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Language and Hope, December 2023

Noon near the winter solstice.

At the December meeting of the RAICA Steering Committee we were in a somber mood. People described themselves as unusually emotional. So many crises and so much violence around the world were a distraction drawing our attention away from sustainability, climate justice and the United Nations global conference, COP28. We talked about use of words which can deepen divisions among us.

Then we considered the opportunity to use language to promote peace and to show respect and dignity for all people, and one of us remembered a poem that impressed her as a teenager, Little Girl, Be Careful What You Say, (1) and someone else suggested a way to start would be Talk Like a Human. (Follow the link, listen to the short Ted Talk and scroll down to "Talk Like a Human" to download the guide.)

Our various religions acknowledge the darkness at this time of year which also brings the promise of increasing sunlight, spring, and rebirth. We mentioned ways that hope can touch our lives.

Clergy speaking about climate from the pulpit promotes hope with the power and respect that religious leaders bring to their congregations and the wider world. See Rev Lane-Mairead Campbell's prayer from last spring (3). RAICA's new Clergy Climate Council is a clergy-only group providing sharing and support; the next meeting will be January 10, noon to 1:30. Contact for the link.

One of us is seeking solace by joining the online Laudato Si Movement.

Slack, The Accelerator's climate email tool, can be overwhelming and drive you crazy but it also promotes hope by leading you to action, to other people who care about climate issues and climate justice. Clare Henrie's recent post is one example. And do it. (3)

Another path to hope is participating in the exercise, The Week. Small groups of activists or concerned citizens learn how to channel efforts for care of the planet by watching and discussing three short films over a period of about a week, and then promoting more small groups to do the same. Members of the RAICA Steering Committee will participate in this exercise in January.

And many of us find hope just in getting together in this work. Being together brings us hope and keeps us hopeful. May you all find hope in this season of faint sunlight, and may you enjoy the slow but steady progression to spring, and may the words you use bring hope to neighbors and strangers alike.


Little Girl, Be Careful What You Say by Carl Sandburg

Little girl, be careful what you say when you make talk with words, words-- for words are made of syllables and syllables, child, are made of air-- and air is so thin--air is the breath of God-- air is finer than fire or mist, finer than water or moonlight, finer than spider-webs in the moon, finer than water-flowers in the morning and words are strong, too, stronger than rocks or steel stronger than potatoes, corn, fish, cattle, and soft, too, soft as little pigeon eggs, soft as the music of hummingbird wings. So, little girl, when you speak greetings, be careful, be careless, be careful, be what you wish to be.


A Love Letter to the Earth by Rev Lane-Mairead Campbell June 11, 2023

For you, who provide us with so much,

For the air we breathe, the food we eat,

The houses we inhabit, the beauty we behold,

For all that can be named and known from you,

And for all that we cannot fathom,

Thank you.

You are our source and resource.

You sustain our lives.

You call us towards abundance and care.

You are so precious.

Our hearts and lungs ached this week,

Sore with the grief of the consequences of human harm,

Breathing being difficult for us,

As fires raged on due to the ways we have expended your

resources too greedily, too ravenously.

Sweet Earth, you are precious to us,

There is no us without you.

Briefly in touch with how you sustain our breathing,

Our very life force,

We know we are bound together,

We are keenly aware of this relationship and what is at stake.

We begin today, this week, in these days,

To tend to the grief we felt over your ongoing destruction,

The loss of the ability to breathe unfettered,

The loss of so much animal life and plant life,

As the fires continue to burn.

The fears of what is to further come,

The uncertainty and the inconvenient truth.

Help us to remember that we have a responsibility to you,

Help us to remember that in our love for you,

We are called to give back to you

With our actions, with our attention, with our


May we be in touch with our own bodies

As connection to the Earth,

As portal towards both the grief and the hope,

Let us remember your capacity to heal, great Earth,

Just as we know our own capacity to heal.

And may we not take that healing power for granted.

Amen. Blessed be. May it be so.

Rev Lane-Mairead Campbell is the settled minister at First Universalist Church of Rochester.


Clare Henrie

Calling all Fans of Food! Help protect pollinators today and write or call Governor Hochul to encourage her to sign the Birds and Bees Act into law. This bill is now on her desk and she has until December 23rd to sign. This bill will protect our pollinators and food crops by prohibiting the sale of certain neonicotinoid pesticides. It would also require the Department of Environmental Conservation to review active ingredients in other pesticides. Use NLCV's email tool and/or give the Gov. a call: 518-474-8390. Whether you reach a live person or an answering machine, please tell the office your name, your address, and that you want Governor Hochul to sign The Birds and Bees Protection Act (A7640/S1856A).

Clare Henrie is director of policy and advocacy at Climate Solutions Accelerator of the Genesee/Finger Lakes.

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