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Refugia Newsletter #7 by Debra Rienstra - Christian leaders, Madagascar's woes, pop-up refugia, wintry lions

Debra Rienstra
Debra Rienstra
Hello, friends. Welcome again to the Refugia Newsletter, a fortnightly newsletter for people of faith who care about the climate crisis and want to go deeper.
This week: Christian leaders in the climate movement, Madagascar’s woes, environmental justice, pop-up activism refugia, and wintry lions.

Refugia News
Is January the month with all the best climate-related Zoom calls?? I joined three terrific calls just in the past week. The incomparable Katharine Hayhoe spoke about her new book, Saving Us, with the Climate Witness Project. The Evangelical Environmental Network Summit welcomed White House officials Gina McCarthy and Janet McCabe. And I also joined a big gathering call for the new activism group Third Act, founded by Bill McKibben and other worthies.
All the names I mentioned there are serious Christian leaders and truly impressive people who are putting their heart into climate action. They’re working with a host of others toward a liveable future that’s also more equitable, resilient, and joyful. I’m feeling so encouraged this week by the sheer number of wonderful people, of all faiths and ethnicities and shapes and sizes, joining together toward effective change. I could write a whole newsletter about every one of those links above. Wow. In fact, I’ll say more about Third Act below.
Meanwhile, guess what arrived in the mail last week, ahead of the Feb. 22 launch date?? (For the action version, check out my Facebook @debrakrienstra for the official unboxing video.)
The wonderful Hearts & Minds Bookstore is running a 20% off sale right now, so if you haven’t preordered yet, give them a try.
Aren't they gorgeous???
Aren't they gorgeous???
This Week in Climate News
Of all the news items to consider this week, I keep thinking about Madagascar. Madagascar, along with nearby African nations Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, was hit by Tropical Storm Ana January 22nd through 24th. The results have been devastating.
Climate change is increasing the intensity and duration of storms like this. (Here comes the science.) And, as Bill McKibben wrote this week, this is an environmental justice issue. Madagascar is near the bottom of the list of nations who have contributed to climate change; they are fourth from the top of nations most vulnerable to the disastrous effects.
Already suffering from famine, now the region has tens of thousands of people displaced, extreme flooding and damage to what little infrastructure they had, more food shortages ahead–the whole terrible story. This is the central injustice of climate change, and it’s happening in real time: those who contributed the least suffer first and most.
Deeper Dive
Speaking of environmental justice, it’s been heartening this year to see people making the connections between MLK Day, faith, and climate justice. This article by James Bruggers in Inside Climate News presents a concise summary of how theological themes of interconnectedness undergird struggles by Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans for justice.
One professor of atmospheric science quoted in the article draws connections to King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”: “At one point in the letter, [MLK] pushed back on those that called him an outside agitator by noting that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Playing on that, climate change doesn’t operate on a level playing field, so as it amplifies and accelerates, it is a threat to vulnerable communities everywhere.”
Inspired by King’s Words, Experts Say the Fight for Climate Justice Anywhere is a Fight for Climate Justice Everywhere - Inside Climate News
Refugia Sighting
Two things this week: a splendid organization and a beautiful church initiative.
In chapter 6 of Refugia Faith, I explore a bit the ways in which activism can become a refugia space. Joining together with others and engaging in meaningful work creates community and builds capacity for growth–key aspects of refugia. Activist groups can therefore become sort of “pop-up refugia.”
So under this heading, I refer back to that inspiring Zoom call this week with the good people of Third Act. This is a brand new group inviting “elders” over 60 years old (I don’t quite qualify, but they let me in anyway) to join in supporting climate action. While youthful leadership is an impressive feature of the climate movement, this group aims to leverage the strengths of older folks. The people involved are experienced, savvy, diverse, and lovely.
Third Act is working on two major initiatives right now: securing voting rights and persuading the top four biggest, most guilty banks to stop funding the fossil fuel industry.
Even better, Third Act is building out sub-groups, including an interfaith group that is already up and running. To find out more, check out their website.
Third Act:Our Time is Now
Bonus Sighting!
Also in the category of pop-up refugia, I saw a cool article in The Christian Century this week about a Lutheran church in Pine County, Minnesota, who decided to bring the parable to life and invite anyone and everyone to “Everyone’s Table.” The idea was to serve their community, beset with serious food insecurity, through a twice-monthly, celebrative meal meant to create community, enhance dignity, and spread a little joy:
“Volunteers personally welcome each guest. Others work as servers, reviewing the menu with guests, inquiring about any special dietary needs, and bringing drinks to the table. They often sit with guests to facilitate conversation among people who may not know one another. Other volunteers work in the kitchen preparing a delicious homestyle meal, which volunteers serve to the guests as if they were dining in a restaurant. Yet another volunteer crew handles cleanup chores.”
They serve 50-100 people each time and even figured out how to continue through Covid. This is a great example of a church-based refugia project.
(Christian Century has a robust paywall, but here’s the link.)
The Wayback Machine
And now for some silly winter fun. The Bible is an ancient Near Eastern text centered on bioregions in the Mediterranean basin, so you wouldn’t expect much attention to wintry weather. But hey, you might be surprised. This is a piece I wrote during the frozen depths of winter 2014. Look for cameo appearances from the Davidic superhero franchise–and lions!
A Biblical Approach to Winter: Scattering Frost and Hurling Hail - Debra Rienstra
Thank you!
Thanks for reading! I keep these newsletters quickly scannable, with opportunities for deeper reading as you are able. I also tend to emphasize the connections between faith communities and climate action.
If you are so inclined, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook @debrakrienstra. You can always contact me on those platforms. Also check out my website at There’s contact info there, too.
If you like this newsletter, please share with others!
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Debra Rienstra
Debra Rienstra @debrakrienstra

A fortnightly newsletter for people of faith who care about climate and want to know more and do more.

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Prof. Debra Rienstra, Calvin University, 1795 Knollcrest Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546