Offered by Harrisburg PA IPL chair, Rachel Mark, and member congregation Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, 12/31/17
On the subject of hope, I pondered what I thought about it and how I personally relate to it. If you know me, then you would assume I was going to make a climate change connection. But everyone has heard that before. So I thought about how hope ties in to world peace, how hope relates to equality, and how it relates to any number of social justice issues. However, for me hope is deeply connected, not just with aspiration, but with action. So yes I did indeed come back to climate change.
On October 16, when I traveled to the small Susquehanna River town of Columbia in Lancaster County, with intrepid UCH member Barbara Van Horn (right), I did not have a preconceived notion of what I intended to do that day. I only knew I wanted to be present with a group of people who over the course of several weeks, had inspired me with their stories, their vision and their determination. As we gathered that morning and listened to instructions, options, and possible consequences of civil disobedience, it became clear to me that I needed to stand with those in the “no trespass zone”, in the way of pipeline construction, and to risk arrest.
I felt a deep resolve to stand in support of new and old friends, who were committed to taking action against an injustice to their land and neighbors, an injustice to their children, an injustice to the climate. With this community, I have now shared a prison cell, sang songs, stood in the rain, and froze our butts, all of which has restored my energy and hope. I have discovered that where there is resolve, where there are still options and choices to be made, there is hope.
Active hope, in community with others, seems to me the healthiest and perhaps only sane way to live in the face of an uncertain and daunting future. Daunting, not just in terms of climate change, but in terms of our democracy and civilization.
Several days ago in my email box, there was a short message written by a writer familiar to many UU’s. Rebecca Solnit is an American writer whose book A Paradise Built in Hell was read by many UU circles. The email message read:
It’s a race. And you’re in it; it’s your race too, to win or lose.
A race between the increasingly ominous news about how the climate is changing and the extraordinary measures being taken to slow that change and transform our society. That’s one of the challenges of this moment: to feel the despair and the hope, both, together. And then to choose hope.
Hope doesn’t mean pretending that climate change doesn’t exist or that we can erase it. It means we can fight for the best outcome instead of settle for the worst.
Leonard Higgins, a Unitarian Universalist from Oregon, has been convicted and faces sentencing for his involvement in pipeline action. Leonard was one of five activists, so-called Valve Turners, who turned the valves on pipelines in four northwestern states, and halted the flow of petroleum for one day. Leonard faces a prison term of up to ten years.
About hope, I think I most resonate with Emily, another one of the five valve turners. She says, “to be honest, I’m not sure what I hope for, except that humans can be as loving and sane and brave as possible in the coming decades—to each other, to the world. I look into the future, sometimes to think about how life might start to reestablish something like the abundance and magic that’s here now. “
Hope is the opposite of resignation, of giving up. It is about resolve, about looking for those actions that work to bring about our vision.
To further quote Rebecca Solnit in her book Hope in the Dark:
“Hope means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action. To hope is to give yourself to the future. Anything could happen and whether we act or not has everything to do with it. I want to start over, with an imagination adequate to the possibilities, the strangeness and the dangers on this earth in this moment.”
As long as there are visions, options, and further actions to be done, there is room for action—and hope.
More about the site and history of the pipeline protests in rural Lancaster County here. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ have been leaders, as have Lancaster Against Pipelines, which is led by a Mennonite clergyperson.
Rachel appears in a photo at the Day 5 verse (that’s the Golden Rings one) of a fun 12 Days of Christmas rewrite by Lancaster Against Pipelines.