Saturday, February 17 , 2018, 7:25 pm | Fair 55º


Debbie Brasket: A Moral Responsibility to Care for Earth

Trinity Episcopal Church to host symposium uniting spiritual faith and environmental stewardship

On Wednesday, Rep Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and the Rev. Sally Bingham will be discussing “Our Moral Responsibility to Protect the Earth.” This special evening at Trinity Episcopal Church is co-sponsored by the Community Environmental Council and ECO Faith, the Environmental Coalition of Faith Communities in Santa Barbara, representing a new environmental movement that draws upon spiritual faith to address urgent environmental needs.

The movement has its roots in “deep ecology,” which relates “the human venture to the larger destinies of the universe,” as eco-theologian Thomas Berry put it.

This year, the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN)‘s Environmental Protection and Sustainability Award went to John Evarts and Marjorie Popper, local environmentalists who not only accept the “moral responsibility to protect the Earth,” but also understand the deep connection between the human and the natural world.

In their acceptance speeches, each spoke eloquently about their beliefs, and practical ways to fulfill our responsibilities to protect the Earth.

“Environmental protection and social justice are inseparable,” Popper explained. “Too often, environmental protection is seen as an elitist pursuit, with tree huggers and tree cutters aligned on opposite sides ... This is a false dichotomy. Sustainable logging practices are in the best long-term interest of forest workers as well as of the forests. Too often, it is the least powerful members of our society — communities downstream from mountaintop coal-mining operations, inner-city children whose asthma stems from high levels of air pollution, or agricultural workers exposed to pesticides — who bear the brunt of poor environmental practices.”

She quoted the Dalai Lama, who pointed out in Ethics for the New Millennium that since “the natural world is our home. ... It is therefore in our interest to look after it.”

“And look after it we should,” Popper urged. “We should support resource conservation, renewable energy policies, and habitat protection on a governmental level and individual responsibility on a personal level. Simple things, such as hanging your laundry on the line or introducing native plants into your landscape are not too small to matter. Even our local daily walks introduce us to wonders. Just this week, we watched in amazement as masses of violet-green swallows swooped through volumes of sky, feeding on insects during their northward migration. Appreciation of wonders like these binds us to the natural world and strengthens our commitment to protect it.”

Evarts spoke of his and Popper’s first job, working at El Mirasol Polyculture Urban Farm in Santa Barbara, now the site of Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, 1500 Santa Barbara St.

“It was here that we first learned about making compost, organic gardening, chicken coops, beekeeping, solar power, methane digesters, and building with recycling materials,” he said. “El Mirasol was a multifaceted living classroom. We hosted a steady stream of visitors ... seeking advice on how to replicate this urban farm in other cities. Clearly, people were fascinated with this new idea of ‘sustainable’ living.

“We need more El Mirasols, more community gardens, more farmers markets, more food co-ops, and countless other economic, educational, and social models that offer alternatives and hope. With each successive generation, Americans are less rooted in the land. More than ever, we need to encourage activities that help us unplug and get back ’out there.”

If you’d like to “unplug” and “get back out there,” join Evarts and Popper on one of the field trips offered by the Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society.

Meanwhile, join the Environmental Coalition of Faith Communities in Santa Barbara to discuss more ways to fulfill our responsibilities to Mother Earth. The event will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Trinity Church, 1500 State St. Call 805.695.0104 for more information.

— Deborah Brasket is executive director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 805.722.5094. This commentary originally appeared in the Santa Maria Times.

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