Alison Faison

Young People and Earth Care

Children innately know earth care by their play. They climb trees, sift sand, mix mud pies, and run in the grass with butterflies. They want to savor what the earth gives them. What can we do each day to observe and appreciate nature? Adults, youth, and children now have to make appointments in nature or they will spend most of their time in a car or indoors. Soccer fields, swimming pools, and blacktop spaces evoke spaces in nature, but don’t quite offer the scents of an ecosystem. During the pandemic, parents, and their family members had some time to partner in conversations, take walks, and enjoy some moments of silence in nature together. During these days of April 2022, I see traffic increasing as people return to in-person activities and work. What can we learn from our time at home that will translate into earth care action? We can create mini gardens in spaces we might have, we can regrow cuttings from our veggies, we can compost, and join groups that are doing the larger conservation and advocacy work.

I remember the childhood smell of the school blacktop in 100-degree heat, the chlorine smell of the YMCA indoor pool, and the way my lungs burned when there was a smog alert in Southern California in the 70s and 80s. Thank goodness laws were passed to remediate much of the pollution.  Twice a year we went to the Eastern Sierras where I smelled the mix of pine and lake water and associated it with nature recreational activities. I learned most of my earth care values from Presbyterian camp counselors throughout my elementary, middle, and high school years. They taught me to recycle materials and think about how much grain and water it takes to sustain one animal that will be used as expensive food. My youth leaders at church continued to echo that the physical health of humans and the earth is valued just as much as our spiritual health. We take care of ourselves, our neighbors, and our planet. It is not as easy as it sounds.

Groups such as the Presbyterians for Earth Care have been working to unite people to speak up. In 2022, this group composed an overture to PCUSA General Assembly entitled The Time is Now to ‘Cherish Creation, Cut Carbon, and Speak Up. It calls for our denomination to look carefully at what we invest in and to divest from processes and industries that contribute to the production of the two major greenhouse gasses, CO2 and methane. They seek to become carbon neutral, net-zero or even climate positive by 2030. Rev. Talitha Amadeo Aho, a mother of a toddler, climate change activist, PCUSA pastor in the San Francisco Presbytery, recently published a book entitled In Deep Waters: Spiritual Care for Young People in a Climate Crisis. Rev. Abby Mohaupt, also a mother, climate change activist, artist, and PCUSA pastor, writes about Aho’s book, “Climate change has left and unjust burden on the youngest generations to organize and act in order to live. People of faith owe these youth and young adults bold spiritual support as we grapple with a bleak future. Aho’s writing spurs us into collective action that honors the work to be done and tends the spirits of those who must do it.”

“Climate justice is migrant justice!” Youth vs. the Apocalypse, a group made up of elementary, middle, and high school students of color from all over the Bay Area, marched on Market Street in San Francisco shouting this statement to highlight the facts that people of color or immigrants who tend to live in lower-income areas are exposed to environmental emergency. They will march again this Friday at 10 am for Earth Justice. In some way, that poses a threat to make them environmental refugees. The youth called on corporations to divest from fossil fuels and for ICE to treat immigrants with respect and dignity.

People living in the Bayview-Hunter’s Point District 10 have suffered chronic health problems as a direct result of blatant environmental racism as well as police brutality in a low-income neighborhood. The toxic waste dump was not cleaned up in the time-line and scope as promised. Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice is a Bayview-Hunters Point Mother’s and Father’s Committee fighting for this cleanup and for systemic change.  I remember hearing a KQED radio program on April 22, 2021 about Mama Dee, Appollonia Grey ‘Uhilamoelangi’ who lives in East Palo Alto with 30,000 other community members near the rising bay waters. During the rains, the water would flood their homes while homes in Palo Alto, San Carlos, and other nearby affluent areas were protected from this rising water level as they lived in the rising flatlands or hills. She said, “The last two floods over here, the question is, where was God? Don’t get me wrong. I believe in prayers. But I lived through so many disasters.” By 2050 projected sea level rise in the Bay Area will cover areas of the Embarcadero, the SFO airport, Foster City, some of San Mateo, Redwood Shores, East Palo Alto, and Union City. This will cause displacement of people and increase in the nearby cities’ populations. This is happening globally. We know that Kenya’s drought has left animals to starve as well as dried up farmers food production and livelihoods. How much more of an emergency could it be? We don’t want to put the burden on our growing children to solve these problems, but we want them to understand that they can do something when people get together and remember God’s will for us to love our neighbors and the creation.

In honor of our children who are learning to love nature and their planet, we planted a rainbow of flowers in the Children’s Garden space in the Calvary garden area. Swing by and rest in the garden during your next visit to Calvary. If you want to have a conversation with other Calvary parents and families about ways we can make small differences contact me and we can go from there.

More to Explore

100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation

The next time you are at childcare or Sunday Studio, please pick up a free copy of Rebecca Kirkpatrick’s book 100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation. This book focuses on the practice of planting the seed of faith, feeding the soil of each child’s soul, and watching children and youth grow. We want them to know the oral tradition roots that originate with the Israelite People, the Gospels that tell the life of Jesus, the acts of Jesus’ followers, and the liturgical seasons of the church starting with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

How to safely intervene when someone is targeted by violence.

How does supporting a targeted person relate to church and being in relationship with others in a Christ-like way? Wherever humans are, divisions can be created. Like Jesus, we need to know how to show up, de-escalate, be present, ask for help, ignore attackers, respect targeted people, and then have the courage to follow up with the situation until it is addressed and supported. People of all races, genders, religions, and economic status are targeted, but we know that black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQI+ people, as well as those experiencing poverty are most often targeted by attackers. How did Jesus show up for children, tax collectors, sex workers, widows, and everyday folks? Jesus took accountability by sitting and eating next to people, as well as walking with them. That seems easy enough, but our society's actions show us stories filled with the bystander effect or the phenomena of nobody acting even when they are watching violence in front of them.

How to talk with someone experiencing mental health challenges.

“‘How are you showing up today?’ That’s a language we use a lot,” Thomas-Bush said. “As a person of faith, how are we going to show up loving our neighbor, loving ourselves?” Thomas -Bush works with youth at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. This youth group was featured in Our kids and mental health, an April 20, 2022 article in Presbyterians Today. “In 2019, more than 1 in 3 students indicated they persistently felt sad or hopeless, an 11% increase over 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report, 2009–2019. The report also showed that 16% of students made a suicide plan.” We cannot ignore youth, this data or assume that youth will get help on their own. Most adults suffering with mental health challenges do not reach out for help. It is important that we notice behavior changes that go beyond typical age-appropriate developmental behaviors and check in with the person. Parents, adults, youth leaders, and teen peers are realizing that listening without judgment, as well as asking direct questions can be the needed openers for someone to safely share their mental health challenges and then get the resources that they want.