Protesters across Poland have flooded the streets for the past week, condemning judicial reforms that will give the right-wing ruling party control over judge selections. (Grzegorz Żukowski/Flickr/cc)
Tens of thousands poured into the streets in Poland Thursday night, condemning proposed laws that would dramatically weaken the nation’s judicial system, just two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited the country and praised its commitment to freedom and democracy, speaking to “an audience of close to 15,000 enthusiastic, flag-waving Poles—many of them bused in by Poland’s ruling right-wing” party.
The pending judicial reform is just the latest in a series of anti-democratic measures adopted in Poland since the far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015. As the New York Timesnoted, the party has “increased government control over the news media, cracked down on public gatherings, and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.” It has also limited female reproductive rights. Continue reading →
If “large fossil fuel emissions are allowed to continue[…] the burden placed on young people and future generations may become too heavy to bear,” the researchers write. (Photo: Takver/flickr/cc)
The “shit is hitting is the fan,” said noted climate scientist James Hansen, countering “this narrative out there…that we have turned the corner on dealing with the climate problem.”
Hansen is lead author of a new study that warns that there “is no time to delay” on climate change efforts and argues that they must go beyond just slashing emissions of CO2—”the dominant control knob on global temperature”—to extracting CO2 from the air, or “negative emissions.”
The team of international researchers writes that “the world has overshot appropriate targets”—a conclusion that “is sufficiently grim to compel us to point out that pathways to rapid emission reductions are feasible.” Continue reading →
“We’ve been known, historically, to welcome the stranger and offer refuge to persecuted individuals.” YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton.
After two hours of public testimony, Ralph Nava was the last of 60 speakers to testify in favor of the Santa Fe City Council’s resolution to reaffirm and strengthen its welcoming policies toward immigrants. As a native of northern New Mexico whose family’s presence in the region dates back generations, he implored the audience and council members to consider the history. “All of this area was Mexico just a few generations back,” Nava said. “All of a sudden, we’re trying to make all of these artificial barriers and walls that don’t make sense.”
He went on to tell a story about taking his grandmother to Mexico. On their way back over the border, she kept telling the U.S. border agents she was Mexican even though she had lived her entire life in New Mexico. “She wouldn’t say she wasn’t Mexican,” laughs Nava, who insists that for her, it was not a symbolic stand. “She genuinely thought of herself as Mexican.” Continue reading →
The Colorado River, one of the longest rivers in the United States, is gradually shrinking. This is partly a result of overuse by municipalities and seasonal drought. The other reason is global warming.
The decline in the river reservoir will have serious implications for large U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, that depend on the Colorado River as their water source. In addition, this will also have an impact on the Native American tribes who view the Colorado River as sacred to their religions.
As Ka-Voka Jackson, a member of the Hualapai tribe and a graduate student working to address climate change on the Colorado River and restoring native plant species along its banks, stated,
“The Colorado River is so sacred not just to my tribe, but to so many others.”
As a scholar of Native American religions and the environment, I understand how indigenous people’s religions and sacred places are closely tied to their landscape. For the past 100 years, indigenous peoples have been forced to adapt to changes in their environments and modify their religious rituals in the United States. The U.S. government made certain Native American religious practices illegal in the 19th and early 20th century. Although these policies have since been rescinded, they led to changes in many indigenous practices.
Global warming, however, is different. The question is whether indigenous people will be able to adapt their beliefs all over again due to the impact of global warming on the natural world.
Adapting to change
The Blackfeet tribe in Montana brought changes in their relationship with the natural world as a result of the policies of the U.S. government from the 1880s to the 1930s.
For example, the Blackfeet purposefully moved religious ceremonies from one time on their liturgical calendar to completely different times to avoid the U.S. government penalizing native people for dancing or participating in religious ceremonies.
The Blackfeet moved their annual O’kan, or sundance festival, from late summer (usually held at the end of August) to the Fourth of July celebration. They avoided U.S. government punishment by masking their ceremonies within state-sanctioned public events.
Policies related to the mining of natural resources and damming of rivers on indigenous lands have also led to changes in Native Americans’ religious practices.
Historian David R. M. Beckinterviewed elders and researched how the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin adapted to the loss of their sacred fish, the sturgeon, after a paper mill built a dam across the Wolf River.
The sturgeon disappeared after the dam was built in 1892, because they could no longer swim upstream to spawn. For over 100 years, the Menominee tribal members continued to pray and conduct their annual “returning of the sturgeon” ceremony in the spring – even though there were no more sturgeon in the river. The Menominee ultimately won the right to return the sturgeon to the Wolf River in 1992 and the tribe revitalized the full ceremony and celebration of their sacred fish.
In all these situations, Native American tribes learned to adapt to the challenges placed before them, modify their religious practice and embrace a different relationship with the natural world.
Global warming and religion
When it comes to global climate change, it affects everyone, not just specific groups in specific places. But for many indigenous peoples, natural resources are closely linked to religious beliefs and practices.
Historically, indigenous peoples used the natural seasonal cycles of weather, plants and animals as part of their liturgical or religious calendar. The Blackfeet held their annual “beaver bundle ceremony” in the early spring as ice melted off rivers and beavers returned to the open waters. In Blackfeet mythology, a beaver served as a deity who taught humans how to cultivate tobacco, which the tribe used for important religious ceremonies and as a peace offering to their enemies.
There are signs, though, that beavers are now moving north due to global warming. Biologists are currently studying both beavers and the birch and alder shrubs
that beavers eat, as both move north into new regions. Scientists worry that as a keystone species, the movement of beavers will change the northern ecosystems as they cut off waterways and build beaver dams. And shrubs will change the local waterways that they grow by. This will affect local animal species.
What will happen when there are no more beaver in Blackfeet territory? Will their religious traditions adapt similar to the Menominee when they faced the loss of their sacred sturgeon?
Religion and resiliency
From the arctic tundra to the American desert southwest, and places worldwide, indigenous peoples will be facing the impact of global climate change.
Regarding the shrinking of the Colorado River, researchers Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeckhave concluded that, “Failing to act on climate change means accepting the very high risk that the Colorado River basin will continue to dry up into the future.”
If this river faces a drier future, it will likely affect the Mojave, a people indigenous to the Colorado River basin, who believe the river was created by their ancient deity Mastamho as part of their sacred landscape.
As the G-20 convenes in Germany this week to discuss global issues including climate change, indigenous scholars, such as myself, are wondering what the future holds for indigenous peoples, their environments and their religions.
Indigenous communities can be resilient and adapt their internal religious beliefs to outside challenges, as Native American tribes from the turn of the 20th century have proven. Climate change presents yet another challenge.
“We deem the President’s Election Integrity Commission to be a baseless tool to promote voter suppression and Mr. Kobach’s unlawful abuse of his role as head of the Commission for partisan ends only underscores the illegitimacy of the Commission itself,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. (Photo: Penn State/flickr/cc)
As the number of states rejecting a “repugnant” and “alarming” voter data demand from the Trump administration’s so-called Election Integrity Commission swells to 41, one of the officials at the helm of that commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is under fire for allegedly violating federal law.
A civil rights group says that in his role as commission vice chair, Kobach, a Republican who’s been dubbed “the king of voter suppression,” appears to have violated the Hatch Act.
The 1939 law, which applies to Kobach in his role as committee vice chair, bars federal employees from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.” Continue reading →
Washington, DC – Dozens of the over two hundred people arrested protesting President Trump’s inauguration on January 20 (‘J20’) have appeared in court over the last two weeks.
(Content Advisory: Sexual Assault)
The arrests took place on the morning of January 20 during an ‘anti-capitalist/anti-fascist’ march, which traveled approximately sixteen blocks, during which police attacked protesters, medics, journalists, and bystanders with chemical weapons, batons, and concussion/flashbang grenades. Several corporate store windows were broken, and there was a melee as part of the crowd was able to charge through police lines to escape the mass arrest as officers began to move into a ‘kettle’ formation, eventually arresting every person in the vicinity. Continue reading →
Jeremy Corbyn speaking in Parliament Square. Photo: UnitePolitics/Twitter
Tens of thousands marched through central London on Saturday to protest privatization and austerity that has led to cuts in spending for education and public services.
Many carried signs reading: “Austerity Kills,” “Cuts Cost Lives,” “Not One Day More,” and “Tories Out.”
After holding a minute’s silence in honor of the victims of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London, which killed at least 80 people, those in the crowd also staged a round of applause for the emergency services. Continue reading →
“At long last, I am pleased that my Democratic and Republican colleagues supported my effort to put an end to the overly broad blank check for war that is the 2001 AUMF,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). (Photo: Alex Guerrero/flickr/cc)
A House committee on Thursday took a surprising—yet welcome—step towards canceling the “blank check for endless war.”
That’s because the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee passed a repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which has been used justify ongoing military actions in regions around the world spanning the George W. Bush, Obama, and now Trump administrations.
The amendment to the 2018 Defense Appropriations Bill was put forth by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)—the sole member of Congress to vote against the AUMF passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack—and would repeal the AUMF 240 days after enactment of the appropriations bill. Continue reading →
In an effort to bring national attention to “homegrown voter suppression” and to launch a campaign of “moral resistance” against Republican attempts to strip healthcare from millions, Rev. William J. Barber and other faith leaders marched in Washington on Friday just ahead of the anniversary of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Writing for NBC News prior to the march, Barber—a member of the NAACP national board of directors and a key figure in the successful effort to overturn North Carolina’s racially gerrymandered districts—argued that absent deliberate efforts by Republican lawmakers to prevent minorities from voting, a Donald Trump victory “would have never been possible.” Continue reading →
Protestors gather outside the hotel where Republican Rep. John Faso is scheduled to speak in Schoharie, New York. Congressman Faso has an 89.7% track record for voting “Yes” on Trump initiatives. Photo by Reggie Harris.
I’m leafing through a stack of protest signs in the corner of the mudroom, reading the markered letters, looking to see what can be recycled for tonight. The subjects we’ve collected thus far are about human rights and the environment. It looks like we’ll need to draft something fresh and new for tonight, because the topic is health care. Our Republican congressman, John Faso, has an 89.7 percent track record for voting “Yes” on Trump initiatives. He hasn’t been holding town meetings with constituents, he and his staff have stopped responding to letters, I’ve never had a phone call even answered, and his recent vote to repeal ObamaCare in the House has sparked this last minute protest down in the village of Schoharie, New York, where he’s the keynote speaker at a countywide Republican fundraiser. Continue reading →