Rev. Kathleen Patton
Protecting What Is Good in the Northwest and at Standing Rock

This talk was given at a rally in Longview, October 24, 2016, at the Army Corps of Engineers hearing to review their recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal coal export facility.

Reverend Patton dedicates these words to all the beautiful activists in the Power Past Coal Coalition, giving a shout out to Earth Ministry for their support of the faith community. She also give thanks for the environmental leadership of former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a great climate warrior, who allowed her to use her “carbon grave” metaphor.

Jews, Muslims and Christians tell a creation story in which God keeps making new things and calling them good.  Light is made, God calls it good. Earth is made, God calls it good. Water, plants, creatures, humans, God calls it good.

The Hebrew word for good, tov, speaks of ongoing goodness.  Good that keeps on “gooding”, implying abundance and generativity.

Science has a great creation story too which tells of ongoing goodness expressed in increasing diversity and complexity of species. The scientific story is also about abundance and generativity - tov.

The fantastic complexity we know today was born of gazillions of single celled water beings over eons. They absorbed carbon out of the atmosphere to create a balance that could sustain life for the more complex oxygen breathers that evolved from them. The graves of these tiny ancestors stored this carbon and after compression and lots of time, created coal, oil, and gas in sacred burial grounds.

This day at Standing Rock thousands of people, from the Sioux tribe and many others protest the desecration of burial sites and vital waters by the oil industry. In recent months, our Lummi sisters and brothers lead the way to win a great battle against the coal companies who wanted to desecrate their burial sites and fishing grounds at Cherry Point to the North of us.

Today we stand with the Sioux of Standing Rock, and we stand with the Lummi. We are also honored and grateful to stand with the Quinault, Yakama and Cowlitz tribes to protect their ancestral hunting and fishing grounds.

Together we all stand against raiding Earth’s sacred burial grounds of carbon, created by all that is Holy to make life possible for every multi-celled creature that writhes, wiggles, swims, flies, or walks on legs.

That carbon in the ground is the Life-Giver’s provision for a green and glorious planet, for teaming coral reefs and abounding forests.  It was buried to make way for this beautiful abundance and complexity of life.

As fossil fuel companies raid those sacred carbon stores, they desecrate our Creator’s purpose and destroy our life giving atmosphere. They un-create the very systems made to sustain us.

Human-caused climate change flies in the face of all that the Creator called good.  It is the reverse of tov, an unthinkable disaster of species extinction and habitat destruction together with a food and water and health crises for all creatures.  Cruelly, those humans who have done the least to create the problem are most vulnerable.  The poorest nations and peoples experience the brunt of the changes first in drought and flood and food crises.  So it is here in Longview, where our people with the greatest health challenges live closest to the proposed terminal and its air and noise pollution.

It seems the human race is running at breakneck speed toward merciless irreversible un-creation.

But wait. The Creator is not done with creation yet.  The fabulous brilliant generative energy that got this blue marble rolling is still at work, and at work in us today to arrest the process of the un-creators.

The Lummi, the Standing Rock Sioux, are standing for life. And here today, the Yakama, the Quinault, the Cowlitz, and you all who live on their vast ancestral lands stand together representing the great creating force of Life.

In the name of the creation, in the name of the Creator, in the name of all that is GOOD we say no more coal trains.  No more coal export. No more mindless expansion of the fossil fuel un-creators.  Greed has had its day and done its damage.

We claim our victories: There will be no coal exports from Bellingham, Coos Bay, Grays Harbor, or Boardman/Port Westward.

Today we stand together to say there will be no coal export from Longview.

Why? Because we demand our government does what is right.  We keep litigating and protesting and petitioning and testifying and coming out over and over and over together to raise our voices.

Today we gather one more time to say no to the last standing coal export facility proposed for the Northwest.  Creation has been at work in us and through us, and we will not stop until this project is stopped.

We are not alone. I get tired, I know you do too. But hear me now – this movement has the full endorsement of the Power of Creation, and by that power we fight together.  As long as we work, as long as we gather, as long as we make our hearts available to be broken, and then strengthened, we will be given the Spirit to do what must be done.

Creation continues, and it will be good.

Thank you for coming today, and giving your heart to this work.  God bless us all.

Author Bio

Rev. Kathleen Patton is Rector at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Longview, WA. She has said that she never thought of herself as an environmental activist, but she has been a vocal opponent of plans to expand coal export facilities along the Columbia River, as well as a fierce advocate for her community and for climate action.

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