by Steve Gillard
Is the climate crisis too political for faith communities to tackle? What unique role do faith communities have when speaking about carbon pollution? As an environmental and social justice advocate, I spend a lot of time working to push my elected officials toward more sustainable energy policy. And as a lifelong Presbyterian, I spend a lot of time thinking about how my faith community can voice the moral imperative of taking urgent action to protect our natural world. As it turns out, a lot of other people are thinking about this, too.
I recently joined 1,500 other grassroots advocates at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) conference in Washington, D.C. There, between sessions on building our skills to effectively lobby Congress, a panel of activists from a variety of faiths—including Judaism, Islam, the PC(USA), and others—agreed that people of faith can draw from the deep wells of wisdom of our various traditions to combat climate change. And that wisdom shows us that we need to combine advocacy for pragmatic solutions with a prophetic voice that can imagine a better and more just future.
Although the Bible says nothing explicit about fossil fuels or climate change, Dr. Mirele Goldsmith of the Jewish Climate Action Network pointed out that the Bible is full of people courageously confronting new, daunting challenges, who can serve as examples for us when confronting the climate crisis. She and Colin Christopher, a Muslim panelist from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, explained that our sacred texts show an awareness of our reliance on God’s provision through nature and connect that provision to faithfulness to God.
The panelists urged activists to connect their passion for addressing the climate crisis with their faith. Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist, evangelical Christian, and the keynote speaker of the CCL conference, made a similar point. Scientific facts may not convince people of the reality and urgency of climate change; we need to continue to develop a vocabulary anchored in our rich faith traditions to connect with people's values if we are to expect them to take on big challenges, such as climate change.
The Church has a particular calling: to articulate a prophetic vision to push society toward a wholeness that does not yet exist. People of good faith can differ on what this means, but I believe we need investments in clean energy, we need to amplify marginalized and indigenous communities, we should divest from fossil fuel companies as a witness to the urgency of the climate crisis, and we need to eventually heal our broken relationship with nature. Too often we view nature as a resource to mine or as a garbage can to absorb our waste, instead of recognizing our reliance on it and our place in its web of interdependent relationships.
At the same time, the climate crisis is urgent and we need to take immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, doing our best to engage our broken systems. CCL’s Presbyterian Action Team, which developed the overture to support carbon pricing that was approved at the last General Assembly, is one of several groups within the PC(USA) taking concrete steps to combat climate change. CCL's approach is known as carbon fee and dividend, which places a fee on fossil fuels that grows each year and returns the collected fees in equal shares to the public. This legislation, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), would substantially lower carbon emissions without hurting low-income households and can attract bipartisan support.
Policies such as carbon fee and dividend do not involve a radical reordering of society. We absolutely need politically feasible approaches that can cut our emissions right now. Passing H.R. 763 will make a difference, because currently companies do not have to consider the cost of climate change or health effects in the price of their products.
But this one policy will not solve all our climate problems. To make either pragmatic or prophetic efforts into reality, we need each other. We need to make the climate a bridge issue, not a wedge issue, and the Church has a critical role to play. Please consider joining CCL’s Presbyterian Action Team, and please consider adding your name to this letter to Congress urging the to take action on H.R. 763.
by Morgan Besares Nelson
Have you ever had a meeting of divine moments? When like a cascade of dominoes, one seemingly random, maybe even shallow act grows into a life changing experience?
Friends, I am having a meeting of divine moments, right now! Let me explain.
A few months ago, after a day of wrangling wild toddlers, washing dishes, changing diapers, potty training and chasing the dog, I was done. I sat down on the couch and thought to myself- I have to get out of here, these kids are crazy. This house is crazy. I am going crazy!
And then, as I was mindlessly scrolling through social media I saw a post by my friend John Creasy. He had reposted an announcement from Fossil Free PCUSA on his Facebook wall. They were sending a delegation to Puerto Rico and they needed people to go. He was asking- Does anyone want to go? I really admired the work John had done to encourage the denomination to divest from fossil fuels. Heck, I even started to recycle and use reusable zip top bags.
I looked around at my disheveled living room and at the cheese puffs smashed into the carpet and thought, Forget this crazy mom business. I’m going to Puerto Rico. It is the island of my people. I probably SHOULD go. I should learn about what is happening there. I should get away from my crazies for a while.
So out of repressed tired-mom rage, randomness and impulsivity, I applied to be a part of the delegation thinking, there was no way they would accept me.
Well, they did.
A few weeks later, I got an e-mail that said I was in, I was part of the delegation.
I panicked. I applied out of bad motives! I was frustrated. I could not possibly go on a trip to Puerto Rico and leave my family for 10 days. That would be completely insane! Luckily I have a very enthusiastic cheerleader in my husband. He reminded me that as a Puerto Rican, I should know and see what was happening on the island and share what I learned with our community here and it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
So I said yes, and the life changing moments began.
As a part of our education to prepare us for the trip, all of the delegates were given a list of podcasts, articles, video clips and a few documentaries to read and watch.
Friends, I am being completely honest with you when I say that every story and historical account I have read or listened to so far has already changed my life.
As a Puerto Rican woman, I have a complicated relationship with being Puerto Rican and white. But I have never understood why. As I have been preparing for the trip I have delved deep into the history of the Puerto Rican people and I have learned just how complicated being Puerto Rican is. There is so much pain and beauty wrapped up in the story of the Boriqua and I am honored they have invited us to come and learn from them.
I am curious about what I will learn on the island of my ancestors. I am excited to continue to be changed by this experience. I can only say for now that in my moment of impulsivity and angst the Divine One gave me a great gift and I believe the best is yet to come.
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