By Karri Munn-Venn
The ice-covered branches of the lilac trees outside my window look like shimmering glass against the vibrant blue sky. The sunshine is welcome after days of clouds, wind, and snow. I can see the Gatineau Hills across the way, and I am grateful.
In the “before times,” after getting the kids out the door for school, I would bundle up in a cozy parka and make my way to the bus stop, the train, and then my downtown office. Today, I load up the water totes, put on my dusty barn coat and head out the back door to feed and water our five miniature sheep and 35 assorted chickens. I muck out the barn and collect a subtle rainbow of eggs.
It all takes no more than 30 minutes and I’m back inside, cleaned up and at my computer in my living room workspace.
The world looks very different than it did a year ago.
For some, the commute has become an anxious trip across town to spend an uncertain day dealing with the public. For others, like me, it has become non-existent. A trip down a short hallway—save for the detour to the barn.
My new farm life is a big step along a path my family and I have been navigating for some time. A path to simplicity, to sustainability and to a deeper connection with creation.
The Season of Lent
Throughout his ministry, Jesus regularly went out into the wilderness. There he would fast and pray. He would open his heart to God’s wisdom and direction.
The early church looked to Jesus’ example and developed a practice of fasting during the 40 days leading up to Easter. This practice has evolved over the years and many Christians now mark Lent by “giving up” a bad habit or distracting practice. This symbolic sacrifice provides us with a space to reflect and refocus, tune-in to our Christian calling and renew our commitment to God.
But when we give up chocolate or coffee or social media, does it serve to strengthen our faith or our connection to God?
For me, the answer is a clear “no.” If I’m honest, I often treated God more like an accountability partner at the gym, someone who made sure I showed up when my resolve was weak, rather than our magnificent Creator. Sure, I’ve been glad to have established some positive new habits, and it is possible that I’m a moderately healthier person as a result.
But I really don’t think that’s the point.
Give it up for the Earth!
In 2017, I began coordinating Give it up for the Earth!, the Lenten climate justice campaign run by Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ). This campaign combined personal actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a call on our government to match and exceed these actions with policy changes.
Every year since then, I took steps to reduce my family’s carbon footprint. We dealt with plastics in the kitchen and bathroom, reduced our consumption of red meat, and continued our practice of using public transit, shopping locally and eating in season as much as possible. The actions inspired by Give it up for the Earth! were part of a larger commitment to doing things differently to make a difference.
Admittedly, the path to living more lightly on the earth hasn’t always followed a straight line. New habits can take time and circumstances shift (read: global pandemic). Every once in a while, cost and convenience have crept in too. That’s when I circle back and try again.
I recognize that a rural lifestyle isn’t necessarily a low-carbon one. So we make careful choices about how and how often we go to town, where we get our food, and how we care for this land and the animals. Living a rural life has allowed us to deepen our connection with the created world, and we protect the things we love.
Uniting Our Voices
Alongside my personal journey, I have also joined my voice with thousands of people in Canada calling on the federal government to make policy changes that will move us further and faster towards the Paris temperature goals. Over that past four years, we’ve asked them to put a price on carbon (they did!), to end subsidies to the fossil fuel sector, and to invest in a just, inclusive transition to a green economy, to name a few.
When the global scientific community said that the world had a mere decade to drastically reduce emissions, several churches and faith-based organizations in Canada—including Mennonite Central Committee—came together to discuss ways that we might deepen our collective action and engage our communities on climate change in this critical decade.
These discussions led to the development of For the Love of Creation, which was launched on Earth Day 2020. So far over 35 faith bodies and faith-based organizations, including MCC, have endorsed the initiative and agreed to work together in the areas of theological reflection, local and congregational engagement, and political advocacy. In addition to those that have formally endorsed, there are a number of other organizations—the Canadian Council of Churches among them—who have joined us on this journey of dialogue and action.
We have pledged to collaborate more deeply, more intensely and engage more broadly. This pledge is a gesture of honour of Indigenous Peoples’ resilience, their wisdom—their place at the front of any struggle; of global partners who show a sustainable way forward even in imminent crisis; of social movements in Canada who work diligently for accountability and change; and of young people, whose transformative work is changing everything. We welcome any community of faith in Canada to join us in this movement.
I am honoured to have connected with hundreds of climate justice advocates over the last number of years. I am grateful for their inspiration, the ways that they have challenged me, and ultimately for the ways in which they’ve made this beautiful and urgent movement better.
I hope that more of these passionate individuals, folks who are on their own journey to climate justice, will register as organizers for the For the Love of Creation faith-in-action campaign. Local organizers will bring the national campaign to their communities across Canada encouraging individuals to take action.
For more information and to register, see https://fortheloveofcreation.ca.
I hope you’ll join us, for the love of creation.
Karri Munn-Venn is the Senior Policy Analyst at Citizens for Public Justice, a national organization of members inspired by faith to act for justice in Canadian public policy. She represents CPJ on the Coordinating Committee of For the Love of Creation. She is also an artisan, and farmer. She lives with her fabulous family and her chickens, sheep, and city dog in rural west Québec.
For the Love of Creation faith-in-action campaign
Late last year, For the Love of Creation decided to use Give it up for the Earth! as the model for our collective action and advocacy in 2021.
On February 17 we launched our joint faith-in-action campaign. Through this campaign, we are mobilizing people across Canada to reduce emissions and demonstrate support for increased federal climate action by writing letters to federal Cabinet Ministers on a range of climate justice issues.
This campaign speaks to the desire to “do something” while at the same time acknowledging that the scale of the problem requires government action.
The combination of personal and political action is important for a couple of reasons: One, uncertainty about what to do can lead to despair, isolation, silence, and inaction—this inaction can be understood by politicians as approval of the status quo. And two, signaling that we are working to reduce our own emissions allows us to press government with greater integrity.
This year’s pledge also includes a commitment to engage in acts of solidarity with justice-seeking communities, which reinforces our commitment not only to climate action, but to climate justice. Our actions must address inequalities, reinforce human rights and build resilience in communities.
That is why we are calling on the Government of Canada to:
Increase our national GHG emissions reduction target and invest in a just transition to a fair, inclusive, green economy;
Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including, but not limited to, the right of free, prior and informed consent;
Commit equal support for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in the Global South.
The campaign will take place mostly online and run right through October 4, 2021. It will include a public witness event on April 22, Earth Day.
For the Love of Creation will provide electronic materials on climate change and the policy asks of the campaign, personal action ideas and downloadable pledge cards, customizable online letters to Cabinet ministers, and resources to support the Earth Day public witness event.
To register as an organizer:
To make your pledge and send your letters: