This post is part of the MennoCon23 #BeTransformed series. MennoCon23 will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, July 3-6, followed by the Youth & Young Adult Climate Summit, July 7.
Sarah Naharis a non-violent action trainer and inter-spiritual theologian. She is the former executive director of Community Peacemaker Teams and is currently a doctoral student at Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, New York, which is traditional Onondaga land. She is studying ecological regeneration and spiritual activism.
Jessica Griggs, blog editor for MC USA, talked to Sarah Nahar about the upcoming Youth & Young Adult Climate Summit.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for youth and young adults in the church to care about climate justice?
Sarah Nahar: It’s important for youth and young adults to have their care for climate justice recognized, because it is deeply a part of who we are. Climate justice is not only about whales and trees — though, whales and trees are super awesome. It’s also about how we relate to one another, how we understand that water and air are not resources, but relatives and part of the body of Christ. I always preach about this from I Corinthians 12. When we think, the eye can I say to the hand, “Because I’m not a hand, I’m not a part of the body.” Or the foot can’t say to the nose, “Because you are not a foot you should not be part of the body.” But we cannot say to the trees, “I have no need of you.” Or when trees, exhale, we can inhale. And when we exhale trees inhale. So trees are the lungs of the planet, and thinking about our faith, in the context of care for creation and the ways that creation cares for us as creation are all interconnected. And so I think it’s really cool to have a chance to talk about these themes, because when seeing ourselves as part of the body of Christ, that is this world, everything changes.
Q: In your opinion, what is the church’s responsibility in caring for the planet?
Sarah: The church’s responsibility, in terms of caring for the planet, is first to check ourselves, because unfortunately, much of church history, broadly, has been one of planetary degradation. And this has something to grieve. Learning more about how the history happened, and ways it could have gone differently at different moment, will give us insight about the future that we want to see — a future that God is calling us toward, which is a restored creation with health for communities and the places in which they live and interact.
Q: What are you hoping that the attendees of the Climate Summit get out of the event?
Sarah: I’m so excited for those who are attending this Climate Summit to build networks with one another. Mycelium and other rhizomatic entities move through networks of soil, sending signals to one another. And in that same way, when you come to convention, you get to see all of the other people who are active within Mennonite and Anabaptist spaces. And then when you leave, you can feel yourself still a part of that network, and you’ll start to run into one another other places around the country. And you’ll start to create types of relationships that can help change the composition of what is happening in society. So this is a moment for us to gather, to learn from one another and to go out and spread the message of connection, of renewal, of revival. So I’m really excited to meet folks from different generations who are working on this and to prepare to stay connected for the rest of our lives.
Q: In the Youth & Young Adult Climate Summit introduction webinar, I heard that you are studying toilets! Is that true?!
Sarah: It’s true; I study toilets — both the ritual and the receptacle. Basically, we have a major sanitation crisis going on on this planet. On one hand, two out of five people don’t have a place to poop in peace — no port-a-potty, no box. This results in open defecation, and the problem here is that poop carries pathogens, and a lot of those pathogens are being transferred. And then, that creates a situation in which it gets into people’s food — microscopically — but then impacts their bodies, as they ingest that food. And overall, young children are impacted. Diarrhea is one of the highest killers of young children worldwide. And on the other hand, there is a “flushing-and-forget mentality” and a cavalier use of resources, when it comes to the toilet, which is the most resource consumptive — water consumptive, specifically — type of technology in the home. So there’s a two-headed sanitation crisis. And it will take a lot of reorientation, a lot of work together, to figure out how we can move towards ecological sanitation — or ways to keep ourselves safe, separating the pathogens from food, but at the same time, not utilizing our relatives of water and other very heavy industrial ways of handling it. However, we can’t really do these experiments, and see what the future could hold in terms of ecological sanitation, until we are willing to deal with our crap — until we’re willing to talk about it. I might have a little potty mouth at convention, because we have to like be really specific about what is going on with our urine and our feces — our poop and our pee. And we can, as humans have since time immemorial, think about how to return the leftover nutrients from our bodies to the earth in a peaceful manner. And specifically, for people who are Mennonites, the sanitation crisis is killing more people than wars, and we are people that care about stopping war and stopping violence. So paying attention to sanitation, as well as paying attention to the other issues that we care about, kind of all go together; they don’t have to compete. So climate justice is like an umbrella term that helps us think together about the interconnected systems. So yes, I study the poop loop. And dealing with their crap literally and metaphorically.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?
Sarah: Can’t wait to meet you all, and I can’t wait to introduce our child to you, as well. I know that she will grow up looking up to you and what you and your generation are doing right now.
Register for the Youth & Young Adult Climate Summit, via your MennoCon23 registration today!
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