Martha Minchak: Loving the Environment, Acting for Justice
Martha Minchak’s love for the environment has been a driving force since her early days growing up in rural Rhode Island, and continues in northern Minnesota where she has lived for over 30 years. Whether she is in the woods, on the St. Louis River, in her gardens at home, or at Peace Church, Martha sees the environment through the lens of justice. She is concerned that corporate greed, industrial agriculture, and economic policies are causing food insecurity and environmental damage both locally and globally; that our water has been polluted with PCBs, lead, mercury, arsenic, and heavy metals; that public policies have turned working class neighborhoods and Native lands into dumping grounds for toxic chemicals and sites for environmentally damaging industries.
Martha works for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and she is currently involved with the restoration of habitats in the St. Louis River Estuary after the remediation of contaminated sediments and superfund sites in West Duluth. To bring about environmental justice, Martha believes that all resources – land, water, and air – must be equitably accessible to “the commons” and not for the benefit of the few. This can only be achieved by changing public attitudes through education on the grassroots level, and advocating for enlightened actions by the governmental and private sectors.
Martha lives out her values both in her work life and in her many connections with community organizations and advocates for justice. Her list is long: the Izaak Walton League of America, St. Louis River Alliance, Southern Poverty Law Center, Amnesty International, Koinonia Farms, Habitat for Humanity, and Witness for Peace, to name a few!
Martha has been on a path of faith development that includes Native American practices, Buddhism, and teachings of the ascended masters – Jesus, Buddha, Black Elk, Seatl, Quan Yin, Mohammed, Krishna – of faith traditions that believe in justice, peace and equality. She found Peace Church through several friends who were members, and realized that she had already been in the building a number of times before while attending other community meetings there. For Martha, there is no separation between faith and daily life, and Peace Church has helped her connect her faith to justice work more deeply.
When asked about her sources of inspiration and guidance, Martha quickly named her mother Ruby as her greatest inspiration, and then recited these quotes by world leaders who have been courageous and renowned movers for justice:
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” “An eye for an eye … leaves the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie
“Life is like a wisp of smoke that dances across the wind of time. How long it lingers it does not know. No more than a leaf knows when it will fall. No more than a rain drop knows when and where it will fall. Remember that this day, this moment, this second, is all that truly matters so be grateful for this time.” Larry K Fiddler
On a more local level, Martha added that she is also inspired by Peace church members. In particular, she mentioned people she met while on a Witness for Peace delegation to Colombia and Venezuela in 2007 – Bill Hardesty, Joel Kilgour, Linda & Tom Curran, and John & Lyn Pegg— as well as Pastor Kathy and many others.
Whether working for two days each year at the Peace Church rummage sale, participating in the Peace Church Prayer Chain, restoring habitat in the Western Corridor, or presenting environmental education programs and citizen advocacy workshops for the Izaak Walton League, Martha is putting her faith into action.
Interviewed by Lyn Clark Pegg