Have you ever worked in a group, not really knowing what you’re doing, but come out the other end with a wonderful result? That is what happened to me a few weeks ago, at the Camden FireWorks Art Center on South Broadway. I am in a group that is organizing a march on Sunday, July 24, 2016 from City Hall in Philadelphia to Independence Mall, starting at 1PM. CFET is a sponsor of the march. We wanted to have some posters/banners to carry for the march, so we decided to meet at the brand new FireWorks building to create art. The experience confirmed for me what Dostoyevski wrote so many years ago: “Beauty will save us!”
When we arrived there were 4 of us, and we were locked out of the building. We had our art supplies, a canvas banner and rather unclear ideas. We decided to lay out the canvas on the sidewalk and begin brainstorming. Soon, the FireWorks crew showed up, opened the building, and we gathered in the back room, serving now as the art room for Sacred Heart School, not so far away. There were now 8 of us, all talking at the same time, throwing out ideas, with very little order to those ideas. Slowly, as if by some force pulling those ideas to clarity, an image emerged, words emerged, and we arrived at our message. Care for creation, one family, together. This on either side of an image of the earth, that beautiful blue/green/white jewel that floats in the blackness of space, broken up in such a way that horizontally it reads “One Family, Together Care for Creation,” and vertically it reads “One Family Cares” and “Together for Creation.” This double reading was the idea of Cassie MacDonald, the keeper of the hearth at the local Brigid’s House, and a founding member of the Camden FireWorks Art Center. Across the top we put the symbols of many world religions: Shinto, Christianity, Buddhist, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism to name some we included.
Next, how were we going to draw the religious symbols, the letters or the earth!!!? We hung the canvas on the wall and Lena Smith, of Food & Water Watch, took out a projector, connected to the internet through Cassie’s hotspot and we traced the projected images on to the canvas. It was ingenious. After that it was painting within the lines, something most of us hadn’t done in many years. But we succeeded, and have a magnificent 15 foot banner for three people to carry in the march on July 24th.
We also made several other signs for individuals to carry. The ideas were flowing. The slogans included “Death to Fossil Fuels,” “The age of Fossil Fuels is over,” “Clean Air, Clean Water, Clean Energy,” “Raise your Voice for Mother Earth,” “Be Stewards of God’s Gift to us All (with a picture of earth),” “Faithful Stewardship = Clean Energy,” “Human-Induced Climate Change ≠ Love of Neighbor,” and “Tending the Earth ≠ using fossil fuels.” As the slogans make clear, this march hopes to raised the consciousness of the members of the Democratic Party meeting in Philadelphia that we MUST attend to the climate crisis. Excavating and burning fossil fuels are the single most carbon intensive aspect of our current reality. If we have any hope of lessening the already inevitable results of climate change, we MUST leave fossil fuels in the ground.
An op-ed piece by Merrill Matthews in the Philadelphia Inquirer today (7.15.16) claims that those Democrats who want to move in such a direction will both destroy our economy and lead us to depend on dubious sources for fossil fuels (Russian, Iran, Iraq, etc.) This is certainly one possible scenario, but here is one that scientists are sure will occur if we do nothing about how we generate the energy that supports our societies: the temperature of the global atmosphere will rise to such a degree that the ice caps will melt, the sea levels will rise as much as 2 meters, low lying coastal areas will disappear into the oceans, and there is no clear understanding of how dramatically climate change will impact our capacity to grow food and secure potable water. So, yes, our call for the cessation of extracting fossil fuels will lead to radical changes, but not doing anything, or pretending as if it won’t be that bad if we continue with business as usual, is also quite radical in what it portends for most of humanity.
As it is, people are moving in the renewable direction. In a 10 block radius of our home in suburban New Jersey, dozens of homes are covered with solar panels. But our response needs to be comprehensive. It is not just about shifting to renewable energy sources; it is also about re-thinking what our economy should look like, so that it is more sustainable, more respectful of the limits of our planet.
I choose to advocate for the future of humanity and for the beauty of this planet and all of its intricate patterns of life. We must act. We must do our bit. Perhaps, as with our art group, what to do will seem very unclear, but as we work together, share our passion, and our ideas, something beautiful will result.
Mark Doorley, Chair Emeritus, CFET Board