> National Religious Partnership for the Environment:

> Cooperation Between Science and Religion Launched by Carl Sagan.

> Paul Burks


>Paul Burks is a United Methodist Minister living in Mountain View.

>Prior to his theological training at Drew University from 1963 to

>1966, he studied Electrical Engineering at the University of

>Southern California, BSEE 1953. From 1953 to 1963 he worked for the

>General Electric Company in engineering, marketing, and management.

>His last position with GE was Sales Manager for the Semiconductor

>Products Department.


>Paul is now involved in Earth Ministry, working in the South Bay

>with the Sierra Club, Bay Area Action, Jubilee 2000, the newly

>organized Sustainable Communities Forum, MasterPeace 2001,

>Spiritual Alliance for Earth, and various congregations and

>ecumenical groups. Come learn what's going on of relevance to

>Silicon Valley, the Earth, and you.


Paul Burks began his talk by quoting his favorite Saint John, one of the most widely published Californians of all time, Saint John Muir. The quote spoke of the beauty of creation, and of our need to steward it for future generations. He then talked about how Carl Sagan had realized that partnerships between science and religion would be essential to turning around the catastrophe that it looks like we have in store for us if we continue to use resources in an unsustainable way. From that realization came the organization that he works for, which has made much progress.

To show that they have made much progress, he played the first five minutes of a videotape that was put out by a partnership between his organization and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The thing was very well produced, and featured James Earl Jones reading from Genesis with cuts of Nobel Prize winning Scientists saying things like "Nature is God's textbook." After that there was a segment about a service at S. John the Divine's Cathedral in New York where they had a procession of animals to further reconciliation with other species. It was quite something to see footage of an elephant nodding his head at the alter with a very Catholic looking priest.

Burks explained that there are four major groups in the partnership, those being the Catholics, the Evangelical Christians, the mainstream Protestants like the Episcopals, and the Jews. He conceded that there was a big step from getting the leaders on board to the project and getting change at the grass roots level, but they were working on it. His feeling was that it would only be a matter of time before that happens. He also explained that the Southern Baptists were a separate group, and applauded Jimmy Carter for leaving them.

The partnership has put out many educational materials some of which Burks went over with us. They included a resource guild that any church group can use for weekly study to build their understanding of stewardship over a twelve week period, a flier that was signed by 1670 scientists warning that we only have a few decades at the most to get our house in order as a species before the troubles caused by pollution become very tragic.

There was much spirited Q & A. Burks answered many questions by saying theology does not give simple answers, but there is a real role for faith in helping our groups get along. His idea of a miracle of God was getting the Evangelical Christians to join the partnership, something he had not expected to happen.

Tian Harter

I gave Paul Burks a 1992 quarter.

NOTE: This one caused some discussion in the newsgroup where it was originally posted, which is below:

In a message dated 1/24/01 10:55:30 PM, WaltonCA@aol.com writes:


>Point: Al Gore's book on the environment "Earth in Balance" had a strong

>chapter relating the environment to theology. I presume our speaker

>knows this.


He refered to the book several times during his talk. I think he thought it was a good book, as far as that goes. Myself, I put much more stock in the kind of thing that was discussed in the second hour of Forum on KQED this morning.

It was science writer K.C. Cole. She discussed her new book, "The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything." She spent a large percentage of the show talking about nothing. She explained that if you add up all the charge in the universe, it would add up to nothing. That is the nature of balance. Three quarters of the universe is composed of nothing, because the idea that "nature abhors a vacuum" is a human one. Interstellar space is comfortable with vacuum.

She had some cogent comments about political nothing. She explained that in politics, the homeless are nothing. Michael Krasny used invisible as a synonym. In the political world, something becomes nothing as your interest moves on. All those conversations going on in the background are nothing.

You don't have to be President of the United States to explain that nothing is a real factor in most people's decision making structures.


If I could only give nothing to the government at tax time...