Our New Monk Monthly Selection – December 2009



Beyond Sustainability – An Evolutionary Process

Toward Care for the Greater Community of Life

presented by:

Tim Watson, NCARB


“Transforming the Legacy Symposium”

workshop track:

Environmental Stewardship

Hosted by:

Wesley Theological Seminary

Washington, D. C.

December 18, 2009

Preamble to the international Earth Charter

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future.

As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded onrespect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another,

to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

Overview – Our challenge for the 21st century

Nine years ago representatives from 175 nation states, including the United States, concluded in the preamble to the international Earth Charter:

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future.”

How transformative can this simple line be in our lives today?

Let each one of us first consider our feelings about this preamble. There’s a Movement emerging on Planet Earth – new ways of living which will take us beyond the crises of our age into a world that works for all.  Let us take a course of action which embraces:

“Our greatest challenge of the 21st century is to allow all future generations the right to life, and the

right to participate in life processes equal in quality to that of our own time.”

Transformation cannot take place without the heat of human spirit. We attending this symposium are living at a watershed time. If we choose to draw upon this well of human spirit, we are drawing upon greatest gift this Symposium can offer. It is this spirit which will ultimately shape the outcome of our greatest challenge of the 21stcentury. So when I speak about the evolutionary process taking us beyond

sustainable thinking towards eco-spiritual thinking, this is what I am talking about.

On October 24, 2009 people in 181 countries came together for the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history. This grassroots-inspired event is simply known as “350.” Millions of people are aware that the Earth’s CO2 count has exceeded the scientific community’s recommended threshold of 350 parts per million. People in all walks of life and different faiths are calling for action because they have come to believe the climate crisis is being affected by increasing levels of CO2. Here is clear evidence for us all to witness. We are capable of taking action locally and changing political agendas globally. Because of this event, the world is a different place today. Through this 350 event, we see the power of human spirit at its best.

Global warming is heating up the “sustainability movement.” Some say the “green revolution” is being driven by climate change. What we see in these two terms is an evolution of thought. Today sustainable concepts have taken the architectural design profession beyond the boundaries of its previous notions about “green architecture”. What we are to consider here is a look down the road towards future architectural and urban design. Down that road we will encounter “eco-restorative” design.

The idea of “eco-restorative” design and its attention to the greater community of life is tied to climate change, and to life itself. More important to this symposium, and to the Wesley Theological Seminary’s dedication to help sustain the Mathews legacy, is how we each can play a role in restoring the Earth to its indigenous level of fecundity. That is to say, let us commit to a course of action which will help regain the capacity of life to flourish on this planet. This is a daunting challenge. If it is not met, the scientific community generally agrees the survival of countless species, as well as our own, is at risk.

“Climate change is a reality. Life depends on a sustainable environment. With no world, there can only be nothing–no birds, no animals, no trees, no us. That’s why getting involved in 350.org is so important – it’s an effective way to take action to turn around the climate crisis.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu

From Moscow to “Transforming the Legacy”

Towards the end of his stellar career of service to the scientific and educational communities, Dr. Carl Sagan traveled in concert with 22 globally renowned scientists to Moscow in 1990.  There representatives from 83 countries attended the “Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival”. Their statement listed the dangers of global warming, the depletion of food resources, the extinction of plant and animal species, and the destruction of rain forests, among other topics. According to the New York Times report, this Global Forum determined:

”Problems of such magnitude,” the scientists said,” and solutions demanding so broad a perspective, must be recognized from the outset as having a religious as well as a scientific dimension.”

It is within this context that we consider the challenge being placed before this symposium. This is a time crying for new ways of thinking, and for bold action. It is a story crying out for human reconnection to our sacred bond with Earth. It is a story yearning for a sense of empowerment – a sense of direction and clear purpose. Today I believe that sense of direction and purpose is within reach. Through its nurturing of the human spirit, the faith community can determine to join forces within its clergy and laity towards fomenting new forms of urban revitalization and educational concordance.

Of all the environments to be found on Earth, the most fertile and diversified human cultural environments are to be found in cities. Contrasting this, urbanized land is in most dire need of reclamation, soil rejuvenation, and natural ecosystems restoration. Cities comprise man-made environments severely disconnected from natural processes.

The combination of disenfranchised people and cities in ecological distress sets the stage for the coming “Re-greening of America” revolution. Faith communities are now in a strong position to influence policy through practical demonstrations. Aided by their forthcoming sustainable policy leadership, the youth of inner city America will see for themselves the promise of a new “green world” beckoning their enthusiastic participation. “Re-greening America” is about applying appropriate technologies to render our streets, vacant lots, and roof tops contributors to the restoration of our planet’s ecosystem. In so doing, WTS can help rekindle the sanctity of Earth in millions of people’s hearts.

The Ecumenical Institute in Fifth City proved it possible to do the impossible. There Joe Mathews, his colleagues, with support from Bishop Mathews, made their stand. In the end, Chicago was transformed. We too can resolve to take on the greatest challenge of the century: to test and launch the Re-greening of America campaign in the toughest arena – urban America. Cities are our beach heads of the future. They are our best hope. If we meet environmental challenges in cities, we can do it anywhere.

Across America, and throughout the world, thousands of faith leadership members are convening and communicating with each other. They are awakening to the global consensus taking form about global warming. Let us work with them to transform the legacy of Joseph Wesley and James Kenneth in ways totally new to all of us. Let us march with them as we embrace a humane doctrine for all Earth’s life communities.

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.” – Carl Sagan

The Great Shift

What is driving the great shift from an anthropocentrically dominated world towards a perceived interdependent and humane relationship between people and the natural world?

Most of us are aware of the previously mentioned challenges and their attendant social and economic inequities. These challenges belie the decline of Earth’s natural “bio-capacity” upon which humankind ultimately depends. The human community now consumes 40% of all currently available food based energy resources on Earth. That is to say that within the aegis of horticultural and naturally occurring biomass processes, humanity is consuming almost half of what is available to all species of life. This onslaught is accelerating in the face of a shrinking global biomass dinner table. For example, recently global food reserves sank to a 61 day supply – an all time low. Information from the National Academy of Sciences shows us this:

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This over-drawing and erosion of our planet’s capacity to support life is pressing the human community to adopt measures intended to slow, and ultimately overcome the growing decline of Earth’s carrying capacity. The sheer weight of human intervention into the natural world is compelling us to convene, to reassess, to change – however inconvenient or economically compromising sustainable use policies might seem.

Even in the architectural world, a shift from anthropocentric bottom line ethics towards addressing the larger Earth community is taking place. As far back as 1992, The Hannover Principles were developed as foundational guidelines for ecological design. One of the key principles listed for dissemination at the 2000 Hanover World Fair:

“Respect relationships between spirit and matter.”

This acknowledgement of spirit being a part of and being expressed through the physical world marks the emergence of a significant shift in perception in industrial/technological societies.

The Hannover Principles helped usher in a renewed New Earth Story compelling us to consider joining forces with all life communities. In so doing they embraced the worlds of spirit and matter as being integral with one another. Here we see people representing building sciences and design services willing to acknowledge the presence of Spirit as an integral part of the ecological design process!

Technological Mindset – our last great hope?

Central to the challenges of our time is western culture’s last great hope: technology.

Many people living in industrialized societies are accustomed to believe science will continue to pull the proverbial “white rabbit out of the hat”. Our insistence on individual freedom and our inherited pride in seeing technology as the instrument for the control of nature underlies our wish to continue our reliance on technology to avoid catastrophe. We continue to think in terms of inventing new technologies that will enable us to produce more food, more inventions, and more clever fixes. So far the western world’s reliance on technology has not succeeded in solving our global crisis.

Consumerism, global investment practices, social inequity, and slow progression towards emancipation of gender, of poverty, and of human rights have played a role in leading us towards environmental meltdown. If developing countries were to adopt America’s level of consumerism, it would take almost six planet Earth’s to match the western world’s narcissistic appetite (see above National Academy of Sciences graph).

However, in the midst of our love affair with technology, enough danger signals have occurred to cause a growing number of us to reconsider continuing down this road.

For example, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, glacier melt is now predicted to severely affect the lives of 2 billion people when the Himalayas’ glaciers disappear within the next 35 years (see Appendix). One of many global warming implications resulting from Greenland’s alarming ice melt (scientist are saying it is melting much faster than previously believed) will see Bangladesh inundated with sea rise level covering almost half its land area. Whole Micronesian populations are at risk. Lower lying coastal areas, particularly in Louisiana, Florida, and the North Carolina outer banks will be affected in the United States. The scientific community has reached consensus on human generated CO2 accelerating the global warming process. Within the context of the global community, we are faced with the moral question of participating in this impending tragic ending of so many human lives.

Let us take a look at a sampling of our last great hope: new technologies which many people believe will eventually help turn the global warming tide.

  • Thin film and applied photovoltaic coatings which can transform roofing and building siding into solar energy collectors
  • “Phase change” adjuncts to traditional wall and ceiling insulation products which reduce ranges of temperature variations in buildings
  • Precast concrete foundation cisterns which are designed to store rainwater, structurally support buildings, and add malleable thermal mass to buildings
  • Bio-degradable packaging materials and related products which can be used as natural fertilizer inputs in China and elsewhere
  • Manufactured material recycle and reuse streams as evidenced in Ford’s announced “Model U” automotive design intended to eliminate manufacturing based “waste streams” – this concept demonstrates a recycling process generally known as “bio-technological food resource management”
  • LED lighting luminaries which use a fraction of the energy used by fluorescent lamps (fluorescent technology uses mercury and therefore is a waste hazard)
  • Aero-phonic crop rooftop production is being developed in Pacific Rim countries with the objective of creating urban farming industries on top of buildings having flat roofs (presages use of urbanized areas as food resources for people)
  • Renewable fuel resources intended to serve reciprocating engine technology; will end use of precious food stocks (like corn) whereby algae propagation and related “emzymatic hydrolysis” (a process which breaks down cellulose and lignin into fermentable compounds yielding many more liters per hectare compared to current ethanol production processes) - Newsweek, Nov. 2009).
  • Fusion energy production may become available within the next 20 years (this time frame is too far into the future to significantly affect CO2 emission reductions needed to neutralize green house gas propagation in time)

Another landmark development is the new “high performance” building certification process now being used in the United States. Governmental and educational facilities are adopting the use of a new building design and construction certification process known as “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)”. Architects and people associated with the design services industry are using LEED guidelines to help them develop sustainable buildings and related site improvements. The incorporation of these sustainable design criteria is intended to reduce energy and resource consumption, which in turn helps reduce CO2 emissions.

Within the next ten to twenty years, “LEED – New Construction” buildings will comprise less than 2% of America’s building stock. What about all the existing structures whose thermal performance pales in comparison to these “high performance” buildings? And what about the economics involved in retrofitting the new technologies listed above? Using LEED guidelines will take more time than is left to us to transform our inventory of extractive use buildings into net energy exporting buildings. Americans consume over 6 times the energy per capita as compared to China. What can be done to bring America in line with average worldwide energy use patterns?

Use of photovoltaics, solar water heating arrays, wind generated electricity, and associated renewable energy technologies are promising a better tomorrow in the minds of most people.  Such technological applications are very important to our future. They are an indispensable part of the solution to global warming. However at this time in history they pose an important drawback. These sophisticated delivery systems require a high degree of specialization, centralized distribution patterns, and highly skilled labor resources to produce, install, and maintain them. However, there is limited global access to such technologies. When conceptualized in so-called third world nations, these technologies can be seen as “hard technologies”. They can be viewed as such because they are difficult to acquire and rapidly bring on line in most underdeveloped locations around the world.

But however wonderful and useful these technological advances are, they alone are not enough. What is needed to compliment the usefulness of “hard technologies” are sustainable scientifically-based globally applicable processes. These processes can be referred to as “soft technologies”.

Soft Technologies – our new partner

Resolution of climate change is a global enterprise. This challenge will command the attention and participation of every empowered man, woman, and child on the planet. The application of “hard technology” is, unfortunately, reserved for the fortunate few who have access to deep pocketed economic and highly specialized industrialized resources. Enter “soft technologies”.

“Soft technology” is about using locally available human and physical resources as we find them. It is about applying a combination of ancient and contemporary sciences.

This “soft tech” process draws upon what can be termed “Agrarian Earth Science.”

The use of Agrarian Earth Science was popularized in the western world by a man named Bill Mollison in the 1980’s. He and his partner in Australia developed “nature-based” ways for people to interact with surrounding ecosystems. Part of his inspiration drew upon ancient technologies developed by indigenous peoples. Mollison saw it was possible for humans to live in harmony with nature. He coined the word “permaculture” to identify this sustainable cultural form of living lightly on the land. Today one can find examples of whole communities whose interactions with nature are based on “Permaculture”, “Natueco”, (adopts a scientific approach to agrarian practices in India) and related Agrarian Earth Sciences throughout the world.

“Soft technologies” involve processes which are decentralized and available to people everywhere in the world. Such technologies combine ancient agrarian sciences with contemporary Agrarian Earth Science. Through the test of at least 40 centuries these ancient processes have proven to be truly sustainable. Numerous examples involving the application of “soft” technologies can be found wherein entire communities of people participate in their long-term horticultural CO2 sequestering activities.

Today similar Agrarian Earth Science based modalities are needed to complement the use of “hard technologies”. Perhaps the greatest advantage of this blending of old and new has to do with the fact that unskilled human resources can be called upon to put the use of Agrarian Earth Science into action. Second to this indispensable universal participation idea is the fact that “soft tech” can be retrofitted around every existing building and parking lot throughout the world. Contrasting the use of “hard tech” food production which is costly and damaging to the environment, application of “Agrarian Earth Science” ecologically responsible crop production can be universally adopted.

Here is the unaddressed opportunity of our time:

The combined use of hard and soft technologies can be retrofitted in cities and in every human habitation throughout the world to address climate change.

As previously stated, cities are our beach head landing ground. The combined use of these technologies will see people in all walks of life, whatever their education and socio-economic background, participate!

Universal human participation is key to meaningful global ecological transformation!

The environmental challenges of our time can be successfully met! However, not by the few, and not alone by those whose resources now seem up to the challenge. As was the case on December 7th, 1941, almost every able bodied adult in America, as well as our allies, joined forces and “did their bit” to win the war. So too we must enlist and galvanize all members of our society to participate in winning this greatest global challenge in mankind’s history. This combination of “hard and soft technologies” is the secret recipe whereby every engaged person can “do their bit” by becoming global stakeholders.

Innovative Visions for the Future

No where in the world of human built environment has there been a greater need to embrace these new ideas than in cities. No where in the human landscape are there more opportunities to adopt and apply eco-restorative processes than in cities. It is within our grasp to see cities as oases of life enhancing ecosystems.

Local economic flows

This process begins with people. It begins with decentralized economic activity patterns generated by neighbors and community organizations. Their key barometer will be local exchange and flow of commerce seen as money distributed within local neighborhoods and communities like Fifth City in Chicago. When compared to the energy intensive centralized corporate world, such economies are less energy consumptive – therefore healthier for the planet. Throughout America, small businesses, urban farming and hundreds of thousands of individuals participating in the “Re-greening of America” can create a totally new fabric of life in neighborhoods.

Corporate based services encourage the concentration and flow of money outside of most blighted urban areas. In contrast, mixed use zoning, farmer’s markets, and individually owned corner grocery stores are among many examples involving localized economic exchanges. A national organization known as Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) supports and encourages the development of neighborhood scaled commerce using these strategies.

The energy needed to produce and transport locally grown produce is significantly less than agribusiness produced produce imported from California. Human accountability factors strongly in localized economies. Local producers often have direct contact with their end-use customers, so the incentive to produce higher quality is more immediate. The consequence of poor performance is more immediate. In the world of localized thinking, economics is just one factor. Locally derived recycled water flows, energy flows, and mixed-use zoning in cities can all be associated with the BALLE concept.

Retrofitting and adaptive reuse

What about our existing building infrastructure? In most cities about 80% of the building stock that exists today will likely be occupied by successor generations of people. However progressive sustainable design polices may benefit new construction, they will be overshadowed by the urgent need to retrofit sustainable hard and soft technologies into existing buildings, streets, and parking lots. This process is known as “adaptive reuse”. It is evident everywhere in older urban centers throughout America. The retrofitting of insulation, weather-stripping, and rainwater distribution systems can be applied to most buildings. Our transportation network of streets and highway right of ways can be adapted to the creation of community gardens and green spaces where solar energy installations and plantings will harmoniously co-exist.

Making imaginative use of existing build stock is an exciting venture. For example, excellent examples of adaptive reuse can be found in Durham, North Carolina. The downtown area of this city is dominated by brick warehouses and manufacturing facilities built by the tobacco industry over a century ago. Today these fine buildings have been adapted for condominiums and apartments which are in high demand.

Within the urbanized world we have the opportunity to transform how human populations will retrofit soft technologies into streets and buildings everywhere. We are envisioning an evolutionary “green revolution” leading us towards humankind’s regained synergistic relationship with the natural world in cities. This transformative vision forms the heartbeat of the future “Eco-Restorative Green Movement”.

Grass Roots Social Change and New Economic Opportunity

Universal human participation is key to meaningful global ecological transformation!

This not only bears repeating, it must apply to those who currently have little or no stake hold in creating a sustainable society and urban environment in America’s cities. Without the participation of millions of disenfranchised youth in urban America the transformation of cities is difficult to imagine. Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps initiated during the 1930’s, and akin to the Peace Corps launched in 1961, our political leadership has endorsed what is known as the “Clean Energy Corps”. The CEC’s mission is to provide green collar jobs to hundreds of thousands of young Americans wanting to participate in the “Re-Greening of America”. 15 million buildings will be affected! Billions of dollars are earmarked to fund an organizational structure and delivery systems creating the means for communities throughout America to provide a platform for Green Jobs Corps and Youth Build Programs, all applying “soft technology.”

Transforming Buildings into Non-extractive Ecological Contributors

In so far as the built environment is concerned, we first begin by transforming buildings from extractive resource and energy consumers into benign ecological contributors. It means that it is now feasible, given a long enough period of time to render a return on capital investment, to build and retrofit buildings that produce at least as much energy as they consume. This concept has been popularized as “net zero” energy exchange between buildings and the electrical supply grid to which they are connected. In most cases, use of photovoltaic technology can achieve this objective in combination with a myriad number of devices designed to more efficiently deliver electrical power. A promising example creating more efficient use of electricity is LED lighting technology – the next generation of lighting fixtures which is far superior today’s fluorescent technology. Lighting alone accounts for nearly 30% of the energy consumed in structures in North America. But as revealed before, application of “hard tech” solutions is not enough.

Eco-Restorative Design

The application of “eco-restorative design” now comes into full focus. This is an approach to designing and retrofitting buildings in ways which draw upon the use of both “hard” and “soft” technologies. Eco-Restorative design sees buildings not only as energy harvesters, but as one would see a coral reef in the ocean. That is to say buildings can be seen as opportunities to enrich the fecundity of the Earth.

Why is this so important to us? The answer is both simple and profound: humanity must transform the way we use the land and buildings upon the land so that the planet’s “biocapacity” is enhanced.  As we have seen, at this very moment Earth’s natural processes to support and produce life are slipping. Humanity must seek every opportunity to reverse this erosion of our life support system. The time has come to envision buildings as biomass enhancing ecological contributors to the planet.

Eco-Restorative Design makes use of buildings and their environs to help REPLENISH Earth’s ecosystems.

Rendering both existing and new buildings as ecological contributors to the planet is entirely achievable. Doing so is a process of combining interactive rainwater flowswith nearby vegetative and microbial environs surrounding buildings. That is to say, if we harvest rainwater, store it in ways that optimize building thermal mass dynamics, then use it to maintain controlled moisture levels in soil by means of irrigation distribution, we can achieve the following:

  1. increase micro-biotic populations in soil through the interaction of buildings with surrounding “landscaped” areas to enhance fertility
  2. increase density of life populations per square meter of ground through enhancement of soil quality and biomass production
  3. enhance biodiversity through the application of permaculture and related Agrarian Earth Science principles
  4. lower the sine wave of building thermal variations by making it easier to achieve reasonably comfortable indoor air temperatures with less heating and cooling energy expenditure
  5. eliminate use of precious treated water (potable) resources for landscape irrigation applications by adopting the use of water conservation and on-site propagation of grey water flows
  6. decrease rainwater flow velocity and volume over time thus reducing storm water concentrations and runoff impacts on downstream riparian ecosystems

Further information on this topic can be found in my article entitled “Rethinking Houses as Living Systems” published in:

The Ecozoic – Reflections on Life in an Ecological Age a publication of the Center for Ecozoic Studies, Vol. One, 2008, Chapel Hill, NC (or see: www.tlwarchitect.com )

The Transformative Urban Vision: “Micro-Edens”

The majority of urban space is covered over with buildings, parking lots, streets, and other impervious surfaces. Innovative ways to transform such life-compromising places are at hand thanks to the application of “soft tech” science. The application of permaculture tools such as bio-intensive gardening, edible landscaping, and rainwater conservation techniques can be retrofitted into cityscapes to make what can be called “micro-Edens”. These “Micro-Edens” become places where nature is given a chance to reestablish herself on buildings, vacant lots, streets, roof tops, and into every open area exposed to sunlight.

We must visualize and actively work to change the extractive ecology of cities into a philosophy of urban ecology that exports energy. Cities must be transformed into resources for food, carbon sequestration, and planetary oxygenation. But most importantly, this vision sees masses of disenfranchised humanity with shovels in their hands. The application of Agrarian Earth Science is a labor intensive, site specific process requiring large concentrations of committed urban participants.

What underscores this blending of ancient and new technology?  When we create green spaces, fertile ground, and havens for people, we at the same time are creating havens for non-human populations. Humans often see themselves as the top of the pyramid – the pinnacle of evolution. Every pyramid has a support base (or foundation) that must necessarily support it.  Respect and nurturing of this base of non-human fellow Earth travelers requires both awareness and nurturing. When we step into this New Earth Story in consideration of both the human agenda as well as care for the greater community of life, we find ourselves immersed in a story that is marked with compassionate, humane regard for non-human communities – “our fellow astronauts”, as Dr. Buckminster Fuller would say.

At the Heart of The Spirit of Eco-Restorative Design Movement

These hard and soft technological ideas are important contributors towards addressing our environmental stewardship challenges. But they are not, in themselves, enough. There is a foundational prerequisite to the successful application of any technology and visionary idea. It is the underlying thing that shapes and guides how humans first perceive, and subsequently how they are then destined to interact with the natural forces shaping their cities and neighborhood gardens. From this central point of attention is born the idea of “eco-spirituality.” Thus begins our journey which saw the light of day in Hannover, Germany well over a decade ago.

One can see how it is possible to commit ourselves to establishing “eco – restorative beach heads” in each city throughout the world. But the transformation of human cityscape to net ecological contributors cannot hope for success without first sourcing from the depths of the human spirit a renewed sense of the sacred nature of all life.

What underpins, what inspires, what sets humanity upon a course of action with deep caring spawns from who we are in our very depths. For our global venture to work out, the very soul of our Great Work, as Father Thomas Berry would put it, must be exposed to the light of day through focused educational endeavors. The best of who we are is found in compassionate, humane regard for the firmament, and all that God has placed upon it. We are as the very ground we walk upon. We are in and of Earth – intimately connected to one another and all Creation.

Profoundly, Eco-Restorative thinking affirms the spiritual connection that exists between humans and the natural world.

In human endeavor, be it the arts, healing a child, or climbing Mount Everest, it is what we yearn to witness in ourselves and experience in life that drives and motivates us to climb any mountain, however daunting that mountain might seem. This heart connection must be offered to every kindergarten and bible school facility in America.

The creation of interactive Earth learning gardens needs to be a part of every church curriculum.

It is for us, here at Wesley Theological Seminary, and faith communities throughout the world, to educate ourselves, and those who look up to us, about the sanctity of Earth and all Her subjects. It is for us to educate our students, our neighbors, and one another in ways that will see us present to the profundity of life that surrounds every building, every garden, and every tree.

If those of us who are sharing the last heartbeats of this gathering have a fresh perspective on what can be done, shall we then take action? Shall we for a shared moment, reflect on the sacred contract awaiting our impassioned assignment:

We firmly resolve to allow all future generations the right to life, and the right to participate in life processes equal in quality to that of our own time.”

The Faith Community Challenge

I present you with a challenge. Let us consider having Wesley Theological Seminary, its outreach mission, and its sister faith communities, take on an assignment involving at least five aspects.

The first aspect is probably already clear to most of us: seeing the religious community actively committing to solutions and polices addressing environmental challenges of our time.

The second aspect of this challenge is to see Wesley Theological Seminary join with other higher education organization’s commitment to adopt a “carbon neutral” campus-wide plan. Such plans must be realized within the next two decades throughout America.

The third aspect appears to already be underway at Wesley Theological Seminary. The Seminary’s campus, and its urban architecture, is being conceived toinfluence policy through practical demonstrations. Through pursuing its own ecologically sound polices and projects, the Wesley Theological Seminary campus can contribute towards shifting faculty, student, administrative staff, and public awareness about sustainable alternatives. What lives at the heart of this challenge finds WTS, its affiliates, and local community members regarding this campus as an educational demonstration resource committed to environmentally sound practices. This vision can commit itself to sharing the fruits of sustainable and eco-restorative polices with the surrounding urban area here in Washington D.C., and the global faith community at large.

The fourth aspect may not be recognized by many people living in urbanized America. It is about rekindling our primordial connection with Nature and the Universe, as Father Thomas Berry would have us do. Out of rekindling our awe for the magnificence of Earth and her subjects, we can deeply enliven this Seminary’s faculty, students, well-wishers, and participants desire to meet the environmental challenges that await us all. This is a rebirthing of what we may call an “eco-spiritual” ecumenical movement. Such can be shared with clergy, laity, and the global community alike. Here is where human ecological nurturing finds its place in the Eco-Restorative Re-greening of America process.

The fifth and perhaps most compelling aspect of this challenge is to take action. Before the conclusion of this Symposium, let us not leave this campus on Saturday without first determining a venue for the creation of a strategic task force. This task force would be mandated to pursue the four preceding ideas, as well as others not identified here.

These ideas can only empower us if we draw upon the collective wisdom of the faith community working with ecologically knowledgeable people. Stakeholders at WTS and every faith educational facility are needed to come together in a decision making body to discuss, to deliberate, and then act upon a new transformative vision for their future. The following offers ideas that can contribute towards this process.

Wesley Theological Seminary Action Plan Ideas

A Strategic Seminary Visioning Session could be led by a facilitation team highly skilled in the ICA’s Technology of Participation. The following ideas are intended to help build a faith community common vision and then to turn that vision into an action plan  (items shown in italics are the author’s favorite recommendations):

Committing to solutions and polices addressing environmental challenges

  • adoption of LEED certification standards for future building construction and improvement campus planning at WTS
  • incorporation of ecologically sustainable and eco-restorative educational course work into the Seminary’s curriculum
  • seek out Advisory Board candidate(s) who know about sustainable policy germane to the needs and capabilities of higher learning institutions

Adopt a “carbon neutral” campus-wide plan

  • review and determine whether or not WTS is willing to sign the American College and University President Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) – this is a nation wide commitment for going public with an institution’s willingness to adopt campus planning guidelines intended to achieve “carbon neutrality” within the next several decades
  • join the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) – this organization provides access to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). AASHE has lead a collaborative effort to launch an analysis tool for campus sustainability, with guidelines by which institutions may measure themselves and qualify for different levels of recognition/ accomplishment.

Influencing policy through practical demonstrations.

  • implement some or all of the foregoing programs
  • host or sponsor events that focus on environmental stewardship
  • adopt a “Campus Re-greening” plan which over time demonstrably involves altering high visibility portions of the campus landscape with the purpose of demonstrating sustainable practice guidelines (e.g. xeriscaping installations, edible landscaping, biodiversity, minimal use of potable water for irrigation, etc.)
  • adopt an on-campus signage program featuring visible demonstrations of sustainable practice and Earth Stewardship as a learning tool for students, faculty, administrative/support staff personnel, and in particular: visitors!

Rekindling our primordial connection with Nature

  • emphasize curricula which provide students and faculty with learning opportunities focusing on relevant cosmological, theo-ecological, natural systems, equitable social systems, and sustainable economics thinking
  • advocate the adoption of architectural design policy which in addition to addressing LEED certification guidelines, gives special attention to Creation’s gifts of sun, tree, rainfall, via “outdoor space building design”
  • plan more outdoor events, and provide more outdoor meeting spaces that serve as an alternative to restricting class meetings to indoor lecture halls
  • create a seasonal community garden which is on tour for everyone who sets foot on campus- as well as being a contributor to campus dining hall menus!


In 1215 the “”Magna Carta Libertatum” (the Great Charter of Freedoms) required King John of England to proclaim certain rights (pertaining to freemen), respect certain legal procedures, and accept that his will could be bound by the law. In 2000, almost 800 years later, the international Earth Charter found humanity expanding beyond the notion of human rights by acknowledging the rights of all living communities on Earth.

Nature is becoming our most compelling great convener. This has set the stage for a new era of eco-spiritual thinking which embraces the sanctity of all life on Earth. It is this sense of the divine in all things we can see awakening the human spirit in our time. A growing number of leaders within the faith community see environmental issues as moral issues addressing equitable consideration for all peoples, and for all life communities. Herein is the seed which all faith communities can water.

Today ever-increasing numbers of people around the world are feeling more concerned. Their attention is evidenced by international cooperative gatherings: Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto, as well as the Copenhagen Summit convened at the end of 2009. Such events hold promise that the human community is finally willing to come to terms with its failed environmental policies. In response to this growing evidence, we at this symposium and Wesley Theological Seminary, can take on a fresh leadership role in our communities. As community faith leaders, we have the ability to support growing international accord, as has been witnessed with the ongoing global “350” grass roots movement.

We have considered traditional technological practice and integration of Agrarian Earth Science whereby the restoration of the planetary ecosystem can be undertaken by everyone, everywhere. We have looked at how buildings can be reconceived to restore the land areas surrounding them. We have seen how it is possible to rethink our existing building stock in ways that render the built environment net exporters of energy flows as compared to the extractive nature of buildings today.

Here a challenge has been made which can be addressed by every faith learning institution willing to educate people about sustainable alternatives. Most important to the purpose of this paper are the ideas and actions needed to meet these challenges.

I see our coming together as a gathering of impassioned individuals who are alive to their participation in the outcome of this great play now being co-scripted by both the human and non-human communities of Earth. Out of this I have come to believe there is a new agenda before us. That agenda is our renewed reverent dance with the natural world. From the eyes of every human being on Earth, nature herself will soon be seen to dominate the human world’s agenda. Let us respond to that agenda by taking clear action in a humane, purposeful, heart-felt way.

Our relationship and attitude towards caring for the greater community of life significantly defines who we are. What moves our hearts will shape our destiny with this planet. Above all else, the thoughts, attitudes, and our perceptions about our sacred relationship with the natural world are the keys to our future failure, or success.

About the author and the Mathews Legacy
While pushing wheel barrows on the reclamation project known as Fifth City on Chicago’s West Side, fascination for designing buildings first stirred my early adult life. Working at the former Institute of Cultural Affairs seminary campus found me hauling old row house construction debris during the hottest days of 1963. I remember our construction team’s talks in the shade of the old seminary dining hall. We brainstormed about how bricks and mortar would set the stage for reshaping human community. But what I didn’t know about then: use of bricks and mortar also changes the natural world, for better or worse.
Before that time in Chicago, life with my Uncle Joe, Aunt Lyn (I really miss her), and the Mathews boys in Texas drew my attention to the idea that I too, could serve humanity. In Austin, the Ecumenical Institute’s pilot “Religious Studies One” (RS-1) workshop confounded me. In those days I had no idea how this extraordinary experience was to shape my journey into life’s Great Mystery. The underlying spirit of the Mathews family certainly includes our dear Bishop Ken’s contributions to my life. He on numerous occasions gave me his council, his time and his abiding inspiration. All this nudged me forward. This family legacy has helped form a man who sees himself as a member of the global village, and a man who passionately serves humanity in his own way towards

“Building the Earth”!

Ensuing studies at Rice University birthed in me a reverent regard for Ian McHarg’s ideas, who authored the landmark book “Design with Nature” in 1969. Ian’s ideas sparked our graduate class towards the integration of human activity and care for the natural environment. Such ideas caused me to rethink how to best apply my Master of Urban Design degree through the application of sustainable, ecologically responsible design.
In June 1993 I found myself back in Chicago. There, while participating in launching the first international architectural convention, we formulated a global “Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future”.  My life and architectural practice was transformed. Since that time I have been a man of inquiry as to how to “Build the Earth” through the use of sustainable design ideas.  The seeds of the eco-restorative design ideas I will offer today germinated in Chicago. Since those times I have been blessed with the help and inspiration of many fellow Earth Stewards.
The insights gained in those earlier years blossomed when I read Father Thomas Berry’s “The Dream of the Earth”. His visionary grasp of humanity’s relationship with Earth helped me see how human perception about the natural world is fundamentally shaping our time in history with the passing of each day. He foresaw our rush towards a new era wherein the natural world will seem to have turned the tables against us. He envisioned the natural world regaining the reverent attention once deemed so worthy by our ancestors. Thomas also understood the human community would finally have to come to grips with the visceral prospect of its own extinction.
This inheritance of family, education, and inspiration, finds me grateful for our shared Mathews legacy.  This legacy has helped prepare me to be an eager participant in this symposium. It is an honor for me to stand amongst the ranks of those attending this gathering with the intention of “Transforming the Legacy” Brother Joe and Bishop Mathews have so ably entrusted to us.
Bibliographic Resources

This partial listing provides further resources relevant to the topics presented.
www.350.orgfocusing on the number 350–as in parts per million, the level scientists know as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen to craft a new global treaty…
www.aashe.org – Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) – provides access to “Cool Campus!” a how-to guide for college and university climate action planning, and to their newly released Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS)
www.climateprotect.org – Through its projects — Repower America, the WE Campaign, and the Reality Coalition — and its affiliated organization, The Climate Protection Action Fund, the Alliance seeks to present choices and offer changes that will protect our planet for future generations; http://greenerchoices.org/globalwarmingsavecarbon.cfm

this is an exceptional source of information for those who want to learn more about how they, as individuals and families, can reduce their “Carbon Footprint”
www.livingeconomies.org – Business for Local Living Economies (BALLE) - helping neighborhood businesses flourish in their local economies. “…we’re leveraging the power of local networks to build a web of economies that are community-based,…”
www.engr.pitt.edu/mac/images-t/articles%20and%20docs/CleanEnergyCorps-Full%20Report-Web[1].pdf – provides the full text document for the Obama administration plan to provide 600,000 green jobs to disenfranchised young adults affecting 15,000,000 buildings in urban America
www.fore.research.yale.eduThe Forum on Religion and Ecology is the largest international multi-religious project of its kind. With its conferences, publications, and website it is engaged in exploring religious worldviews, texts, and ethics in order to broaden understanding of the complex nature of current environmental concerns.
www.newmonkproject.org – a non-profit non-denominational education resource for individuals and organizations dedicated to building the Earth from within, offering inspiration, support, and information on topics relating to eco-spirituality
www.permaculture.org.au – originated the best known contemporary example of Agrarian Earth Science, known by many people as Permaculture
www.restoringeden.org – Christians for Environmental Stewardship – one among many sustainable policy advocacy student based organizations
www.tlwarchitect.com – a resource of information on eco-restorative design and vision for the forthcoming “Re-greening of America” and eco-restoration topics

Eco-restorative design makes use of buildings and their environs to help replenish Earth’s ecosystems. Our underlying theme is to reeducate and redirect perceptions about western culture’s relationship to Earth….. To put this new thinking into action, we will entertain the opportunity to win America’s enthusiastic support towards implementing a national green revolution – “Re-Greening America”.


This information is being disseminated by the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly WWF). It summarizes information which every citizen of Earth should be aware.
Worldwide, accelerating glacier loss provides independent and startling evidence that global warming is occurring. (author’s note: potentially two billion human being’s lives are at stake on this one issue)

1. It is now clear that the Earth is warming rapidly due to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, which blanket the planet and cause temperatures to rise.

2. Climate change is already happening, but we can strive to keep global warming within tolerable limits if we act now. Based on scenarios of projected damage to ecosystems and human communities, WWF seeks to limit global warming to a maximum of 2ºC over pre-industrial levels. Although a warming of 1-2ºC will clearly threaten human health, water supplies and vulnerable ecosystems, a warming of at least 1ºC appears unavoidable. Warming beyond 2ºC is likely to result in rapidly escalating damages, with severe threats to human populations and the loss of unique and irreplaceable ecosystems.It is therefore imperative that emissions of the main heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), are significantly reduced, in order to avoid exceeding this 2ºC threshold.
The majority of CO2 pollution is released when fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are burned for transportation, heating, or the production of electricity. Coal is particularly damaging, as it produces 70% more CO2 emissions than natural gas for the same energy output. Electricity generation is the single largest source of manmade CO2, amounting to 37% of worldwide emissions.
WWF is challenging the electric power sector to become CO2-free by the middle of this century in industrialized countries, and to make a significant shift towards that goal in developing countries. A number of power companies have already signed on to WWF’s vision, but in order to reduce emissions significantly, power utilities, financial institutions, consumers, and policy makers must all play a role:

• Utilities can support meaningful global warming legislation, improve the energy efficiency of power plants, increase their use of renewable energy sources, and halt investment in new coal plants and coal mining.

• Financial institutions can call upon the companies they invest in to disclose their emissions policies, and switch their investments to companies that are striving to be more competitive under future limits on carbon emissions.

• Electricity consumers should opt for “green power” where it is available, demand this choice where it is not, and invest in highly efficient appliances. (author’s note: higher learning institutions can elect to pay a little more for electrical service that draws upon renewable electrical power resources like wind generated electricity)

• Policy makers must ease the transition to a carbon-free energy industry by passing legislation that creates favorable market conditions, shaping new frameworks for change, and ensuring that the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s primary legal tool to combat global warming, enters into force as soon as possible.


A full list of literature cited in this brochure can be found at http://www.panda.org/climate/glaciers


Text by Stacey Combes, Michael L. Prentice, Lara Hansen and Lynn Rosentrater


Director: Jennifer Morgan

c/o WWF Germany

Grosse Präsidentenstrasse 10 – 10178 Berlin – Germany

Email: morgan@wwf.de

Website: http://www.panda.org/climate® WWF Registered Trademark Owner ©1986, WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund), Gland, Switzerland. – Designed & produced by IPMA-wwp.com

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