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Climate, Compassion and Community Building: Sustainability with Justice

April 17, 2016


Climate, Compassion and Community Building: Sustainability with Justice


Edited recording of the call: click here.

PDF of Power Point of the Call: click here.

Welcome and Introduction of Speakers (Barbara Kaufmann)
Speaker Presentations (Dr. Paloma Pavel and Carl Anthony- with questions & reflections facilitation by Marilyn Turkovich)
Closing (Paloma, Barbara, and Marilyn)

About the Speakers
This information, as well as information about the other speakers during the Earth Week Speaker Series, is provided in the announcement on the Charter for Compassion International website:

M. Paloma Pavel. PhD., M.Div.
Paloma is an educator, eco-psychologist, author, and editor of “Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis” (MIT Press), and co-editor of the MIT Press “Sustainable Metropolitan Communities” books series. Paloma built the first deep ecology leadership center in the United States before founding Earth House, a multicultural media and learning center for environmental and social justice. At Harvard, she helped to lead the national anti-apartheid divestment campaign and was subsequently invited to be the first North American faculty on board the Peace Boat. Dr. Pavel serves on the board for the WCCC League of Women Voters; Commissioner for Environmental Quality for the City of El Cerrito; on the Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s board for Adapting to Rising Tides; and is a graduate of the 2015 cohort of Emerge California where women are trained for political office. Her forthcoming book is “Climate Justice: Frontline Stories from Groundbreaking Coalitions in California”. Dr. Pavel has also worked internationally consulting to leaders and NGO's in Cambodia, Japan, South Africa and Costa Rica. She was the first North American faculty to circle the earth on the Peace Boat, providing strategic and technical assistance to humanitarian hot spots. She is currently launching a global climate justice and community resilience project with the 20th anniversary edition of “Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty”, co-authored with Anne Herbert and artist Mayumi Oda with a foreword by Desmond Tutu.

Carl Anthony
Carl is an architect, author, regional design strategist, and co-founder of Breakthrough Communities, building multiracial leadership for sustainable metropolitan communities. He was co-founder of the Urban Habitat Program in the San Francisco Bay Area, serving for 8 years as Executive Director. At the Ford Foundation, Carl served as Acting Director of the Community and Resource Development Unit, responsible for the Foundation’s worldwide programs in fields of Environment and Community Development. Carl also spent 7 years as Ford’s Director of the Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Initiative (SMCI) and the Regional Equity Demonstration. In 1996, he was appointed Fellow at the Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He was presented the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition by Congresswoman Barbara Lee in 2014. His forthcoming book is entitled “The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race: Discovering New Foundations for the Great Work of Our Time."

Summary of the Call
Climate change is at a critical moment within our lifetime. Yet, the global breakdown of economy, environment and equity is also an unparalleled opportunity for a reimagining of our purpose on the planet and a comprehensive coming home to our place in the Universe. The Breakthrough Communities team offers this interactive dialogue and workshop to better understand how to approach climate justice from a place of compassion to transform ourselves, our communities, and the planet.

Carl Anthony’s upcoming book and accompanying short film, “The Earth, the City and the Hidden Narrative of Race” places an African American narrative in the context of deep time and climate crisis- from the Big Bang to Hurricane Katrina. Carl illustrates how this Big History framework is key to transforming the dominant narrative of race and providing new pathways for the Great Work of our time.

Dr. Paloma Pavel provides case studies from Breakthrough Communities’ work with coalitions, documented in the forthcoming publication “Climate Justice: Frontline Stories from Groundbreaking Coalitions in California”. These stories of social innovation apply tools for regional coalition-building in vulnerable communities across lines of race, place, and class, in response to global warming.

You can find Paloma and Carl at:

Welcome and Introduction of Speakers
Barbara Kaufmann: Hello and welcome to the Charter for Compassion Earth Week Speaker Series. We had the kick-off for the Earth Week series yesterday and talked about climate change. Today, our speakers are Dr. Paloma Pavel and Carl Anthony from Breakthrough Communities. This conversation is especially relevant since we have over 350 compassionate communities and the number is growing.

A worldwide movement is emerging. It is a movement of shared values and commitment to just communities, humanity, and quality of life. Paloma and Carl’s work focuses on the urban community. They both have forthcoming publications: Dr. Paloma Pavel, “Climate Justice: Frontline Stories from Groundbreaking Coalitions in California,” and Carl Anthony,

“The Earth, the City and the Hidden Narrative of Race”.
[Barbara summarized the information in the “About the Speakers” section above.]

Their work has just been featured in “Ecopsychology.” We say we must “be the change”. These people ARE the change. Welcome Paloma and Carl.

Speaker Presentations (with questions & reflections facilitation by Marilyn Turkovich):

Paloma: I am thrilled to be here with Carl. We have worked together for nearly two decades. We are based in Oakland, California.
Carl: It is a wonderful occasion we are sharing with you.

Paloma: We will begin with one of our esteemed colleagues, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to bring in the sacred at the base and root of all we are doing. We want to honor and appreciate who you are and who you stand for at this moment in time. Each person’s presence is important. Archbishop Tutu wrote the Foreword to my book, “Random Kindness & Senseless Acts of Beauty 20th Anniversary Edition, and we are happy to share that the book just won the 2016 Independent Publisher Gold Medal and Book Award (IPPY Award) for Outstanding Book of the Year as “Peacemaker of the Year” ( Archbishop Tutu is such a peaceful, joyful being. Despite so much bloodshed and heartbreak in his county, he brings forth such a joyful presence. Here are his words:

“We are living in an historic moment. We are each called to take part in a great transformation. Our survival as a species is threatened by global warming, economic meltdown, and an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor. Yet these threats offer an opportunity to awaken as an interconnected and beloved community.” –Desmond Tutu, Foreword to Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty.

Reed: Everyone can see the PowerPoint slides for the presentation by joining the Social Webinar feature of the call. Click on the “Join Event” button on the reminder email you received for the call.

Paloma: So, we join today in this great moment of transformation.

Carl: I’ve been around for a while. I grew up in Philadelphia and have lives in New York, and Africa. Now, I live on the west coast in Oakland, California. In my early years, I lived in the “Bottom” of Philadelphia. In that time, in 1939, it was the lowest part of city and filled with water half of the time. Fortunately, we moved from that neighborhood. I had a third grade teacher who taught us about everything- dinosaurs, the planets- and awakened me to a much larger universe. Through my 77 years, there have been cloudy days where I’ve thought about the lessons I learned during that period in my life.

Paloma: Today, we invite our listeners to join in interaction and reflection. As we are reflecting today, we’d like to invite each of you to think about the place you were born and how, in this Earth Week, the places where we live and root ourselves can be interconnected in beloved community. The challenges and beauty of these places is part of the gift we bring to this time and help make us leaders.

I was born in San Diego, at the border of California and Mexico. My family roots were from Czechoslovakia. Being born in Southern California on the border shaped my consciousness. I accompanied my father when he crossed the border into Mexico and worked at a free clinic in Tijuana. I made close friends there who could not cross the border back to be with me in the United States. This experience opened my eyes to social inequity. It made me aware of the importance of healing the spatial apartheid in our neighborhoods and regions. Bridge building is really a force in my life. I invite you to think about the place you were born, the place, the creatures, the green ones, the winged ones, etc.

Carl: Paloma, perhaps you can share your interesting story about the zoo.

Paloma: in San Diego when I was growing up, in addition to begin at the border, we were recovering from World War II and rising up as a young city. The San Diego Zoo distinguished itself as being without bars and being an open space and a more natural environment for animals. As I child, I imagined there must be an electric boundary of some sort that protected us from the animals and that kept them from leaving their areas of the zoo. As an adult, I found that some of the animal enclosures were actually psychological enclosures. The gazelles, for example, could leap many feet in the air, however, in the zoo, they stayed in an area enclosed by a wall of only about 8 feet. They stayed in the enclosure, not knowing they could escape. During an earthquake, the animals remember the power they have and actually leap out. Sometimes, I think about these gatherings we have, like this global webinar, as places where we catalyze possibilities and remember the knowledge we have and take a leap together. The times we live in are calling for those leaps and for us to honor and remember Indigenous knowledge. We invite you to take a leap with us and move forward into your own deep remembering.

Carl: We all have this sense that the world is changing rapidly and we are struggling with the question, “What time is it?” We read about the evolution of the universe and of planet Earth. Homo sapiens emerged about 200,000 years ago. Now, the number of extinctions of species on the planet is as great as it has been in millions of years. There are the challenges of climate change and engagement of people of color to have a say in these issues along with the greater sense of awareness that we share the planet with the animals and the trees. We are in a remarkable moment in history. This moment is a time when people are all coming together. We are one of the species on the planet. We have to unite and think about how we share the planet. We’ve been talking about climate change and global warming. Importantly, the whole phenomena of climate change is often presented as if it’s all about polar bears and weather. It’s also really about people. People are struggling with the consequences. What time is it? It is a great time of awakening and emergence of unity around the planet. We see this time as a time to build a great, unified social movement. The movement for climate justice brings together so many people. This movement is similar to movements that emerged in the past- the struggle against slavery, the labor movement, etc. At the root of these movements is the movement for climate justice. We are all struggling for survival.

Paloma: Thank you Carl. We are showing a slide of an icecream cone made from three Earths. We are exceeding the caring capacity to support our current way of life. We need to be aware of the most vulnerable communities. Katrina is an example of how poor and vulnerable communities are often the hardest hit by environmental change. This slide shows the impact of oil, fracking, etc. The impact is not just on the Earth, but is on the human community.

We started with welcoming and introductions and reflecting. Now we want to share some of the hopeful and strong models and strategies of how communities are responding to climate justice. We weave these strategies together with a tool called the “Compass for Community Resilience”.

Carl: We’ve studied many movements- the Civil Rights Movement, etc. Many think that social movements arise from grievances that people have. Actually, when a movement happens, there is an opportunity that opens and there is an explosion of efforts that come together in forming the movement. The Civil Rights Movement would not have been possible without the Cold War. There was an opportunity for African Americans to be seen. Also, television allowed images and events to be viewed widely. Today, we have the cell phone, the Internet. The struggle for climate justice is a huge opportunity to bring together many of our social movements. All movements have integrity and they are deeply connected to climate justice.

Paloma: Carl- you talk about political opportunities. Overall, we identify three key stages of mobilizing structures and framing issues that are useful to social movements. How do we get our communities moving?

Carl: We need to recognize the groups in our community. In the Civil Rights Movement, there were churches, the NAACP, etc. Today, there are movements for health equity, food sovereignty, etc. Each group has a motivation and there is a core that brings us together around social justice. There are mobilizing structures in the community. The way we frame the issues is important to allow the different groups to relate to each other. The key 3 key stages are: 1) recognize political opportunity; 2) mobilize structure in the community; and, 3) frame issues so people can connect.

Paloma: Let’s give this some energy on the ground. We want to welcome two of our colleagues and invite them to share a bit later on. Wanda Stewart has created Obsidian Farm in the Bay area in California ( Kaily Hei tis with Public Allies ( in the Bay area and does collaborative work in communities and teaching to build our future.

We will share the “Compass” now. We want you to think about an issue that is breaking your heart, igniting the fire in your belly, catalyzing your own moral imagination... something you feel can be better about the place that you live. We can be grateful each day that we can be part of this social movement.

Here is a slide of the Compass: We are all waking up to connections and new possibilities of interconnectedness.

Carl: The important thing about the Compass is that we can see a social movement evolve. We go through stages. Each stage has different psychological, social, and economic impact. It is important to note the stages. Waking up is important. Each of us has a different experience of that.

Paloma: Waking up is a continuing expanding process. In working with vulnerable communities, we learned about how they made progress and created change: addressing toxic dumping, white flight, business closures, and economic challenges.

Carl: Three blocks from where I live, a woman lives in a house surrounded by all sorts of growing things. Maybe she can talk about her work.

Wanda: I am the Founder of Obsidian Farm in Berkeley, California. I had a “waking up” in regards to food. When I was at a boarding school I had the luxury of having quality food around me. I had the advantage of eating food in boarding school for free and that was prepared without my labor. Then, I moved to Berkeley and found out how much organic food cost. So, I could not afford it. A lot of my “waking up” was about my personal need to feed my children and myself.

Carl: Many African Americans remember their roots in slavery which is associated with planting food and we have tried to get away from that. We now discover that not only is it pleasant to plant and grow food, it is a survival mechanism we share with our ancestors.

Wanda: Yes, we ran from planting in the fields, but when we run from it, we lose the benefits of growing good food and we lose the spiritual, physical connection with actually putting our hands in the dirt. It is important that we reframe our approach to the land and to growing food.

Paloma: We are now seeing the slide with a child with an inhaler and a polar bear and exhaust fumes. We are waking up as urban people. We have moved from rural spaces and living on the land to urban communities. 70% of people now live in cities. We are living in the experience of leaving the land and coming to cities.

Carl: As example is the dust bowl movement from the land to cities.

Paloma: The inability to feed our families and obtain food is moving people into cities. When we think about the fate of climate change, let’s ask ourselves what is the image we see in the media. Our next slide illustrates that most people see climate change as something far away that impacts some other species, e.g. the polar bear. What we understand now is that we are seeing the impact in cities, in our young people with asthma and in our elders who are affected by the degradation of air, etc. In Breakthough Communities and in building community resilience, it is important to address all these issues. Our destinies are linked. Asthma rates in inner cities are increasing. There is a place in the Bay Area (California) called “Cancer Alley.” Cancer and asthma rates have sky rocketed in people living close to factories. These are our young people on the melting ice flows, just like the polar bears. When we “wake up” to these realities, there is a natural, almost visceral response. This is saying “No”. There are things we are reaching for to build resilience in our community. Often it is important to put out immediate fires to gain time to say “No.”

Carl: In some places, often wealthy places, there are trees and healthy things. In poor areas, there is trash and environmental degradation and more illness from asthma, etc. Our society is creating classes of people who see no opportunities. The challenge of climate change is giving us a new way to think about survival and opportunity. It is a very healthy action to say “NO.”

Paloma: I want to make sure we are allowing time for people to call in. We need to check on time.

Marilyn Turkovich: We are 7 minutes before the hour. Does anyone have a reflection or question? If so, please press 1 on your phone.

Melba: I am honored to be a part of this. The slides and conversation are wonderful and fulfilling. Thank you so much!!

Marilyn: We are taking notes as well and, in about 72 hours, the notes will be published and shared with you.

Paloma: Thank you. We are now seeing a slide with actions happening at the local community relating to social justice. We see a spatial apartheid and racially divided infrastructure. Some communities have health food stores, farmers markets, etc. Some neighborhoods have hundreds of liquor stores and zero access to healthy foods, organic foods. Also, we are making long commutes between areas in single- occupancy vehicles. People are displaced from services and to gain access, have to travel far.

Carl: The next stage in the Compassion is to get grounded in the new reality. Scientists have research and provide information that we can use to learn about the issues.

Paloma: Here is a slide with photos of local communities responding to climate change and organizing and finding a seat at the table. If you are not at the table, you are on the menu. We need vulnerable communities at the planning tables and part of making decisions. Metropolitan districts need sustainable community strategies. We need to start thinking like a region.

Carl: It is an opportunity to desegregate and be inclusive and end isolation of parts of community. When we mobilize for climate justice, we mobilize for good schools, housing, etc. These are co-benefits.

Paloma: There is a role for everyone! Desmond Tutu says “we are each called to take part in a great transformation”. In schools, we can learn about our own place in the community, food security, etc. In this slide, we have photos from the Alameda County (California) Edible Schoolyard Project (; - in which youth learn about science and history (from the plantations and slavery to growing and planting food in the present time). We learn to say “No” to GMOs and pesticides and get grounded in doing things a different way. Students learn about the soil, removing tarmacs, planting gardens.

Carl: A remarkable awareness is that many farms can exist within a few miles of where schools are.

Paloma: We need to understand history, policies, and who is making the decisions. The 4th stage is “exploring new horizons”. These stages are evident in the progress, successes, and victories of groups in metropolitan areas that achieve new outcomes. In the 4th stage, we start thinking outside the box. What would it take to get the organic farmers and school children to work with each other? In Los Angeles, schools were able to say no to vending machines that supplied sodas and junk food and link farmers together with the food lunch program. Throughout the school system, there was a commitment made to improve the food and help coordinate with the farmers.

Carl: The successful movements have a really healthy dose of curiosity to reach out and discover new relationships with various groups- science, arts, etc.
An example is permaculture- the whole idea of people learning how to plant and how the design of our farming can help create healthy communities.

Paloma: The image in next slide shows bicyclists on a highway. In Los Angeles, they shut down the freeways. Some of the things we think that are cast in stone are of our making. As we imagine a new way of living together, we can make a difference and reduce disparities that have led to so much pain.
In Chicago, there is an amazing project. They took an abandoned conservatory and reconstituted it. They also brought a prominent artist to offer a permanent collection of his art to be part of the conservatory to attract people and help support the plants.

Garfield Conservatory, Chicago, IL, Chihuly glass

Carl: As neighborhoods in Chicago went downhill, the number of visitors to the Conservatory waned. The city wanted to tear it down and replace it with low income housing. The community said no and then got grounded and then reached for this artist to put his sculpture in the Conservatory. Now 600,000 people visit the conservatory every year. It has increased the economy and now there’s a school nearby where students are learning about the conservatory, GIS mapping, etc.

Paloma: The next slide is of youth and students involved in community planning. The students are supporting an “equity scenario”, an example of community voice exploring new horizons.

Carl: What are we going to be teaching our students? A wonderful group actually taught young people about transportation decisions and invited students to write up what they would say to the Metro Transportation Commission. High school students confronted the city leaders and made recommendations. The process included many ethnic and racial groups. They created a plan for 7 million people in the San Francisco Bay area. They insisted on having this plan evaluated. On one remarkable night, one city planner recommended to include the plan and another supervisor moved to make it unanimous. It was a moment in time, like the World Cup. There was a wonderful celebration. The plan was evaluated.

These 50-75 organizations came up with a plan for all of the Bay area and the environmental impact report shows that their plan actually out-performed the plan developed by professionals. It put housing near where the jobs are, etc. and reduced greenhouse gas impact.

Paloma: We want to increase a response to crisis. Here’s a slide illustrating over 100,000 people impacted and sick from environmental disasters.
Let’s look briefly at the rest of the slides. We want to make a just transition from a world that is unsustainable to a world that builds resilience, local engagement, and regional innovations for healthy solutions. 400,000 people gathered in Central Park. It was a gathering from around the world demonstrating that we have one air and one water that we must defend.

Carl: My book, The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race: Discovering New Foundations for the Great Work of Our Time will be available next year. It is written from my life experience.

Kaily Heit: There is a “Learning Action Guide”, a workbook that goes with Carl’s book. It helps young community leaders take action.

Paloma: Thanks you Kaily and Wanda. What are you saying “Yes” to?

Wanda: I am saying “yes” to growing food, returning to the Earth, reframing the experience of African Americans so we can return to the land as a community and sustain our culture. I’m saying “yes” to doing this with everyone all over the globe.

Carl: And you are doing this in the city.

Wanda: Yes, and my house and my plants have changed my neighborhood.

Paloma: Can we hear from the audience?

Marilyn: Please press 1 and I’ll call on you.

Paloma: This work all links to the Charter for Compassion. As we take these steps and link arms with others in our communities, what grows within us is our sense of connectedness to one another. We grow individually and collectively.

Carl: We need to start with the issues of our most vulnerable first.

Barbara: Yes, I want you to know that I look forward to reading your book. Angela Davis was in our community recently. She posed the question: How would the world be different now if the slaves had been included in the recovery from the Civil War and in our progress forward? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report
( says that people of color will be hit hard by climate change.

Carl: Some part of my book will address how communities of color can organize and provide leadership. We are losing our generations in our schools. We have to think that we all have a voice.

Lesa: Thank you for an inspiring presentation. Compassion is at the core of all the stages you mentioned. I am Lesa Walker from Austin, Texas and we just passed a Resolution to designate our city as a compassionate city and affirm the Charter and participate in the Compassion Games. I hope that all the Compassionate Communities will engage in these stages in collaboration with Breakthrough Communities and actively practice compassion to bring all people to the table to address community needs.

Paloma: Thank you. I want to share an image from our world community. As Earth week opens, it is a global week connected to the Earth. I had an experience in meeting with one of our elders, Don Elijio Panti- trained in Mayan medicine and the healing principles of the Earth ( He says that how you treat the body and the heart are the same. The heart, the body, the mind, and the community are connected with the Earth. After my last day of apprenticing with him on the border of Belize and Guatemala, we were walking together along the forest floor of the rainforest. He would sing to all the creatures of the forest in a Mayan song. As we turned, I slipped and reached for a branch. He shouted “Careful!” and pulled me away. He explained quickly. He said the branch I was reaching for was a poisonous pant that eats through flesh and stops only at bone. However, he also shared that, in the rainforest, the antidote is always within 4 ft. He went to a nearby plant and told me that the roots of that plant make a tea that is the antidote. Think about the antidote that is within 4 ft. The solutions we seek are close by in the most vulnerable communities. I want to honor Don Elijio. The antidote is always within 4 ft.

Barbara: What a wonderful reminder of how beautifully our world survives. What important work in the word! Everyone, if you have resources you want to share, email them to us at the Charter for Compassion. You can reach Paloma and Carl at:

We will publish a report of this call and will have those resources.

Please join us for the rest of the Earth Week Speaker Series:

Remember to support the Charter with your donations. You can find the Charter donation page on the Home Page of the Charter website:

Marilyn: Again, thank you Paloma and Carl.

Contact Paloma and Carl:
Breakthrough Communities:
Forthcoming! The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race by Carl Anthony: Connecting struggles for social and racial justice to the Universe Story, creating a new story for our time.

Earth House publications out now
Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis (MIT Press)
Random Kindness & Senseless Acts of Beauty 20th Anniversary Edition (New Village Press); IPPY Gold Medal and Outstanding Book of the Year Award:
Edible Schoolyard Project:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report:

Don Elijio Panti:
Obsidian Farm in the Bay area in California:
Public Allies:


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