Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley Addresses the Climate Action Assembly II
Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley addresses the Climate Action Assembly II at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.
Hello. Oh, I can’t hear you. Hello. I’m excited about being here today. This is the day that God has made there are no accidents that I’m hearing that you’re there. I’m honored to be joined with my co-warriors, co-labors, and co-conspirators who have been summoned here by God.
This is no accident that Chicago has been selected as the city where we come together and shake each other and grab each other and hold on to one another to know that this is our time. This is our moment. This is the day that we must come together across all faiths and make a difference on our climate and help the environment to grow. I think about the world.
The Earth now is convulsing with hurricanes and tornadoes and wildfires, floods, droughts, food deserts, earthquakes, polluted water, plant life devastation. But I think the worst thing that’s happening in America today is the climate insensitivity and ignorance that is but bruised by human beings who refuse to deny, who deny that climate change is real.
I didn’t come here today to be a harbinger of doom, a naysayer about what we’re not doing. I did not come here to point fingers to the people who are destroying our earthly homes and our environment and our inhabitants. I stopped by briefly to say that we are no longer talking about climate change because we can see that the climate has already changed. We now must get excited about what it is that we do.
The UN General Secretary said that we’re not in climate change but global warming. All of us have attended environmental meetings, conferences, seminars, international treaties all over the world, the world politicians are here today, the leaders are here today, the business leaders are here, and all of them are fully aware of the impending destruction of the planet. Yet, it seems that everyone is fixed on profits over people and the progressive of what we’re doing to each other.
Given the world, climate, and reality of our time, it is now imperative than ever before that the interfaith community that we unite as one collaborative challenge cohesive coordinating charging voice to do what compelled us in the civil rights movement to do the thing that kept us going when no one paid us any attention when they said you’ll never get the right to vote when they said you’ll never have the right to work where you can when you want to work even though you had enough education Dr. King would look at all of us and understand that there are two things that make a movement we have to say one thing this is not a climate this is not a climate campaign this is not an environmental campaign this is a movement campaigns have a way to end but we’re not going to end we’re going to keep on marching we’re going to keep on standing up and we’re going to keep on talking this is not a campaign so Dr. King would always ask one question when we wanted to give up when we wanted to quit he said what are you willing to sacrifice and what are you willing to risk if you’re not willing to sacrifice and not willing to risk all you’re gonna do is keep coming to conferences and talking about it when you leave here somebody ought to be excited enough to tell somebody that I was at a mountain top experience at the karmic place and I need to talk to you about how do I take what I’ve learned how do I bring it home and how do we improve the planet and sustain the effort somebody ought to be happy about that and know what you’re gonna do when you leave here it’s not just another movement it’s not just another talk I know that we have the knowledge the capabilities and we have the skills in general know how to do something with this global runaway train but I must be honest today at the expense of appearing to be somewhat negative I must say that’s a survey of the landscape now collectively we do not seem to have the willpower to stand up for justice and sacrifice we would prefer to have a profitable bottom line and comfortable lifestyles.
This is my 63rd year in the movement for civil rights, for human rights, for justice, for equality, for equity, for inclusion and saving the planet now has moved up to the top. I believe that it is absolutely essential that the climate movement and the civil rights and human rights movement become one coordinated effort because when we fought, I never thought when I got to Nashville, Tennessee in 1960 and the man told me to go to the back of the bus. How could he tell me to go to the back of the bus? I was an all-American basketball player in Denver, Colorado. My name was the double D, the double defensive, delectable, darling, dynamic, dangerous, devastating D from Denver. Who are you going to tell me to go to the back of the bus?
But the laws were in place, so we fought to change the laws because our constitutional rights said we had the right to vote, the right to work where we wanted to go. And I believe in the climate movement, we have the right to clean air. We have the right to clean water. We have the right to an ocean that’s plastic-free. We have a right. Therefore, the constitutional rights of the movement in the civil rights and the human rights and the environmental rights must come together.
Dr. King said when we got disappointed, when we wanted to quit, when we wanted to turn around, when we thought there was no sensitivity to our cause for justice, he would say this and I quote, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Our lives, listen, our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about the things that matter. I’m convinced now that nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Today we are called deliberately to come together to be more important about action. All of the great religions talk about how we come together. When I think about the Jewish tradition, it says this, when God created the first human being, God led them around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said, see my works, how lovely they are, how fine they are, take care not to corrupt and destroy my world.
When I look at the native spirituality, it says, oh Great Spirit, help us learn the lessons you have hidden in every rock. When I look at Shinduism, return the things given to the human as a gift of nature to the original place. Daoism, in harmony with the Dao, the sky is clear and spacious, the world and the earth is solid and full of all creatures that flourish together. All faiths talk about this.
As we leave this world, Parliament, we must realize that environmental justice is broader than environmental equity, which means when you talk about equity, equal treatment and protection under many statues and regulations, practices, emphasizing the right to a safe and healthy environment for all people and incorporating physical, social, political and economic justice under the heading of the environment.
We must stand up and speak out against anybody that speaks about discrimination, policymaking, enforcement of laws that target communities of color for disposal sites and polluting industries, municipal landfills, speak out against them, hazardous waste facilities, nuclear waste dumps, manufacturing and sale of hazardous products, international distribution of toxic waste.
We’ve got to speak out against those things that we begin to say that we’re all in this together. People of faith, this is our time, this is our moment. We’ve been charged to speak out for the least, the lost, the left behind, those that don’t know, those that are in hovels.
You and I, our role is not to just come to a conference but to leave here with the idea that we will go back and make a difference. All of those who agree with me, all that says, there ought to be some excitement. I stopped coming to conferences like this. I stopped because I would come and everybody would talk and we would talk and we’d go back and it’s kept getting worse.
Some time away we’ve got to be that catalytic force that will make a difference on global boiling at this time. This movement, not this campaign, is now considered very important in the civil and the human rights movement. It is our time, it is our turn to make a difference. I feel I can put this in perspective. When I go back and think about in our tradition, so many times they would talk about in the African-American community, or you are really concerned about the environment. You pollute the least, but you suffer the most. And a lot of times when I’m getting up trying to involve people, trying to get people involved, I have to go back to an old ancient story. And I think we can learn something from the writings of antiquity.
There was a story written, even though this is all interfaith and world religions, I’ll take my little moment from the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. When you think about Nehemiah, he was very much like those of you who I’m looking at today. He was a young man who had risen to the top in his hometown. He was considered a very bright and brilliant person. He had gone to the greatest of universities. And everybody knew him, but his town was captured by an empire. And he was brought to that place, and he worked for the king. And he began to grow up under the king of another society. And you know when you get into another society and you start making a little money and you got a new car, a new chariot, you think you’re somebody. But whenever you get too high for your people, one of his friends came by and said, “Wait a minute, come here, come here. Let me talk to you just for a minute. Do you know what’s happening back at home?”
He said, “No, I’m working for the king.” He said, “Everything has been torn down. The educational system is torn down. The political system is corrupt. The health system has gone astray and the faith system has faded. You’ve got to come home and make a difference when you leave this mountain top experience you’ve got to go back to your place and make a difference you’ve got to be convicted on the insides so you’ll be converted on the outside to make a conversation to whoever’s standing next to you this is the time as our time.”
And as the story would go he went back to his hometown as you will go back to your hometown or your organization and he raised the question “What am I willing to sacrifice and what am I willing to risk?” And he started working he started building a wall and bringing back up the environment in that area he started talking about how are we gonna change the water flow how are we gonna look at clean air how are we gonna look at toxic waste dumps in the area and he began to work but you know what whenever you start doing a good work expect somebody to challenge you expect an enemy to come in in this case they came in from every side so he had to pull his people together and in this particular text here’s the word I want you to remember when you go home it said he became successful because of one thing the people had a mind to work the people had a mind to work do we have a mind to work when we leave a gathering of this nature do we have a mind to work do we have a mind to grow do we have a mind to increase when the people have a mind to work we will not be defeated but he’s they started working and he had bricklayers around him he had architects around him he had those that carried the water he had the cooks around him and the warriors would protect them so they could work but listen at this and this is what I want you to see because this is who you are who I’m speaking with today the people that he kept closest to him were the trumpet blowers now why would he keep the trumpet blowers close to him he said no I’ve got the warriors but I need the trumpet blowers to stay next to me they said well why would you have what about the cooks and what he said I need the trumpet blowers next to to me?
So today I’m saying that we know you are the trumpet blowers of the modern-day movement. You are those that will help us to rebuild the wall and reason, stabilize the society and the community and the environment. We are the modern-day trumpet blowers here at this Parliament. We must blow our trumpet against corporations who continue to pollute the environment to make a profit. We must blow our trumpet against politicians who are more concerned about power rather than people. We must blow our trumpet against scientists who refuse to speak up a fear for losing their job. We must blow our trumpet for the unethical rights and moral decisions that are being made We must blow our trumpet for environmental justice.
We must blow our trumpet for environmental equity. Do you have a trumpet out there? We must blow our trumpet. Are you ready? Can I find a few trumpet blowers as you leave this place grab your trumpet? Get all the information that you have, tune your trumpet or put a new mouthpiece in. We need into blow our trumpet. We will not be bought. We will not bow. We will not back up. We will not bend nor will we break But we will blow our trumpet blow your trumpet scan the code and blow your trumpet Can I get some trumpet blowers? How many trumpet blowers do I have in here who are ready to go back? If you’re a trumpet blower stand on your feet, stand up, stand up trumpet blowers. You stand, look enemy these are the real trumpet blowers right here. Go and blow your trumpet. Thank you. Blow your trumpet!