“It is spring again.
The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. At the Cobb Institute it provides an opportunity to reflect on our commitment to bring about an ecological civilization. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries.
Here are some ways you can celebrate Earth Day.
Get Back in Touch with Nature
When was the last time you really got out there in nature? When was the last time you left your cell phone at home and just went somewhere to be the only person around? Find a local park, forest, nature trail, secluded beach, or another spot where you can go and get back in touch with the natural world.
Enjoy the silence. Listen to the birds singing in the trees, the bubbling of a stream, the crash of the waves, or the sounds of squirrels scurrying through the underbrush. Get hands-on, and stop to touch the trees and the dirt. Pick things up off the ground and hold them – whether it’s a feather, a stick, an interesting rock or shell, or a drifting leaf. Feel the connection that we all have to them.
Clean Up Your Space
Ever drive down a road and feel stunned by the litter blowing alongside the street? Ever think that stream near your house would look a lot nicer if there wasn’t garbage all over the riverbanks? Now is your time to fix that. Imagine if each of us took responsibility to clean up the space around us, even if it’s just what we can see from our own yard. The world would look a lot better.
Organize a neighborhood cleanup. Whether you live in a suburban subdivision, on a city block, or in a rural farming community, you can empower your neighbors to take responsibility for their own area. Pick a day, make sure everyone knows about it, and get out there to clean up. Provide trash and recycling bags for everyone if possible.
Organize a Recycling Drive
Many communities have curbside recycling pickup, in which residents simply place their recyclables in a bucket at the curb and it gets collected each week with the rest of the trash. Unfortunately, there are plenty of areas that don’t have that as an option, for a variety of reasons. Studies have shown that people who don’t have immediate access to recycling services recycle less, because it’s simply inconvenient to do so.
Organize a recycling drive so that all the folks who normally don’t have a way to get rid of their paper, plastic, cardboard and glass will have a drop off point. You can even take hard-to-get-rid-of items like old batteries, paint, tires, and cell phones. Check with your local recycling or waste management company to see what requirements they have in place before you start.
If we acknowledge that the land itself is a sacred thing, then connecting to it can be a sacred act. For many people in the process community gardening is sacred. Look at it this way: we dig around in the dirt, stick a seed or bulb in it, and a few weeks later little green things are coming up out of the soil. This is process that we can see. We facilitate new life just by the act of planting.
“Earth's crammed with heaven...
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”
―Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Watch the Movie Kiss The Ground
What if there was a simple solution that could help balance our climate, replenish our freshwater supplies, and feed the world? That solution is right under our feet. Registration is now open to view this year’s featured film, Kiss the Ground, as part of your events for Faith Climate Action Week’s theme of “Sacred Ground: Cultivating Connections Between our Faith, our Food, and the Climate” (April 16 – 25).
Kiss the Ground is a new film how about how regenerating the world’s soils has the potential to rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems, and create abundant food supplies. This film explains why transitioning to regenerative agriculture could be key in rehabilitating the planet, while simultaneously invigorating a new sense of hope and inspiration in viewers.
Thanks to a special arrangement with Kiss the Ground and Ro*co films, IPL will offer a free online viewing period for home viewing from April 10 through April 26. All viewers must register with IPL.
Once you register you will receive a link-to-view for three different versions—the full-length film (84 minutes), a grower version (45 minutes), and an educational version for schools (45 minutes.)
Please share the link to register (not the “link to view”). That way we can get an approximate count of viewers to THANK Kiss the Ground and Ro*co films for this fabulous opportunity.
Download the free screening kit that includes faith-based discussion questions on the film page, and host a film discussion with your congregation.
On Wednesday, April 21 at 11am Pacific/2pm Eastern IPL will also host a webinar “Sacred Ground, a Message of Hope.” We’ll have a conversation with Kiss the Ground filmmaker, Josh Tickell, and Faith in Place’s Statewide Outreach Director, Veronica Kyle, on what congregations can do to be part of the solution to food justice and climate justice. When you register to view the film, you will also receive the Zoom link to join the webinar.
Contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We call our Tuesday gatherings “John Cobb and Friends,” because we get to share in inspiring conversations with John Cobb’s friends, former students, colleagues, and many others who share a love for life and this world. Some of us have been revisiting some of Rebecca Parker’s work, who was a recent Tuesday guest and a former student of John Cobb. Dr. Parker is a Theologian, Minister, lifelong teacher, learner, and a wonderful friend to the Cobb Institute.
In honor of Earth Day, we have been reflecting on Rebecca’s book “Saving Paradise” (co-authored with Rita Nakashima Brock). Rebecca and Rita reconstruct the idea that salvation is paradise in this world and in this life, and they offer a bold new theology for saving paradise. They ground justice and peace for humanity in love for the earth and open a new future for Christianity through a theology of redemptive beauty.
John Cobb wrote of this work:
Rebecca Parker's thinking is rooted in her total honesty about her lived experience. To read her book is to see our world and the Christian heritage with new eyes. We cannot do that without pain. Yet her way of challenging our habits of thinking and even of feeling is so gentle that we are drawn into new perceptions, not driven into them. Her writing integrates story and doctrine until we can hardly draw a line between them.
This articulates how during their first millennium, Christians filled their sanctuaries with images of Christ as a living presence in a vibrant world. Jesus appears as a shepherd, a teacher, a healer; he is an infant, a youth, and a bearded elder. But he is never dead. When he appears with the cross, he stands in front of it, serene, resurrected. The world around him is ablaze with beauty. These are images of paradise—paradise in this world, permeated and blessed by the presence of God—a stark contrast to some other images we might see of Christianity today.
We are very grateful for the earth, and its inhabitants that call John Cobb a friend!
Welcome New Board Members!
Ken Pearson, Cobb Institute Treasurer
Ken Pearson is a “cradle Methodist,” and has lived in Arkansas (McGehee, Conway, Little Rock, Jonesboro, Newport & North Little Rock) his entire life. His educational credentials include a bachelor’s degree in economics and business from Hendrix College, plus an MBA from Webster University. His professional certifications include Certified Public Accountant, Fellow Life Management Institute, and Associate Risk Management. Ken has served the United Methodist Church in roles at the local, district, and conference level, dating back to 1974. He is married to Joni Coley Pearson, also a cradle Methodist, and they celebrated 42 years of marriage in December. They have two daughters: Renee, an registered nurse, is 36, and Allison, an attorney, is 30. They both live in Little Rock. Ken worked in risk management for over 40 years, and recently accepted the nomination to be a lay leader in the United Methodist Church. He began a new vocation as a part-time licensed local pastor.
Terry Goddard, Advisory Board Chair
Terry Goddard is retired professor of history at Northwest Vista College, San Antonio. He is editor/blogger at Religious Belief and Disbelief, which focuses on the writings of Loren Eiseley and Process thinkers. He holds a Master of Divinity from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, and a Ph.D. in Theology and History of American Christianity from Chicago Theological Seminary. He is active in the First Unitarian Universalist Church, San Antonio, Texas, where he teaches a variety of courses on World Religions. He now serves as the chairperson of the Cobb Institute Advisory Board.
Note from John Cobb
Earth Day 1970
I was awakened to the unsustainability of modern civilized society in 1969, along with millions of other people. In an astoundingly short time, tens of millions learned that the economy and lifestyle of which we were so proud was destroying us, and many were screaming that we must change. Already in 1970, there was a powerful national movement. The United States led the world. Earth Day was a national, and even international, event, and masses turned out or tuned in. Once, thus, the needed change happened quickly even though there were no pressing issues. People understood that “unsustainability” was suicide. Masses said “No.”
Could this ever happen again? Our success was brief, but it left us with some good legislation. We seemed to be on a roll. Our masters were frightened. The people were taking hold. They were fearful that we might act democratically. The government might serve us instead of the corporate rulers. They acted, especially through the media. They distracted and confused us, and after a few years, fragmented our movement.
Abrupt changes have taken place since then, but they have been managed from above. 9/11 is a good example. The neo-cons knew that in order to get Americans to support and fund American imperialism, something dramatic, something like Pearl Harbor, they said, had to happen. It did. This was used to justify the “forever wars” in which we have been plunged ever since. The media all told us that 9/11 showed that we had to get control of what happened everywhere, and especially in Islamic countries. The government joined the media. Cost was not an issue.
The events were so shocking that we believed what we were told even though the connections were largely unexplained. “They” had done this terrible thing to us. The supposed perpetrators were Saudis and Afghans. Somehow this justified the oppression of Palestinians, the destruction of Iraq and Syria, sanctioning dozens of countries that crossed us, and establishing hundreds of military bases all over the world. Not well explained. But the media joined the government in assuring us that it was so.
Perhaps if those of us who still want to stop our suicidal policies and behavior had control of the media, we could effect rapid change. But that door is closed, and locked, against us. What is still possible picks up on the deeper, existential, spiritual element of the first Earth Day. There was some awareness that behavioral change required a radical, existential, spiritual break with our deep-seated dualism. It would be great if educational institutions join us. But even if they do not, we can learn to cherish the other creatures with whom we share the Earth. We can learn to feel that the poisoning of water is poisoning “us”. We can experience denuding a hillside of its trees as wounding us. We can struggle for what we love. We might even sacrifice a little.
“The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.”
―Pope John Paul II
There are many people working hard for the health of the planet. Often, we are so focused on what we need to do, that we forget to notice what is already being done. It’s understandable because our earth needs immediate attention and drastic changes. We might feel overwhelmed but that is exactly why we need to see the good work that is happening. The knowledge of progress and impactful wins, inspires and gives us the energy we need to continue our work.
Environmental activism has caused an increase in environmental awareness. For instance, more people are aware of the effects of human activities on the environment.
Some activists have influenced the creation of innovative conservation programs such as that of the National parks and advocating for eco-tourism, which are great ways of conserving the environment.
Young people have been talking about climate change for decades. But the latest generation of protestors is louder and more coordinated than its predecessors. The movement’s visibility on social media and in the press has created a feedback loop. Young people are getting so much attention that it draws more young people into the movement.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
―Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
Schedule & Events
April 6: Andrew Schwartz & Jeremy Fackenthal: Help Build a Well-Being Economy
Our friends from the Institute for Ecological Civilization will explore with us new opportunities from their partnership as a “hub” of The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), a global collaborative. EcoCiv connectors Andrew Schwartz (Executive Vice President) and Jeremy Fackenthal (Managing Director) will be our conversation guides.
Conversation will be relevant to the many community collaborations that are emerging under Michael Witmer’s leadership in connecting the Cobb Institute, as a “think tank on legs,” to “local possibilities” in Pomona for economic well-being, especially local food production, solar panel manufacturing and installation, new housing options, public banking, and Pomona Reimagining initiatives.
An EcoCiv web page celebrates their role in bringing the first-in-the-US WEAll hub to California. You’ll find there a way to register for coming Well-Being Webinars and to download The Wellbeing Economy Policy Design Guidebook. A Hub is “working locally with a global vision to achieve the systemic change our world needs.” That is the aim of the The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), a global collaborative working toward wellbeing local economies.
April 13: Tim Eastman: Untying the Gordian Knot: Process, Reality and Context
Matt Segall, chairman of our Science Advisory Team, will engage NASA plasma physicist Eastman in conversation about his book, published in December, 2020. Eastman uses the Logoi framework—which is radically inclusive and incorporates both actuality and potentiality—to go beyond standard ways of knowing—that of context independence (science) and context focus (arts, humanities)—to demonstrate the inevitable role of ultimate context (meaning, spiritual dimension) as part of a transformative ecological vision. See Joe Petek's review at the Process Research Project Website and the publisher's reviews at Lexington Books.
April 20: Jeremy Lent: The Web of Meaning: An Integration of Modern Science with Traditional Wisdom
Jeremy Lent has previously published The Patterning Instinct. His newest book, The Web of Meaning, has recently been generously reviewed by John Cobb. Jeremy integrates traditional Chinese wisdom traditions with the Greek-based studies of science, a theme which underlies the “Liology Institute,” which he founded. Jeremy Lent is a frequent panelist in programs sponsored by the Institute for Ecological Civilization, and appeared recently in yes! magazine’s online forum co-hosted by Andrew Schwartz, and yes! managing editor Zenobia Jeffries Warfield.
April 27: Joseph Prabhu - South Asian Wisdom Traditions and Ecological Civilization
Dr. Prabhu is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion at California State University, Los Angeles and a Martin Marty Senior Fellow at the University of Chicago. A native of India, he has long been active in interfaith and peace work. He is co-chair of the Southern California chapter of the Parliament of World Religions. He served as Program Chair of the international Parliament conference in Melbourne. He is co-editor of The Interfaith Challenge of Raimon Panikkar and Indian Ethics, and author of Liberating Gandhi. He has been President of the Society of Asian and Comparative Philosophy.
“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.”
In April, the Educational Development Group will hear from Marcus Ford and Sandra Lubarsky the founders of Flagstaff College.
Flagstaff College offers one major: Sustainability and Social Change. This is the central subject for our time.
This major spans the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. In order to gain a richer, more complex and accurate understanding of life, we study these subjects as they apply to issues that cut across disciplines—issues like systems change, strategies for regeneration, and reinventing communities.
The focus at Flagstaff College is on solutions and learning how to put ideas into practice. Intellectual knowledge shares space with practical knowledge.
Learning and practicing community-making skills like community mapping, mobile documentary film making, grant writing, permaculture, and fundraising, are a part of the curriculum.
Educational Development meetings are happening monthly on the 4th Monday of each month at 3pm PST. The next meeting is April 26th
To join the meeting email Kathleen Reeves at email@example.com
“Housing is absolutely essential to human flourishing. Without stable shelter, it all falls apart.” —Matthew Desmond
March has been a busy month for Community Collaborations. Board Member Michael Witmer was accepted into the “Housing Pomona Leadership Program” of the Pomona City Planning Department, which is training a diverse cohort of local people in the intricacies of housing policy-making. Participants will receive 9 hours of instruction plus reading assignments over two months. The project is part of the city’s response to the State-mandated update of the housing element of the City’s General Plan. As California’s housing crisis deepens, the State is imposing more rigorous requirements on local governments to meet their Regional Housing Needs Assessments (RHNA). Pomona, a city of 150,000, has been given a RHNA of 10,000 within the next eight years, of which 6,000 must be “affordable.”
Concurrently with Housing Pomona, Michael is participating in the Pomona Leadership Network program hosted by the Pomona Community Foundation. A team from that program is adapting Michael’s proposal to establish a two-year forum to explore collective impact strategies to revitalize Pomona. The group plans to host a community wide conversation, including multiple disciplines, stakeholders, and economic sectors, on how to meet the challenge of building 10,000 new homes while building vibrant cohesive neighborhoods in a thriving local economy where people can walk to work.
The Pomona Leadership Network team will be collaborating with Cobb Institute’s Affordable Housing team to co-sponsor the Forum, which is planned to include an annual gathering of work groups to assess feasibility of various strategies and develop policy recommendations to the City for implementing them.
Meanwhile the Affordable Housing Team is preparing showcases for two projects from the City of Riverside that were shepherded through the planning department by team member Veronica Hernandez. These are a ten unit cottage community and a fifty unit apartment complex at a local church. The ten unit complex of tiny homes is slated to be built in one day with volunteer labor organized by Habitat for Humanity.
Spiritual Integration & The Arts
Process and Coffee
The Wednesday morning Process and Coffee group is reading The Rhythm of Being: The Gifford Lectures, by Raimon Panikkar. The author of the foreward to the book, Joseph Prabhu, joined the group in March to give the group some background on Panikkar. Prabhu had the great fortune to know Panikkar.
Stamina for Sunday process minister group
Ministers and Pastors meet monthly to discuss process in ministry and the challenges and rewards of incorporating process and relational theology into church ministry. Stamina For Sunday meets on the second Monday of the month.
For information about these learning circles email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solace Within Autumn’s Passing in Time of Pandemic
by Kathy Leonard of the Claremont Raven Poets
When chatter of the world overwhelms
thoughts more lament, than prayer
my boot-strike rhythm allows this landscape
to render her ten-thousand gifts—birdsong
continuous flow of water over rock, a doe’s fleeting
gaze full of grace. Along path’s edge, a solitary
wildflower defies a poverty of soil and cold.
Within her face, uplifted to beckoning sky
I gather in hope, let dissipate into air
what has been, whatever may come
into found stillness.
Then proclaim as she—
I am here
I will continue to thrive
In the Learning Lab
We're excited to announced the addition of "Learning Circles" to our offerings in the Learning Lab. Learning circles are small groups that share a common interest in a topic, text, or activity. They are typically made up of five to fifteen people who gather together to learn from one another. A learning circle might be a book study group that stops meeting once the book is completed, or an affinity group that meets for an indefinite period of time to better understand process-relational philosophy.
Two new circles begin in April.
Join a group of pastors and faith leaders as we explore how Whitehead’s ideas can meet us in our own religious traditions and become fertile ground for theological reflection and pastoral ministry. Led by Dr. Jay McDaniel, this four-week learning circle will focus on Whitehead’s concepts of Peace and God as found in Adventures of Ideas and Process & Reality.
· Monday, April 5, 10 – 10:45 am CST
· Monday, April 12, 10 – 10:45 am CST
· Monday, April 19, 10 – 10:45 am CST
· Monday, April 26, 10 – 10:45 am CST
Sponsored by the Cobb Institute, the Center for Process Spirituality, and All Saints Episcopal Church (Russellville, Arkansas).
Conversations In Process Podcast
Rebecca Parker – Discovering the Aesthetic Soul of the Universe
Are you drawn to the beauty of music and the call to social justice, neither to the exclusion of the other? You're not alone. Rebecca Parker weaves them together into a single life, a single aspiration, with help from the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. She draws upon his idea that "the many become one" in the depths of each experience, and that God is the poet of the world and fellow sufferer who understands. She is a teacher, a pastor, a former seminary president, an author, a poet, and a cellist. Hers is a mature process theology available to all who love art and all who love justice―and to the many who feel that, deep down, these are the same love, both human and divine.
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
―Henry David Thoreau, Walden
New Publications in Process
Virtual Book Launch
Drew Theological School is hosting a virtual book launch event celebrating the release of Facing Apocalypse: Climate, Democracy and Other Last Chances by Catherine Keller.
Drawing on John’s prophetic Apocalypse, Catherine Keller, George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology at Drew, offers a dreamreading of current global crises—of growing tangles of ecological and social degradation. Apocalypse means ‘unveiling,’ not “The End.” It yields not a prediction of coming events, but a parable of present peril and possibility.
New Release of a Classic
In the fifty years since its initial publication, Is It Too Late? has proven its prescience in ways both significant and dire. As the first book-length philosophical and theological analysis of the environmental crisis, this work introduced a generation to the key elements of crisis while suggesting ways that religion can be a force for hope rather than an instrument of despair. Covering an ambitious range of issues–from deforestation to abortion, from religious views of the natural world to the need for technological innovation to avoid nature's destruction–John Cobb moves deftly from philosophical to theological to scientific learning and integrates these interdisciplinary insights into a compelling vision for what he calls "a new Christianity." Comprehensive in scope, non-technical in expression, and concise in length, Is It Too Late? provides the scholar and the student alike with a readable and compelling orientation to the philosophical and theological stakes of ecology. This Fortress edition includes a new preface in which Cobb reflects on the current situation, the specific promises and perils we now face, and how his own thinking on matters theological and ecological has evolved in the last half century.