited on a regular basis, as recently as 2010 in the Federal courts.

Responding to the requests of Indigenous peoples, several religious denominations have passed resolutions to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Those of which I am aware are Episcopalians in 2009, Unitarian Universalists and the Society of Friends in 2012, and the United Church of Christ in 2013.  These resolutions are a first step toward reckoning with this history of stolen lands and stolen children.

But let’s go back to Columbus.  The stories of his “discovery” lead to another distortion of our European history in these lands.  This is the idea that the Europeans conquered the Native nations by their superior weaponry and military might.  This holds a partial truth.  The Europeans did try to conquer every Indigenous nation they encountered.  But it would not have been possible without another factor.  Between 1492 and 1650, possibly ninety percent of the Indigenous people of the Americas were killed by plague and other European diseases to which they had no immunity.  The Europeans, sometimes unwittingly but often purposefully, brought an unprecedented apocalypse to this land.

Estimates of the pre-contact population are hard to determine.  One scholar, William Denevan, tried to reconcile all the data and came up with fifty-four million in the Western Hemisphere.  But by 1650, the number had shrunk to six million.  Millions upon millions of people died.  In 1617, a few years before English settlers landed, an epidemic began to spread through the area that became southern New England.  It likely came from British fishermen, who had been fishing the waters off the coast for decades.  By 1620, ninety to ninety-six percent of the population had died.  Villages were left with so many bodies, the survivors fled to the next town, and the disease continued to spread.  It was a catastrophe never before seen anywhere in the world. Books on Shelf DSC00283


Decolonizing Faith, Part One

Dawn at the Pond

I am at a small gathering of Native and non-Native people exploring the topic of Decolonizing Faith.  We have been looking at the history of colonization on this continent, and the role of churches in that process, and the effects on Indigenous people’s lives.  We’ve listened to stories shared by Wabanaki folks of disrupted families, foster care, adoption, love and care of relatives, abuse by church leaders, the long path to healing…  We’ve been here since Friday evening, and will stay until Monday.

We are in a lovely house by Chemo Pond (pronounced Sheemo Pond) in Clifton Maine. The natural beauty of the pond is, in itself, healing.  The calls of the loons.  The breezes in the trees. The reflection of red leaves on the water. I took a swim in the pond on Friday, and Saturday morning I sat outside in the dawn watching the sky grow light in the east.  Today it is raining. Today we start to ask, what can be done to turn around the process of colonization (which has never stopped.)  And what might be the role of spirituality and the role of faith communities in that work? It is good to be here.

There will be much more to think about, to write.

Summer Lessons to Remember

Screen TentMaybe this land on which we newly live can become a sacred center of learning earth spirituality, with a fire circle, a water pond, bird songs in the air.

Your journey on this small piece of land is valuable, not for some other purpose, but for this purpose–to restore your broken off heart to the land.

You have all the time you need.

This spiritual work is your work–writing about it, yes, teaching it, yes, but doing it, most important of all. Even if you do nothing else in your life, do this work.

Each step of the journey is holy. Remember the deer who appeared in the yard. Come outside. Dawn is the best time. “Vacation” really means “spiritual restoration” time.

Your calling now is to do the spiritual journey into Earth Community. That partially corresponds to your ministry at your congregation, and partially lies outside of that. (All congregations must go through transitions in this time.)  

Teach a class this year on the Spiritual Journey Into Earth Community, based on the latest version of the book (Finding Our Way Home: A Spiritual Journey Into Earth Community).

Begin to explore self-publishing the book.

For health–rest, dance, walk, water, herbs, be outside.

Come outside, come outside, come outside.

There is no rush at all, just love, follow your deep passions.

The spirits are with you. Brokenness hurts–turn to the cardinals, the sun, weeping, diving into water.

Enjoy the beauty of each day. It is not all about goals and purpose and accomplishments–even green ones. See the beauty now. Feel the connections now. Be still.

Listen to your body.

You can find your joy and beauty when you sit outside in the morning and write–you know how to move into Presence. Write this down.

There is still more transformation that is possible. Your heart is in the universe and the universe is in your heart. I put my hand on your heart.

Think of how you get up each day in a world that is broken and anguished and live in a society that is divided and hurting. Think of how you feel the new sun and the songs of the birds.  You are learning to feel the land slowly, so the grief doesn’t overwhelm you, so you can find the source of strength, the many ancestors.

Keep dancing.

Today is a day, not a preparation for something else–a beautiful, painful, blessing-laden day. Let your heart’s pain be awash in this day.  

You are not an orphan. You are in the land where ancestor relatives were buried, the dawn places. Don’t panic. Don’t try to take the pain to someone else. Everyone is broken. Remember gratitude. Remember to honor the pain. Remember to see with new eyes.

Remember the magic. Breathe. Remember that a day may bring a beautiful surprise. Follow the Spirits’ lead. Flow with the River of Life.

Ten Ways to Help

10 ways you can help the Standing Rock Sioux fight the Dakota Access Pipeline:

1. Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200. You can leave a message stating your thoughts about this.

2. Sign the petition to the White House to Stop DAPL:…/stop-construction-dakota…

3. Donate to support the Standing Rock Sioux at…/standing-rock-sioux-tribe–dakot…/

4. Donate items from the Sacred Stone Camp Supply List:

5. Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414. Tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

6. Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense Fund:

7. Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp gofundme account:

8. Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit: (202) 761-5903

9. Sign other petitions asking President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Here’s the latest to cross my desk –

10. Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:

a. Lee Hanse
Executive Vice President
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
San Antonio, Texas 78258
Telephone: (210) 403-6455

b. Glenn Emery
Vice President
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
San Antonio, Texas 78258
Telephone: (210) 403-6762

c. Michael (Cliff) Waters
Lead Analyst
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
1300 Main St.
Houston, Texas 77002
Telephone: (713) 989-2404

(Reposted from World Indigenous News)

Dawn Standing Rock

Dawn at Standing Rock, Photo by Benalex Dupris, Sept 3 2016 (Shared from FB)