What does love have to do with climate change?

Temperance River, December 2017, -Teddie Potter
Temperance River, December 2017, -Teddie Potter

Thanks to clever marketing and winter doldrums, February is often associated with Valentine’s Day, an annual celebration of love. What does love have to do with climate change? Everything!

Without love and compassion, people will not listen to the message that climate change is real . Without love, people will ignore the fact that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is caused by humans . Without love, people will not dare to see that climate change is happening now and that it is very serious . Without love, people will not believe that there are things we can do now to reverse our course and co-create a better future.

You might ask, “How can I love a climate denier? As a person of faith I have come to understand that the irritating answer is that love does not depend on shared beliefs and values. My faith tradition teaches me, “Love your enemy” but does it really mean climate deniers and people who support industries that threaten the health of all life on the planet? Yes, yes it does.


LOVE: The power of working together

Recently I needed to remind some of the young people in one of my courses that fighting for change is not new. The “Black Lives Matter” and “#metoo” movements stand on the shoulders of effective movements from past eras. Many of us may think of coal miners as enemies of the climate movement but consider the following:

Stepbystepthelongestmarchcanbewon,canbewon.Manystonescan form an arch, singly none, singly none. And by union what we will, can be accomplished still. Drops of water turn a mill, singly none, singly none. (Words from the preamble to the Constitution of the American Mineworkers Association, 1863).

Can we love the miners? Can we find a way to work together to form an arch and turn climate’s mill? Faith tells me we can.


LOVE: We are better when we move together

Temperance River, December 2017, -Teddie Potter

Peering over the bridge one sub-zero morning I was rewarded by a lesson from nature. Caught in an eddy below the lower Temperance River falls were dozens of perfect ice circles swirling in the frigid water. The circles had once been fractured jagged edged pieces of ice but circling in proximity, their rough edges were now smooth.

This holds true for humans too. When we circle in community our rough edges become smooth. Those parts of us that impair our effectiveness and thwart our success as climate activists are polished when we are loved by others. Whether you live in the Cities, Duluth, Northfield, or St. Peter; our work for a better future is amplified in community. That is why this Valentines’ Day I celebrate MNIPL’s approach of “moving slow to move fast:”

We take a relational approach, that honors doing the hard work of building relationships, trust, and capacity, what we call “moving slow to move fast.”

Moving slow means coming together as a community, creating spaces to share our grief, our fear, our hope for possibility, and co-create ways to be a part of the solution. Which in turn allows us to move fast, which is to move forward powerfully with solutions that are balanced and attuned to the full scope of this problem. (https://mnipl.org/who-we-are/building-a- movement)

This approach is love in action.


LOVE: Pause to appreciate the unexpected

Hoarfrost, January 2018 –Teddie Potter

Most mornings this past month have been bitterly cold. I could choose to complain or pause to delight in the unexpected. Despite careful attention to window leaks and energy loss, cold days still offer us an opportunity to see the art of nature on the canvas of our old home’s windows.

The “painting” is never the same two days in a row even though it appears on the same window. These “ice feathers” cause me to pause and fall in love with “the unexpected.”

The unexpected gives me great hope. There are relationships or “tipping points” in the natural order that I do not understand. Climate science has made me aware of some of these tipping points and feedback loops. But what we don’t know much about are the tipping points and feedback loops when people across the globe unite in love and work together for a shared future. I believe the results might be as beautiful and unexpected as frost feathers on my winter windows.


LOVE: Justice is timeless and ageless

My mother currently lives in an Assisted Living. Despite the fact that her body and mind are reflecting the impact of 86 years, when I visit I am always reminded that love is timeless and ageless. So is concern for justice.

On one particular visit, many of the elders were gathered in the common room for a sing-along. With failing voices and memories, they were still able to sing out loud and clear the words to the old protest song “If I had a Hammer .”

If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening
All over this land
I’d hammer out danger
I’d hammer out a warning
I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters All over this land

If I had a bell
I’d ring it in the morning
I’d ring it in the evening
All over this land
I’d ring out danger
I’d ring out a warning
I’d ring out love between my brothers and my sisters All over this land

If I had a song
I’d sing it in the morning
I’d sing it in the evening
All over this land
I’d sing out danger
I’d sing out a warning
I’d sing out love between my brothers and my sisters All over this land

Well I’ve got a hammer And I’ve got a bell
And I’ve got a song to sing All over this land

It’s the hammer of justice
It’s the bell of freedom
It’s the song about love between my brothers and my sisters All over this land

(words and music by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger)

We DO have the hammer of justice. We DO have a bell of freedom.

And thanks to our interfaith community, we DO have a song about love between our brothers and our sisters all over this land.

This month’s curator: Teddie Potter is Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota. She is the Coordinator of the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Health Innovation and Leadership and the Director of Inclusivity and Diversity. Recently she co-authored a book with Riane Eisler called Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Health Care . A passion for healing, traditional wisdom, and her own lifelong love of nature led Teddie to be instrumental in forming “The Earthwise Group” at Mayflower United Church of Christ and serve as both as a board member and member of the Movement Development Team at MNIPL.

We are so grateful for the many gifts Teddie brings to the interfaith climate movement and delighted to share this edition of Firelight with you!

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Teddie Potter