Inescapable Lessons Offer Invaluable Opportunities – Earth Day 50th & COVID19

This is not a dress rehearsal. The entire world is immersed in unrelenting, multidimensional crises. These crises are not ideological. They are rooted in reality: nature, science, medicine, and mathematics. Suddenly, we are all living with the same mortal fear – anxiety that no ideological anger or assurance can reduce. Each of us must decide how to behave, what matters most, who we listen to, and how we can be of help.

6 Lessons Coronavirus Can Teach Us About Climate Change

Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and Leah D. Schade are co-editors of the book Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), an anthology of essays from religious environmental activists on finding the spiritual wisdom for facing the difficult days ahead. They both serve as members of the Blessed Tomorrow Leadership Circle.

Originally published for Earth Day Network.

Green Chalice Invites You to Take the Eco-Challenge!

Are you looking for a way to continue the work you start in the Season of Creation? Join the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in their Green Chalice 21-Day Eco-Challenge 2018 – Register now!

In his book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip Heath suggests that people who are seeking change may slip into ideas about others like, “Why are these people acting so badly? They must be bad people.” Instead, he suggests that we lead others by setting up situations that bring out the good in people, including ourselves.

Sometimes a brief restart or behavioral experiment can support a new habit. While we will need large collective habit changes to help our planet have a healthy climate, clean water, and fresh air, we can have a powerful and immediate impact by shifting personal and church-wide habits. This is why the Green Chalice Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is inviting all and any faith communities and individuals to participate in the 21-Day Eco-Challenge October 3-24, 2018. This challenge launches the day before the Feast of St. Francis and a few days before World Communion Sunday, allowing for powerful connections to be made regarding not only the work of St. Francis to care for creation but the redemptive and Re-Membering work of Christ’s Body in the world.

The EcoChallenge is a 21-day sustainability engagement program. Individuals and faith communities track and share their creation care progress online in a robust platform and earn points for taking action. The combination of collective action, camaraderie, and friendly competition make change a little easier — and a lot more fun. The EcoChallenge is free and open to the public, and may help kickstart your congregation into some new habits.

Small actions add up to big impact. This is a glimpse from the April 2018 Eco Challenge:

  • Up to 2677 light bulbs were replaced
  • Up to 150,402 pounds of CO2 saved
  • Up to 56,169 gallons of water saved
  • Up to 183,396 minutes spent learning about creation care
  • Up to 21,165 meatless or vegan meals consumed
  • Up to 2,037 public officials and community leaders contacted
  • Up to 42,989 miles traveled by bike or bus

You can participate in two ways:

  1. Join the denominational Green Chalice Team
  2. Register your congregation or group as a team (it only takes one person to form a team)

If you are joining the October Eco-Challenge as a team, please consider naming the organization Green Chalice with your congregational team name. This will help us identify congregations that are connected to our network while still highlighting your congregational team name.

For example:

Organization: Green Chalice/Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Team Name: First Christian Church, Black Mountain (or add more than one, FCC Elders, FCC Youth and FCC Choir)

 

Scott Hardin-Nieri is the Director of Creation Care Alliance of WNC and an ordained pastor with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a proud partner of Blessed Tomorrow, a coalition of faith leaders committed to serve as faithful stewards of creation. Founded by ecoAmerica, Blessed Tomorrow offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering faith leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

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Closing the ‘Ambition Gap’

Last month, United Methodists from across our church gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota to strategize about how we might close our own “ambition gap” between what we say (our official United Methodist Church positions) and what we do in response to the crisis facing God’s creation.

We were asked to reflect on the following question: In an age of widespread ecological degradation threatening human and planetary wellbeing … what unique charisms and assets might the United Methodist Church offer the church universal and the world in this “Great Work” (Thomas Berry) of our time?

I’ll admit that before answering, I had to look up the definition of “charism.” (According to Merriam Webster, a charism is “an extraordinary power given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church.”)  This focusing question helped to shape our time together and shift the conversation beyond the usual listing of the challenges we face to identifying the unique gifts our church has to offer in this unique moment.

I’ve attended countless conferences over the years focused on creation care and the ongoing climate crisis.  Often, these conferences have followed a predictable format: startling statistics in a plenary, break-out sessions and hands-on workshops, and plans for “taking it home” that get buried in our overflowing inboxes and overloaded calendars. Unfortunately, despite all the planning and good intentions, these conferences can result in momentary connections that don’t transform our ways of being and acting together.

What I appreciated about this gathering was that it brought together leaders from different areas of our church – clergy, educators, communicators and advocates to discuss how we might work together more effectively to create change in our church and in our communities. We had guided but open and organic conversations to identify where there is energy and capacity and commitment to deepen our work together.  We heard amazing stories of how churches are modeling eco-justice and solidarity in community. And we departed with a real sense of working together differently.

So what is my sense of the unique charisms the church might offer?  First, this gathering reminded me how profoundly rooted we are in hope.  Too often conversations about the climate crisis reflect fatalism about a future of despair and destruction. But we, as Christians, are an Easter people. We are not naïve to the challenges, but know that God is working in the world to bring about peace and justice and we join in that work so that one day all God’s children will experience abundant life.

The other unique gift I experienced at the conference was how deeply grounded our ministries are in relationships – intergenerational, cross-cultural, and international relationships that both inform and inspire how we go about doing this work.  And like my faith, these relationships help inoculate me against the despair that might set in amid the political posturing, inaction, and regulatory rollbacks.

Leaving the conference in Minnesota, I am renewed and recharged for the work of climate justice. And believe more strongly than ever that the church has unique charisms to offer as we build a more just and equitable world.

UMNS article on the gathering

 

John Hill is the Assistant General Secretary for Advocacy and Grassroots Organizing Director of Economic and Environmental Justice in the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society.

The United Methodist Church is a proud partner of Blessed Tomorrow, a coalition of faith leaders committed to serve as faithful stewards of creation. Founded by ecoAmerica, Blessed Tomorrow offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering faith leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

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Children under Environmental Threat from Administration

As my daughters begin school this week, I find myself in a state of agonized worry. It is not about how both will fare as a result of switching schools. It is not about whether they will make friends or have nice teachers. It is about the health of their lungs and the quality of their future on this planet. To understand my concern, consider a drawing by two 5-year-olds, a recent scientific study, and a policy nightmare.

Last year my daughter brought home from kindergarten a drawing with six lines of indecipherable text beneath it. I could grasp what the picture depicted. In the center was a blue car with smoke swirling from the back. In so many words, my daughter explained that she and her best friend had drawn a picture about the harm of car pollution.

Here I should explain something about myself and my relationship with my daughter. As someone who was once a pastor for eight years, I have long made an intentional effort to not inundate my daughters with my views of the world out of fear that they will become proverbial Preacher’s Kids (PKs) who rebel against everything I espouse. When I shifted from being a church pastor to having a specialized ministry focused on the environment, I was again careful not to “preach” ad nauseam about the environment with my daughters around. The last thing I wanted was to provoke an adverse reaction and raise zealous polluters.

Yet, for the past year, my now six-year-old daughter has consistently amazed me by bringing home her own environmental concerns and even scolding me once for putting produce in a plastic bag at the grocery store. Without my preaching about the environment, she gets it, and she has become a bit of a preacher herself.

This brings me to a recent study that investigates the harms children face in simply walking to school. Researchers deployed thermal imaging techniques to find that children are exposed to 30 percent more pollution than adults when walking next to a busy road because their shorter height puts them in closer proximity to exhaust fumes.

Children who are driven to school fare even worse. A car is a virtual toxic-box-on-wheels that exposes children to twice the amount of pollution as their peers on the sidewalk. In considering the import of this research, keep in mind that the developing lungs of children are particularly vulnerable to pollution.

While five-year-olds intuitively understand the dangers faced, adults in the present administration are working hard to dismantle policies that protect the health of children. The administration wants to freeze the Clean Car Standards designed to curb harmful emissions.

Carmakers like Ford have been part of the problem. Despite agreeing to support the Clean Car Standards in 2011, Ford jumped at the opportunity to reverse course by lobbying the current administration. For this reason, people of faith around the country are taking a moral stand by petitioning Ford to stop lobbying for detrimental policies and start advocating for a safer, healthier planet. Our children recognize the dangers, and it’s time for adults to accept their responsibility in addressing them.

You can find ways to talk to people about risks to children’s health in ecoAmerica’s June talking points: Caring for our Climate and our Children.

CLICK HERE TO ADD YOUR NAME TO THE PETITION TO FORD

The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the Minister for Environmental Justice for the United Church of Christ. He writes a column called “For the Love of Children” that recently launched with The Letter Manifesto: Children and Climate.

The United Church of Christ is a proud partner of Blessed Tomorrow, a coalition of faith leaders committed to serve as faithful stewards of creation. Founded by ecoAmerica, Blessed Tomorrow offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering faith leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

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Faith, Climate Action, and the Season of Creation: September 1 – October 4

If you are a faith leader, please talk to your congregation about the link between your faith and climate change. If you are a Christian leader please participate in the upcoming Season of Creation. If you’re wondering why, read on.

Recently, sitting on the steps in front of my church, I told a friend that I had joined the Blessed Tomorrow program at ecoAmerica. I explained that the goal of Blessed Tomorrow is to help faith groups take action on climate change. “That seems so random,” she said. “What does faith have to do with climate change?” I was a little surprised by the question, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

Although religious leaders representing the vast majority of believers in America and worldwide accept that human-caused climate change is a reality and that it is a religious and moral duty of major importance for people of faith to help prevent further damage, many Americans don’t see the link.

Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence, ecoAmerica research has found that only around a quarter of Americans accept the reality of human-caused climate change. Although the Pew Research Center found that a higher percentage of the American public believes it, “major religious affiliation groups did not differ from the religiously unaffiliated in views about climate change.” Further, a recent peer-reviewed study of Gallup polling data found that, in the United States, Christian concern for the environment might actually be decreasing.

Even so, the Christian case for climate action is straightforward. The natural world fulfills our needs as a gift of God, and the purpose of humans is to care for it. We all depend on the stability and productivity of the natural world, but especially so the poorest and most vulnerable. As such, Christians should care for the Earth because it is a gift from our creator, because we are commanded to, and because we are to love the most vulnerable among us as we love God and to act for their good. There is a real and urgent connection between living a Christian life and acting to prevent further climate change.

Despite the efforts of international and national Christian leadership, the message is not getting through. The reasons for the disconnect are extremely complex, but the solution isn’t.

ecoAmerica’s research shows that only 10% of Americans hear about climate change from local faith leaders, and only 24% discuss it in their places of worship. However, 39% would trust their faith leaders as a source of information about climate change. This means that clergy at a local level have the ability to make a real difference to our current climate crisis just by talking to their congregations about it.

As soon as I drew the link between faith and climate action, my friend understood that it made sense. It often doesn’t take more than that. Happily, Blessed Tomorrow and our partners have a great deal of material to help you get started. For example, you could include an article in your church newsletter using Blessed Tomorrow’s Talking Points on Faith and Climate, or preach a sermon on care for God’s creation using our Let’s Talk Faith and Climate guide.

Christian leaders have a great opportunity coming up soon: you can participate in the Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is a world-wide ecumenical festival lasting from September 1 to October 4. It has its roots in the work of Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, and has been adopted and expanded by Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, the Lutheran World Federation, and many more.

The Season of Creation is intended to help Christians think about our place in God’s creation and our responsibility to creation before God. You can participate in the Season of Creation in many different ways. There are many denomination specific resources available, as well as a fantastic guide on how to put together a Season of Creation celebration. Please prayerfully consider participating this year, and if you do, register your event on the Season of Creation website to support the expansion of the festival.

Dr. James Crocker is the current Blessed Tomorrow intern. He has a doctorate in Theology from the University of Oxford and previously worked on the Test of Faith project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge.

 

Are Americans Connecting Severe Weather to Climate Change?

Download full report

Throughout the country, Americans are noticing something different about the weather. The seasons feel warmer, wildfires seem worse, and floods and hurricanes are more severe.

But when they turn on the news or pick up their newspapers, there is little mention of climate change. There is talk of more intense wildfires coupled with historic droughts and dry conditions, but silence about why. Reporters discuss never-before-seen damage from hurricanes, freakish fire tornados, record breaking temperatures, and increasingly severe storms — but do not mention what is fueling them.

While the media fail to link our changing climate with extreme weather, scientists are quick to draw the connection. But how do Americans understand this relationship? Are they connecting the dots?

To find out, ecoAmerica surveyed a national sample of Americans to identify if and how they connect the weather outside their window to climate change. The following are highlights of the findings. The full report is HERE.

  1. Americans who notice severe weather are more likely to attribute it to climate change. These results were most pronounced when Americans experience heat waves (80%). A majority connected an increase in severity of wildfires (75%), floods (73%), hurricanes (69%) and tornados (66%) to climate change.
  2. Women and Democrats are more likely than other groups to notice weather and correlate it to climate change. For all of the five types of weather events included in the survey, noticing severe weather, and attributing it to climate change approached or were in majority levels. However, there were notable partisan and gender variations — with women and Democrats by far the most likely to notice more severe weather, and attribute it to a changing climate.
  3. Americans see shared responsibility for preparing for extreme weather and climate change. While a majority of Americans feel prepared for a changing climate and more extreme weather, only half are confident that their community is ready. Climate action is about communities — the health and safety of families and friends, and Americans think both local and national leaders bear responsibility.
  4. There is a wide range of emotions about severe weather events. People don’t just notice the effects of a changing climate, we experience emotional responses — especially when we hear about how climate is causing others their lives and livelihoods. While some Americans feel hopeless (11%) when they hear these stories, nearly twice as many feel motivated to help (20%).

While the media isn’t making the connection between extreme weather events and climate change, Americans are beginning to make that connection on their own. However, there is room to grow to help key constituencies make the connection, and this starts with communication.

For many, starting this conversation can be a difficult first step to take. To help, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series this month offers some quick, simple ways to get the conversation about Extreme Weather and Climate Change going, and to jumpstart climate action in your community.

Find out more by viewing the full report HERE. Also, check out our Talking Points Series to learn the best ways to talk about climate change with family, friends, and in your community.

 

The Earth is our Mosque

A few weeks ago, award-winning filmmaker Mawish Raza and I made the unlikely journey to Houston in the middle of July to make a film about climate change and the Muslim community. Everyone knows that Houston is hot and humid, but our time there included temperatures rising to 105 degrees. Some of our camera equipment was on the verge of melting. While there, many people mentioned to us that summer temperatures continue to rise year after year.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) recently confirmed in a groundbreaking study that these increased temperatures contributed to the historic flooding that Houston experienced during Hurricane Harvey nearly a year ago.

According to the study, even after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, its arms reached out over the nearby Gulf of Mexico and drew strength (and water) from the warmer-than-usual Gulf.

Lead author Kevin Trenberth, a NCAR senior scientist, commented:

“The implication is that the warmer oceans increased the risk of greater hurricane intensity and duration.” He continued, “While we often think of hurricanes as atmospheric phenomena, it’s clear that the oceans play a critical role and will shape future storms as the climate changes.”

In addition to filming the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, we wanted to highlight the resilience and spiritual response of Muslim Houstonian families. We learned about how their eco-conscious lifestyles are rooted in the Islamic teachings of moderate consumption and care for all creation. From gardening in the backyard to repurposing materials for artistic furniture creations to voting for elected officials committed to sustainability, we were inspired by the variety of ways in which diverse Muslim-Americans are living out the environmental spirit of Islam.

During these first ten days of Dhul Hijjah – the last month of the Islamic calendar when Hajj is performed by millions of pilgrims and Eid al-Adha holiday takes place – we are reminded of the increased reward for performing meritorious acts. This is an opportunity to develop small but impactful green habits like changing over to energy efficient light bulbs, using reusable bags at the grocery store, and limiting red meat consumption in our diets. All of these shifts save us money, prevent us from packing on extra pounds, and are in line with the sustainable practices to which our Islamic tradition calls us.

As we prepare for the 55th Annual ISNA Convention in Houston over Labor Day Weekend, we are making the final touches on our film, “The Earth is Our Mosque” which showcases the extraordinarily ordinary things that Muslim Houstonians are doing to live out their faith as green Muslims!

Join us on Saturday, Sept 1 at 5:30 PM at the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX for the premiere of The Earth is Our Mosque as we celebrate how Muslim-Americans are responding to our climate crisis with confidence and creativity. For more information about ISNA’s 55th Annual Convention, please visit: www.isna.net/convention/

Colin Christopher is the Director of the Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances at the Islamic Society of North America.

The Islamic Society of North America is a proud partner of Blessed Tomorrow, a coalition of faith leaders committed to serve as faithful stewards of creation. Founded by ecoAmerica, Blessed Tomorrow offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering faith leaders to speak about, act on, and advocate for climate solutions. This month’s talking points will help you to talk to family and neighbors about the connection between extreme weather and climate change. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here www.isna.net/.

 

Serve. Guard. Protect.

The very first command addressed to humanity in the entire Bible is to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . .” (Gen 1:28).

This always felt very authoritarian. No room for compassion, dignity, or respect. We see humankind displaying this type of dominion when it comes to pollution and extraction of the Earth’s most precious resources. This type of dominion is present when it comes to the way human activities are changing the natural greenhouse effect of the planet. Over the last century, the burning of fossil fuels like coal and the deforestation of land has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Was this control and “domination” what God had in mind when this beautiful Creation came into being?

Pope Francis addresses this question of dominion in his Papal Encyclical. He rejects the “dominion” theory that gives humankind total domination over creation. This view, based on Genesis 1:28, was used to promote the industrial revolution and its desire to use the earth as malleable clay that people could pound and shape into whatever they wanted. This interpretation is distorted.

Instead, Pope Francis reads further into the Creation story to Genesis 2:15, which finds God telling Adam to till and tend the garden of the world. “’Tilling,’” writes Francis, “refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving.” God gave humanity a command and said to tend or keep the garden. The Hebrew word for ‘tend’ or ‘keep’ is ‘shamar,’ and it means more than just to keep it neat and tidy. The Hebrew word means to guard or to watch and protect.

The other Hebrew word in this verse is also important. The word ‘work,’ or as some translations more accurately say, ‘to cultivate’ is from the Hebrew word ‘abad,’ meaning to serve.

Genesis 2:15 would better be read as: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to serve it and to guard and protect it.”

Serve. Guard. Protect.

As I read this using those words for the first time, I could not help but associate with my life as a Foster Mom. In the last two years, I’ve had four newborns in my home. And in the last two years, I have sent four newborns on to the next phase of their journey.

I started to see some parallels between our shared call to protect and serve the earth and my own call to protect and serve these babies.

These babies do not belong to me. I will not be present for all the phases of their precious lives. I will not see what potential they achieve. For the days I held them though, I was responsible. Who and what they may become was shaped by the love (or lack) that they found in my hands, in my home, and in my actions.

I could have tried to exert dominion over them. I could have used them to fill empty places in my own life. I could have tried to control every moment, every choice.

But, in this sacred calling, there is no room for power. No room for ego. No room for control.

It is indeed much like our shared sacred calling to preserve and honor God’s very good Creation. Our shared sacred calling to ensure that we do all that we can to mitigate environmental degradation like climate change so that we have a planet that can be passed on beyond ourselves.

There is no space for dominion. No space to question how this calling will fulfill our own selfish purposes or needs.

There is only space for ‘abad.’

Serve. Guard. Protect.

We are stewards of the Earth and will be required to account for how we’ve kept and tended what God has given us.

The Presbyterian Church in the USA is a proud partner of Blessed Tomorrow, a coalition of faith leaders committed to serve as faithful stewards of creation. Founded by ecoAmerica, Blessed Tomorrow offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering faith leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

Extreme Weather and Climate Change: Talking Points

Whether Americans are looking out their windows or turning on the local news, we are increasingly confronted by severe weather events — unprecedented droughts, storms, floods, and heatwaves are being seen and felt nationwide and around the world. The impact of this “new normal” is changing our lives. Destruction of property from ferocious weather, threats to health and safety, and increased costs to cool homes and workplaces are all realities now facing every American.

But for many, questions about the connection between climate change and extreme weather remain. Can we really attribute every weather event to climate change? Is there anything we can do?

While scientists are now able to more accurately make the connection between single extreme weather events and climate change, we don’t seem to be able to rely on our news to make this connection for the rest of us. To help, ecoAmerica has dedicated our August 2018 Talking Points to making the connection between extreme weather and climate, titled The New Normal: Changing Seasons, Changing Lives.

Communicating about the connection between a warming world and the weather should begin and end personally and locally, within communities, and with what Americans can see with their own eyes. It must be empowering and include positive, benefits-oriented actions we can all take to participate in the solution. These talking points will help!

Let’s not wait for a better time to have this conversation – now is that better time. With these talking points, you will be able to have productive conversations, and make the weather and climate connection, friends and family, colleagues, coworkers, and others in your community.

And, take a look at prior talking points to help you open the climate conversation, talk about clean energy, discuss the impacts on and the need for solutions for the sake of our children, and communicate with community, faith, and health professionals. Stay tuned for our next talking points, which will publish in October.

Developing Climate Virtue

Last Wednesday I threw away a paper towel tube. I could have recycled it, but recycling would have taken extra effort, so I didn’t. Recycling is a habit, and in me it is a habit half-formed.

If I had recycled that cardboard tube, it could have continued to be of use. Now, it will likely end up buried in a landfill, where anaerobic bacteria will transform it into methane, a greenhouse gas thirty times stronger than carbon dioxide.

I put short-term convenience ahead of long-term good. In my faith tradition, we confess that wrongdoing occurs ‘through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault.’  This is how I think about our environmental crisis.

It is easy to start reducing carbon emissions. We can often make significant improvements with minor changes to our habits, at little expense, and sometimes in ways that save money. This is good for our world and our wallets. After all, a kWh saved is a kWh earned. Conversely, excess carbon emissions are bad for us all, and disproportionately impact the most poor and vulnerable. But if we know how to do what is right, and it is easy to do it, why don’t we?

Medieval theologians would say that it is because we are ‘vicious’. That is, we are creatures of vice. We are prone to, and have accumulated, many bad habits. Bad habits are hard to break.

A lot of wrongdoing results from bad habits. A lot of everyday goodness happens as a result of good habits. Habits are good when they help us to flourish. Among other things, flourishing means to live content, healthy, and free. In our great philosophical and religious traditions, a good habit goes by another name — a virtue.

When we live virtuous lives, we live well. When we live vicious lives, we live badly. That is why great thinkers in the ancient world, like the Roman Senator and Christian philosopher Boethius, said that virtue is its own reward, just as vice is its own punishment.

This means it is not merely good to be virtuous, it is rational. Nevertheless, being rational does not come easy. We spend decades in education laboriously training ourselves to reason well. So too we need support to be morally rational.

Faith communities support us in developing virtue. They provide us with loving communities where we can grow and learn without being condemned. They provide us with fellow travelers who can support us through difficult times, and rejoice with us in victories large and small. They provide us with forgiveness as a weapon against despair at our own wrongdoing.

Our faith traditions can help us develop climate virtue – habits which lead to a stable climate and a healthier world for us and our children. That is why Blessed Tomorrow is partnering with faith organizations across the country, providing them with the resources they need to support their members as they strive to get in the habit of doing God’s work in a warming world.

Dr. James Crocker is the current Blessed Tomorrow intern. He has a doctorate in Theology from the University of Oxford and previously worked on the Test of Faith project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge.

Climate Change Can Bring Us Together: 5 Simple Rules for Climate Advocacy

Everywhere we turn it seems we bump up against something political. The news we watch, the athletes we support and even the restaurants where we eat are all increasingly viewed through the lens of partisan politics. Climate change has been viewed similarly, but we have an opportunity to bridge the divide.

When it comes to trying to engage climate skeptics, too many scientists and advocates fall into the trap of debating the science — believing that just one more fact, one more chart, one more anecdote about the causes and consequences of climate change will persuade them. Alas, this approach falls short.

So for those who care about climate change, about creating happier and healthier communities, what is there to do?

Based on our research, we came up with 5 simple rules for climate advocacy in an era of intense political polarization. This guidance will help you feel more comfortable speaking to issues all Americans care about, while avoiding nasty debates that go nowhere.

1: Lead by Example: People are inspired when they see others taking action. Show them that climate action can come with a spectrum of benefits. Carpool, bike more often, or switch to hybrid or electric vehicles to decrease climate pollution while increasing health and dollars in the bank. There are a number of local, state, and federal programs that help lower the cost of all electric vehicles. Switch to clean energy. Weatherize. Vote. There are dozens of solutions that are accessible, affordable, and immediately beneficial.

2: Be Human, Relevant, Positive, Supportive, and Solutions Oriented: The goal of climate advocacy is to inspire others to take action. Connect with people personally, and highlight shared values and common ground. Inspire them to care by being positive, supportive, and solutions oriented. Listen as much as you speak.

3: Stick to the Basics: When it comes to climate advocacy — keep it simple and clear. We have everything we need to stop damaging the climate. Clean energy is cheaper and more available than ever. It creates good-paying jobs for Americans, saves money for families, and helps maintain cleaner, greener neighborhoods.

These Clean Energy Talking Points are readily-usable, and Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans offers deeper guidance for message personalization.

4: Location Matters: When you’re talking about climate, start local. Talk about how climate and pollution affects family and friends, neighborhood, work environment, and community. People care about what affects them and their loved ones directly. Equally, if not more important, is to communicate the local benefits of solutions. Americans need to know that climate solutions benefit their health, strengthen their community, and can put more money in their pocket.

5: Offer Concrete Action to Solve the Problem: Know what you are asking for when you engage others. If you are discussing clean energy with your congregation, have a plan for action. If you’re discussing sustainable transportation, improving energy use, or water conservation with your neighbors, provide a resource that empowers them to take the action you are seeking.

The fact is, most of us are surrounded by opportunities to cut waste, save money, and benefit our communities in almost everything we do. Improving our lives and strengthening our communities — while also making a difference on climate change — is one of the few big things we can do accomplish in little steps everyday.

The more we talk about climate change with our friends, families, co-workers and communities, the more comfortable it becomes. To help you get started, ecoAmerica offers the latest research on how to talk to people about climate change, and what to do to be part of the solution. Check out these guides and start to lead on climate in your community: Climate Talking Points, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans, 15 Steps, and our Moving Forward Guide.

 

The Earth is the Lord’s: New Policy on Preaching and Teaching about Climate Change from the 2018 Presbyterian Church in the USA General Assembly

Last month in St. Louis, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly passed another new policy on engaging with issues of climate change – through preaching, embodying, advocating, and proclaiming eco-justice.

The Presbytery of Monmouth overtures the 223rd General Assembly (2018) to:

  1. Call upon the whole church to raise a prophetic voice regarding the urgency of healing the climate of the earth, our home and God’s gift for the future of all life, human and nonhuman.
  2. Call upon the whole church to engage prayerfully with the following priorities as we seek to initiate a new moral era:
    1. Let our clergy accept the mantle of moral leadership. Now is the time for clergy to speak from their pulpits about the moral obligation of our generation to protect God’s creation.
    2. Let the world know that we who follow Jesus will not back away from God’s call to protect our common home. When the powers that be deny or obscure the truth, we followers of Jesus will proclaim the truth to protect our common home.
    3. Let all of us incarnate the changes for which we long. Now is the time for congregations and for every person of faith to set a moral example through our own words and actions. As individuals and as communities, let us commit to making decisions of integrity in our energy choices, even as we commit to hold all our religious, political, corporate, and global leaders accountable to do the same.
    4. Let us proclaim truth in the public square. We are now living in a John 18:37 moment, in which we must hold to the truth we understand from the Bible and from the sacred book of nature, recognizing that when truth is compromised, only power prevails.
    5. Let our communities of faith be bold and courageous as we address one of the greatest moral challenges that the world has ever faced.
    6. Let us do all we can to change America’s understanding of the story that our generation is writing. Let us begin a new story—a story that is not dependent on increased greenhouse gas emissions or on wealth for the few and misery for the many.

This overture was inspired and based on the resolution, “The Earth Is the Lord’s—Not Ours to Wreck, Imperatives for a New Moral Era” passed by the United Church of Christ National Synod on July 3, 2017. Now is the time to encourage deeper ecumenical cooperation to lift up our collective moral voice.

We are partnering with Blessed Tomorrow, a program designed to provide us with the tools and resources to engage on climate change, in order to support our congregations to preach, embody, advocate, and proclaim this moral imperative. Through this partnership we will be able to offer new messaging, training, and other resources to reduce energy use and lift our voices in advocacy for climate solutions. We will be updating our website, blog, and social media with new helpful resources, so keep watch in the next few weeks and months for new content!

Accepting that it is up to us, whether in the streets, at our State Houses, in the halls of power, with our phones, emails, technology, and social media by committing our time, financial resources, and prayers—let us pour ourselves out to bend the moral arc of justice, with joy in our hearts, beauty in our sights, and hope for the children.

To read the rationale behind the overture, see https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000298.

The Presbyterian Church in the USA is a proud partner of Blessed Tomorrow, a coalition of faith leaders committed to serve as faithful stewards of creation. Founded by ecoAmerica, Blessed Tomorrow offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering faith leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

Three Takeaways on ecoAmerica’s Nuclear Power Survey

Within the climate community, one of the greatest areas of debate is the role of nuclear energy in the mix of climate solutions. Nuclear power already accounts for nearly 20% of America’s power supply, and there are growing voices of support for researching, developing, and building greater nuclear power capacity as part of a broader strategy for mitigating the causes of a changing climate. However, the topic is controversial.

Calls for growth are meeting stiff resistance. Indeed, some of our partners have made firm commitments against nuclear power, while others are undergoing a process of discernment. Questions about whether the risks of nuclear power outweigh the opportunities; whether it’s “clean” or “green”; or whether it is a necessity given the urgency of the climate challenge fill the debate.

It’s no wonder then that the public, too, has an uncertain perspective on whether nuclear energy, old or new, is a path that they support moving forward. While ecoAmerica does not have a formal position, these are important questions to discuss. To better understand where the American public stands on nuclear energy, ecoAmerica conducted our American Climate Perspective Survey in July, which sheds light on this issue:

  • Nuclear Power vs. “New” Nuclear Technology: While less than half of Americans support existing nuclear power (49%), they are more in favor of innovations in new nuclear technologies (73%).
  • Persistent Concerns: Americans are still very concerned about the risks of nuclear power. Concerns remain about waste (84%), health and safety (81%), and weaponization (73%). While there are some differences in how Democrats and Republicans, men and women think about these risks — a strong majority remain concerned.
  • A Consensus of Support for Renewables: One of the persistent findings of ecoAmerica and other research is that a strong majority of Americans, of all stripes, support renewable energy, like wind and solar.

The findings of the American Climate Perspective Survey show that concern about nuclear power readily exceeds support. What remains true is that there is robust and lasting support for renewable energy from across all polled sectors of American society.

To learn more about the of results of the survey, view it HERE. And be sure to follow our Talking Points series, where we provide quick, simple, and effective tips and tricks about translating climate perspectives into climate action!

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Poor People’s Campaign Brings Attention to Climate Justice

The 2017 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indianapolis, IN adopted a resolution to support The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival which has grown out of the unfinished work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967/68 Poor People’s Campaign. On Mother’s Day, The Poor People’s Campaign launched six weeks of direct action and nonviolent civil disobedience in an effort to address issues of racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological destruction.

Week four of six, people of faith in over 40 state Capitals and Washington D.C. marched, rallied and participated in direct action to bring attention to the issues around healthcare and the environment, such as climate change.

Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, Disciples minister and national voice of this movement led and inspired over 400 Kentuckians on the Capitol steps in Frankfort, KY with his passionate cries on behalf of “the least of these” our brothers and sisters.

Kentucky Disciples along with justice-minded people from all over the state prayed with their voices and feet in song,chants and marching. After speaking and preaching passionately with a Bible in his hand, Rev. Barber led the crowd, lined up two-by-two, to the public entrance of the Capitol building. The people were silent as Rev. Barber requested entry into “the people’s house,” but entrance was denied. After questioning the legality of keeping the people out, Rev. Barber asked the crowd to kneel and were led in prayer by Rev. Megan Huston of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Bowling Green, KY. The people were stopped this time, but Rev. Barber promised the Commonwealth of Kentucky will be hearing from the campaign’s legal team. After leading the singing of “Somebody’s Hurting my Brother,” Dr. Barber encouraged the crowd to keep coming back and to never give up.

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel, use words when necessary.” As a pastor, I mostly use words through preaching, teaching and writing to share the gospel. To get out and Preach the Gospel with my whole body alongside 400 other people of faith felt invigorating and freeing. When Rabbi Abraham Heschel returned from marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, he was asked by someone, ‘Did you find much time to pray?’ Rabbi Heschel responded, ‘I prayed with my feet.’ The six weeks of marching and rallies in states all over the Unites States will culminate on Saturday, June 23, at 10:00 a.m. EDT for a Global Day of Solidarity and Sending Forth Call to Action Mass Rally in Washington, D.C. Won’t you please join this movement and cry out for justice for the least of these by praying with your feet and sharing the Gospel with your body?


Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a partner of Blessed Tomorrow, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Blessed Tomorrow offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

Climate Change Mitigation and Advocacy in 2018 and Beyond

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On May 2, Blessed Tomorrow and Auburn Seminary co-hosted the 2018 National Climate and Faith Leadership Forum, a gathering of nearly 50 faith leaders exploring how to increase climate change mitigation and advocacy activities across the country. Participants represented a diverse group of faith institutions and faith-based organizations, shared best practices, and discussed how to catalyze new, bolder, and broader efforts such as committing to 100% clean energy.

Faith organizations and leaders are increasingly adopting climate change as a top priority, and embracing care for God’s creation as part of their faith identity and moral responsibility. This includes bold commitments like the 2017 Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) resolution to become carbon positive by 2035. Recent polling demonstrates a key opportunity for the faith community to continue to elevate the issue of climate change throughout the country: while only 13% of Americans identify climate change as a “faith” issue, there is growing trust among Americans when faith leaders bridge this divide, amplify the connection between faith and climate, and empower communities of faith to act on climate solutions. 

Participants lifted up key insights throughout the day, particularly a desire for continued dialogue and mutual support from the network to build and sustain a faith movement on climate solutions. In order to make bold commitments to mitigate and advocate for climate solutions, participants suggested mapping the best pathway to a faith-wide commitment, identifying barriers and solutions to advancement, and setting a timeline to walk this path in the months and years to come. Discussion also centered on the faith community’s important role in leading efforts to listen, support, engage, and open dialogue with disproportionately impacted communities — like communities of color, low-income populations, and youth. There remains a critical need for mitigation funding, clear and easy to use tools and training, and a support system to navigate mitigation planning and implementation at the congregational level. The forum closed with a call to action from ecoAmerica’s president, Bob Perkowitz, for concrete commitments to work towards 100% clean energy within organizations, institutions and individual places of worship. Blessed Tomorrow will support coalition partners as they implement key milestones along their unique pathway to boldly leading on climate. Read the forum summary report HERE to learn how.

Download Forum Summary

2018 June American Climate Perspectives: Mid-Year Summary

Americans’ attitudes on climate are changing, and the change is in a positive direction. To better understand how these views are evolving, and what that may mean, ecoAmerica has pulled together the most recent public opinion survey data from some of the country’s most prominent polling firms.

The data is encouraging. Americans are increasingly aware that climate change is having real, concrete impacts that affect their lives right now. They want to take action individually, in their neighborhoods, and across the nation — and there is growing support for a clean energy future from across the political spectrum. These are the key takeaways from the 2018 June American Climate Perspectives Mid-Year Summary:

1. A growing number of Americans report seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change.

2. Americans are concerned about global warming, and that concern is increasing.

3. Americans want to do something personally, and collectively, to reduce our contributions to climate change. And they want to start now.

4. Americans support producing more clean energy and less dirty energy

5. Recent efforts to rollback climate action by the Trump Administration have little support.

6. Overwhelmingly, Americans from across the political spectrum find common ground on clean energy, grid modernization, and a carbon tax.

The results are clear: the American public is feeling the effects of climate change, and ready to start taking action. But for many, that next step is the most difficult one — what is one to do about this global problem?

To help get started, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series lays the groundwork for climate action in your community. The first in the series, Opening the Discussion, is a helpful guide for reaching out to others in your community, and building local momentum for action. The subsequent topics in the series delve into more specific spheres, and include: Climate Change: A Matter of Faith; Clean Energy; and Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.

Together, we can make a real difference in advancing climate solutions. But we must start today. To dig into the full details of the report, click HERE, or have a look at ecoAmerica’s latest research — and become the best climate communicator in your community!

 

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Now Available: June Talking Points

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The discourse around a warming world often gets hung up on politics, but what Americans really care about — and want to hear about— are the challenges and opportunities that climate change has for their families and communities. Strip away the science, politics, and technology, and remaining are people, their families, how climate change impacts their health, wealth, and wellbeing, and how solutions can benefit all three.

As we move into summer, families will spend more time outdoors, and whether at the ballpark or a national park, being outdoors can provide profound benefits for a child’s physical and psychological health. However, a changing climate may present new and potentially harmful health consequences, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. While different people may have different opinions about the causes of climate change, we are seeing extreme weather impact our health, and that of our children, in multiple ways. And, every parent wants to do what’s best to keep their child as happy and healthy as possible.

 But how does climate change specifically impact children? What can be done to address the health of our climate and the well-being of our children? And can our actions really make a difference? 

To help navigate the sometimes tricky nexus between climate change and child health, ecoAmerica has dedicated our June 2018 Talking Points to Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.

Research shows that climate change disproportionately affects children, who are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of climate change-related diseases globally. Children living in low income families are exposed to greater levels of air pollution, community instability, and conflict. Fortunately, by acting now, we have the power to address climate change, and to protect the well-being of our children at the same time.
 
But we must start now. The climate that our children will learn, develop, and grow in is dependent on the actions we take today. In our April Talking Points, we explored how a clean energy future is well within our grasp. With smart investments in clean energy, Americans can create well-paying, stable jobs, decrease energy bills and put more money in their wallets. And, perhaps most importantly, we can leave our children and future generations an America where the air is clean and the water is safe, where families can have happy and healthy summers, now and for years to come. After all, caring for our climate is caring for our children.

Download June talking Points

Modeling Climate Stewardship Through Our Own Practices and Presence

Years ago, I was walking up to my office in The United Methodist Building where we were hosting a prayer service celebrating Earth Day. As I approached, I noticed small yellow signs poking out of the grass. As I drew even closer, I could clearly read their message: “Keep Off – Pesticide Application.”  Here we were hosting a public witness to demonstrate our faithful commitment to preserving and protecting God’s good creation and participants were standing on ground – holy ground – that had been defiled with toxins.

I learned a few lessons that morning.  First, the work of environmental stewardship involves continuous education with colleagues and building management to ensure our policies and practices are followed. Second, I understood more deeply the power of symbols and the ways in which we can communicate our values – of stewardship and justice – not just with our words but also through our physical presence.

The United Methodist Building has stood directly across from the US Capitol (and our newer neighbor, the Supreme Court) since 1923.  It serves as a hub of advocacy for peace and justice for United Methodists and many faith partners and non-profits.  In recent years, we have invested in improvements to integrate environmental stewardship throughout the building – from switching to 100% renewable energy to replacing plastic water bottles with water refill stations.  

While we continue to advocate for climate solutions and policies to shift to a clean energy future, we are working to model climate stewardship through our own practices and presence. Many of these changes – including our installation of a green roof – were profiled in this short video

The 19th century preacher William Ellery Channing famously said “may your life preach more loudly than your lips.”  May all of us remember that as we preach and teach the importance of faithfully addressing the climate crisis, we must also be attentive to the ways in which our lives and the practices of our organizations communicate these values. 


The United Methodist Church is a proud partner of ecoAmerica’s BlessedTomorrow, a program by people of faith, for people of faith, to offer ideas, tools, and messages that help us serve as faithful stewards of creation and act on climate change. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

A Closer Look: the Influence of Health and Faith on Climate

Are Americans looking to leaders outside of the political arena for guidance on climate change? ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners set out to find this answer in the May 2018 American Climate Perspective Survey (ACPS). The ACPS found that there is increasing opportunity for faith leaders and health professionals to lend their leadership to climate.

And the good news is that both are taking up the mantle. In addition to American Public Health Association making 2017 the year of climate and health, other associations have increased their climate advocacy, including the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) who recently hosted Climate, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action conference, bringing nurses together to discuss climate impacts on health and strategize protecting vulnerable communities. And, in addition to Pope Francis’ climate encyclical, Laudato Si, a diversity of faith leaders are elevating climate as a visible national issue. American Baptist Churches USA’s Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer recently announced its recommitment to care for God’s creation, including a call  for clergy, congregations, and individual disciples to advocate for climate issues and solutions.

Despite all of this promising momentum, there is still work to do to fill the climate leadership gap. As the ACPS found, relatively few Americans are currently hearing information from faith or health leaders.

Opportunity Health

ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners found that Health professionals are the second most trusted messengers for information on climate change (62% nationally), just after scientists (70%), with a 5-point increase since 2015. But, unfortunately, only 20% of Americans report hearing about the climate from health professionals. As the report shows, Americans are increasingly feeling the impact of climate change on their health, and a majority are increasingly correlating climate solutions with the benefit of better health. All considered, the opportunity for health leadership on climate is simultaneously great and unfulfilled.

Hope in Faith

Although currently only 10% of Americans nationwide are hearing about climate change from faith leaders, four times as many people trust faith leaders as messengers on the topic. Nearly one in four (24%) Americans are talking about climate change at their place of worship already. As the report shows, the increase in both trust and climate conversation among people of faith is trending rapidly upward over the past few years. These results signal hope that faith leadership on climate is ascending with increasing growth potential.

Our Challenge

The climate movement is faced with a profound opportunity to accelerate health and faith leadership on climate. Americans seek guidance, and their trust in health and faith leaders on climate is growing. As we move into election season, and as climate impacts accelerate, we must inspire and empower health and faith leaders to become more visible on solutions. Missing this opportunity misses the mark for ensuring a healthy, thriving, habitable world.

ecoAmerica is doing all we can to meet this challenge, offering the Climate for Health program for health institutions and professionals, and Blessed Tomorrow, empowering a coalition of faith denominations and leaders to take up the mantle on climate solutions.

Read additional findings on the opportunity for faith and health leadership on climate by downloading the May 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey here.

 

Download the Survey

Climate Change and Food Security

By 2030, over one hundred million people could be pushed into extreme hunger due to climate change according to the World Bank. When climate change is discussed, conversation is often around rising sea levels and changes in weather patterns. However, the conversation does not typically include the impact climate change will have on our global food security. Food security means people have access at all times to enough nutritious safe food. 

Last year, the U.S. experienced a substantial amount of natural disasters in different areas of the country. States and territories, like Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, experienced flooding and destructive winds during two hurricanes. In California, there were wildfires that displaced many households. Many of the headlines, understandably, focused on the lives and homes that were lost but not the agricultural impacts. For example, avocados and citrus fruits were lost in California and some farmers in Florida reported losing as much as 80-90 percent of crops. 

While these tragedies were happening in the U.S., extreme flooding occurred in many south Asian countries causing many farmers to lose crops. Drought over the past four years has also caused Somalia to be on the brink of famine—putting 3 million people at risk of starvation. The U.S. gave additional funding last year to address near-famine conditions in Somalia and countries that are experiencing this due to conflict. 

The world has made great strides in reducing hunger and poverty. However, the increase in climate related problems threatens food security. With the current reality and future threats of climate change, natural disasters are more likely to happen on a more regular basis. 

In 2015, the member countries of the United Nations committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs have 17 goals that each country promised to attain within the next twelve years, like empowering women, giving more children access to free education, and to end extreme hunger by 2030. Although this may seem like an impossible feat, it is not unrealistic. From 1990-2014, extreme hunger was reduced by 39 percent. With technological advances and investments in safety-net programs, the remaining 800,000 people who struggle with extreme hunger can have relief.  

The vision for a hunger-free world is threatened by climate change, but it is still possible. The U.S. and the rest of the world must invest in adapting to the current effects of climate change and invest in the necessary technology and solutions to keep the earth’s temperature under control. If you or your congregation would like to take action on responding to emergency responses to natural disasters, tell your member of Congress to make funding decisions in the FY19 federal budget to invest in domestic and international programs that will help to insecure food security. 

For more information on climate change and food security, check out Bread for the World’s 2017 Hunger Report: Fragile Environments, Resilient Communities

American Baptist Churches USA is a proud partner of ecoAmerica’s BlessedTomorrow, a program by people of faith, for people of faith, to offer ideas, tools, and messages that help us serve as faithful stewards of creation and act on climate change. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.

 

Now Available: April Talking Points

A clean energy future is within our grasp. We can have locally-made energy from the wind and the sun that ensures our air is clean and our water is healthy. Communities across America are learning that smart investments in clean energy protect our health, attract new business, create jobs, and build stronger communities for our families. Hundreds of corporations have either committed to or are using 100% clean energy. And, the momentum for electric cars is gaining, with multiple car manufacturers in a race to compete for market share.

On top of this, Americans want clean energy. Just as Americans view clean air and water as a personal right, they may also start to view clean energy in the same light.

But, is transitioning to 100% clean energy possible? How do we get there? What are the costs, and what are the benefits? What is holding us back? These are the questions that are on Americans’ minds.

To help answer these questions, ecoAmerica has pulled together a handful of helpful resources, and is dedicating our April 2018 Talking Points to clean energy.

Because, despite the fact that oil and coal companies are trying to hold onto their power and profits, and doing what they can to slow the transition to clean energy, there are many in these industries that know the markets for these fuels are waning.

Clean energy is both possible and practical, and the pace at which we achieve 100% clean energy depends on us. The more we support clean energy (with our votes as well as our pocketbooks), the more available and cheaper it will become, and the faster the transition.

America has always been a yes-we-can kind of place. We led the way into space and onto cell phones and the internet. Today, the next big thing is clean energy: affordable, local, wind and solar power made here and now, all across America, in every state and territory in our great nation. Clean energy to power our lives at home and work, create high wage work in America, and free us from the outdated fuels that pollute our air and water and change our climate. America can lead again in the new energy future, with innovations that will fuel a cleaner, safer, and better world for our families. The choice is ours to make.

Download Talking Points

Note: Clean energy refers to wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, and next-generation nuclear energies. ecoAmerica is mindful that all of these energies need to be pursued in ways that protect nature and the health and safety of humans, wildlife, and habitats.

 

Climate Change is a Rising Policy Priority, Particularly for Millennials

Over the past decade, Americans have placed climate change at the bottom of the list of public policy priorities. But, according to Pew’s January 2018 Public Policy Priorities survey, climate change is on the rise. Pew found that close to half, 46% of Americans, believe that dealing with climate change should be a top policy priority, a jump of 18 points since 2010, up 8 points in the last year alone, and the highest level since Pew started asking this question in 2007*.

Pew does not track nor report on the deeper rationale for this shift, but the answers may be self evident. Our changing climate is more visible, causing costly damage in lives, livelihoods, and communities. Federal actions to rollback progress, policies and commitments may have caused a boomerang effect among the American populace. And, last but not least, there is a formidable rising electorate placing much higher priority on addressing climate change.

Bridging the Political Divide

While the political divide on climate remains, there are signs of hope. Democrats and Republicans have both placed a higher priority on “dealing with climate change” over the past several years. A much higher percentage of Democrats versus Republicans prioritize climate (68% Democrats vs. 18% Republicans), but there has been a notable leap in Republican priority since 2010, when the results hovered at 11%.

This is a promising trajectory, however there is work to do to inspire Republicans on the issue. Nearly half of Republicans (48%) say that dealing with climate change is either “not too important” or “should not be done.” The climate movement faces a pressing opportunity to show Republicans that addressing climate change also addresses many other priorities at the top of their list, such as defending against terrorism, strengthening the economy, and strengthening the U.S. military.

Millennials and the Rising Electorate

ecoAmerica’s March 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey found that a strong majority of Millennials (87%) are personally concerned about climate change, surpassing the national average by over 10 points. Pew’s results corroborated the report’s conclusion that Millennials are both a formidable rising electorate and also an importantly burgeoning climate constituency.

Addressing global climate change is the only issue, among 19 included in the survey, which is viewed by significantly more people under 30 (56%) than those 65 and older (37%) as a top policy priority.

Opportunity 2018

This year’s midterm elections may prove to be the most dynamic in recent history. Out of the 435 open seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 36 Republican and 16 Democrat incumbents will be retiring. In the U.S. Senate, out of the 33 seats in contention, only 3 include retiring incumbents, all of whom are Republican. More than 2,000 candidates have filed or declared their congressional ambitions.

An enormous opportunity exists to ensure that climate change rises as a key election issue. In addition to motivating deeper engagement by the traditional environmental voter, the climate movement must harness and nurture the climate priorities of millennials, who are showing the highest interest-to-date for mid-term voting (at 62%, up from 39% in 2010).

Expanding Climate Constituency

Alongside bridging the political divide and engaging millennials, in order to achieve effective climate solutions we need to expand American climate constituency. Politicians and political candidates need a diversity of Americans to apply political pressure, beyond the traditional climate movement. ecoAmerica offers Blessed Tomorrow, Climate for Health, and Path to Positive Communities to this end. Through these programs we are forming coalitions for climate mitigation and advocacy to inspire, empower, and activate tens of millions of Americans for climate solutions. We hope you will join us in making climate change a personal priority, and climate solutions a personal right for all Americans.

 

*From 2007 – 2015, Pew used the language “global warming” in this question, and transitioned to “climate change” in 2015 – 2018.

 

Now Available: February Talking Points

Throughout American history, people of faith have been at the forefront in addressing injustice. They have transformed hearts, minds, and the course of our country. Today, religious communities are called to a new moral challenge — climate change.

If we can inspire and empower people of faith to lead on climate, we can reach every city and county in the nation with a new climate message, and new reasons to support solutions. We know that Americans are not very motivated when we speak about climate change using environmental jargon. And, why would a pastor talk about polar ice extent and RPS when he or she can be far more effective preaching about the moral imperative to care for our brothers and sisters, caring for creation, and walking gently on God’s earth?

For the sake of our neighbors and for all of God’s creation, faith communities can provide a prophetic voice and powerful examples to inspire others to join them in leaving the legacy of a healthier, safer world for future generations.

These talking points provide a starting point. Tailor them to accommodate the values and beliefs of your faith tradition or that of your audience.


1. Creation is a reflection of the glory of God. We are grateful for the gifts we’ve been
given, and must fulfill our God-given responsibility to be good stewards of God’s
creation, which includes all of us who live within it.

2. We have always stood for justice and helping our neighbors. Whether it be civil
rights, poverty, children or creation, our basic sense of right and wrong guides us to
protect people and our shared home.

3. Climate change is a spiritual challenge. Some may see climate change as a political,
economic, or scientific issue, but we recognize it, first and foremost, as an ethical issue.
Leading on climate is part of how we live our faith.

4. We have a responsibility to care for the least of us. The poorest amongst us bear
the greatest burden and risk of climate change. We witness this firsthand as we restore
communities in the wake of unprecedented storms, droughts, and disasters.

5. We are called to respond to what we see around us. We are moral messengers for
the common good, and must translate our compassion into action.

6. When we lead on climate, we strengthen our congregation and our
communities.
Climate solutions create fellowship, inspire our youth, enrich our faith,
and reduce our costs, freeing up money for mission.

7. We can make a difference in our hopes, our place of worship, and for people all
over the world.
The actions we take serve as witness to our commitment and our
power to instill hope and provides a powerful example of how to drive positive change.

8. We can pass down a safer, healthier, more vibrant world to our children. One of
our most important missions is to protect the home of future generations.

 

Access the full guide here: Download

The Green Strands of Our Spiritual DNA

As anyone who has ever watched a genealogy television show such as Finding Your Roots knows, our ancestry may not always be what we initially assume it to be. We grew up hearing that we possess this or that ethnic heritage, but until we have done a DNA test or done some earnest research, our assumptions can often be wrong with surprising results. A similar argument can be made when it comes to our spiritual DNA. I suspect that many people are largely unaware that their faith traditions have any “green” or “environmental” strands. The word “environmental” may conjure up images of grungy activists hugging trees in a country decidedly different from the land of one’s presumed ancestral roots. Yet, such assumptions are often false.

Take my own denomination for instance. As much as I would wish that it were not the case, many in my denomination are likely unaware that the United Church of Christ played a central role in launching the environmental justice movement. Laity like Dollie Burwell as well as leaders of the UCC’s Commission for Racial Justice such as the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. and the Rev. Leon White were at the forefront of a six week civil disobedience campaign against the delivery of toxic waste to a predominantly black community in Warren County, North Carolina. Ultimately, this campaign was to the environmental justice movement what the Birmingham bus boycott was to the civil rights movement. It sparked a movement.

Chavis would go on to coin the phrase “environmental racism” and play a leadership role in a couple of major events. The first occurred when the Commission for Racial Justice issued a landmark 1987 report that detailed the environmental racism of toxic waste sites throughout the country. The second occurred in 1991 when the commission organized the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, which led to a historic and widely circulated document called the Principles of Environmental Justice. To this day, such reports and documents are regularly cited as integral to the origins of the environmental justice movement.

For some in my denomination, this history may seem entirely unrelated to the history of their local church, but I would beg to differ. First of all, there is a biblical origin to our green spiritual roots that is as old as Genesis. We are to be stewards or caretakers of creation. Moreover, as the environmental justice movement pointed out, when we harm the environment, we inevitably harm our neighbors, especially those among the most marginalized and oppressed. Any Christian who takes love of one’s neighbor seriously has to take environmental justice seriously.

My general belief is that all humans are initially hardwired to care for others and to care for all of creation. It is part of the spiritual DNA with which we are born. For a variety of reasons, however, some of us become disconnected from that caring impulse. The great potential of our many faith traditions today is that they can help us reconnect to this impulse. They can awaken us to the best of our loving selves.

 

The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the Minister for Environmental Justice for the United Church of Christ. He can be found on Twitter as The_Green_Rev.

A Path to Positive on Climate in 2018

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope….

– A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1859, p. 1)

 

Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities seems uncannily relevant this January. It’s been a cold and dark month; it’s been warm and bright. It’s been rife with setbacks; it’s been filled with progress. Our darkest shadows have been revealed, our greatest potential uncovered.   For those of us working in America to protect and heal our climate, the present period strains for comparison.

Rather than turn fatalistic – or rest on our laurels – it’s time to reset, apply lessons learned, and manifest new goals. It’s time to shift the storyline of climate change to solutions and success.

Let’s begin.

 

It Is The Worst Of Times…

President Trump has been in office for just over one year, and according to ecoAmerica’s recent American Climate Perspectives survey (Fery, Speiser, Lake, & Voss, 2018), some worrying signs are emerging. More than 1 in 3 Americans believe there’s nothing we can do to stop climate change – an 8 point increase (from 28% to 36%) from last year – and 1 in 4 believe the costs and sacrifices of solutions are too high, a 9 point increase (from 34% to 43%). Not only that, more Americans support oil and coal than a year ago – up by 5 points for oil (from 42% to 47%) and up 7 points for coal (from 30% to 37%).

We have experienced a series of setbacks in 2017, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, removing climate change as a national security threat, and more than 30 federal environmental policy rollbacks.

And all the while our climate is changing, fast. Last year was particularly tragic with climate change-exacerbated extreme weather – storms, floods, fires, droughts and freezes – that pummeled countries, states, cities, and people’s health, wealth, and wellbeing globally.

 

It Is The Best Of Times…

America is waking up to climate action. Local governments nationwide, along with major corporations and large institutions are pledging to honor the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, despite the United States withdrawal. From We Are Still In, to America’s PledgeReady for 100, and others, many American leaders are committing to climate action.

Clean energy deployment is rapidly accelerating. Solar power was the largest contributor to new electricity generation last year, contributing 47% of the newly installed renewable power capacity. Wind power is accelerating just as fast, and together, wind and solar have gone from virtually nothing to 10% of America’s electricity supply according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The cost to produce solar energy has fallen below the cost to produce coal and gas, making solar the fiscally attractive option. Automobile manufacturers have begun competing for electric car market share. And China, the UK, France, Norway, and others have all announced bans on new fossil fuel vehicles in their countries by 2030 or 2040.

Americans want climate action, and to act on climate. Despite the uptick in support for coal and oil in 2017, support for clean energy tops the list, by a large margin. According to ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Metrics Survey, a burgeoning constituency of Americans are taking action on climate, and want their local and our federal government to do the same. Majorities are also seeing the personal benefits solutions will bring to their health (67%, up from 58% in 2015),    the economy (64%, up from 53% in 2015), and jobs (61%, up from 53% in  2015).

 

We Have Everything Before Us…

Action taken today can change the trajectory of climate change. It can improve lives in cities and towns, nationwide and worldwide. Committing to lead on climate, to do what we can to reduce our impact, and use the power of our leadership to voice the need for – and benefits of – climate solutions is one of the most pressing opportunities of our era.

There is immense power in people coming together from all walks of life – health professionals, faith leaders, and regional and city leaders as well as individuals and corporations, people of all ethnicities and backgrounds – to take the reins on climate leadership. Major institutions in health, faith, communities, education, business, and culture are committing to reduce their climate impact and advocate for solutions. Their leadership inspires tens of millions of Americans on climate change, in counties and communities nationwide including in our heartland.

And we can do more. We can nurture new leadership and take advantage of the growing accessibility of climate solutions like efficiency, clean energy, and restoring nature. We can share our learnings, best practices and resources with each other, to help us all go farther, faster. We can make the benefits of climate solutions visible and tangible by implementing them at a local level, engaging Americans in their daily lives. Most of all, we can share loudly a new vision on climate, one that eschews cost and sacrifice and embraces investment, benefits, and a moral responsibility to our children and future generations.

ecoAmerica can help. We help by providing strategy, tools, resources and collaboration opportunities to increase climate literacy, engage constituents, and build collective action and advocacy for climate.

To that end, we have started a new Talking Points series covering key questions and topics on climate. We will continue to publish our monthly American Climate Perspectives survey. Our Recommendations Report, from the American Climate Leadership Summit, identifies dozens of opportunities and priorities for climate action and advocacy. Let’s Lead on Climate is our guide with stories and recommendations on building climate programs at a local level, and our Let’s Talk Climate series offers comprehensive guides for communicating on climate. Finally, we are and will continue to find ways to bring the best research and practical guidance forward to help us all to be more effective.

2018 Is Our Opportunity To Forge A Path To Positive On Climate.

 

If our federal leadership won’t take up the mantle, the rest of us must. It’s up to us. We have to make the great transition happen now. And we can do it.” 

– Bob Perkowitz, President, ecoAmerica

Climate Talking Points: A New Monthly Series from ecoAmerica

As a country, we’ve been approaching climate from different angles and with different goals. But all of us do it for the same reasons; to protect our families, friends, colleagues, and communities. So, it’s time to talk about climate in way that keeps everyone informed and inspires climate action.

At ecoAmerica, we work with America’s religious denominations, national health and medical associations, and communities to support their efforts to understand the implications of climate change and to develop effective strategies for them to practically address solutions with their many millions of members.

Our work starts with people, and we do a lot of listening to truly understand their values, concerns, and priorities. We’ve learned a lot and will share what we’ve learned with you in this monthly series – Climate Talking Points.

About Climate Talking Points

Each month we will pick a topic or theme related to climate change, provide a few positive talking points and some responses to key questions or criticisms. Our goal is to open up the conversation, focus on common values, and help us all move forward, together, on climate solutions. This guidance is grounded in ecoAmerica’s extensive research on climate communications, and our experience deploying it.

We know that effective communication on climate change might sometimes conflict with what you think is “common sense.” In the end, the truly trusted messengers are the people in your family, of your faith, in your community, from your occupation – who tend to share the same political and social values as you do.

Faith leaders – you have leverage and should use your connections, and this guidance, to reach out to your colleagues, community, and fellow congregants. You can help people reach a common ground and you can start now.

January 2018: Opening the Discussion

Our first month of Climate Talking Points focuses on Opening the Discussion

How you talk about climate change is as important that the specifics of what you say. You can have a positive conversation where everyone leaves more informed and more inspired on climate solutions if you start with common values, respect differences, listen well, and truly care about people.  Dive further into this month’s talking points by reading, “Welcome to Climate Talking Points.”

 

MLK: An Inspiration for Faith Leaders to Stand for Environmental Justice

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) was ahead of curve in the late 60s when he protested the unhealthy living conditions people of color experienced in inner cities like Chicago. Now, Americans of all backgrounds are faced with climate change; a threat to health and environmental justice. It is time to finally make America a just place to live and breathe.

Dr. King once gave a sermon in which he mentioned environmental justice and how injustices merely begin as isolated problems. Later, injustice spreads; becoming a national issue.

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -MLK

An associate of the late Dr. King and member of the Blessed Tomorrow leadership circle, Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley gave the ACLS17 attendees clear advice on how leaders can make a big difference. First, leaders must take up a new way of thinking and speaking.

[WATCH] – Rev. Durley speaks in the Justice & Inclusion panel at ACLS17.

The Civil Rights Attitude

Climate is something that most Americans already understand. This is one realization that Rev. Durley came to during his work as an activist. So, moving forward, Americans must focus less on climate change and more on attitude change. Attitude, according to Rev. Durley is that which drives people.

Based on original research, ecoAmerica finds that American attitudes toward environmental issues like climate change are already evolving. According to the report, in the past year, there has been a steady increase in concern about climate change, which gives hope to people in leadership. As we’ve discussed many times, faith leaders are uniquely positioned to share knowledge and lead by example. These changes in American perspectives are important because as leaders spread ideas for climate solutions and, as Rev. Durley said, “spill the feeling to the masses, ” momentum can be gained in efforts to curb climate change. This level of leadership will require hard work, and Blessed Tomorrow is working to provide help and support to faith leaders across the country in their efforts.

Take Risks, Take Action

The Civil Rights Movement like all worthy undertakings required gumption. With a 10-point increase in the number of Americans who reported that they discuss climate change in their place of worship in the past year, it is clear that the country is on its way. Leaders, however, are required to do more. In other words, it is time to stop talking about it and start doing something about it.

Leaders of all faiths have already begun this work in the past year by;

  • Drafting resolutions
  • Creating green worship centers
  • Providing aid to natural disaster survivors
  • Advocating for victims of environmental injustice

Faith leaders of today have positioned themselves as shepherds to make the ultimate impact that will lead to what Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley describes as the next kairos moment or a moment of great opportunity. It was the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who began this tradition of care, leadership, and action.

Nichole Tucker earned a Master’s degree in Media & International Conflict from University College Dublin to help improve global issues, like climate change. 

Changing Congregational Behavior to Help Our Planet

Human behavior affects the world in many ways. We cultivate the land, build communities, and consume resources to sustain our needs and lifestyles. There is new evidence that all people will be required to change the way they live, work, play, and worship; for the greater good of our planet. People of faith have an opportunity to lead the way as good stewards of Creation.

A recent study published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, shows that human behavior will play a critical role in helping to reduce the Earth’s temperature; the cause of many climate impacts today. This science is a confirmation of how humans gave birth to the issues we are facing and according to Brian Beckage, Ph.D. of the University of Vermont, the study provides “a better understanding of the human perception of risk from climate change and the behavioral responses are key to curbing future climate change.”

As believers look towards the future, there are two things that will assist you in fulfilling your responsibility to care for the Earth. First, learn more about climate change, then, share it with your fellow believers and neighbors.

Enjoying this article? Read “6 Way to Reduce the Carbon Footprint in Your Place of Worship,” here on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Know the Truth

What do you know about climate change and how it impacts the people in your place of worship and community? Educating yourself on the basics can help mitigate your own uncertainty or confusion, and help you when speaking with others about the importance of mitigating our impact on climate. The science is clear that climate change is happening now, but the unknown is the potential for human behavior change to reduce climate change impacts in the long-term

“It is easy to lose confidence in the capacity for societies to make sufficient changes to reduce future temperatures.” – Louis J. Gross, Ph.D., Director of NIMBioS

Originally, the researchers of this study simply wondered if there was hope for change in human behavior that would positively impact the Earth. Faith leaders could be that hope and it all begins with leading congregations.

Spread the News

Faith leaders are uniquely positioned to lead on climate. With a moral compass, it is easier for faith leaders specifically, to find a reason to advocate for climate solutions and show their followers how important it is to God.

Although the NIMBioS study could not fully measure the probability that humans will change their behavior toward the planet, in a press release Gross explained that “some rational basis for hope” exists. This means that certain groups are likely to change based on particular facts or because of human traditions that will inspire them to act.

The more people who know about the impacts of climate change, the better. In today’s landscape, digital media provides a quick and impactful way of sharing essential information.

Based on the “Curbing Climate Change” study, we understand that having knowledge and spreading that knowledge is how humans begin to incite change. Study co-author, Katherine Lacasse, Ph.D. predicts that minor changes to human behavior as it relates to climate will cause shifts in policy and bring about new programs that will cause communities to make a substantial impact on climate.


ecoAmerica’s latest American Climate Leadership Recommendations Report is now available. Get tips from other faith leaders on how to advocate for climate solutions.

Climate Stewardship: Rounding Up Blessed Tomorrow Tips from 2017

After Paris, faith groups throughout the United States pledged to reduce carbon emissions and announced support of organizations and initiatives that shared their goal for a carbon-free America. Blessed Tomorrow encourages faith leaders to advocate for the progression of climate action. For people of faith, stewardship is the most important form of advocacy.

Climate stewardship means focusing on the environment and the part humans play in its longevity. As stewards of the Earth, how can faith leaders make an impact beyond carbon management? This past year, ecoAmerica programs like Blessed Tomorrow provided leaders with countless tips to help them make progress towards renewing the Earth. Here are some 2017 favorites.

Prevention

Blessed Tomorrow and many of its faith partners believe that the impacts of climate change are preventable. Human actions caused many of the issues we are witnessing today and it is human actions that will prevent impacts in the future. This year’s most highly read article references impact and disaster prevention.

Before Disaster Strikes

Starting At Home

Making progress on climate begins with advocating for climate action. We don’t always have to travel far to find believers who a willing to listen and act. Read our series on mobilizing communities of faith.

Climate Awareness: From the Pulpit to the Community

Beyond the Pulpit: Initiating Community-Based Advocacy

Influence Beyond Borders

Climate change is happening and although we can slow it down, much of the worst damage has already been done. Now is the time to help the people who are most affected by climate change. Check out these 2017 articles on disaster response.

Why Faith Groups Should Strive To Ease the Burden Brought On By Hurricane Harvey

Puerto Rico: Responding to a Climate Emergency According to God’s Word

Faith Groups Respond to U.S. Climate Migration in Real-Time

More Tips

Ways We Can Combat Climate Change

5 Things to Talk About When Inspiring Fellow Faith Leaders to Lead on Climate Change

Let’s Lead: Guidance to Help Faith Communities Lead on Climate

American Climate Leadership: 2017 Recommendations from Faith Leaders


Thank you for following our 2017 journey of climate research and leadership in the faith sector! Please join us in the new year as we watch faith leaders follow our recommendations for climate advocacy and put their own 2017 plans into action to help improve our planet as dedicated stewards of the Earth.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Dec 23 – 29

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Chicago-based Church Raises Millions for Natural Disaster Relief

HuffPost: Ten New Year’s Resolution from God Includes Addressing the Politics of Climate Change

It’s Time to Stop Associating People Who Dismiss Climate Change with Religious People

Climate Immigration: More Mexicans May Move to the United States

Things Are Looking Good for Climate Change in 2018

President Trump Removes Climate Change from National Security Threat List, Experts React

From ecoAmerica

December Poll Finds Climate Action, Concern on the Rise

The December 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey, by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners, found notable year-over-year rises in American climate action and advocacy. Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog.

How Can Cities Shape Public Views on Climate Change?

What motivates the public to care about climate? A recent article published on the Path to Positive Communities blog may have an answer. Read the article here.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Weeks of Dec 11 – 22

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from us at Blessed Tomorrow! Below are some top stories from the last two weeks.

Hot off the presses: Our Recommendations Report from the American Climate Leadership Summit, which has great ideas for faith leaders to implement to accelerate climate action. You can review our recent blog post with highlights, or download the whole report.

 

FAITH LEADERS REACT TO OPENING ANWR TO OIL & GAS

  • Reverend Tony Henderson gave his take on the environmental justice issue of the recent opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil & gas drilling in the Aurora Sentinel. “As a black church leader, I am also struck by the similar injustices continually faced by the African American community. We may live far from Alaska, but our plight is one and the same…”

 

  • The Evangelical Environmental Network also weighed in with their opinion on opening ANWR to drilling. “We are called to by God to be good stewards of America’s majesty. That is why over 42,000 pro-life Christians have called on our leaders to preserve and protect the pristine lands God has given us. We are extremely troubled by this attempt to ruin this land and harm God’s creatures through oil and gas development.”

 

IN MORE HOPEFUL NEWS

 

 

 

  • Victoria Hermann’s grandfather survived Auschwitz. His strength and story inspired her human rights work as an activist fighting climate change alongside indigenous communities in the Arctic at the Arctic Institute.  The Jewish Standard reports: Activist helps indigenous communities adapt to changing climate

 

American Climate Leadership: 2017 Recommendations from Faith Leaders

This past year saw faith leaders achieve many successes in taking up the mantle on climate and catalyzing progress on climate advocacy and action. At ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit (ACLS 2017), many of these influential leaders shared news of their accomplishments but also recognized the need to do more. There, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, faith leaders gathered with nearly 300 multi-sector leaders to brainstorm recommendations for increasing climate leadership, action, and advocacy in the upcoming year.

Recommendations for Taking Up the Mantle

ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Leadership Report (ACLS) summarizes the ideas of leaders in health, business, government, and faith. After two powerful days of discussion and learning, the faith forum at ACLS 2017 envisioned recommendations, which they hope will expand, accelerate, and increase the impact of faith-based climate leadership. They recommend the following actions:

  • Map existing programs and supports for places of worship, identifying synergies and gaps.
  • Expand training for clergy to overcome barriers to communicate and lead on climate solutions.
  • Increase funding and support for climate solutions.

How to Lead on Climate

Recognizing that well thought out recommendations cannot manifest without a solid plan, the ACLS 2017 faith forum dove deeper and returned to the conference room with a course of action that would help guide faith leaders to advocate for climate solutions more effectively.

Provide a non-partisan narrative. The subject of climate change does not belong to any specific political party. Climate change is an issue that affects every human-being and faith leaders should present it as such.

Identify clear and achievable advocacy goals. It is important that faith leaders set goals that are understandable and realistic. Doing so will make it easier to measure success.

Use teachable, relatable moments. People respond better to stories and ideas that reflect their own lives. Faith leaders can use such stories as examples that will inspire the faithful to advocate and take action.  

Identify and support new climate leaders. As individuals are activated in the connection of faith and climate, identify and support those who can then lead and advocate for solutions. People who are prepared to speak out about the changing climate will lead others to action and even engage policymakers.

Start where people are and provide multiple pathways to engage. Different faith communities are at different levels of activation to move to advocacy on climate solutions. Paving many ways for all people of faith to get involved is a key to increasing the number of voices speaking up and out on climate change.

As 2018 approaches, Blessed Tomorrow is eager to work with our partners to put the thoughts and plans of American climate leaders of faith into action. We invite you to join us and begin with reading the 2017 American Climate Leadership Report in full.

Stepping away from the science of climate change can bring to light the many issues embedded in our society’s infrastructure. Revealing these problems is one of the many things that leaders accomplished at the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit. Read “Leaders Take Up the ‘Faith Mantle’ for Climate Action,” here on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Dec 2 – 8

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Faith Groups Respond to U.S. Climate Migration in Real-Time

Climate migration is one of the many climate effects that experts said was already happening around the world and soon America itself would begin to see refugees migrate from islands and coastal states to escape the severe weather. Indeed, since Hurricane Maria, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to nearby Florida. Continue reading this trending article.

How Can Humans Win the Fight Against Climate Change?

Certain human activity feeds climate change. Scientists believe they have discovered a resource that can potentially help end global warming. Read this Quartz article.

What Happened at the 2017 North American Climate Summit?

Aside from former President Obama addressing the 45 mayors who committed to lead on climate, here’s what happened at this week’s summit in Chicago…

Tikkun Olam and Mitigating Climate Change

For followers of Judaism, “achieving environmental justice is to create tikkun olam.” This means ‘repair of the world’ and for convenience, God left guidance on how to do so in the Torah. Read this article.


Enjoyed the articles above? Here are some other titles that are currently trending on the Blessed Tomorrow blog…

Before Disaster Strikes

By Rev. Jenny Phillips, United Methodist Committee on Relief

Ways We Can Combat Climate Change

By Joe Iovino, United Methodist Church

5 Things to Talk About When Inspiring Fellow Faith Leaders to Lead on Climate Change

By Nichole Tucker, Blessed Tomorrow

Faith Groups Respond to U.S. Climate Migration in Real-Time

Climate migration is one of the many climate effects that experts said was already happening around the world and soon America itself would begin to see refugees migrate from islands and coastal states to escape the severe weather. Indeed, since Hurricane Maria, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to nearby Florida. It is estimated that the number of migrants will reach 300,000 by the end of 2017. As these American islanders join the mainland, certain faith organizations are greeting them upon arrival, in partnership with FEMA. Other faith organizations were already there, supporting these efforts, to begin with.

Help During the Climate Crisis

Two years ago, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NLEC) partnered with the Evangelical Covenant Church to lend a helping hand to Puerto Rico. One leader of this partnership, Rev. Michael Carrion, recently explained the dynamic of the collaboration known to the public as Proyecto Nehemías (Project Nehemiah) when news of their work in Florida was released.

It’s multiple agencies, multiple churches, multiple denominations. It’s kingdom work in every sense of the word.

Project Nehemiah is unique with its “on the ground” assistance for individuals and families who cannot leave these Puerto Rico communities; Morovis, Villalba, Comerio, Utuado, Naguabo,.Barranquitas, Ponce, and Arecibo. Now, as many Puerto Ricans secure funding to migrate to the mainland, the groups involved with Project Nehemiah have expanded their services.

Continuing Aid During the Climate Migration

The city of Orlando has reportedly received half of the 168,000 people who have migrated from Puerto Rico to Florida. With so many arrivals, NLEC and the Evangelical Covenant Church have joined forces with the Assemblies of God Florida Multicultural District and a local congregation, Calvario City Church.

The partnership aims not only to help migrants as they arrive but also to survive in their new environment. Project Nehemiah leader, Jeanette Salguero recently explained the mission in greater detail.

“We are taking a comprehensive and holistic approach. We have to meet needs long term.”

Because of the apparent need for immediate and long-term assistance to Puerto Ricans, the partnership provide:

  • A welcome bag at the airport
  • Temporary housing
  • English Second Language classes
  • FEMA packages

President of the NLEC and Blessed Tomorrow leader, Gabriel Salguero sees this work as a mission of religious leadership in the time of need.

“The purpose of tapping into this resource is to commit ourselves to the long-term efforts that will be necessary for a total rebuild. There is still going to be a lot to do and we, the Church, will be there.”

More Migration on the Horizon

Puerto Rico is not the only U.S. island that was devastated by a hurricane. The same case is true for the islands of the very state that Puerto Ricans are seeking refuge in. With much of the Florida Keys population still unable to return home after Hurricane Irma, experts predict that many islanders will make Florida’s mainland their permanent place of residence. According to statements made by Project Nehemiah leaders, the religious partnership is fully prepared to help in the future.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Nov 25 – Dec 1

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Let’s Lead Case Study: Sacramento Combines Equity Plus Livability

Five years ago, the City of Sacramento created its first Climate Action Plan, with specific goals, strategies, and actions to reduce emissions and prepare for climate change impacts. The plan created a domino effect that informed the capital city’s 2035 General Plan, which lays out citywide goals spanning economic development, education, recreation, public health and safety, and more. Continue reading on ecoAmerica.org.

What Keeps Americans from Understanding Climate Change?

Recent studies show that greed, fear, and bias keeps most Americans from truly grasping the urgency of climate change. Read this Salon article.

Can We Put Politics Aside to Tackle Climate Change?

Across the pond, the 2017 European Capacity Building Initiative (ECBI) held an event where religious leaders joined scientists and philosophers to discuss how the world can get ahead of climate change. Learn more here.

‘Environmental Evangelist’ Mitch Hescox is Spreading the Gospel of Creation Care 

Rev. Mitch Hescox, the leader of the Evangelical Environmental Network, believes that true Christians are stewards of God’s precious Earth. He has been spreading the gospel across the United States. Next on his event schedule is the Greening of the Statehouse in Indiana. Read more about Hescox

Press Release: 5 Major Nursing Groups Join Climate Action Collaborative

The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, The Association of Public Health Nurses, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, National Student Nurses Association, Nurse Alliance of Services Employees International Union Healthcare and Public Health Nursing Section of the American Public Health Association form a climate action collaborative. Read the press release on ecoAmerica.org.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Nov 18 – 24

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

5 Things to Talk About When Inspiring Fellow Faith Leaders to Lead on Climate Change

We know that men and women of the clergy are a group whose voice is powerful and can move people within their congregations and communities to action. But did you also know that faith leaders can tap into that same power to inspire other faith leaders? It’s true – at Blessed Tomorrow we believe that as a trusted faith leader, your voice is the most powerful tool for getting others involved. Continue reading on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Climate Conversations at the Holiday Dinner Table

Speaking to relatives about important issues like climate change isn’t always easy. Eco Watch gives some insightful tips on how to approach the conversation. Read the tips here.

Episcopal Delegation is Motivated to Act After COP23 Climate Discussions

The Episcopal Church sent a delegation to represent Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at COP23. There, over 20 countries united to form the “Powering Past Coal Alliance” and over 200 faith groups proclaimed “We’re Still In.” This has encouraged the leaders of The Episcopal Church. Read this article from Episcopal News Service.

Let’s Lead Case Study: Midway Church Makes Everyone Welcome

Midway Church believes our spiritual development is linked with caring for God’s creation and being good stewards of the earth. So they offer this opportunity to their congregation through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)’s Green Chalice program. Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog.

Everything You Need to Know About the COP23 Climate Talks

Climate change was the main topic of discussion at COP23. Climate Home News recounts the event in this article.


Don’t miss our weekly “Faith and Climate News” roundups. Subscribe to our e-updates today!

 

5 Things to Talk About When Inspiring Fellow Faith Leaders to Lead on Climate Change

We know that men and women of the clergy are a group whose voice is powerful and can move people within their congregations and communities to action. But did you also know that faith leaders can tap into that same power to inspire other faith leaders? It’s true – at Blessed Tomorrow we believe that as a trusted faith leader, your voice is the most powerful tool for getting others involved.

If your goal is to succeed in both spreading the word about climate change and taking climate action – partnerships are a necessary aid. Here are five ways you can inspire fellow members of the clergy to lead on climate and work in partnership with you.

1  Talk About Care for Creation

The Earth that God created came with rules for its care. These instructions are found in all faith doctrines and no individual, including a member of clergy, is exempt from ensuring that God’s Earth is cared for. Remind your fellow faith leaders of their God-given assignment to care for the planet.

2 Talk About Religious Values

Climate change is thought to be one of the greatest moral challenges of our time. As believers, members of the clergy have specific values that when honored – show that they are honoring God. Acting on climate to help restore God’s Earth is a way of committing to one’s religious values.

3 Talk About the Future

With climate change, it is difficult to imagine a blessed future for God’s people. What kind of future is in store if humans continue to harm the planet? Faith leaders are always discussing the future with their followers. For people in the congregation, having faith that something will happen or the something will manifest is looking towards the future. Inspiring faith leaders to act on climate means giving them faith that the world can be better.

4 Talk About the Community

The community – the place we live, play, work and the people and values inherent to that place – is one of the most important components of a congregation. Churches, synagogues, and mosques are active anchors of any community. When faith leaders guide their peers to make climate action a community effort – it can bring the community closer together through mutual goals of improving and protecting the community we share.

5 Talk About the Impacts

Everyone experiences the impacts of climate change in some way, but most regard these changes as strange weather. It is up to faith leaders to spread the truth about our changing climate to their congregations and to their peers so that each member of the community understands the importance of taking action.


Sometimes, clergy members and their congregation have the desire to help the Earth but don’t know how to get started. Blessed Tomorrow’s goal is to make climate leadership easy for faith leaders by providing resources to help them get started. Let’s lead!  

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Nov 11 – 17

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Leaders Take Up the ‘Faith Mantle’ for Climate Action

Stepping away from the science of climate change can bring to light the many issues embedded in our society’s infrastructure. Revealing these problems is one of the many things that leaders accomplished at the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit (ACLS). Although the summit attracted cross-sector participation, leaders of faith were abundant at the event and there strongest messages were shared on day two during the ‘Faith Mantle.’ Continue reading on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

New Community Garden in Little Rock

Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light is starting a community garden and education program for the residents of Little Rock. The new garden is being funded with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read more about it here.

Divinity Students at Yale Aim for a Waste-Free Living  

The student ecology group at Yale’s School of Divinity, FERNS, is taking a new approach to climate action. So, what happens when people eliminate waste altogether? Read this article.  

Let’s Lead Case Study: Florida BRACEs

This week, ecoAmerica is spotlighting Florida’s BRACE program, based at Florida State University, which is building resilience against current and future climate impacts. Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog.

Catholic Climate Covenant Writes a Letter to the President

Catholic Climate Covenant is following their faith’s commitment to creation care. Understanding that this work requires input from national leaders, Catholic Climate Covenant has requested three things from the Trump Administration. Read the letter.

Have COP23 Negotiations Brought More Faith Groups to the Paris Agreement?

In Bonn, Germany, COP23 is coming to a close, but not without commitments from more than 200 faith groups. Overall, faith groups at COP23 are “pro-climate action.” Read about their ‘We’re Still In.’ pledge and more in this Washington Examiner article.

ecoAmerica Lanches Path to Positive Utah

On November 14th, ecoAmerica, in partnership with Utah Clean Energy, hosted a ceremony for the launch of Path to Positive Utah in Salt Lake City. There, Utah’s business, government, faith, higher education and civic leaders gathered to sign a climate leadership declaration. Read the press release here.

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Leaders Take Up the ‘Faith Mantle’ for Climate Action

Stepping away from the science of climate change can bring to light the many issues embedded in our society’s infrastructure. Revealing these problems is one of the many things that leaders accomplished at the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit (ACLS). Although the summit attracted cross-sector participation, leaders of faith were abundant at the event and there strongest messages were shared on day two during the ‘Faith Mantle.’  

Of all the topics brought up by leaders of faith during the panel, the universal themes were ethics, equality, and partnership.

 

‘Finding the Ties That Bind Us’

Addressing the realities of climate change and working towards solutions often means finding common ground with individuals and organizations outside of your community. This is most important for communities of faith because the stakeholders whose actions affect everyone, often sit in positions of government.

One commonality is that all Americans live in a world that is being actively impacted by climate change. When one person is impacted, everyone is, says the Reverend Sotello V. Long.

Read – ACLS Faith Leader Query: Rev. Sotello V. Long Speaks on Climate

‘Ethical and Spiritual Concern’

The history of faith communities in action is one of great importance but also one that is in need of reform. Instead of being led by what the Reverend Susan Henry-Crowe refers to as the “savior complex,” faith groups should act with regard to the people most affected by climate change.

We understand climate justice not simply as environmental or economic concerns but as a deep ethical and spiritual concern that the church must address so that abundant life is ensured for our children and for future generations.

Poor communities and communities of color experience the impacts of climate change more frequently and more harshly than others. It is because of this known fact that another faith leader, Colin Christopher of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), introduced the subject of equality to the panel.

Read – ACLS Faith Leader Query: Shantha Ready Alonso Speaks on Climate

Equality ‘Drought’

Often, poor communities and communities of color fall victim to environmental injustice. A lack of resources and government action all play a part in this. Evidence of this fact is shown in conflicts throughout the world in places like Syria, where a drought led to civil war or in South Africa where activists are protesting “climate apartheid.” This problem is also seen closer to home in places like Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Humanity is unique in its ability to heal and be resilient. This is even more likely when humans are united. By holding all of humanity accountable, faith leaders can lead the way and ensure that everyone is equally protected from climate change.

Perhaps the most valuable takeaway from the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit’s ‘Faith Mantle,’ is the unanimous call for immediate action against climate change.

“This is not something that’s in the future. This is happening to us, to our families, to our children – every day.” Colin Christopher

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Nov 4 – 10

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Interfaith Leaders Join the United Methodist Church for ‘Climate Talks’ at COP23

The United Methodist Church (UMC) has joined in on 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) as a way to provide a moral grounding while multi-sector leaders from all over the world discuss climate change, its impacts, and put ideas into action. Read more in this Blessed Tomorrow article.

Let’s Lead Case Study: A Just, Sustainable Providence

With an ever-growing threat to its coastal communities from increases in hurricanes and flooding, the city of Providence, Rhode Island, began to turn the wheels on climate action to better prepare, plan, and adapt for its already-changing climate. Continue reading this article on the ecoAmerica blog.

The ‘Tenets of Faith’ Will Persuade the World Better than Science Will

The Vatican recently held a three-day conference where religious leaders reviewed scientific studies around climate change and its aptness to not only impact the environment but also to spread disease. Because most of the world’s population is religious, one leader believes that religion can persuade people to act on climate. Read the New York Times article.

Climate-Induced Migration is No Longer a Possibility, It’s a Reality

It is estimated that climate change will displace 200 million people by 2050. But most projections leave out the data which proves that climate migration is already happening. Which countries will be the most affected and where do borders fit in? Undark has the Reece Jones op-ed here.

Are There Two Sides to Climate Change?

Climate change is a topic that when discussed amongst political groups, creates an opportunity for disagreement. Climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe says that she’s faced with this issue quite often in Texas. She says, there is only one side to climate change. Read Hayhoe’s latest article.

One Year of Trump: No Progress on Climate Change

In a lengthy essay, a journalist at The Guardian, Jonathan Franzen has analyzed Donald Trump’s first year as President of the United States. On the subject of climate change, the writer disagrees with the president’s lack of action. Read the essay.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Participates in the UN Climate Change Convention

The Episcopal Church has sent a delegation to COP23, says Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. It was at this same conference two years prior, that an Episcopal Church delegation participated in the formation of the Paris Accord. What’s going on at this year’s conference? Watch the video here.

 

Interfaith Leaders Join United Methodist Church for ‘Climate Talks’ at COP23

The United Methodist Church (UMC) has joined in on 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) as a way to provide a moral grounding while multi-sector leaders from all over the world discuss climate change, its impacts, and put ideas into action. As part of an interfaith delegation, the UMC has a team of faith leaders by its side to help set the moral ground.

A Statement from the Delegation

Members of a climate leadership delegation: The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society, Wespath, United Methodist Women, and Global Ministries released a joint statement in anticipation of COP23. In their proclamation, they mentioned an expectation of “bold action,” from their COP23 peers, which appears to already be in the works after a mere three days in Bonn, Germany.  

During a live Facebook stream, the United Methodist Church leaders, John Hill and Rev. Jenny Phillips summarized day one of the convention. At that time, leaders at COP23 began to cover topics of global crisis like:

  • climate migration
  • environmental justice
  • poverty & climate

Loss and Damage

Many faith groups have been formulating plans for climate action, but this year’s convention is all about “loss and damage.” Impacts have been seen throughout the United States in places like Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico – but these leaders understand that the entire world is battling the same issue. To discuss these worldwide impacts, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has set up a platform specifically for the world’s most impacted regions to speak and strategize.

These conversations and these negotiations are really centered around the experience on impacted communities. – John Hill, General Board of Church & Society, United Methodist Church  

Among them are nation states like Fiji and Nigeria which have experienced major impacts in recent months. Rev. Ande I. Emmanuel, the United Methodist Church in Nigeria and Daniel Obergfell of the Germany Central Conference were present to speak on these impacts and convey the importance of climate action in Nigeria and on the island of Fiji.

Preventing Loss and Damage

Places like Fiji are among the poorest nations that contribute the least to causing climate change. It is widely believed that it is up to large, economically-sound nations like the United States to help smaller nations by complying with the guidelines of the Paris Agreement, including, helping to decrease the temperature of the Earth and decrease pollution which are both predicted to play a hand in negatively impacting the lives of 12.6 million people by 2050, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Acknowledging America’s essential role in climate action, non-federal groups and individuals have committed to upholding the agreement on the country’s behalf.

Local government and civil society have doubled down and said ‘we’re still in’ – Rev. Jenny Phillips, United Methodist Commitee on Relief 

Even with local and civil pledges, many of the impacts of climate change are occurrences that could have been prevented. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and other faith organizations are aiming to stop these crises before they happen. At the COP23 ‘Climate Talks,” John Hill agreed with his UMCOR colleague on this crucial obligation.

“We have to take urgent action to prevent even more catastrophic impacts.”

Read “Before Disaster Strikes,” by Rev. Jenny Phillips

COP23 will continue until November 17th with the UMC and 212 other churches and congregations present who have signed the “We’re Still In,” declaration.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Oct 28 – Nov 3

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Let’s Lead: Guidance to Help Faith Communities Lead on Climate

As of late, there are many congregations across the United States that are taking on the responsibility to care for creation. Among them are a handful of churches whose governing bodies have active partnerships with ecoAmerica and have been selected to be featured in the Let’s Lead series. Continue reading this article here.

Katharine Hayhoe Shares Best Practices for Communicating on Climate

Climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe believes that the qualification for being a climate leader is to simply be a human who lives on the Earth. This also means that anyone can communicate about climate. What is the best way to do so? Read this article from the Columbia Journalism Review.

Are Religious Groups Actually Helping to Fight Climate Change

There’s an ongoing debate about how much faith groups can help the climate. Find out what experts say about it.

ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health Program Partners with Alliance of nurses for Healthy Environment for New Video

As part of a new program designed to inspire and educate nurses on climate action, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments has joined with Climate for Health in producing a new video highlighting the need for nurses to band together in caring for climate and to ensure immediate health protections and a healthy future for all. Continue reading Tim Kelly’s article on the Climate for Health blog.

Muslim Group in Milwaukee Changing the Conversation Climate and Shaping a Better Future by Going Solar

In Milwaukee, members of Dawah Islamic Center are showing commitment to their faith by working toward energy solutions. Check out this amazing story.

Certain Scientists Banned from the EPA’s Independent Advisory Boards

Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt recently expressed concern that some scientific advisors could be using advisory boards to spew political rhetoric. In response, members of the Senate are questioning Pruitt’s motives. Reuters has the story on the new EPA regulations

 

Let’s Lead: Guidance to Help Faith Communities Lead on Climate

As of late, there are many congregations across the United States that are taking on the responsibility to care for creation. Among them are a handful of churches whose governing bodies have active partnerships with ecoAmerica and have been selected to be featured in the Let’s Lead series.

Who’s Leading Now

The current edition of Let’s Lead features leaders from the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for their effective climate leadership that spans across the years. First, the United Church of Christ pledged their commitment to the cause more than ten years ago.

Community United Church of Christ

The Community United Church of Christ (CUCC) in Raleigh, NC voted to include climate justice in the church’s mission in 2007. This commitment led to CUCC leader, Pastor Jenny Shultz-Thomas building a task force for to see that the church’s mission was put into action. Read more about the CUCC.

Downey Avenue Christian Church

Reverend Jay Deskins has been leading Downey Avenue Christian Church to take action on climate since 2012. It was then that the congregation started its Creation Care Team, a group that later went on to make “small changes” that made a big impact on their community. They have been recognized as a Green Chalice church. Learn all about this church in the Let’s Lead report.

Midway Christian Church

In Kentucky, this small church found its calling in the very principles of the denomination to which it belongs. Keeping the Christian idea of acceptance, Midway Christian Church allowed the congregation and the community to get involved in their journey to becoming a Green Chalice church. Read “Everyone’s Welcome,” featuring Midway Christian Church.

Recommendations for Climate Leadership

Each of the Let’s Lead congregations learned important lessons as they worked to increase their use of renewable energy, and shrink their carbon footprints. Here are a few recommendations.

Promoting justice like CUCC. It is important to work with different types of people. Your groups should cross socioeconomic, ethnic and religious lines. Influencing the community to create inclusion requires partnership. Having these partners will strengthen your efforts.

Follow your calling to care for creation. Every congregation is different. You should customize your creation care plan to fit the needs of your congregation and surrounding community. Always keep information flowing so that members of the congregation can stay involved in the process, even at home.

Include everyone in your work. The key to success in congregational climate action is to start small. Your community impact on the climate is just as important as national and global impacts. It is also vital that congregations do their research to find out the best resources to get the work done. Sometimes, this will mean having conversations with people outside of the congregation.

Let’s Lead

The Let’s Lead report shares success stories of leaders and groups from ecoAmerica’s target sectors; faith, health, and communities. Check out the report here.

 

Does your congregation have a success story to share? Submit today for the possibility to be featured in our next Let’s Lead report.

ACLS Faith Leader Query: Shantha Ready Alonso Speaks on Climate

In preparation for the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit (October 25 & 26), ecoAmerica reached out to leaders of faith who are devoted to this year’s objective, Taking Up the Mantle. Blessed Tomorrow leader, Shantha Ready Alonso gladly responded to our questions about the changing climate and the future of faith climate action.

Shantha Ready Alonso, Executive Director of Creation Justice Ministries educates, equips and mobilizes communions and denominations, congregations, and individuals to protect, restore, and rightly share God’s creation. Its membership includes 38 Christian traditions, including Orthodox, Black church, peace church, Baptist, and mainline Protestant church bodies, altogether serving about 100,000 congregations in the United States. Shantha will moderate the “Faith Mantle,” during ACLS 2017.

What do you wish more Americans knew about climate change?

Climate issues touch the most intimate decisions of our lives: where we live, how we eat, what our jobs will be and the way we travel. Yet, some people think of climate change as an abstraction. If we were to let it come too close into focus, we might get frightened about the changes we are called to make. It takes a community of courage to face climate challenges directly. From Alaska to Louisiana, severe weather events and rising sea levels are already disrupting and uprooting local communities. With faith and mutual support, we can find the strength to face our climate challenges together.

What are current climate initiatives or efforts that inspire you/give you hope that we will effectively address climate change, even with the dearth of federal leadership on the issue?

Faith communities are taking strong climate leadership. We are leading in adaptation. Disaster relief agencies are on the front lines of responding to and adapting to severe weather. Health ministries are on the front lines of confronting rising asthma and cancer rates which are exacerbated by pollution. We are leading in political will. Major Christian denominations have all been sending official representatives to the international climate negotiations and will continue to do so in spite of the US government signals that they will pull out. We are also leading in bringing about the new green economy. From innovating brand new economic opportunities to communities once dependent on fossil fuels to making our own religious community properties carbon neutral, we are on the job. 

What do you hope/believe the American Climate Leadership Summit will accomplish in moving the needle on climate action?

When people from different sectors come together, the Spirit can move and creativity happens. We need creative breakthroughs for our climate.

Faith Leaders ‘Take a Knee’ for Creation Care and Rise to Prayer for EPA

Today, in front of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Federal Triangle building in Washington, DC, religious leaders have taken a knee as a symbol of devotion to caring for God’s creation and in protest against the inactivity of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding matters of climate.

These religious luminaries have called the EPA to attention by requesting a meeting during which EPA constituents will be urged to speak about protecting American citizens from harmful chemicals, air pollution, and clean water. All of the leaders involved agree that these are not mere luxuries, but basic American rights. One participant, Rabbi Warren Stone issued a public statement.

We call upon the EPA not to deregulate years of clean air and water actions that have protected children and families. We cannot allow coal powered and pollution emitting plants to return to decades of dirty air!

Perhaps even more of a motivation for faith leaders to hold the EPA accountable for unsafe climate policies or a lack thereof is the idea of moral obligation. They ask; what are the moral implications of ignoring the science around climate change or ignoring the apparent impacts of climate change which have caused damage to the Earth and harm to God’s people.

Rev. Richard Cizik of Interfaith Power and Light who has joined the group at the EPA headquarters made a proclamation about the group’s commitment to stewardship, a traditional practice among people of faith.

Our common belief is about the future of God’s creation and the human family. It is about our human stewardship of God’s creation and our responsibility to those that come after us.

The party of kneelers includes believers from Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical and Jewish backgrounds who are actively praying for America and bringing attention to environmental deregulation and public health.


Taking Up the Mantle

Some of the leaders who met at EPA headquarters will be present at ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit. This year’s summit will bring together 350 climate leaders who are already working toward climate solutions. Now responding to the limited climate response, leaders in state and local government, faith, and health have committed to Taking Up the Mantle.

ACLS Faith Leader Query: Rev. Sotello V. Long Speaks on Climate

At ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit (ACLS), several faith leaders are scheduled to speak on tactics for climate leadership and provide inspiration on the Taking Up the Mantle motif. Among them is the Reverend Sotello V. Long, a leader of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who has served under his calling for over 25 years. 

Ordained in 1990, Rev. Long has since held several influential roles, including Director of the Family Life Center at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Minister of Evangelism at Disciples Home Missions and currently as the Regional Pastor and Minister the Christian Church in South Carolina. 

At this year’s ACLS, Rev. Sotello V. Long will speak on the “Faith Mantle,” alongside other religious climate influencers like Colin Christopher, the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, and Bishop Staccato Powell. The “Faith Mantle,” will discuss bringing people forward to partake in moral climate leadership. 

What do you wish more Americans knew about climate change?

Understanding of one’s carbon footprint and its systemic connections.

What are current climate initiatives or efforts that inspire you or give you hope that we will effectively address climate change, even with the dearth of federal leadership on the issue?

Carbon Neutral Resolution and the collective partnerships in which we are involved such as Climate Justice Ministries and Blessed Tomorrow.

What do you hope/believe the American Climate Leadership Summit will accomplish in moving the needle on climate action?

Producing greater awareness and initiating & sponsoring more local initiatives in the movement toward better creation care.

 

Did you enjoy reading this leader’s response? Check out this response from another ACLS faith leader. 

 

 

 

ACLS Faith Leader Query: Rev. Gerald Durley Speaks on Climate

The Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley has joined the roster of over 350 leaders that are Taking Up the Mantle by participating in ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit. Recently, ecoAmerica gave ACLS speakers the opportunity to answer important questions about the state of climate and the future of climate leadership. Rev. Durley issued a response. 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley is a climate leader with a history of helping to institute peace, civil rights and environmental justice on a global scale. His leadership accomplishments include; a stint in the Peace Corps and serving in ministry for 25 years. The Reverend recently retired as Pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. 

What do you wish more Americans knew about climate change?

More Americans need to know that faith and science are not at odds when it comes to what is causing climate change. Americans should be aware that resolving the climate change, environmental justice, and global warming concerns are all moral issues which require a collaboration among business, politics, education, science, and faith. “Profits over people is not acceptable.”

What are current climate initiatives or efforts that inspire you/give you hope that we will effectively address climate change, even with the dearth of federal leadership on the issue?

As a civil and human rights activist for more than fifty years, I’ve found inspiration, encouragement, and hope when I see the masses begin to comprehend that they have the power to enact change. I am currently witnessing daily numerous grassroots groups and nonprofits challenging energy companies and federal regulations, as well as, misguided politicians. I find strength in believing that the will of an enlightened populace, about what is really causing climate change, will always be successful for positive change.

What do you hope/believe the American Climate Leadership Summit will accomplish in moving the needle on climate action?

The American Climate Leadership Summit is critical in coordinating vast diverse groups, with various interests, to not only seek but to acknowledge and implement strategies to reverse climate change. The American Climate Leadership Summit can evolve into ” the conscience of the environmental movement” which was what the Civil Rights Movement was to challenging the Constitutional rights which were not being implemented for all Americans. We must continue to push the needle.

Rev. Durley will speak on this first day of the climate summit (October 25) on the topic of Justice & Inclusion. He joins a multi-sector panel which includes; Sara Hill of the Cherokee Nation, Labor Network for Sustainability’s President, Joe Uehlein, and Claudia Withers, Chief Operating Officer of the NAACP. 

Did you enjoy reading this response? Read the thoughts of another ACLS faith leader, here

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Oct 14 – 20

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Catholic Institutions Leading on Climate Solutions

At Monday’s U.N. World Food Day Ceremony, Pope Francis received a standing ovation after calling on the world’s governments to take action on the interconnected issues of climate, hunger, and migration. Continue reading this on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

ecoAmerica Announce More Speakers for the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit

At this year’s American Climate Leadership Summit, more than 350 multi-sector leaders will gather to discuss Taking Up the Mantle. This week, ecoAmerica revealed four more influential speakers. Learn more.

Study Says Latinos are Leading the Climate Change Conversation

According to a recent study conducted by Yale Climate Change Communications, Latinos are the most concerned with climate change and are more likely to be vocal about the topic. Why? Read this Huffington Post article.

The Progress COP23 and the Paris Agreement Among Faith Groups

Operation Noah asks, “what is the reality of climate change today?” To answer their question, they look into the most recent climate science, the business side of climate and more. Check out the article here.

Is President Trump Committed to Renewable Energy Use?

A recent disagreement on the use of biofuels in the state of Iowa may be settled. Iowa Governor, Kim Reynolds confesses to several phone conversations with Trump and now has hope for the renewable fuel standard. Read this article from Reuters.

Catholic Institutions Leading on Climate Solutions

At Monday’s  U.N. World Food Day Ceremony, Pope Francis received a standing ovation after calling on the world’s governments to take action on the interconnected issues of climate, hunger, and migration. “It is clear that wars and climatic change are a cause of hunger, so let’s not present it as if hunger is an incurable disease,” the Pope said during his opening remarks. As with his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Sí, the Pope urged world leaders to call for a change in lifestyle and the use of resources, saying “we cannot make do by saying ‘someone else will do it’”.

Watch the inspiring video of Pope Francis’ speech here.

In response to the Pope’s call to action in Laudato Sí, two important Catholic-led efforts were announced recently that demonstrate meaningful faith in action to address climate change.

Catholic Energies (CE) Program

Catholic Climate Covenant, a Blessed Tomorrow partner, announced the national launch of its Catholic Energies (CE) program to help eliminate waste from Catholic facilities (churches, schools, dioceses, hospitals and other organizations) through energy projects that reduce energy costs.

“Our vision is to make the U.S. Catholic Church the most energy efficient religious organization in the world, “ says Dan Misleh, founding executive director of Catholic Climate Covenant. “In this way, we will rise to meet the challenges outlined in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, and be witness to the communities in which we minister.” 

Examples of program components include providing Catholic facilities with the ability to invest in energy efficiency projects to reduce energy waste; buy cleaner, less expensive energy; and install renewable energy and storage systems to minimize dependence on the grid. The savings through these measures can be used instead for programming to advance core mission activities.

To learn more about the program, please visit Catholic Energies for information, resources, and news.

40 International Catholic Institutions Divest from Fossil Fuels

As the Catholic church prepared to observe the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a coalition of forty Catholic institutions spanning five continents announced they would divest from fossil fuel companies to take a moral stand toward sustainable energy sources.

The Pope cited St. Francis, known for his love of nature, in Laudato Sí, and urged faithful action on climate solutions to care for our common home. This is the largest of a growing number of Catholic divestments from fossil fuels to date and in response to Pope Francis’ call to action.

Read more from the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Oct 7 – 13

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens. 

American Climate Leadership Summit: Guidance from Preceding Faith Leaders Leads to ‘Taking Up the Mantle’

In 2016, the United States led climate solutions by passing important legislation and partnering with other progressive countries as a member of a United Nations-run accord known as the Paris Climate Agreement. When leaders gathered at the 2016 American Climate Leadership Summit, these recommendations were produced specifically to guide faith leadership around climate change. Read the recommendations here

Hurricane Nate Reaches the Gulf Coast

After months of devastation from hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, Hurricane Nate reared its head. However, the impact of the storm wasn’t as big as expected. Read this NY Times article about Hurricane Nate

Seizing the Moment to Lead on Climate 

The sorts of weather extremes we have witnessed this year alone, encompassing the whole range of impacts scientists have predicted, prove that we can no longer rely on our understanding of past climate patterns to anticipate and prepare for weather variations and their devastating consequences. Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog

A Minneapolis Church Revives its 80-Year Building in an Energy-Efficient Way

Mount Olivet Lutheran Church was simply upholding its principles of faith by helping the planet. One leader said, “…we soon realized we were doing something pioneering.” Read this article

Climate for Health: Honoring Children’s Environmental Health Day

Now more than ever, the need to protect the health of the most vulnerable among us is paramount. Children are our most valuable resources, they represent the very future of our nation, and yet over the past few decades, they have been facing increasing rates of chronic illness and developmental concerns linked to environmental exposures and our changing climate. Continue reading on the Climate for Health blog

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American Climate Leadership Summit: Guidance from Preceding Faith Leaders Leads to ‘Taking Up the Mantle’

In a few weeks, ecoAmerica will host the 2017 American Climate Leadership Summit. The summit promises to provide opportunities for multisector communication on climate, as it draws leaders from state and local government, corporations, universities, and other organizations.

Historically, the American Climate Leadership Summit has been a platform for climate leadership strategy that is soon-after enforced throughout the nation by participating parties. Along with its two-day agenda that allows for presentation, discussion, and networking; ecoAmerica releases a Recommendations Report following the event. Last year’s report provided helpful advice for Climate Solutions that will be equally relevant this year as leaders begin Taking Up the Mantle.

Five Recommendations for Engaging Faith Communities

In 2016, the United States led climate solutions by passing important legislation and partnering with other progressive countries as a member of a United Nations-run accord known as the Paris Climate Agreement. When leaders gathered at the 2016 American Climate Leadership Summit, these recommendations were produced specifically to guide faith leadership around climate change.

Connect climate to core faith values. Relating climate awareness and action to the values in a particular faith can increase community understanding. This can be accomplished through sharing scripture or aligning climate activity with faith traditions.

Employ hope, inspiration, and stories. Using positive language, faith leaders should communicate the impact of climate change, noting the suffering and injustice that it brings about.

Transform our congregations and families. Humans are the known cause of the world’s current climate reality. Faith communities can limit their impact on the planet by creating better habits. This starts with updating the energy sources used in places of worship and minding the plants growing nearby and the way people of faith travel from place to place.

Become climate literate. Without true knowledge about the changing climate and how it impacts people, leaders cannot effectively reach their followers. However, by knowing key information and keeping up with new developments in the climate spectrum, leaders can continue to engage their congregation.

Reintroduce a love of creation. Love of creation is an interfaith practice. People of faith can continue to practice this love through litany and prayer.

Taking Up the Mantle

This year’s summit will bring together 350 climate leaders who are already working toward climate solutions. Now responding to the limited climate response, leaders in state and local government, faith, and health have committed to Taking Up the Mantle.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Sep 30 – Oct 6

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Puerto Rico: Responding to a Climate Emergency According to God’s Word

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September and 50% of the territory remains without electricity and access to basic supplies and food. Some have criticized the federal response to this climate-related disaster as “slow and “inadequate,” and it is important to ask ourselves, how does God want the U.S., faith communities, and individuals to respond? Continue reading this article on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Climate Leader Query: Katharine Hayhoe

ecoAmerica interviewed climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, who will speak at the upcoming American Climate Leadership Summit. In the interview, Hayhoe reveals what she wants Americans to know about climate and more. Read the interview here.

40 Catholic Groups Unite to Urge Fossil Fuel Divestment

Catholic organizations in the United State, Britain, Australia, and South Africa were inspired by the climate leadership of Pope Francis. With his leadership as an example, they formed a coalition. Here’s what they’re all about.

Commitment to Solar Energy Saves One Farm in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria caused so much devastation the many Puerto Ricans are still without electricity. One farmer who invested in 244 solar panels was able to keep the lights on when the rest of the territory went dark. Read about his $300,000 investment here.

American Climate Leadership Summit: How Communities Can Engage in Climate Solutions

The American Climate Leadership Summit is an annual event that brings together leaders from multiple sectors including ecoAmerica specialty sectors, health, faith, and communities. Each year, ecoAmerica publishes a report of recommendations to help move communities, health leaders, and faith leaders forward on climate. Read ecoAmerica’s five recommendations on the Path to Positive blog.

 

Puerto Rico: Responding to a Climate Emergency According to God’s Word

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September and 50% of the territory remains without electricity and access to basic supplies and food. Some have criticized the federal response to this climate-related disaster as “slow and “inadequate,” and it is important to ask ourselves, how does God want the U.S., faith communities, and individuals to respond?

As casualties increase and assistance is desperately needed to improve the situation for the residents of Puerto Rico, what do our faith traditions tell us about our role in aiding others?

 

Disaster Relief According to God’s Word

By responding to disasters and providing relief, humans lean on the very beliefs that have shaped religion for centuries. While Christians and followers of Judaism find their bearings in responding to these tragedies, Muslims generally contribute through charity to believers (Sahih Bukhari 55:558). In whatever way the holy words of God instructs believers – the main message is to recognize the need for help and lend a helping hand.

This was certainly the motivation for organizations like United Church of Christ, a group that embedded itself in Puerto Rico after the storm and worked alongside Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, and others. 

Yet does not one in heap of ruins stretch out his hands, Or his disaster, therefore, cry out for help? Job 30:24

According to holy doctrine, disasters are ordained by God (Quran 57:22) and are meant to aid humanity in understanding their calling to care for the Earth. This side of a disaster is cause and effect. But, there is another side of disaster that calls for a deep commitment to faith.

READ: “Before Disaster Strikes,” by Reverend Jenny Phillips of United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Praying Through a Disaster

God-willing, many survivors of natural disasters will seek refuge through prayer. But not every person who experiences a tragedy like Hurricane Maria will believe in God’s grace and mercy. In cases such as these, faith leaders can make a world of difference.

Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings, I will take refuge Until destruction passes by. Psalms 57:1

Prayer itself is a form of aid. But it cannot be unaccompanied by action. UCC’s Zach Wolgemuth made this fact clear in his recent statement

We stand ready to support our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and call on all our churches to continue to pray and give financially for what will be a long road ahead.

With faithful prayer, relief, and support, there is yet another side to disaster; triumph. What role do believers play is helping other to overcome their circumstances?

Overcoming a Disaster

Disaster is not without cause and God’s word names sin as the cause of most tragedies. God is forgiving. Consider the famous words of Rabbi Nachman, which state that if one believes that something can be destroyed, they should also believe that it can be repaired.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

In the case of Puerto Rico, a state that is still in the beginning phases of receiving aid after Hurricane Maria’s destruction, triumph may appear to be far off. However, thanks to faith-based humanitarian relief, some Puerto Ricans have hope. To overcome the disaster, more believers are needed to act in accordance with God’s holy word.

READ: “God’s Earth Impacted by Climate Change,” now on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.


Ways to Get Help    

America Red Cross

 1-800-733-2767

FEMA Disaster Helpline 

1-800-621-3362

 

Nichole Tucker earned a Master’s degree in Media & International Conflict from University College Dublin to help improve global issues, like climate change.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Sept 23 – 29

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

A Word to the Church from the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops

The Episcopal Church House of Bishops says: “God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.” Read the bishops’ letter on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Ways We Can Combat Climate Change

According to the United Methodist Church, combating climate change is a job for the church. UMC gives recommendations for reducing carbon emissions and taking climate action. In a recent article, UMC stated: “As United Methodists, we heed the call to do all in our power to care for planet Earth.” Read the article now on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Preparing for Extreme Weather to Come

This is the Year of Climate Change and Health, a 12-month American Public Health Association-led initiative with monthly themes meant to raise awareness of and mobilize action on the health impacts of climate change. In September, APHA focuses on Extreme Weather. Climate for Health Program Director Leyla McCurdy was recently asked to contribute a blog post on the topic to APHA’s Public Health Newswire.  Below is her contribution. Continue reading on ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health blog.

What’s Wrong with the Term ‘Climate Refugee?’

According to the United Nations, more than 21 million people are displaced as a result of weather conditions. However, international laws reveal that not all of these individuals can be considered “climate refugees.” Learn about the legal ramifications of this widely-used term in this article and podcast from Public Radio International.

God ‘Making All Things New’ Doesn’t Mean Christians Can Ignore the Environment

We can count on God to aid us in restoring the planet, but we must do the work. Our partner Blessed Earth recently published an article, explaining how Christians can find common ground to act on climate.

Does Climate Change Make Hurricanes Worse?

There has been plenty of research surrounding the idea that climate change intensifies storms, including hurricanes. Two news publications recently created polls to see how many people believe that climate change makes hurricanes worse. Here are the poll results.

A Word to the Church from the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops

A Word to the Church from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops

Gathered in Fairbanks, Alaska, September 21-26, 2017

The bishops of The Episcopal Church came to Alaska to listen to the earth and its peoples as an act of prayer, solidarity and witness. We came because:

  • “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). God is the Lord of all the earth and of all people; we are one family, the family of God.
  •  “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are … members of the household of God”(Ephesians 2:19). The residents of interior Alaska whom we met are not strangers; they are members of the same household of faith.
  •  People have “become hard of hearing, and shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15). We are blind and deaf to the groaning of the earth and its peoples; we are learning the art of prayerful listening.

What does listening to the earth and its people mean? For us bishops, it meant:

  • Getting out and walking the land, standing beside the rivers, sitting beside people whose livelihood depends on that land. We had to slow down and live at the pace of the stories we heard. We had to trust that listening is prayer.
  • Recognizing that struggles for justice are connected. Racism, the economy, violence of every kind, and the environment are interrelated. We have seen this reality not only in the Arctic, but also at Standing Rock in the Dakotas, in the recent hurricanes, in Flint, Michigan, Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the violence perpetuated against people of color and vulnerable populations anywhere.
  • Understanding that listening is deeply connected to healing. In many healing stories in the gospels, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” That is, he listened first and then acted.

What did we hear?

  • “The weather is really different today,” one leader told us. “Now spring comes earlier, and fall lasts longer. This is threatening our lives because the permafrost is melting and destabilizing the rivers. We depend on the rivers.”
  • The land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where the caribou birth their calves is called the “sacred place where life begins,” so sacred the Gwich’in People do not set foot there. “Drilling here,” people said, “is like digging beneath the National Cathedral.”
  • After shopping together, a native Episcopalian told one of us how hard it is to even secure food. “We can’t get good food here. We have to drive to Fairbanks. It is a two-hour trip each way.”

What we bishops saw and heard in Alaska is dramatic, but it is not unique. Stories like these can be heard in each of the nations where The Episcopal Church is present. They can be heard in our own communities. We invite you to join us, your bishops, and those people already engaged in this work, in taking time to listen to people in your dioceses and neighborhoods. Look for the connections among race, violence of every kind, economic disparity, and the environment. Then, after reflecting in prayer and engaging with scripture, partner with people in common commitment to the healing of God’s world.

God calls us to listen to each other with increased attention. It is only with unstopped ears and open eyes that our hearts and lives will be changed. It is through the reconciling love of God in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that we and the earth itself will be healed.

A Prayer for Our Time and for the Earth

Dear God, Creator of the earth, this sacred home we share;
Give us new eyes to see the beauty all around and to protect the wonders of creation.
Give us new arms to embrace the strangers among us and to know them as family.
Give us new ears to hear and understand those who live off the land
and to hear and understand those who extract its resources.
Give us new hearts to recognize the brokenness in our communities
and to heal the wounds we have inflicted.
Give us new hands to serve the earth and its people
and to shape beloved community.
For you are the One who seeks the lost,
binds our wounds and sets us free,
and it is in the name of Jesus the Christ we pray.
Amen.


This letter was originally published by the Episcopal News Service in English and Spanish. To access relevant resources or to read this letter in Spanish, click here.

Ways We Can Combat Climate Change

You’ve heard it said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” When Mark Twain—who may have been quoting Charles Dudley Warner—popularized that saying in the 19th century, everyone just laughed. People thought there was nothing humans could do to change the weather.

While we still can’t make a rainy day sunny, scientists today report that human action can affect the weather, and over the years has altered it… maybe dramatically.

As United Methodists, we heed the call to do all in our power to care for planet Earth. Psalm 24 tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants too.” In the Creation narrative in Genesis 1, God instructs human beings to care for the earth and all God created to dwell there.

The Natural World” portion of our Social Principles reflects these scriptures. “All creation is the Lord’s,” the section opens, “and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it.”

The Facts

According to the Faith and Facts Card on Climate Justice produced by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, “Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution…are collecting like a blanket in the atmosphere.” This blanket is slowly warming the planet.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) defines climate change as “a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels.” These phenomena include global warming and “extreme weather events” (NASA Global Climate Change).

“The adverse impacts of global climate change disproportionately affect individuals and nations least responsible for the emissions,” The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church states. This means those living in industrialized countries bear a responsibility to decrease our emissions to lessen the effects of climate change on those who produce far fewer of these pollutants.

By reducing the production of emissions known as greenhouse gases, Christians with easy access to energy can do something about the weather after all. Reducing carbon dioxide and other pollutants will help slow these global trends and address some of the adverse effects on our neighbors and ourselves.

Lower Your Impact

Save electricity: According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the production of electricity generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. “Approximately 67 percent of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas.”

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society recommends using CFL (compact fluorescent light) or LED (light emitting diode) bulbs. Both use significantly less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. When replacing appliances, invest in energy efficient models.

Also, be aware of your energy use. Opening the curtains or blinds may allow us to turn off the lights during the day. Church and Society also recommends decreasing the use of our air conditioners.

Use renewable energy: If you are able, investigate and invest in green energy sources like wind or solar power. These reduce the need for the types of electricity production that emit greenhouse gases.

Transportation: The cars we drive are also big producers of carbon dioxide. Choosing to carpool, use public transportation, or drive a low emission vehicle will help significantly reduce our contribution to these pollutants.

Eat local: Choosing foods produced nearby helps reduce the need for these products to be transported great distances, decreasing the need for fuel burning vehicles.

Raise Your Voice

Learn what the church says: The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles on the Natural World is a great place to start. This section of our Book of Discipline sets forth the basic position of The United Methodist Church on important social issues, including global climate stewardship.

In 2009, our United Methodist bishops issued a statement on climate change called God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action. The study guide is a great resource for church groups to use.

Explore the climate justice websites and other resources provided by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women.

As you explore these statements and ministries, share what you are learning with your friends, church, and community.

Contact elected officials: Urge local, state, and federal officials to support clean energy initiatives, legislation to reduce emissions, and aid to those who are struggling to survive in our changing climate. That may include attending a rally, making a phone call, or sending an email or letter.

Ask your congregation: You may have ideas for ways your congregation could reduce their energy use. Donate energy efficient bulbs. Talk to the Trustees about investing in thermostats that help reduce energy consumption. Organize carpools to meetings and other events.

Become active in your community: Maybe you notice places where your child’s school, public spaces, or other community gathering places are wasting energy or producing emissions. Find ways that you can be part of the solution.

It’s Our Responsibility

In Genesis 1, God entrusts the earth to the care of human beings—you and me. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to preserve, protect, and care for what God has created.

Despite Mark Twain’s comment, perhaps we can do something about the weather. By becoming better stewards of energy and speaking up for climate justice, United Methodists in industrialized countries can participate in the work of slowing and addressing the impacts of climate change.


This article was originally published on UMC.org.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Sept 16 – 22

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Climate Week NYC: Building a Safer Planet Through Interfaith Action

Many faith leaders and organizations have taken on the challenge of creating initiatives to improve our planet. Among them are Blessed Tomorrow partners like the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ. Although these religious bodies bring large congregations to the fold – caring for the planet is a job for all of us. Continue reading on the Blessed Tomorrow blog. 

Religious Groups Strive To Protect Native American Communities from Environmental Injustice

Pastor Jim Therrien doesn’t consider himself an environmentalist, but rather leans toward the characteristics of a “people person.” That personality trait enabled to guide his congregation to respond to climate change and the human activity that causes it.  The population most affected in Therrien’s state is the Navajo community. Learn about the pastor’s efforts in this article

Tough Climate Questions Answered

Most Americans have experienced the impacts of climate change, but few truly understand it. The New York Times recently worked with climate experts to answer the tough questions that Americans have. Here’s “Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.”  

Sustainability City: Climate Week Engages Stakeholders Across Borders

The world was watching President Trump on September 19 as he gave his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, reaffirming an “America First” policy. The previous day,  his chief economic advisor confirmed that the US wants to pull out of the Paris climate agreement –after calling a breakfast meeting many hoped meant otherwise. Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog

Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago Creates a Green Environment 

Addressing the issue of environmental injustice in communities of color, Trinity UCC built a 27-acre garden to bring sustainable food to the inner-city. Read this Christian Century article.

Paying for Climate Damage. Who Gets the Bill? Who Gets A Check?

Climate change has been the cause of damage to cities and determent to people for many years. Now, with more frequent storms, earthquakes, and unsafe air, the question arises; who should pay for the damage? Climate also affects poor communities more often than others. Should these poor communities be compensated. Futurism analyzes the facts in this article

 

Climate Week NYC: Building a Safer Planet Through Interfaith Action

Many faith leaders and organizations have taken on the challenge of creating initiatives to improve our planet. Among them are Blessed Tomorrow partners like the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ. Although these religious bodies bring large congregations to the fold – caring for the planet is a job for all of us.

At this year’s Climate Week in New York City, multiple sectors are uniting to take action on climate. Even with no designated faith event at Climate Week NYC, leaders of faith have already begun to state their climate action goals. For the states, cities, companies, and organizations of the world, this is governance and influence. For the faith community, action on climate is creation care.

Climate Action Protects God’s Creation

Caring for creation is an important part of God’s will. This is true for all faith doctrines. In the Bible, it is one of God’s first requests to man. And in the book of Matthew, Christians are reminded that obedience to His will gives us the wisdom to carry out our deeds. (Matthew 7:24).

With wisdom, interfaith leaders have realized that limited climate action from government leaders leaves a space open for faith leaders. And with conviction, these interfaith leaders are compelled to act.

“I believe that my faith compels me to embrace greener choices in my life.” – Mariam Ismail Badaroon

Creation Care is Also About People

The recent natural disasters hitting American and Caribbean shores is evidence that climate change can negatively impact God’s people. As religious groups and leaders strive to make a difference for the planet, some focus on creation care while others endeavor to help God’s people. However, caring for God’s people is a form of creation care.

READ: United Church of Christ Declares A New Moral Era by Rev. Dr. Jim Antal

In a letter signed by world leaders of faith like Archbishop Desmund Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, and Mo Ibrahim, this effort is referred to as a “hopeful path” for action. Archbishop Tutu stated, “We will give everyone everywhere opportunity and the right to lead their lives with dignity without jeopardizing our planet’s ability to provide for its people now and into the future. This is an entirely possible outcome if we do the right thing.”

Climate Action Requires Partnership

Even though climate action is a huge task, there has been a lack of partnership in most sectors. Faith leaders have developed plans to end the divide and begin joint projects. This, according to Bishop Geoff Davies, is one of the most important challenges for climate action.

“It’s so important that it overrides any cultural, national, religious, language considerations and so we believe all faiths should be uniting to come together to confront this greatest of threats that humanity faces.”

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Sept 9 – 15

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Congregation Wellness: Maintaining Mental Health During and After A Disaster

Throughout the country, news of Harvey, Irma and Jose has stirred concern. For those who have lived through the traumatic events of Harvey and are currently experiencing Irma’s reign, there may even be some panic, stress or sadness. This is because climate affects mental health. Continue reading on ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Virginia Faith Leaders Gather in Protest Against Pipeline Projects

The Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline projects are believed to be harmful to the environment and the Virginia community. Religious leaders in Roanoke are protesting. Read this article.

Communicating Compassion: Supporting Mental Health Before and After the Storm

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose have reawakened conversations on the connection between climate change and extreme weather.  And it’s relatively easy to find solid explainers on the science of how our warming world intensifies storms (this one and this one, for example).  But climate communication is about more than just sharing facts and potential solutions.Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog.

Vermont Interfaith Power & Light Hosts a Conference to Address Climate Change

In Vermont, ecoAmerica partner Interfaith Power & Light will be hosting “Building Local Resilience – Inspiring Local Climate Action,” an open conference to address climate change. Find out how you can register.

Mental Health in the Community: Disaster Preparedness, Survival, and Resilience

Communities can come face to face with mental health issues during and after disasters. This is a reality that was made clear after Hurricane Katrina – when survivors showed signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now, Harvey, Irma, and Jose have arrived and in places like Houston, evidence of mental instability can already be seen. Continue reading on ecoAmerica’s Path to Positive Communities blog.

Creation Care Letter from Salt Lake City

In this letter, Alan K. Jones speaks directly to Christians about their responsibility to care for God’s creation. It was one of God’s first instructions for man. But, how can Christians influence the rest of the county? Read the letter here.

 

Congregation Wellness: Maintaining Mental Health During and After A Disaster

Throughout the country, news of Harvey, Irma and Jose has stirred concern. For those who have lived through the traumatic events of Harvey and are currently experiencing Irma’s reign, there may even be some panic, stress or sadness. This is because climate affects mental health.

This year ecoAmerica teamed up with the American Psychological Association to write the evidence-based report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate. The report provides insight to the impacts and implications of climate change and gives guidance to individuals, organizations, communities and leaders.

Here are some takeaways from the mental health report that can help faith communities maintain mental health during natural disasters and other traumatic events.  

Believe in Resilience

Belief in one’s self – boosts resilience. Research shows that people who think positively handle trauma and stress better than those who do not. In most cases, this self-efficacy limits the chance of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression after a traumatic event.

Be Optimistic

Always find good in the bad experiences. Even in the worst of circumstances, reframing it can put your mind at rest. Be careful not to be overly optimistic. This could lead to disappointment. However, thinking of what there is to look forward to once the circumstances have changed is a healthy level of optimism.

Learn to Cope

Coping with their circumstances allows a person to get in touch with their thoughts and emotions. This dives into the cognitive dimensions of the mind, as well as the behavioral.

Be Faithful

Involvement in a faith community – especially during times of struggle, is a protective form of mental health. It ignites feelings of peace, which is much needed to boost well-being.

Be Prepared

Disaster or trauma can put a strain on a person’s mental health. But there are ways to prepare for this. Being prepared can make a disaster feel less traumatic.


Read Similar Blog Posts…

Why Faith Groups Should Strive To Ease the Burden Brought On By Hurricane Harvey

After Paris: Five Global Interfaith Climate Leaders To Inspire Americans

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Sept 2 – Sep 8

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Why Faith Groups Should Strive to Ease the Burden Brought on by Hurricane Harvey

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, displaced Texas and Louisiana residents are seeking refuge. Many have found comfort behind the doors of churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. The hospitality of these religious centers has started a worldwide conversation about the duty of faith leaders to provide relief. How should we help God’s people in times of trouble? Is it ever okay to close our doors to them? Continue reading on ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Lessons from Harvey: The Need to Lead

Hurricane Harvey, which struck Houston late last month, was unprecedented: The category 4 storm left some 50 inches of rain in its wake, killing more than 60 people and displacing well over 50,000 residents to date. And the extent of damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure is still being calculated. Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog.

Three-million Muslims Pray for the Environment During Hajj 2017

This year, like years before, millions of Muslims made their pilgrimage to Mecca. Along with prayers for world peace and family wellness, this year’s group also had prayers for the planet. Read this article from The Independent.

Is America Religiously and Politically Divided on Climate Change? Can We Find Common Ground?

Views in America may be divided based on political affiliation and religious beliefs. What does this mean for the issue of climate change? Will the U.S. ever unite to help solve the issue? Read this op-ed from The Federalist.

Christians United on Climate Change Beliefs

In the past, there has been controversy in the Christian community on the legitimacy of climate change and how it really impacts the Earth. This month, however, Christians appear to be more united than ever in their views. Christian Post has more information on the matter.

 

Why Faith Groups Should Strive To Ease the Burden Brought On By Hurricane Harvey

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, displaced Texas and Louisiana residents are seeking refuge. Many have found comfort behind the doors of churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. The hospitality of these religious centers has started a worldwide conversation about the duty of faith leaders to provide relief. How should we help God’s people in times of trouble? Is it ever okay to close our doors to them?

Taking on the Burden

In times of trouble, it is not only our responsibility to help but also to take on the troubles of our fellow believers as our own. Service to our neighbors is service to God.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

This truth was with The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS), Council of Islamic American Relations, Catholic Charities USA, Salvation Army and many other religious organizations as the impacts of the category-four storm came to light. Among the list of groups who offered words of prayer and solace, what stood out the most was the actions of these faith organizations.

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 16th. Read, “Puerto Rico: Responding to a Climate Emergency According to God’s Word” on the BT blog

After encouraging people of the LDS, the church made the following statement about Hurricane Harvey volunteers:

“Many are expressing interest in helping the thousands of people in the stricken communities in Texas and Louisiana. We are grateful for all who wish to assist in this effort.”

In Houston, Mustafaa Carroll from the Council on Islamic American Relations announced how active the Muslim community has been in helping hurricane survivors. 

“Over 25 mosques in the Houston area have opened their doors to those seeking shelter from this deadly storm.”

Each of the buildings that opened their doors provided a place of warmth and healing to Hurricane Harvey survivors. This is an act of God’s love that should always be extended to his people. But no organization should have to take on this massive responsibility alone.

Sharing the Burden

Different faith groups hold separate practices but there is much similarity in our values. Believers want to help God’s people. Working together as an interfaith body can be just the help that the people of Houston and other affected cities need.

Carroll from the Council of Islamic American Relations is all about sharing the burden, and recently gave this statement:

I’m praying that all these people of different backgrounds working together to help the people of Houston will be a catalyst to build more bridges between us; the response of people uniting to work for a common good is truly a testament to the good of America.

Easing the Burden

Leaving no options for people in need can test one’s soul. Faith calls us to the aid of humanity just as it calls us to care for the Earth so that disasters like Hurricane Harvey do not occur. When we go against our duty to God’s people our faith is weakened.

Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, God will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his brother out of discomfort, God will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened [provided sanctuary to] a Muslim, God will screen [provide a sanctuary] to him on the Day of Resurrection. Islamic Hadith (Bukhari)

Easing the burden laid upon God’s people during and after the recent hurricane is a true act of stewardship. For this service, God will send his blessings.

A Statement from ecoAmerica

Adapting to a future in which a millennium-scale flood can wipe out a major city is much harder than preventing that flood in the first place. By and large, the built world we have right now wasn’t constructed with climate change in mind. By continuing to pretend that we can engineer our way out of the worsening flooding problem with bigger dams, more levees and higher-powered pumping equipment, we’re fooling ourselves into a more dangerous future.

Nichole Tucker earned a Master’s degree in Media & International Conflict from University College Dublin to help improve global issues, like climate change. Prior to joining Blessed Tomorrow, Nichole worked with the advocacy team at World Vision International. 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of Aug 26 – Sept 1

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Six Interfaith Creation Care Prayers

Creation care is more than an act of faith. It is a challenge to be pursued. Just like all of life’s challenges, our prayers can awaken our call to action, enhance our ability to follow through and improve our chances of success.

In honor of the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, here are six interfaith prayers to recite. Continue reading on ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow blog.

What is the Connection Between Hurricane Harvey and Climate Change

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on August 25th and caused a national debate about climate change. Was Harvey a direct result of climate change? This USA Today article looks into it.  

Wind and Solar Energy is Doing Better Than Expected

Despite being underestimated by analysts over the years, the nationwide switch to solar and wind energy is showing promise. Read about the new report that shows how solar and wind energy have cut costs and improved the environment.

American Climate Leadership Summit Announces Additional Speakers

Each fall, ecoAmerica hosts our marquee event, the American Climate Leadership Summit. The summit is the nation’s largest gathering of leaders to broaden and activate climate leadership and galvanize support for solutions. This year’s theme, Taking Up the Mantle, expects to draw over 350 leaders from the health, faith, and local communities sectors, and includes breakout sessions for each sector as well. Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog.

What Does Care for Creation Require of Us?

The spiritual approach to climate action is one of the biggest challenges according to Pope Francis. It’s a commitment not only to acting on climate change – but also to ensuring the well-being of God’s people. Read this article.

Talking About Climate Change is Our Moral Duty

After the Paris exit, a category four hurricane in Texas and other impacts showing across the United States, we all have a moral duty to end denial and discuss our changing climate. Mark Lynas of CNN is calling us to speak up.

Six Interfaith Creation Care Prayers

Creation care is more than an act of faith. It is a challenge to be pursued. Just like all of life’s challenges, our prayers can awaken our call to action, enhance our ability to follow through and improve our chances of success.

The World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation began in 2015 when Pope Francis called Christians to participate in helping the environment, as the Holy Bible commands. The day has since been picked up by other religions.

In honor of the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, here are six interfaith prayers to recite.

 

 

“The annual World Day of prayer for the Care of Creation offers to individual believers and to the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvellous works that He has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live.” – Pope Francis

Jewish Creation Care Prayer

Courtesy of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

It is good to acclaim Adonai, To sing your praise, exalted God, To affirm Your love each morning, And Your faithfulness each night, To the music of the lute And the melody of the harp. Your works, Adonai, make me glad; I sing with joy of Your creation. How vast Your works, Adonai! Your designs are beyond our grasp. The thoughtless cannot comprehend; The foolish cannot fathom this: The wicked may flourish, springing up like grass, but their doom is sealed, for You are supreme forever. Your enemies, Adonai, Your enemies shall perish; All the wicked shall crumble. But me You have greatly exalted; I am anointed with fragrant oil. I have seen the downfall of my foes; I have heard the despair of my attackers. The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; They shall grow tall like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of Adonai, They will thrive in the courts of our God. They shall bear fruit even in old age; They shall be ever fresh and fragrant, To proclaim: Adonai is just- My Rock, in whom there is no flaw.

Catholic Creation Care Prayer

Courtesy of the Catholic Health Association of the United States

God of the universe, we thank you for your many good gifts – For the beauty of Creation and its rich and varied fruits, for clean water and fresh air, for food and shelter, animals and plants. Forgive us for the times we have taken the earth’s resources for granted and wasted what you have given us. Transform our hearts and minds. So that we would learn to care and share, to touch the earth with gentleness and with love, respecting all living things. We pray for all those who suffer as a result of our waste, greed, and indifference, and we pray that the day would come when everyone has enough food and clean water. Help us to respect the rights of all people and all species and help us to willingly share your gifts today and always. Amen.

Non-Denominational Christian Creation Care Prayer

Courtesy of the National Council of Churches

Gracious God, your amazing love extends through all time and space, to all parts of your creation, which you created and called good. You made a covenant with Noah and his family, putting a rainbow in the sky to symbolize your promise of love and blessing to every living creature, and to all successive generations. You made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah, blessing them and their descendants throughout the generations. You made a covenant with Moses and the Israelite people to all generations, giving them the 10 commandments and challenging them to choose life. In Jesus, you invite us to enter into a new covenant, in communion with all who seek to be faithful to you. 

As people of faith, we are called into a covenant. Your covenant of faithfulness and love extends to the whole creation. We pray for the healing of the earth, that present and future generations may enjoy the fruits of creation, and continue to glorify and praise you.

Muslim Creation Care Prayer

Courtesy of Hazrat Inayat Khan

Through the silence of nature, I attain Thy divine peace. Oh sublime nature, in thy stillness let my heart rest. Thou art patiently awaiting the moment to manifest through the silence of sublime nature. Oh nature sublime, speak to me through silence, for I am waiting in silence like you the call of God. Oh nature sublime, through thy silence I hear Thy cry. My heart is tuned to the quietness, that the stillness of nature inspires.

Buddhist Creation Care Prayer

Courtesy of Manitoba Buddhist Temple 3

We gently caress you, the Earth, our planet, and our home. Our vision has brought us closer to you, making us aware of the harm we have done to the life-network upon which we ourselves depend. We are reminded that we have poisoned your waters, your lands, your air. We have filled you with the bones of our dead from war and greed.  Your pain is our pain. Touching you gently, we pray that we may become peace-bringers and life-bringers so that our home in its journey around the Sun does not become a sterile and lonely place. May this prayer and its power last forever.

Hindu Creation Care Prayer

Courtesy of GreenFaith

May the waters flow peacefully; may the herbs and plants grow peacefully; may all the divine powers bring unto us peace. May the rain come down in the proper time, may the earth yield plenty of corn, may the country be free from war. The supreme Lord is peace.


As climate changes the temperature of the Earth and causes weather patterns to shift, prayer is an important tool. For people of all religious and spiritual backgrounds, prayer is the first step toward climate action.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of August 18 – 25

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

After Paris: Five Global Interfatih Climate Leaders to Inspire Americans

The voice of the faith community was the sound heard around the world when a few countries decided not to make climate a priority. It was the same case for America when the President pulled away from the Paris Climate Agreement. Continue reading on ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Catholic Climate Leader Writes a Letter In Response to the Federal Climate Report

Following the premature release of a federal report on climate change, Catholic leader, Carole Leblanc calls out to Maine’s government leaders and President Trump. Read more.

Iowa Bishop Urges Congregation To Switch to Solar Energy

In Des Moines, Bishop Robert Pates is leading the partnership between his church and Iowa Interfaith Power and Light to get other congregations on board. Read this article.   

An Idaho Rabbi Uses the 2017 Eclipse as a Call to Action on Climate Change

Talmud teaches that eclipses send a message to God’s people. Rabbi Dan Fink explains how this eclipse relates to climate change. Read the article here.

New Report and Survey Demonstrate Evolving Perceptions on Climate Change

With inaction on climate policy at the federal level, hope can at times be at a low ebb for those who care about public health and the environment.  However, in a recent article on Phys.org, a new report by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and Climate for Health partner George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication is discussed, showing how public perceptions of the problem of climate change are evolving. Continue reading on ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health blog.

 

After Paris: Five Global Interfaith Climate Leaders To Inspire Americans

The voice of the faith community was the sound heard around the world when a few countries decided not to make climate a priority. It was the same case for America when the President pulled away from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Aside from the over 250 faith organizations that stepped forward to act on climate, these individuals have been at the forefront of climate action and can be an inspiration to all.

1 – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama encourages partnership. Climate change impacts everyone and His Holiness believes that working together on this collective issue can make a world of difference.

“The world has become so interdependent, both in terms of our economies on the one hand and dealing with challenges like climate change that affect us all on the other, that such an approach is completely out of date. We need a new way of thinking to suit our new reality. We have to learn to live side by side.” –His Holiness the Dalai Lama

2 – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The idea of divestment isn’t new, but lately, it carries a lot of weight. Archbishop Tutu is a leader among many people of faith that have not only committed to the idea of divestment but have actually made it happen.

“Divestment played a key role in helping liberate South Africa. The corporations understood money even when they weren’t swayed by morality. Climate change is a deeply moral issue, too.” –Archbishop Desmond Tutu

3 – Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit

With an understanding of climate change, Americans should hope for improvement. What role can individuals and organizations play? According to Reverend Tveit, changing our approach to climate solutions can help the cause.

“If we know, as we do, that our action has an impact on the environment, we must also believe that our action can have a positive effect. Acknowledging the climate crisis should not paralyze us but push us to change.” –Rev. Olav Fyske Tveit

4 – Ven. Santussika Bhikkhuni

Caring for the Earth is a divine calling in most religions. Ven Santussika Bhikkhuni speaks with the wisdom of his Buddhist teachings and says that humans should aim for sustainability.

“The Dharma encourages us to take a hard look at what is happening, mindfully experience the feelings that arise, and seek out appropriate action to extract ourselves from these destructive practices. We need to set a new course for our society towards wholesome, sustainable, and compassionate living.” –Ven. Santussika Bhikkhuni

5 – Gretchen Castle

Because work on climate calls for partnership, it creates interfaith unity. Gretchen Castle of FWCC leads climate work for her organization and inspires others around the world to do the same.

“We have the knowledge of what is happening and why.  We seek wisdom in our own lives, in our national and international policies, to transform our human behavior which feeds these planetary crises.” –Gretchen Castle


For more interfaith inspiration, follow us on Twitter to read our ‘Verse of the Week’ and ‘Wednesday Wisdom’ quote.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of August 11-18

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Before Disaster Strikes

We know that climate change and environmental degradation can intensify extreme weather events and contribute to conditions that lead to conflict and community instability. It is not enough to respond to crises; we must do all we can to prevent them. This means addressing the modes of living that cause climate change and environmental degradation, including over-consumption, deforestation, poor water management and agricultural practices that diminish the land. Continue reading this article by UMCOR’s Rev. Jenny Phillips on the ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Is Climate Change A Job For Evangelicals?

Climate change is widely considered to be one of the most important issues facing the world. While most Christians believe in creation care, Evangelical Christians are driven to act on climate. Read this op-ed from Clean Technica.

Howard County, MD Jewish Community Raises Thousands for the People of Uganda

The East African famine is a direct result of climate change. Recently, the Howard County Board of Rabbis raised over $9,000 to help a community in Uganda. Read about their efforts here.

Is China Handling Climate Change More Efficiently than the United States?

Unlike the U.S., People’s Republic of China was among the countries who committed to lowering greenhouse emissions through the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. In what other ways is China leading on climate? Read this article.

Climate Affects Human Health. How?

ecoAmerica’s Climate for Health sector has looked into the connection between climate and health for some time. Now, The NIH has more information about what aspects of human health are affected by climate. Read more about the new research in this Healthline article.

American Farmers Know Climate Change

Farmers can see the change in rain patterns and experience its impact on crops first hand. This means that farmers could be more affected by climate than any other group in the country. Learn more about what farmers are facing.

Before Disaster Strikes

“Violating the integrity of our relationship with creation is sinful. Our failure to serve as faithful caretakers of creation has local and global consequences. Our inability to share the abundance that God has entrusted to us has given rise to ecological crises and extreme poverty. Our unchecked consumption and unsustainable patterns of development have exacted a toll on creation and are increasing inequality of opportunity around the world.”  

–Resolution 1033, “Caring for Creation: A Call to Stewardship and Justice,”

The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, 2016

United Methodists are people of faith and action, continually discerning the ways in which we are called to respond to the needs of the world. Our mission agency, Global Ministries, responds to vulnerable people worldwide through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. When war, conflict or natural disaster disrupt life, we provide humanitarian relief. When responding to a disaster, we are among the first to arrive and the last to leave. And before and after disaster strikes, our Global Health unit works with communities to build resilience and mitigate risk. But we still have work to do in addressing the factors that can exacerbate disasters.

We know that climate change and environmental degradation can intensify extreme weather events and contribute to conditions that lead to conflict and community instability. It is not enough to respond to crises; we must do all we can to prevent them. This means addressing the modes of living that cause climate change and environmental degradation, including over-consumption, deforestation, poor water management and agricultural practices that diminish the land. We believe that the church in mission has a crucial role to play in casting a vision for the transformation of the world that includes redemption for all people and all of creation. People of faith should be at the forefront of the change that brings about a clean energy economy, that ensures stable access to food and water for everyone, and that protects creatures and sacred spaces.

Global Ministries is launching a creation care program to equip United Methodists to participate in the church’s work of healing creation. We are evaluating our ministries and looking for more ways to integrate sustainable practices into our projects around the world. Our EarthKeepers program is training leaders to launch projects in their communities that promote sustainability both locally and systemically. Our Mission Theology unit is discerning how our understanding of God’s vision for love and redemption for all people and all of creation should inform our response to the environmental crisis unfolding in our midst. And we are working in conversation with other United Methodist agencies like our General Board of Church and Society (a partner of Blessed Tomorrow), whose leaders advocate for economic and environmental justice.

Our faith story begins with God’s affirmation of the goodness of creation. When the first humans consumed beyond the boundaries God set for them, they triggered consequences for everyone, but particularly for those living close to the land and for women. These same people are the ones who are most vulnerable to the consequences of the ways in which we violate God’s creation today. Leviticus 25:23 tells us that all land belongs to God and reminds us that we only live here for a little while. We must use our time here to participate in the healing of creation as we serve God and care for one another.

Rev. Jenny Phillips is Creation Care Program Manager at the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of August 4-11

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Five Reasons to Screen Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Sequel’ with Your Congregation

It’s been ten years since Al Gore first told the world the “Inconvenient Truth,” about what’s happening to God’s Earth. People of faith took note of the issue and over the years, aided in spreading the inconvenient reality. Even with many people of faith supporting climate initiatives and helping to raise awareness, climate change continues to make its mark on the planet. This is why Al Gore saw fit to create “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” Continue reading on the Blessed Tomorrow blog.

Climate Change Has Become a Question of Faith, How?

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe considers climate science to be an “alternate religion” that, just like other faiths, has “false prophets and true believers.” Read more from the Christian Science Monitor.

Climate Change Dubbed the Most Important Issue of Today

An essay question asked young writers, what is the most important issue of your generation? One smart young person said: climate change. Read her essay in The Nation.

Amazon Becomes a Partner of the Environmental Business Council

Managing the climate issue requires participation from all sectors. The Environmental Business Council knows what it takes and pulls large corporations together in partnership for climate progress. Their newest member is Amazon. Read the press release.

Let’s Lead on Climate: Higher Education Success Story, California State University, Northridge

Loyola University Chicago is a campus committed to addressing climate change and making climate impacts on natural and social systems a key aspect of social justice teaching. In the past year— as part of a series of events around Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’ —, Loyola released the university’s climate action plan, A Just Future, with a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. As Chicago’s Jesuit, Catholic university, Loyola is addressing the risks associated with climate through three main areas of focus: campus, curriculum, and community engagement. Continue reading on the ecoAmerica blog.

Five Reasons To Screen Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Sequel’ With Your Congregation

It’s been ten years since Al Gore first told the world the “Inconvenient Truth,” about what’s happening to God’s Earth. People of faith took note of the issue and over the years, aided in spreading the inconvenient reality. Even with many people of faith supporting climate initiatives and helping to raise awareness, climate change continues to make its mark on the planet. This is why Al Gore saw fit to create “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

Here are five reasons your congregation should screen Al Gore’s new film together.

It Tells the Truth

Truth is an important concept in all three monotheistic faiths and also in other belief systems. In the Holy Bible and the Tanakh, truth is referred to as a source of light – to guide one’s path to righteousness. In the Holy Quran, truth is where a person’s duty lies. As changing climate patterns continue to impact the world, it is important that the truth rings loudly throughout the land.

-O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and be with the truthful. Holy Quran 9:119

It is More Convenient Than it is Not

Even though God gives second chances and sends signs along the way, when it comes to action – timing is everything. Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” comes just after President Trump pulled away from the Paris Climate Agreement. This decision has left the country with no clear climate policy to keep American companies and citizens from inflicting further harm to God’s creation.

It Can Give Faith to Those Who Doubt

Since climate change was first introduced as a threat to the world, some people of faith have been skeptical. Sometimes convincing people is a matter of introducing the truth in a more direct way. In a recent faith conference, Al Gore stated that conviction is a powerful tool for convincing those who doubt climate change.

“The way to convert deniers is to convict them.” – Al Gore

It Can Awaken One’s Call to Lead

Being a climate leader is much like being a faith leader. It’s something a person is called to do based on his or her commitment to a truth or to a cause. Visuals of climate impacts could steer people toward a new found leadership.

“People are waking up to the reality of this crisis and starting to respond in greater numbers.” – Al Gore

It Will Invite Fellowship

Fellowshiping is a basic part of human nature and a core activity for people of faith. There is strength in numbers and more people are needed to create solutions to climate change.

Al Gore’s film, “Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” is now playing in theaters throughout the United States.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of July 28 – Aug 4

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

A Small-Town Church Keeps 386 Tons of CO2 from Polluting the Air

In Candler, NC, Piney Mountain United Methodist Church is a small congregation with big aspirations for climate solutions. With the help of grant money and true dedication to creation care, this church saved North Carolinians from breathing over 380 tons of carbon dioxide. Read the article.

Religious Communities Advocate for Rainforest Conservation to Help Climate

Rainforests are believed to be a natural carbon trapper. For this reason, faith organizations in all areas of the country are working to see how access to rainforests correlates with environmental justice. Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute has the story.

Have Faith Leaders become Better Climate Advocates in the Trump Era?

Since President Donald Trump exited the Paris Climate Agreement, local governments, NGO and faith communities have been inspired to step up to the plate. How far does their environmentalism go? Read this article from The Economist.

ecoAmerica Launches Local Climate Engagement Programs with Two New Partners

Teaming up with National League of Cities and Local Government Commission – ecoAmerica’s Path to Positive Communities program aims to tackle climate change at the local government level. Read more here.

A New Survey Names Climate Change as One of the Leading National Security Concerns

Pew Research worked with over 40,000 respondents in 38 countries to understand people’s views on climate change. They discovered that people are just as fearful of the impacts of climate change as they are of ISIS. In some areas, like Canada and Latin America, climate change is the number one threat to security. Read more from Pew.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of July 21 – 28

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

ecoAmerica Stories

Al Gore Invite Faith Leader to Openly Discuss the ‘Inconvenient’ Reality of Climate Change

With no definite stance from the President of the United States, one leader we can be sure of is, Al Gore. Recently, during the National Faith and Community Leaders Conference Call, Al Gore called upon hundreds of faith leaders to influence the politics of climate change by putting politics aside.

Top Stories

Is Climate Change Still a Bipartisan Issue? | TIME Magazine

The politics of climate change as ever-changing. Although climate change used to be a bipartisan issue, it no longer is, and there is a reason why.

Water Quality Will Be Affected by Climate Change | The Verge

The new temperatures of the ocean making algae more abundant and therefore increasing the number of toxins in the water.

The Vatican on Climate Change – Again

For the third time in under three months, the Vatican calls for moral influence to lead climate change action.

Other Stories

Muslim Views on Climate Change is Changing | FiveThirtyEight

Gov. Brown of California Signs Air Pollution Legislation but Questions Remain | Los Angeles Times

Pennsylvania Pipeline Construction Due to Malfunctions | Bay Journal

Al Gore Invites Faith Leaders to Openly Discuss the ‘Inconvenient’ Reality of Climate Change

Climate change is one the most relevant political arguments in today’s landscape. As a political topic, climate change is now so complex that it is being considered a threat to national security. With America’s uncertain climate policy during a time when there is such a need for one, a question about which of America’s leaders are the most dedicated to securing our future arises.

With no definite stance from the President of the United States, one leader we can be sure of is, Al Gore. Recently, during the National Faith and Community Leaders Conference Call, Al Gore called upon hundreds of faith leaders to influence the politics of climate change by putting politics aside.

Al Gore Speaks With Faith Leaders

There is one thing all of the most controversial political issues in history have in common. This, according to Al Gore is support from people of faith who regard issues, like climate change, not as a matter for government adjudication, but a principled concern that all Americans should care about.

“Historically, when issues are looked upon as moral, they are solved quicker.” -Al Gore

This same inspiration for mobilization fueled the Civil Rights Movement, said Gore. Now, the country needs a climate objective. With over 200 million people who believe in God, it is likely that many of them faithfully follow a religious doctrine. They are believers, and believers act on matters that touch their hearts and perturb them in such way that they find it difficult to ignore. This can be true, even for people of faith who do not believe that climate change exists.

The way to convert deniers is to convict them.

Convicting interfaith believers is a job for faith leaders and requires one important action; telling the truth about climate change.

Faith Leaders Take Their Positions

Just as former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary title indicates, the truth about climate change is ‘inconvenient.’ Believing the truth requires a complete change of the lifestyle that many Americans have become accustomed to and a shift in leadership. But Gore explains that “truth can turn into power.”

The new leaders on climate are faith leaders who understand the truth and are not afraid to spread it. This gives them an advantage that leaders who deny climate change don’t have.

BT leader, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is one of those fearless faith leaders and has developed a plan for mobilizing a congregation and converting climate deniers. He says:

  • Speak truth
  • Speak plain
  • Share stories
  • Speak economics
  • Speak theology

It is through speaking the truth in plain language, sharing stories and mentioning economics with theological rhetoric that has made much of the country aware of climate change.

The Country Follows

Morality is often thought to be the basis of American culture, as the country was founded on the principles of Christianity from Protestants, Puritans, and Catholics. This is why other community leaders have joined the cause to spread the ‘inconvenient truth’ a second time. Is the climate change message reaching the masses?

“People are waking up to the reality of this crisis and starting to respond in greater numbers.”- Al Gore

Across the country, more than three religious councils have created their own climate agendas. They have done this both alone and in partnership with other organizations. This, in turn, has caused members of faith congregations to begin to consider climate action as a service to God.


Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” opens in select theaters on Friday, July 28th.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of July 14 – 21

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Are Documentaries the Best Tool for Convincing Christian Climate Change Deniers? | BuzzFeed

Over the years, American television companies like Discovery Communications have created documentaries on climate change that were strategically geared toward evangelicals. How effective were these films?

One Scientist Biked Across the Country to Spread the Word About Climate Change

David Goodrich traveled for three months, covering over 4,00 miles of U.S. territory with his bicycle. Now, he’s written a book about it.

Whistleblower From the Interior Department Claims He Was Demote for Discussing Climate Change Publically | NPR

Who is  Joel Clement, and what public statements did he make that led the federal government to demote and transfer him?

California Extends Cap-and-Trade Bills for Ten Years

In an effort to continue their work of making low carbon emissions that standard in their state, California extended two bills, AB 398 and AB 617.

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Jason Craig | Climate for Health

Climate for Health’s ‘climate champion’ of the month is Jason Craig, a Ph.D. student and Research Assistant at the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Read more.

God’s EcoSystem: Everything is Connected | Blessed Tomorrow

The ecosystem is a holier design than we know. God created us to remain in connection to each other and to the other living things that inhabit the Earth. It is grander than what decades of environmental research have uncovered. Continue reading

God’s Ecosystem: Everything is Connected

The ecosystem is a holier design than we know. God created us to remain in connection to each other and to the other living things that inhabit the Earth. It is grander than what decades of environmental research have uncovered. The ecosystem serves as a worldly reminder that the maintenance of Earthly balance helps God’s people to thrive and evolve. When we commit offenses against the planet, our connection weakens.

Our Actions Impact the Ecosystem

In the beginning, God created a wonderful universe and in it a planet we call Earth. After creating humans and instructing them to care for the planet (Genesis 2:15), God had, even more, instruction for his people.

All actions are part of a sequence which ultimately leads to outcomes. For this reason, God commands us to be cautious in what we do (Deuteronomy 32:29). With caution, we are also instructed to plan ahead (2 Corinthians 12:14) – this will guide us as we fulfill another important word from God; an instruction to care for the world around us (Proverbs 12:10).

Despite evidence that climate change is a human creation, many places throughout the world have yet to limit their carbon emissions and make use of renewable energy. This shows a disregard not only for the planet but also for ourselves.

Today, we see evidence that our actions upon the Earth have caused harm. In God’s ecosystem, the Earth and its inhabitants are all related – so now the Earth’s reaction to harm (climate change) is harming God’s people.

Truly God will not change the condition of a people until they change the condition of their own souls. -Al-Ra’d 13:11

The Ecosystem Impacts Us

In the Christian and Jewish texts, God describes humans as creations of the Earth. This indicates a natural cycle of life that we have little control over. What humans can control, however, is how we interfere with nature.

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:19

In life’s natural cycle, the chemicals in the air are absorbed by plant-life which are the food source for humans and other creatures. But when chemicals in the air are too harsh, both the air and the food are unsafe for living beings.

The laws and instructions laid out by God are for our spiritual and physical well-being. He tells us so in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 10, verse 13. And if we follow those laws, allowing his ecosystem to go through its natural course, both the Earth and all who call it home will flourish.


Learn more about our obligation as people of faith to care for God’s creation and what issues we must overcome to ensure the safety of the Earth and our future as inhabitants.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of July 7 – July 14

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Beyond the Pulpit: Initiating Community-Based Advocacy

Did you know that beyond the walls of your place of prayer and worship, lives citizens who are uninformed about climate change? This article explains the effectiveness of community-based climate advocacy.

United Church Declares a New Moral Era

It was a big ask: to “resist all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and demand new sources of renewable energy that are accessible to all communities” and to write a new story for America – “a story that is not dependent on fossil fuel or on wealth for the few and misery for the many.” Continue reading.

Interview: The Aga Khan Discusses Climate Change in the Developing World

Climate change impacts poor and developing communities more than any other. For this reason, His Highness, the Aga Khan has climate on the top of his list.

How to Plant a Tree in the Desert |The New Yorker

Now that the United States has exited the Paris Climate Agreement, being a country of awareness and action will be challenging. Here is how the country can still lead on climate.

Cali. Gov. Jerry Brown Pushes a New Climate Change Deal

The state of California plans to address climate change despite the president’s decision to sit out on global climate solutions.

Beyond the Pulpit: Initiating Community-Based Advocacy

Many faith leaders have stood before congregations who are knowledgeable about the changing environment and how human behavior impacts it. This may be partly thanks to the creation care rhetoric that you feed to your congregation.

But did you know that beyond the walls of your place of prayer and worship, lives citizens who are uninformed? In fact, 87 percent have no knowledge of the evidence which supports the idea that humans have caused climate change. The way to reverse the perceptions of most citizens is to discuss creation care beyond the pulpit.

What is Community-Based Advocacy

Community-based advocacy means building on the priorities, awareness, and abilities of local people. Most communities desire to flourish, are aware of the issues that hinder their progress and are full of talented people who can instigate change. As a faith leader – enlightening the community is accomplished by first starting a dialogue. Then, you can influence the community to take action. 

How Do I Start the Dialogue?

There are many ways to start a dialogue on climate change and advocacy. One effective way to start the conversation is to simply to be present in the community. Other ways include:

  • Hosting community events
  • Speaking at community events
  • Engaging with other community leaders
  • Partnering with other congregations for a bigger impact

Starting a dialogue within the community informs citizens and allows the community to inform its leaders. Faith leaders particularly can benefit from understanding what issues the community faces that could interfere with their ability to aim for climate solutions. Dialogue promotes inclusiveness and teamwork. It is the innovator for community-based action.

How Do I Lead the Community to Action?

Action is a direct outcome of sound community-based advocacy. A community that knows about climate change and is affected by the impacts and cares about the issue – will aspire to do something about it.

Some community members may be hesitant. This can be due to lack of belief in climate change or doubt that it affects their community. There are a few ways in which you can influence those hesitant community members.

Lead by example. Just as you walk firmly in your faith each day, you must be dedicated to creation care. Showing how your congregation has contributed to climate solutions may inspire members of the community to follow in your footsteps.

Do your research. Some people in the community do not follow a faith and may need a different form of evidence to support your claim that climate change is a substantial issue. In this case, providing statistics and literature on the subject could help them to understand and want to get involved.

Prepare for criticism. As a faith leader, you know that some people will question your beliefs and even dismiss them altogether. Starting a dialogue about climate change is no different. Prepare yourself for the community members that will dismiss your information.

Once you venture beyond the pulpit and embed yourself into the community to engage with them and share your knowledge, you are a climate advocate. By getting the community to align their beliefs and aspirations with yours, they become climate advocates too.


Nichole Tucker earned a Master’s degree in Media & International Conflict from University College Dublin to help improve global issues, like climate change. Prior to joining Blessed Tomorrow, Nichole worked with the advocacy team at World Vision International. 

United Church of Christ Declares a New Moral Era

The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal leads the 360 UCC churches in Massachusetts and is a national spokesperson on climate change for the UCC.  He is a member of the Blessed Tomorrow Advisory Council. The day after President Trump pulled out from the Paris Climate Accord Antal wrote an Emergency Resolution that came before the national Synod of the UCC a month later.  Click here for the Boston Globe article on the UCC Emergency resolution on climate change.  

It was a big claim: “Imperatives for a New Moral Era.”

It was a big ask: to “resist all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and demand new sources of renewable energy that are accessible to all communities” and to write a new story for America – “a story that is not dependent on fossil fuel or on wealth for the few and misery for the many.”

It demands that the church itself “bear witness.” Unlike so many resolutions passed at Church gatherings, instead of criticizing the injustice of others, this resolution is directed to the church and its members, asking them to “prayerfully engage” three imperatives by taking action.

Nevertheless, on July 3, 2017, the national Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) voted not only to declare a new moral era but to name the current climate crisis as “an opportunity for which the church was born.”

The 700 delegates were voting on an Emergency Resolution responding to President Trump’s announcement on June 1, 2017, that the US would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. In less than a month, the resolution had been endorsed by almost half of the regional Conferences of the UCC, so it was not surprising that it passed the national gathering by 97%.

However, many will be surprised by the three moral imperatives named in the resolution.

Urging clergy to preach on climate change is the first moral imperative. As EcoAmerica has shown in poll after poll, clergymen are regarded by their congregations as trusted messengers, and when they speak out, it matters. God’s creation is in jeopardy. The resolution declares that “those who follow Jesus will not back away from God’s call to protect our common home.” It’s up to clergy to provide moral leadership so that church can be a safe enough place for people to share their deepest fears and hopes and then take action.

The second moral imperative – to “incarnate the changes we long for” – echoes one of Gandhi’s well-known principles: we need to “be the change we long to see.” But it calls for more than personal witness. It recognizes what 292 mayors representing more than 60 million Americans also recognize – that the units of resilience going forward are towns and cities. When tens of thousands of congregations stand with their community leaders, committed to transition to a safe and sustainable future for their children, the Church will re-introduce hope to a world gripped by fear and despair.

In keeping with the decades-long opposition by the UCC to environmental racism, the resolution calls upon congregations and people of faith to undo “the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color, indigenous communities, and poor white communities around the world even as we commit to holding all our religious, political, corporate, and global leaders accountable to do the same.”

The truth is the focus of the third moral imperative – noting that we are now living in a John 18:37 moment. For the UCC, the role of the church in the public square is to provide a bold and courageous witness that fearlessly holds to the truth “we understand from our two Testaments and from the sacred book of nature, recognizing that when the truth is compromised, only power prevails.”  

UCC congregations and members are urged “to resist all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and demand new sources of renewable energy that are accessible to all communities.” How? “In the streets, at the State House, in the halls of power, with our phones, emails, technology and social media by committing our time, financial resources and prayers.”

Altogether, this resolution calls for the church to embrace a new vocation. God’s great gift of creation – the foundation for all life and the context in which the church endeavors to make God’s love and justice real – is in jeopardy. It falls to our generation to make the changes science says we must. To accomplish that, the church (together with the synagogue, mosque, temple, and all people of faith) must hear God’s cry to preserve the planet, and embrace these moral imperatives as “an opportunity for which the church was born.”

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of June 30 – July 7

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens. For questions about our news roundup or to inform us of stories that we should share, please contact us.

Climate Awareness: From the Pulpit to the Community

The pulpit is the epicenter of American support and leadership. What better way to spread climate awareness than by giving a creation care sermon? Read more.

United Church of Christ Releases an Emergency Resolution on Climate Change

The United Church of Christ is “declaring a new moral era.” This is an era in which climate change is no longer being ignored and believers are carrying out their “moral obligation to protect God’s creation.”

Rabbi Steve Gutow Says Trump Must Protect Public Lands

Public lands are meant to be shared with all Americans, but a recent executive order could change that. Here is Rabbi Gutow’s response.

The Case for Funding Climate Initiatives: It Can Save People Around the World

Climate change affects people all around the world. In the Caribbean – the impacts of climate change are clear and one activist calls for U.S. funding to help improve conditions.

What Will President Trump Have to Say About Climate Policy at the 2017 G20 Summit?

At this year’s G20 Summit, Trump will sit with the leaders of countries who have made climate policy a top priority. Many of them are still pledged to the Paris Accord and will expect President Trump to finally outline his plans for dealing with climate change in America. 

 

Climate Awareness: From the Pulpit to the Community

The pulpit is the source of information and guidance for millions of people throughout the United States. In fact, about 189 million inhabitants faithfully follow a religion. With more than half of the population looking to their religious leader for help sorting out the trials of life, why shouldn’t they also be informed about the impacts of climate change and their commission as God’s people, to care for the Earth?

The truth is that there should be nothing in the way of faith leaders admitting the climate change is real, and that it has real consequences. More importantly, this information can be spread most effectively, from the epicenter of American support and leadership – the pulpit.

Know the Creation Care Scriptures

In all religious texts, God provides specific instructions on how to care for the Earth. The leaders of the world often have their environmental strategies – but many do not align with God’s law. Here are a few multi-faith scriptures that you should study.

Ecclesiastes 7:13

“Look at My works. See how beautiful they are, how excellent! For your sake, I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world–for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.”

Psalms 24:1

“The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they the dwell therein.”

Holy Qu’ran 31:20

“He it is who has created for you everything on earth and has made subservient to you whatever is in the heavens and the earth and granted you His bounties, manifest and hidden.”

There is much more in the word God that instructs believers to be stewards of the Earth and its inhabitants. These instructions can be used to write a compelling creation care sermon that will both inform and convict the members of your congregation to take better care of the Earth.

Deliver a Creation Care Sermon

What you say from the pulpit is more likely to resonate with your followers than anything else you tell them. Pulpit speaking resonates because, for believers, the pulpit is the place from which the law is proclaimed, (Nehemiah 8:1-8).

Your pulpit proclamation should be informative and be moving. Here are a few tips for writing a powerful creation care sermon;

  • Help your congregation to understand climate change.
  • Link your sermon to creation care scripture.
  • Connect your sermon to the values of your members.
  • Leave your congregation with hope.

Keep the Creation Care Attitude

Caring for God’s creation is an ongoing job. It requires faith leaders to keep an open mind and also help to open the minds of others.

Your work as a leader doesn’t end with one sermon. Speaking from the pulpit about caring for the environment, as God instructs, should be a continuous practice. Blessed Tomorrow has teamed with Interfaith Power and Light to provide resources just for this purpose. Learn more.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of June 23 – June 30

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Renewable Energy: Faith Leaders Must Encourage More State and Local Governments to Make a Pledge

Everything that humans need to survive on this planet is already here. But certain natural resources are safer for the Earth. During Energy Week at the White House – Blessed Tomorrow is challenging faith leaders to encourage governments to use renewable energy.

Climate Day LA: Partnership is Key To Faith-Driven Climate Solutions

At this year’s Climate Day LA, Blessed Tomorrow leader, Jackie Dupont-Walker sat on a panel of six multi-sector leaders. This article recounts Walker’s powerful statements about inclusiveness and partnership for climate solutions.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry Calls Stakeholders to Roundtable for A Climate Discussion

In a recent press briefing, Energy Secretary Rick Perry reiterated his stance on climate change and made an invitation to Democrats, Republicans and non-partisan climate experts to have a conversation about climate change,

Climate Day LA Recap | Climate Resolve

Co-host of Climate Day LA, Climate Resolve has compiled a Storify version of the social media posts during the event. Did your tweet make the list? Check it out here.

Podcast: Rabbi Katy Allen Talks About the Jewish Climate Action Network

The principles of Judaism inspire its followers to do many charitable and humble acts. It also inspires the care for God’s creation. In this podcast – Rabbi Allen explains how faith drives the leaders and participants of the Jewish Climate Action Network.

Texas-based Eco-theologian Explains Why Baptists Should Embrace the Idea of Creation Care  

Sarah Marcias is an eco-theologian and climate activist. When interviewed by Jeff Brumley, she explains what is needed from the Baptist Christian community in the area of creation care.

 

Renewable Energy: Faith Leaders Must Encourage More State and Local Governments to Make a Pledge

Everything that humans need to survive on this planet is already here. But certain natural resources are safer for the Earth. Some resources burnout and cannot be replenished. Others are sustainable or renewable resources. What if these renewable resources were all that we used? Could we change the course of history?

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.​ 2 Peter 1:3

The answer lies with state and local governments throughout the United States whose recent actions show a desire to change the way we care for the Earth. How will they accomplish this goal and what can faith organizations and leaders do to help?

Committing to a Renewable Energy Solution

Recently, twelve states and 300 cities made a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These governments are working with a two-step process that may help to reverse the effects of climate change. This is their pledge:

  1. Abandon coal as an energy resource
  2. Use only renewable energy resources

President Donald Trump is advocating for the use of coal as a prominent resource in the country. Coal is a natural resource but it is one the emits high levels of carbon dioxide. Carbon emission is one of the accelerants of climate change.

The state and local governments pledging to use renewable energy prefer resources like wind energy, solar energy, biomass energy, geothermal energy and hydropower energy.

A commitment to renewable energy from 312 cities and states is a great step forward. Still, it is important to recognize that these state and local governments make up a tiny percentage of the nation. To truly protect the planet from further harm and reverse the effects of climate change, more cities and states must join in. Normally, federal regulation would be helpful but due to recent federal climate action – the next phase of climate action is up to us.

It’s Up To Us

Now that we know what sectors are not on board it’s time to take charge of our future. We all have a duty to care for the Earth. How do we get started? There are three things that faith leaders must do.

  • Teach
  • Advocate
  • Influence

Teaching may come easy to a Rabbi, Reverend, Minister, Imam, or Priest, but with climate, teaching has to be careful and precise. By gathering data that supports the idea of climate change and matching it with the holy words left to God’s people, congregations will come to understand what is happening to the planet and that they play a role in it.

Advocacy is a more convoluted activity. It requires people of faith to be caring stewards of the Earth and its people. When teaching about climate change, it is essential to mention the millions of people around the world who suffer because of it. If we don’t speak for them, who will?

Influence is not just leading by example, especially with climate solutions. After all, God considers faith leaders to be earthly shepherds – guiding all who follow. This includes the rulers of the land. Sometimes the government needs an incentive to act or a cause to act on. It’s up to us to give them one.


The week of June 26th through June 30th is Energy Week in the White House. Are you up to date on how our nation’s leaders are handling climate issues? Stay informed by following us on Twitter.

Climate Day LA: Partnership Is The Key To Faith-Driven Climate Solutions

Just as faith leadership is ineffective without followers, advocacy is ineffective without partners. It takes people from different sectors to get the results that are needed for climate solutions. This is one of the reasons why Climate Resolve, ecoAmerica, FORM, KCRW and IHEARTCOMIX hosted Climate Day LA on June 27th. This article highlights the statements of Blessed Tomorrow leader, Jackie Dupont-Walker during the Climate Day LA event.

Jackie Dupont-Walker | First African Methodist Church

In a theatre filled with eager organization leaders, government leaders, activists and other participants, Jackie Dupont-Walker sat on a panel of speakers in the early afternoon. Her main comments were focused on the legitimacy of climate change itself. The challenge, according to Walker, is convincing faith communities who still hold on to doubt.

Climate change ties to almost every ill we have in our society.

The truth is that climate change is real. Climate affects our environment, health and our spiritual well-being. So, as we seek out solutions to the climate issue, we should do so with a strategy in mind. For getting things done – there is no stronger tool than partnership!

There are certain characteristics we should look for in both individual partners and partner organizations to ensure the success of our cause.

“It is important to partner with people who have a wealth of knowledge and time to address climate.” – Jackie Dupont-Walker

Partnership is not a new concept to climate leaders but may be new to faith leaders. Most of the time, change is good. Therefore, faith leaders can be comfortable consorting with leaders from other faiths, government leaders and others who wish to help us care for God’s divine creation. In the words of Jackie Dupont-Walker at Climate Day LA, we have to be “inclusive,” when discussing climate change and as we work toward climate solutions.


Join Us

Hundreds of Los Angeles leaders in faith, government and the private sector have come together to help the cause. It isn’t too late to join us. Click here to get started.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of June 16 – 23

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

6 Ways To Reduce the Carbon Footprint In Your Place of Worship

Many congregations use more energy than is needed to heat, cool, and light their place of worship. This is true for the light bulbs we use, the windows and doors we build into our structures, and the type of heating systems we install. Here are six ways to reduce the amount of carbon your congregation emits.

Rising Temperatures Threaten the Lives of God’s People

As the temperature of the Earth increases – heat waves are becoming more prevalent. Researchers are now studying the number of human deaths related to heat waves.

Bishop Allwyn D’Silva Shares His Thoughts On How Christians Should Respond To President Trump’s Climate Stance

While the world continues to respond to President Trump’s decision to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Bishop Allwyn D’Silva of Bombay shares his ideas.

Get to Know a Climate Champion: Tanjila Taskin

Climate change affects our health in addition to other aspects of our lives and our world. Climate champion, Tanjila Taskin is one of the many Muslim leaders working toward solutions by studying the connection between climate change and human health.

Katharine Hayhoe: The Evangelical Scientist

Kirstie McCrum of the NewStatesman writes a feature about climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe and the faith that drives her work.

 

6 Ways To Reduce The Carbon Footprint In Your Place of Worship

Many of the things humans do, accumulate, or discard emit carbon. By definition, a carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouses gases, particularly carbon dioxide, that is emitted into the atmosphere. Carbon emissions come by way of transportation, manufacturing, landfills, and more – but much of our human carbon footprint can be decreased or even eliminated altogether. Here are 6 ways for your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple to offset its carbon footprint.

1 Give Your Building an Energy Upgrade

Many congregations use more energy than is needed to heat, cool, and light their place of worship. This is true for the light bulbs we use, the windows and doors we build into our structures, and the type of heating systems we install. It may or may not be economical for your building to go completely “green,” but you may be able to make the following upgrades:

  • Switch to LED light bulbs.
  • Get regular maintenance checkups on your heating system.
  • Add sufficient insulation to your doors, walls, and windows.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Purchase energy-efficient appliances.
  • Consider installing solar panels or, if available, joining your local community solar program

Doing these few things will set you on the right path to offsetting your congregation’s carbon footprint. But, remember, even after you do an energy upgrade, it’s still important to conserve energy as much as possible.

2 Conserve Energy in Your Building

Is your congregation using too much energy? It may not be easy or even possible to track what every member of your congregation is doing, what forms of energy they are using, or for how long. But as a faith leader, you can lead by example.

First, make it a habit! Every evening before closing the doors to your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, check that everything is powered down and unplugged. Electric currents run through wires even when things are not powered off, so taking this step will save energy and lower the costs of your monthly bills.

Next, be sure that blinds and curtains are shut. Doing this every evening will help to maintain the temperature in the building. The more your building’s temperature is regulated, the less you will have to turn on the heat or air conditioner.

3 Reduce the Amount of Water Your Congregation Uses

Most buildings of worship have bathrooms, kitchens, fountains, and water dispensers. These are all needed to accommodate the people of faith who enter your doors daily to pray, worship and fellowship. But, like all resources, the use of water can be limited in a way that it still meets the needs of your congregation but doesn’t harm the environment.

Washing – Depending on the faith your congregation follows, you may have altar cloths, baptismal robes, towels, muslins, carpets and other linens needed for your holy rituals. For most religions, keeping these ritualistic aids clean is a part of your service to God. Water is necessary, but should not be overused.

Try washing some things in cold water rather than hot.  According to recent research, cold water cleans just as well as hot water. This limits the amount of energy you use when washing. Then, hang-dry these items outdoors.

Drinking – God made water to quench our thirst, and access to it is a basic human right – but it is a finite resource. So why not have your congregation retrieve their water in a way that is best for the planet?

A good way to make sure you’re caring for creation is to use water fountains rather than water coolers. Water fountains typically use less energy, while water coolers are said to use over $80 per year of electricity.

Cooking – Fellowship is a vital part of our religious lives. This is why many places of worship have kitchens or dining halls. When preparing food, there are ways to limit the use of water while still being sanitary. Here are a few ways:

  • Turn off the faucet when no one is using it.
  • Boil cold water rather than running hot water.
  • Scrub fruits and vegetables in a large tub of water.

4  Teach Your Congregation To Recycle Properly

Recycling keeps natural substances from being mixed with man-made substances that are harmful to the environment. It also limits pollution to the Earth by reducing the amount of trash in our landfills and the need to manufacture as many goods. Many buildings of worship do not recycle – mainly because many do not know how. The first concept that you should remember is the three R’s.

Reduce – Limit the amount of waste your congregation produces.

Reuse – Use certain items more than once before discarding.

Recycle – Sort and discard items according to their properties (paper, glass, compost, etc.)

Finally, be sure you have waste cans that are properly labeled, and place them in as many areas of your building as possible.

5 Plant a Garden By Your Building

The more natural and clean air that we have on the Earth, the better. This is one thing that gardens do for our planet – but planting a garden beside your building of worship can serve your congregation in more ways than one. For example:

  • Having a vegetable garden can feed your congregation or surrounding community.
  • A garden can serve as a place of prayer and healing.
  • Gardens help provide homes, food, and protection for God’s creatures.

6 Reach Out to Your Surrounding Community

If your congregation has done its best to reduce its carbon footprint and help the environment, you are caring for God’s creation. But as people of faith, we must remember our duty to help others – this includes helping them to honor the planet as well.

Reach out the community that your building of worship is in. Talk to individuals and members of local government about reducing their carbon footprints as well, and instituting policies such as efficient public transit or community solar programs that make it easier for locals do their part.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of June 9 – 16

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

 

God’s Earth Impacted by Climate Change

God provided specific instructions on how to care for the land, the animals, and ourselves. It is through creation care, stewardship, and consistent action that we can shape a more environmentally sound future for ourselves and the planet.

Citizens Climate Lobby Conference 2017: A Climate Warrior’s Love Letter

The 2017 Citizens Climate Lobby Conference was held in the nation’s capital from June 11th to June 13th. There, many faith organizations, sector leaders, and government stakeholders gathered to discuss climate change and strategize climate solutions. Following the first day of the conference, Davia Rivka shared her CCL Conference experience.

Some Christians Are On-Board with Trump’s Paris Accord Withdrawal, Brian Kaylor Acknowledges Those Who Are Not

As a former attendee of the 2015 Paris climate talks, Associate Director, Brian Kaylor of Churchnet, recognizes the many Christians who advocate for climate solutions.

These believers are from all around the world but mostly hail from countries directly affected by climate change. In this article, Kaylor recounts his interactions with these creation care leaders.

Catholic Theologians Host a Q&A to Discuss the Paris Decision and Creation Care

Adding to the long list of faith organizations who have spoken out against President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord, multiple Catholic theological organizations held a Q&A session at the annual meeting of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

What Role Must Followers of Judaism Take in Caring for the Earth, According to the Torah?

Preservation and care for the Earth is a requirement for followers of Judaism. In the Book of Bereishit (Genesis), God instructs Adam to do just that in the garden of Eden and beyond. What can rabbis, and other Jewish community leaders do to help the planet?

 

 

God’s Earth Impacted by Climate Change

Our Earth is a wondrous place, but it has been deeply affected by our actions as humans. Now, it is our responsibility to restore its beauty and strength. But to really help the Earth recover, we must all understand how our climate is being damaged, and what we can do about it.

Many different issues are impacting this planet and affecting the quality of our air, food and our very lives. Climate change is directly related to many occurrences that we so often overlook.

Some Effects of Climate Change

Temperature Rising

Depending on your age, you may have noticed that your autumns and winters are much warmer than they used to be. This is because the Earth is warming. What you may not have realized is that this rise in temperature is causing other problems like droughts, heat waves, melting of arctic regions, insect outbreaks, and wildfires.

Heavier Precipitation

Rainy days look a lot different than they did in the 1900s as a result of climate change.

This shift in precipitation has become widespread, causing other forms of climate-related damage, like floods, severe rainstorms, and even earthquakes. Although rain also gives life to and revives the Earth, too much of it is harmful and leads to even more detrimental occurrences, like natural disasters.

Natural Disasters

Since the early 1980s, natural disasters have significantly increased due to climate change. From floods to tropical storms, climate change has created unnatural nature patterns that distress the Earth. Certain states are more affected, but as a nation, we have all contributed to the greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change.

Just as these issues could have been prevented, to begin with, there are things we can do to ensure that it doesn’t continue.

Making a Blessed Impact

Many leaders in faith are already working towards climate solutions. All faith traditions are called to protect the Earth and help it to flourish. For Christians particularly, three principles are compelling them.

Creation Care

According to the Book of Genesis, God created humans specifically to care for his first creation, Earth. This is what drives many Christians to defend the planet and influence others to do the same.

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it. –Genesis 2:15

Creation care is a general principle, but when paired with stewardship and action, Christians can really make a difference on climate change.

Stewardship

Caring for creation is one thing, but stewardship is about making sure that everyone else is caring for God’s creation as well. God has entrusted all of creation to our care – not just the land and animals, but also God’s people. Since climate change has the greatest impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities, advocating for climate solutions is a form of stewardship.

In the Bible, stewardship is a principle that consists of four components; ownership, responsibility, accountability, and reward. This means that because humans are the owners of the Earth, we are responsible for its well-being, accountable for its inhabitants, and will be rewarded for our dedication to this calling.

Action

One of the Bible principles most abundantly present throughout the holy text is the principle of taking action. Prayer is important, but according to God’s word, praying must be followed by doing. Consider these three scriptures:

  • “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17
  • “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22
  • “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4    

Creation care and stewardship over God’s creation are essential, but without action, the feelings and ideas that arose in times of trouble will perish, along with the Earth. All Christians have the opportunity to stop this and help build a better future.

Shaping a Blessed Tomorrow

God provided specific instructions on how to care for the land, the animals, and ourselves. It is through creation care, stewardship, and consistent action that we can shape a more environmentally sound future for ourselves and the planet.

Climate change represents a lack of attention to God’s instructions. But God is known for his forgiveness, and we still have a chance to be redeemed and thusly, redeem the Earth.

Faith and Climate News: June 2-June 9

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

Paris Accord: These Churches Want the U.S. Back on Track with Climate Solutions

The long-awaited decision from President Donald Trump on the Climate Change Paris Accord was one that many climate leaders do not approve of. In the faith community, a similar response arose, but rather than simply opposing Trump’s choice, these organizations are urging him to reconsider. 

Faith in Action: Kentucky’s Midway Christian Church takes the Green Chalice vow to Care for the Planet

In this video, Rev. Heather McColl, pastor of Midway Christian Church talks about the changes she’s made in her church which help to reduce Midway, KY’s impact on climate change.

The Vatican Invites Muslim to Join Them in “Safeguarding Creation”

Muslims and Christians share many common values. One of them is the obligation to care for the Earth. As the Catholic Church begins to reshape their climate change work to include new solutions that will replace the Paris Agreement – the Vatican extended an invitation for Muslims to do the same.

This Rabbi Has a Few Words for President Donald Trump About the Paris Exit

Rabbi Howard Goldsmith, just like other Jewish faithfuls, just ended his Shavuot celebration. But the commemoration was disrupted by the news of President Trump officially stating his decision to leave the Paris Climate Change Agreement. This decision, according to Goldsmith was in conflict with the purpose of the cherished Shavuot holiday.

Rev. Penny Greer Wants to Do Something about the Strange, New Weather Patterns in Nebraska

In the city of Lincoln, the rains come often. Rev. Penny Greer of Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light consulted with climate scientists to understand the changing weather and wants Nebraska to handle climate change on the state level.

Midday Podcast: An Interview with Three Faith-Driven Environmental Leaders

Bringing together leaders from the Abrahamic religions, Midday host, Tom Hall speaks with Rabbi Nina Beth, Jodi Rose and Emmalee June Aman about environmentalism and climate advocacy.

The Backstory Podcast: Katharine Hayhoe and Steven Amstrup Talk Polar Bears and Climate Change

Climate change is an important subject, but it doesn’t always take heavy statistics and science to start a conversation about it. Hayhoe and Amstrup teach us that Polar Bears are an example of what is to come if America doesn’t get serious about climate change.

 

Paris Accord: These Churches Want the U.S. Back on Track with Climate Solutions

The long-awaited decision from President Donald Trump on the Climate Change Paris Accord was one that many climate leaders do not approve of. In the faith community, a similar response arose, but rather than simply opposing Trump’s choice, these organizations are urging him to reconsider.

African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church

Social Action Commission Director Jackie Dupont-Walker considers the Paris Accord to be America’s “seat at the table,” in relation to climate change. Without it, she believes that people in America’s most vulnerable communities and beyond our borders in Africa and the Caribbean will be left out.

However, with a seat at the table, the opportunities that the United States will have to make a difference on climate issues are plenty. Still, Dupont-Walker highlighted key actions that the United States should strive for. These ambitions include;

  • community-drive emissions cuts
  • leaving fossil fuels in the ground
  • environmental human rights policies
  • no fracking
  • no “clean” coal

The only way to ensure these climate goals are met is for America, as a dedicated United Nations member state, to remain active in climate solutions globally. This is not only the belief of Jackie Dupont-Walker but fellow AME signatories Bishop John F. White, Bishop McKinley Young, Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, and Bishop Frank M. Reid III.

The AME Church is not the only church or faith organization in the support of the Paris Accord; joining their plea is the United Church of Christ (UCC), the Catholic Church and Catholic community.

 United Church of Christ

Climate solutions are a part of caring for the creation: this is a key belief of the United Church of Christ. Having this view, UCC has stated:

President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Climate Accord violates the values and vision that are basic to Christian faith.

Aside from the church’s disappointment about the Paris Accord decision, they have already begun to put new solutions in place to make up for what the federal government will not do for the climate.

  • Take on moral leadership– As one of the world’s biggest stakeholders, the U.S. President is opting out of work on climate change; thus, shepherds of God must lead from the pulpit.
  • Make a change– Pulpit leadership doesn’t stay in the pulpit. The congregation will leave the doors of the church and pass their wisdom to the rest of the community.
  • Speak out to the public– Although faith leaders will lead their congregants, that should not stop them from reaching out to state and local government officials about the importance of climate solutions in their community.

Similar to the AME Church, UCC wants to end fossil fuel extraction from the ground and desires accessible renewable resources for all.

Catholic Church

The Catholic Church was troubled upon learning that the United States has reversed its climate change pact commitment. Mentioning the values of the Catholic Church and how the Paris Accord upholds many of them, the Vatican released a statement, then regional Catholic leaders like Bishop Oscar Cantu were inspired to speak out.

Unlike many other organizations, the bishop is not asking President Trump to re-enter the Paris Accord, but he does urge Trump not to back away from climate progress. Cantu begins by reminding everyone of what’s at stake if the U.S. gets off track on climate change. Here’s what he had to say:

“President Trump’s decision will harm the people of the United States and the world, especially the poorest, most vulnerable communities.”

The Paris Accord is not the only way that America can contribute to climate solutions, as Bishop Cantu suggests. In order to still have a positive impact, the President must act on the following climate promises that he made to the country;

  • “create a level playing field”
  • “establish the highest standard of living”
  • “establish the highest standard of environmental care.”

Joining Bishop Cantu, these other Catholic organizations have also made statements about America’s exit from the Paris Accord:

  • Adrian Dominican Sisters
  • Global Concerns
  • Catholic Democrats
  • Global Catholic Climate Movement
  • Franciscan Action Network
  • Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Blessed Tomorrow

As an organization designed to support and empower climate leadership, Blessed Tomorrow applauds the statements of the AME Church, UCC, the Catholic Church, and other faith organizations who were against U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord.

 

Faith and Climate News: May 26-June 2

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. This roundup highlights achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from and for people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

We’ll also let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch the news as it happens.

The California Episcopal Diocese Hosts ‘Eco-Confirmation;’ a Conversation on Eco-justice

Responding to a time in which the nation’s key stakeholders are putting climate change on the back burner, Bishop Michael Curry led with a sermon about how God works through religious leaders and their followers to help keep the planet safe.

Faith Organizations Sign Up to Divest From Fossil Fuels

Bringing together leading organizations from all sectors, Fossil Free has commitments from faith organizations, who make up 23% of the overall group.

Kermit Hovey, MDiv, Gives Advice on Continuing the Conversation About Climate Change

After major mobilization events like the People’s Climate March, Kermit Hovey believes that the conversation must go on. He expresses his views in a recent article.

ecoAmerica and Partners to Host ‘Climate Day LA’

In celebration of successful climate solutions in the Los Angeles region, ecoAmerica is partnering with Climate Resolve, KCRW, FORM, iHC, and Ace Hotel to convene local leaders for a day-long discussion.

Jewish Leaders Are Concerned About U.S. Withdraw From the Paris Climate Accord

After postponing climate meetings several times, President Donald Trump has made a decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. Jewish leaders have shown concerned, stating that this decision puts the environment and the U.S. population in jeopardy. 

 

Evangelical Millennials Are Leading in Climate Change Advocacy

Historically, evangelicals in America tended to land on the conservative side of social issues. Millennials are taking a different view. Recognizing that something is happening to the plant life and other living creatures that share the Earth with humans, millennials, specifically evangelical millennials, are aiming for a society where the needs of both the people and the planet are met.

“It now appears that evangelicals, especially millennial evangelicals, are starting to rebuff the advances of the climate-denial machine and to absorb climate action as an aspect of their faith – which compels them, after all, to be good stewards of God’s creation.” – Jeff Turrentine, Natural Resource Defense Council, OnEarth

Young Believers at the Forefront

A recent Pew Research study found that younger millennials as a body generally believe that the Earth is warming and that climate change is a man-made issue.

These young people are between the ages of 18 and 29; however, most adults under the age of 50 consider climate change to be a problem as well.

Evangelical millennials take the issue a bit more personally than older evangelicals, believing that man-made damage to God’s Earth should not occur, and showing up in great numbers to climate action events like the People’s Climate March.

There, two leading members of Youth Evangelicals for Climate Action (Y.EC.A) spoke to the purpose of such a grand presence at climate-related events and the importance of taking their advocacy a step further: bringing important matters like climate change to the attention of Congress.

It’s critical that the evangelical church have a presence at these major cultural moments…It’s important that Members of Congress know that there are young evangelicals who care about climate action.

Since the march, Y.E.C.A has continued to lobby on behalf of climate action. They are but one of many millennial-led organizations that are playing their part. Other groups include:

Millennials are supported by the many diverse organizations that are currently working toward climate solutions. Millennial leadership, however, stands in the forefront and is currently driving the climate change landscape. Reportedly, 55% of Millennials believe that climate change is caused by human action against the Earth. This includes power plants and other industrial atmospheres, as well as emissions from automobiles.

Millennials are not shy about putting their beliefs about climate change into advocacy and action. Based on United States voter data, 80% of Millennials who voted decidedly chose candidates who were in favor of transitioning to clean, renewable energy in the next 15 years.

Millennials are the “who” when it comes to leading on climate action. But understanding what drives this generation, specifically, to protect the environment, we must look more closely at the “what.”

Why Evangelicals, Why Millennials

Millennials can relate to climate change like no other group of adults. It is an issue that unless resolved, will go on to affect their lives and the lives of their children. The changing forms of educating the public and the abundance of new media have created what experts at the Natural Resource Defense Council believe to be a “generational gap.” Millennials are more exposed to the data on climate change, and therefore, have more thoughts and ideas for solutions to the problem.

For evangelicals, the “what” goes a bit deeper. Driven by their committal to God’s laws, evangelicals believe they must not only hold strong views on climate change but must also act to protect the “least of us.” When the views of a Millennial Americans and a religious Americans collide, this creates a force of action that may be the exactly what’s needed for climate solutions.

Y.E.C.A has an action plan that when taken on by any group, can result in much-needed climate action and legislation to accompany it. Here are the steps:

  • Further mobilize the millennial generation of evangelicals
  • Influence the older evangelical generations
  • Pass the influence on to political leaders

These steps, although created by younger people in action, can be the action plan to help all generations and leaders from all walks of life protect the planet.

Follow the Leader

Faith leaders can follow the example of millennial evangelicals to add a higher level of climate change advocacy into their preaching, teaching, and outreach. This is the mission of one’s service to God, and without the guidance, God’s people and his divine creation may flourish.

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14, Holy Bible, The Gideons International Version

Leaders can keep God’s people and the Earth safe by acting on the moral duty – every believer has to safeguard the planet and its inhabitants.

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Let’s Lead

Some faith organizations have already joined the creation care cause. Blessed Tomorrow’s Let’s Lead project invites these active religious leaders to share their stories, in hopes to guide others to do the same. Learn more here.


Nichole Tucker earned a Master’s degree in Media & International Conflict from University College Dublin to help improve global issues, like climate change. Prior to joining Blessed Tomorrow, Nichole worked with the advocacy team at World Vision International. 

Paris Climate Change Agreement: Caring for the Divine Creation by Encouraging Government Accountability

Faith leaders can be key influencers in the climate change debate. While the fate of America’s stance on climate change still hangs in the balance, leaders from over 20 interfaith organizations have united to motivate President Trump to preserve American support for the Paris Agreement.  

In a sincere and precise letter, dated Tuesday, May 9th, leading faith organizations objected to the postponement of the Paris Agreement decision and professed their priorities for climate change legislation and action.

 

 

The need for global leadership could not be more urgent. We believe that the United States can and must play a leadership role in addressing the environmental challenges which threaten our planet, our security, the health of our families, and the fate of communities throughout the world.

What inspired these organizations was their religious conviction, morale, and values. It is these same characteristics that all devoted parties may look to, as a way to help care for the “divine creation” that we call Earth. Leaders and advocates from faith communities should adopt the following devotional duties from the letter:

  • Commit – How can I incorporate honoring creation and caring for my neighbor into my daily life and work?
  • Advocate – What role should my commitment to human welfare play in my climate change advocacy?
  • Act – What can I do to help and how can I motivate stakeholders to do their part?

Commit to Creation Care

Creation care is more than simply caring for the planet. Scripture commands believers to honor all of God’s creations and keep them well. This means caring for the earth, and its inhabitants, even yourself.

The Earth is in a delicate state as a result of years of pollution and limited efforts to end the damage. This has caused a slew of other problems that many don’t realize are related.

Did you know that many of the world’s biggest challenges can be linked back to climate change? This is why, as a leader of faith, you should always consider; who or what is affected and how can this be fixed?

Advocate for the Vulnerable

Various communities experience a lack of environmental care more personally than others. In major U.S. cities and remote reservation lands, the actions of manufacturing, transportation, and fossil fuels companies leave individuals with bad air to breathe and fewer plants for oxygen and food.

Neglecting the environment is hurting all of God’s creation; humans, animals, and plant life. We are all vulnerable to the destructive realities of climate change. To care for the Earth – God’s divine creation – is to care for one another.

Nearly all faith traditions include a call to protect those less fortunate. When we work to eradicate poverty, sickness, and hunger, our efforts must include addressing climate change.

Take Action

Being a leader on the issue of climate change means speaking up and taking action. Informing your community from the pulpit of your church, mosque, synagogue or temple is one step, but what you do next could be equally important.

Faith leaders are the voice of their communities, and must, therefore, ensure that their government meets the needs of their people. This is called accountability. Know your needs, as they are instructed to you in your holy book, and hold the government to account on all issues of importance, just like these allied faith organizations who wrote;

“We join together to urge you, as the President of the United States, to remain in the Paris Agreement and to meet our commitments in that agreement. The Paris Agreement will safeguard God’s creation, protect the vulnerable, address the impacts of climate change and fulfill our moral obligation to future generations.”

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Let’s Lead

Some faith organizations have already joined the creation care cause. The Let’s Lead project invites these active religious leaders to share their stories, in hopes to guide and inspire others to do the same. Learn more here.

Current ‘State of the Air’ Calls for Urgent Action from Faith Communities, and Government

Air is believed to be the “fertilizing wind,” and the “ruah” of human life in monotheistic faiths. The Holy Quran 015:022 states that these winds are created by the higher power, not the power of man, therefore, it can be said that man has not the right to damage it. Ruah, or “breath” in Hebrew, is considered to be a precious gift, which all humans have a right to. But in the United States, 4 in 10 people still live in communities with poor air quality, severe enough to cause disease and death.

The American Lung Association has revealed striking new figures in the State of the Air 2017 report, which analyzed America’s most polluted cities, counties, and the individuals who face the biggest risk of toxic exposure.

Where in the U.S. is it safe to breathe? Here is what the American Lung Association has to say about polluted air, healthy air, and how to improve.

Air Pollution in America’s Cities

America’s most polluted city, Los Angeles, has held its title for years. However, the city is showing improvement thanks to several programs, including its Path to Positive: Los Angeles initiative, a project of our sister program Path to Positive Communities. Ten other cities make the list of danger zones with air pollution levels that could be deadly.

  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
  • Bakersfield, CA
  • San Jose-San Francisco, CA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Chico, CA
  • Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Modesto-Merced, CA

Although the air in these eleven cities hosts contaminants that can severely damage the environment, it’s the data on at-risk people that proves to be the most compelling information revealed in State of the Air 2017.

When administering three types of health examinations and comparing this data to locations, it was discovered that cases of Lung Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Asthma, and Diabetes were more abundant in cities with unhealthy air.  People who live in poverty are more likely to live in polluted areas, currently accounting for 3.2 million of the individuals who failed all three of the administered health examinations.

Contesting to these inequitable statistics, Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association proclaims his opinion on how things should be:

Everyone has a fundamental right to breathe healthy air. Our nation’s leaders must do more to protect the health of all Americans.

People of faith have a long tradition of ministering to the less fortunate among us, and we are called to respond to what we see around us. Addressing air pollution and the fossil-fuel-burning practices that create it is part of our mission to care for our neighbors.

Clean Air in American Cities

Measuring both damage to the ozone and particle pollution, researchers found that air safety between 2013 and 2015 was good in six metropolitan areas.

  • Honolulu, HI
  • Elmira-Corning, NY
  • Wilmington, NC
  • Burlington-South Burlington, VT
  • Cape Coral-Fort Meyers-Naples, FL
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL

Thirty-four additional cities and counties were deemed safe as far as air quality, but also showed variation in healthy air depending on the time of year.

Although many cities still show immense air pollution levels, things are better than they once were. According to the report, today, one-quarter fewer people reside in polluted cities and counties.

Modern improvement in air quality throughout the United States is thought to be a direct result of positive legislation, and the promotion of environmental awareness which lead to such legislation being passed. Wimmer of the American Lung Association recently explained this progress.

This year’s State of the Air report is a testament to the success of the Clean Air Act, which reduced air pollution in much of the nation.

However, policies like the Clean Air Act are in jeopardy under new leadership. Just this past March, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to begin rolling back the Clean Power Plan, implemented by the Obama administration. This plan would limit the emittance of greenhouse gas from power plants, improving air quality in major cities as well as helping to curb climate change. The current administration believes that these environmental improvement policies are a burden on the federal budget.

But, where there is a need for progress and change, there is always a group of concerned citizens who take a stand. This was the case for several faith organizations, including GreenFaith and Interfaith Power & Light, who helped organize the faith contingent at the People’s Climate March. There, faith leaders expressed their concerns about climate change and the moral and ethical obligation that humans have to protect the environment and the people of this Earth.

“As a climate activist, the reality of climate change not only has grave implications for the future of our planet, but also represents one of the great moral and ethical issues of our time. That’s why Muslims are taking part in this People’s Climate March.” – Nana Firman, Muslim Outreach Coordinator for GreenFaith

Other People’s Climate March attendees, like the United Church of Christ, proclaim that acting on climate change is not an option but is, in fact, a duty. Like these organizations who marched for a clean energy economy, others must step up to help change unsafe air policies. Here’s how to start:

  • Get educated on climate change
  • Share the details about climate change with your congregation
  • Partner with an environmental justice organization
  • Spread the news of your concern to help engage others

Visit Blessed Tomorrow for more resources to help you engage your congregation and community on climate change. And if you’ve already been taking action, we’d love to hear your story and make it part of our upcoming Let’s Lead guide. Submit your success story here by June 15.

Nichole Tucker earned a Master’s degree in Media & International Conflict from University College Dublin to help improve global issues, like climate change. Prior to joining Blessed Tomorrow, Nichole worked with the advocacy team at World Vision International. 

 

 

“Lazarus, Come Out!” A Christian Response to the Climate Crisis

Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas serves as Missioner for Creation Care for both the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Mass. Conference, United Church of Christ. In this recent Lenten sermon, she offers a timeless and timely message about moving beyond interia and towards action. 

What a blessing it is to be here this morning and to join your Lenten exploration of “Fierce Love”! Thank you, Rob (Rev. Robert J. Mark), for inviting me to preach, and thank you for your steadfast witness to God’s love for the Earth and for all its communities, human and other-than-human. I was arrested with you last spring at an interfaith protest of the West Roxbury fracked gas pipeline, and just a few months ago, each of us felt called to make a trip to Standing Rock to stand with the Water Protectors. We are allies in the struggle for life, and it is good to worship with you and your congregation this morning.

I have the longest job title in the world. I serve in both the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC as Missioner for Creation Care. This unusual joint position is a marker of good things ahead, for Christians of every denomination, and people of every faith tradition, are drawing together to proclaim with one voice that the Earth is sacred and that we intend to work together – boldly, lovingly, without swerving, without delay – to renew its health and to protect it from further harm.

Today’s Gospel reading brings us to the turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Raising Lazarus is the crowning miracle or sign that reveals Jesus as the giver of life, and that also precipitates his death. The raising of Lazarus provokes a meeting of the Sanhedrin, the official Jewish court, which reaches the decision that Jesus is dangerous and must be killed. And so next week we come to Palm Sunday and begin the anguish and ultimately the joy of Holy Week.

Today’s story begins in a place of desolation, loss, and despair. Lazarus has died; he has been dead for four days; and his sisters Mary and Martha are in distress, grieving with family and friends. The story begins right where we are: in a world that is full of death, full of grieving, full of loss. Mary and Martha taste the same bitterness that we taste when a loved one dies. They know, as we do, the pang of sorrow that can seize us in the middle of the night. They know the anguish that can empty life of zest or meaning.

This morning you and I may be in the very same place in which Mary and Martha begin this story, for there is plenty of death in the air these days. My particular concern is the climate crisis, and right now, even as I speak, burning fossil fuels is pumping carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere and further disrupting the delicate balance of the world’s climate. In just 200 years – a blink in geologic time – human beings have burned so much coal, gas, and oil and released so much heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that atmospheric levels of CO2 are higher than our species has ever experienced before. Last year was the hottest year on record, which crushed the record set the year before, which crushed the record set the year before that. As global temperatures rise, every living system of the world is affected and in decline. Sea ice is melting rapidly at both poles. Land ice is melting and sliding into the sea. Tundra is thawing. Storms are becoming more intense. Droughts are spreading in some areas, extensive floods in others. The ocean is absorbing heat and excess carbon dioxide, and in just decades has become 30% more acidic. Last month scientists reported that large sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have died.

The climate emergency is not just a quote-unquote “environmental” problem. It’s not just about polar bears and coral. It’s about people in Southern Africa, where rains have failed, crops are withering, and starving families are “reduced to eating cactus and even rocks or ashes.”  It’s about Pacific islanders whose homelands are already flooding. It’s about impoverished people here and abroad who are hit first and hardest by a changing climate, who have the fewest resources to adapt to it, and who are the least responsible for causing it. It’s about coastal communities and great cities the world over, including Boston, which face rapidly rising seas.

So that’s where we find ourselves: on a beautiful, precious, but ailing planet, with the web of life unraveling before our eyes. When we hear bad news like this, it can be easy to shut down. It is difficult to face the grief, helplessness, and fear that our situation evokes. Most of us aren’t climate skeptics; most of us don’t deny outright the conclusions of science – but most of us do engage in a kind of everyday denial: we try to avoid the anxiety of thinking about climate change, so we change the subject and focus on more manageable things. When we feel helpless to imagine, much to less create, a better future, we just carry on with business as usual. It’s as if we fall under a spell and make what former U.N. Secretary General Ban-ki Moon calls a “global suicide pact.”

That’s where our gospel passage begins: in darkness, in the pit, in the valley of the shadow of death. Martha and Mary are bereft. And then – something changes. Jesus arrives. When he sees Mary weeping, and the crowds around her weeping, Jesus is “greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (John 11:33). As if the gospel writer wants to make the meaning perfectly clear, a few verses later we come to the shortest verse in all of Scripture, a verse that is often translated by just two words: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). He wept. Here is no distant God, no far-off deity untouched by grief, but a God who comes as one of us, a God who meets us in our suffering, a God who shares in our pain. When we feel anguish, it’s easy to look for someone to blame, to conclude that God isn’t real, that God is punishing us, or that God has abandoned us. But gazing at Jesus in this story reveals something different: when our hearts are breaking, God’s heart is breaking, too.

It is a heart-opening, mind-opening revelation to discover that when we weep for the Earth, when we feel outrage and protest, God is grieving with us and through us. God is bearing what we cannot bear alone. The fact that Jesus wept suggests that the first step in healing, the first step in birthing new life, comes when we step toward the pain, not away from it, and when we do so in the presence of God. The God who enters into our suffering knows that new life begins only when we are willing to feel pain. And when we grieve in God’s presence, we move out of numbness, out of inertia, out of the denial that pretends that everything is fine.

So, as the wise Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy puts it, “Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a sign of your humanity and your maturity… We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings.”

I will ask you the same questions that I asked at yesterday’s retreat at Trinity Church on spiritual resilience and resistance: Where do you feel the pain of the earth and its creatures? Where do you hear the groaning of God’s creation?

And I will add this, too: the unjust powers of this world don’t want us to grieve or protest. They don’t want us to feel outrage and sorrow when we face the deathly patterns that are part of this society: the racism and militarism, the abuse of the helpless, the poisoning of air and water, the relentless assault on the web of life. The powers-that-be would much prefer that we stay numb – zombies who are too busy or bored or distracted, too defended to feel the pain that allows something new to be imagined, something new to be born. “Jesus wept,” and in that weeping begins the healing that leads to new life.

In the vulnerability of his open heart, Jesus opens to a power greater than himself. “Take away the stone,” he says to the astonished crowd. Can you imagine what the throng of people must be thinking just then? Probably something along the lines of, “Hey – is he nuts?” But reluctantly or eagerly, maybe shaking their heads in bemusement, maybe daring to hope against hope, some folks move forward. They lean their weight against the stone and push it away from the entrance of the tomb.

And then comes Jesus’ voice. In the midst of weeping, there comes a voice. “Lazarus,” he cries. “Come out.” It is a voice of power, a summons, a command, and it addresses us by name. You’ve heard that voice before, and I’ve heard it, too. Deep inside us is a presence, a voice, a Someone who calls us to quit hiding in a deathly place and to step out into fullness of life. We can go for a while, maybe quite a long while, not engaging with reality, not engaging with the climate crisis, and just laying low, hiding out, ducking from everything that seems too hard to face, too hard to bear. The powers-that-be want to keep it that way, and they murmur, “That’s OK. Get comfy in that little tomb. Make peace with it. Decorate it. Stay small.”

But then comes that insistent, disturbing voice, calling us by name. “Barbara,” it says. “Come out. Cindy, come out. Rob, come out. Margaret, come out.”

“I love you,” God says to us. “I want you to be fully alive, not just partially alive, not just going through the motions. I want you to grow up into your full stature in Christ. I loved you into being, I sent you into the world to fall in love, and I call you now to serve love without holding back. So come out of your hiding place. Come out of your helplessness. Come out of your fearfulness, and join the struggle to save life on this sweet Earth. The resurrection life that I give you doesn’t start beyond the grave. It starts right now. I didn’t create you to live in a tomb.”

When I look around, I see a planet at risk of catapulting into runaway climate disruption. But also see person after person hearing – and answering – a deep call to step out and to engage in the struggle to protect life.

On a practical level, what can we do? As individuals, we can drive less, use public transportation, put on a sweater and turn down the heat, ignore the dryer and hang our laundry out to dry, eat less meat, eat local foods, recycle, and so on. You know the drill.

But the scope and pace of the climate crisis require change on a much broader scale. Thanks be to God, coalitions are building among people of faith who care about the Earth, about poverty and economic justice, about racial justice, about immigration and human rights – for all these issues intersect. Right here in Massachusetts, a new group, Mass. Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action (or MAICCA, for short) is organizing very diverse communities of faith to work together on climate.

At the end of this month, on April 29, the 100th day of this country’s new Administration, thousands of people – including countless people of faith – will converge on Washington, D.C., for the Peoples Climate Movement “March for Jobs, Justice, and Climate.” You can sign up for the march at PeoplesClimate.org, and I hope you will come. A sister march will be held here in Boston on the same day, and that’s a good choice, too, though it may be particularly effective to carry out our witness in our nation’s capital.

The Church was made for a time like this – a time when God is calling us out of the tomb of inertia and despair and into the wholehearted, focused, joyful, justice-seeking, Spirit-led, unstoppable movement to protect the world that God entrusted to our care.

“Lazarus, come out!”

How Climate Change is Impacting Your Congregation’s Mental Health

When Americans consider the health impacts of climate change, they often cite physical consequences. As ecoAmerica’s new report shows, however, Americans are suffering the psychological consequences of climate change at an increasing rate. As a faith leader, you are greatly concerned about your congregation's health and that includes their mental health, particularly as it relates to spiritual growth. We know that mental illness hinders the spiritual prosperity of people of faith, but what does that have to do with climate change?

In 2014, ecoAmerica began preliminary research on the psychological impacts of storms and droughts in their pivotal research, Beyond Storms and Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change. Building on that research, ecoAmerica's latest report, produced in partnership with the American Psychological Association and Climate for Health, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, is intended to further inform and empower health and medical professionals, community leaders, and the public to tackle a routinely overlooked impact of climate change.

Mind, body, and spirit is a common trifecta used in faith communities to model the holistic approach to wellness. This common turn of phrase is familiar to faith leaders who are charged with ensuring that these three roads converge on the path to awakening. Unfortunately, the body and spirit get the most attention in today's society, pushing mental health to the sidelines. But as ecoAmerica's new report reveals, the psychological impacts of climate change are becoming more and more unavoidable.

While difficult to grasp at first, climate change impacts a person's mental health in various ways, and those impacts are dependent on a number of factors. According to ecoAmerica's research, the sensitivity of psychological impacts is dependent on a person's "geographic location, pre-existing disabilities or chronic illnesses, and socioeconomic and demographic inequalities, such as education level, income, and age."

Climate impacts like floods, storms, wildfires, and heat waves present immediate mental health problems, but other effects surface more gradually from changing temperatures and rising sea levels that cause forced migration or can impact livelihoods. Secondary impacts such as "weakened infrastructure and food insecurity" are examples of the indirect climate impact on society’s physical and mental health that quickly become grave concerns for the medical community, and they need faith leaders to help remedy these consequences.

"Major acute mental health impacts include increases in trauma and shock, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compounded stress, anxiety, substance abuse, and depression" – these are just a few of the climate-related diagnoses named in ecoAmerica’s report. And these maladies are having a major impact not only on individuals but entire communities who have lost their sense of purpose or the strong social connections they may have built through religious communities. In short, if a person is preoccupied with food insecurity or a drought that has devastated their professional industry, it's difficult for them to address their spiritual needs.

The reality is that climate change won't stop tomorrow, and while many faith leaders are advocating for policy reform to reverse it, we must begin to address the impacts already here. Climate change can make a person feel hopeless, meaningless, or instill a lack of autonomy as the world seemingly spins out of control. As a faith leader, you have a unique ability to raise your communities spirits, and in turn, raising their psychological wellness along with it. Here's how you can get started.

According to ecoAmerica’s report, vast amounts of external research indicates that "involvement in a faith community has been cited as a protective factor for mental health in several interview studies with people experiencing trauma (e.g., Cline, Orom, Child, Hernandez, & Black, 2015; Fernando, 2012; Harper & Pargament, 2015; Weine et al., 2014). For many, faith gives a sense of peace during times of difficulty (Marks, Hatch, Lu, & Cherry, 2015), and studies have shown that having a spiritual practice tends to boost an individual’s well-being and can be an important coping resource.”

“The social support of a faith community and having a spiritual practice can help people manage and find meaning in suffering during significant adversity (Ramsay & Manderson, 2011).” With climate impacts happening at a rapid pace, a faith leader may facilitate social engagement among their congregation through events or building creation-care committees to empower people of faith to do something about climate change. This two birds, one stone approach addresses the social needs of those suffering from climate change while giving them a sense of purpose and meaning through solutions.

Download the full report from ecoAmerica today and check out the webinar recording with ecoAmerica's Chief Engagement Officer, Meighen Speiser, and acting Executive Director of the American Psychological Association, Howard Kurtzman, to learn more.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

 

Easter Sunday is the Super Bowl of Climate Communications

Holy Week marks the final days of Lent, crowned by Easter Sunday to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus from his tomb. Luke 24 attests that “he is not here; he has risen,” — a moment in time that stands as the bedrock of Christian theology.

Celebrating this central focus of the Christian faith, Easter rituals vary around the world. Some communities honor the culmination of the Passion of Jesus through reenactment, while others have adopted a more secular approach by incorporating bunnies and dyed eggs. Regardless of the diverse and ever-changing ritual practices, one thing is consistent: the church pews will be full on Easter Sunday.

No two Christian holidays draw bigger crowds than Christmas and Easter, garnering audiences so large that churches are hardly capable of accommodating their visit. While I can’t offer solutions for the logistical nightmare of huge crowds, I can help faith leaders realize the climate opportunity they present.

Easter Sunday is the Super Bowl of Christian services

Lifeway Church estimates that 130 million Americans  (41 percent) plan on attending Easter Sunday Services, while Fortune Magazine found that 111 million people tuned in to watch the Patriots battle the Falcons during Super Bowl LI.

For faith leaders, holidays such as Easter present an amazing opportunity for growth and should be approached with as much precision as the marketers who shell out 5 million for 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad space. There really are few climate outreach opportunities greater than Easter Sunday, and here's why Jesus would agree with using it to advocate for the stewardship of creation.

Jesus encouraged his followers to go out and spread the gospel, but what exactly is the gospel? The gospel commonly refers to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) which contain the life and message of Jesus. In these books, we find thought-provoking parables that Jesus offered to help guide the values of human existence. At moments, he approached issues with surgical precision to tackle very specific questions. Other times, he remained purposefully vague so as to allow broad applicability throughout time and setting.

Among the most popular was the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) in which Jesus expands the concept of a "neighbor" and the rights afforded to them as fellow human beings. Most notable of this didactic tale is that Jesus used a Samaritan (considered a lower social class) to make his point. In doing so, he introduced a revolutionary expansion of who his followers considered a neighbor.

The parable, at a basic level, expands our understanding of who Christians should help and who they are responsible for protecting. By using the most unlikely of communities in his parable, Jesus’ expansion of these parameters is boundless and perhaps one of the most important aspects of climate communicating on Easter.

We know that climate change is negatively impacting people around the world and the cause of those impacts is largely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. So when a faith leader communicates on climate to advocate for a reduction of fossil fuel-based energy, he or she is caring for our neighbors in the fullest sense of the term.

For many, it may seem odd to speak about climate change on Easter when the focus has traditionally been on Jesus’ resurrection, and no one is suggesting that faith leaders stop doing so. Rather, tying the gospel of Jesus to our climate values during one of the largest annual gatherings of Christians will reinvigorate the message that has animated Christian social justice for thousands of years. Moreover, it may get some of those infrequent visitors to return more often.

On April 16th, your church will be full of people. Some will be familiar faces, while others will be attending one of their two annual visits. This is your opportunity to demonstrate how the gospel of Jesus is applicable in today's society and that our shared values compel us to protect our neighbors through climate solutions.

This is creation’s Super Bowl. Are you ready?


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of March 31 – 6

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Should your climate leadership be featured in Blessed Tomorrow's weekly round up? Email Ryan Smith and let him know about the climate leadership you have accomplished or upcoming events.

This week in faith and climate news…

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How Jewish Climate Leadership Can Dig Deeper on Passover

When Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, traveled with his large family to Egypt, he did so to flee a famine that devastated his home in Beersheba. You've probably heard this story before, and the preceding accounts of the Pharaoh's smite against the Jewish people. You probably know the story of Moses’ near demise at the hand of the Pharaoh and if you know that, you definitely know about his courageous leadership.

The Passover story, centered around the sacrifice of a lamb in lieu of the eldest son, is familiar to those within Abrahamic traditions. The story of Moses is laden with familiar examples that have offered climate communication tools for years. But, just as modern climate communications tend to prioritize impacts over solutions, so has our reading of the scriptures.

From severe famine to plagues, the symbolic opportunities to motivate climate action are around every corner, particular during the Passover holiday. But, if we dig just a little deeper, we'll discover an entirely new and radical approach to climate communicating within the Torah.

Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz’s musing on the story of Moses highlighted how innovative creation care models are more than abundant in Hebrew scriptures if we know what to look for. Often, this level of pardes (exegesis) requires us to look past the impacts and more obvious themes to find our solutions. When we do, we discover that Torah-based solutions not only offer greater communication tools but also uncover something more profound about the human condition in relation to God’s creation.

Passover is a statement of radical amazement. Later, Passover comes to commemorate the miraculous rebirth of a people, but at its most ancient heart, the holiday celebrates the miraculous rebirth of the Earth as it emerges from the dead of winter to the glory of spring. In the same way, the people of Israel emerge from the dead of slavery to the glory of redemption. These foundational stories of radical amazement are retold year after year, generation after generation, to keep the motivating spirit of Jewish identity and responsibility alive.

Moses experiences his own transformational moment of radical amazement while in the embrace of nature. He arrives at a great mountain and on that mountain side beholds a burning bush that is not consumed. Precisely when Moses turns aside to marvel at this sight does he hear the voice of God. Moses feels summoned in that time and place. He hears God call him by name. Moses responds with that classic affirmation of presence, “Hineni” — here I am."

Granted, Rabbi Schwartz reaches outside the traditional telling of Passover, but he does so to examine how Jewish climate leaders have more resources than the traditional connections made between Passover and modern concerns of anthropogenic climate change. Rabbi Schwartz explained climate leaders could benefit from highlighting particularities in Moses’ story that pursue themes of renewal and cultural shifts in the way we think about G-d's creation.

Do we recognize the miracles around us? Do we turn aside to marvel? Do we hear the commanding voice? Do we affirm our presence? Do we acknowledge that the very ground upon which we stand is holy?

This cultural shift does open the door for expansive retellings and applications, but it doesn't mean that we must abandon the practical and literal parallels at hand. This year, the Passover holiday will occur from April 10-18, falling just a few days before Earth Day, the March for Science, and the People's Climate March. Passover’s proximity to these major events will prove critical in galvanizing climate leaders in the Jewish community, and there are a number of ways to achieve this goal.

For starters, simply making the connection for people in your community by drawing on the thematic parallels within the retelling of Passover is critically important. By applying these themes to real-world issues, people of faith will make deeper connections to Jewish history, tradition, and values; but remember that symbolic references should include more than impacts, and spark a cultural shift as much they incite immediate action. Start by checking out this article from Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz to learn more about hidden climate themes you may have missed in the retelling of Passover.

Second, use Passover to build interfaith climate coalitions. There are three major traditions that draw on the story of Moses (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). These shared stories may act as an inroad to making connections by drawing on interfaith themes to build climate awareness. Start with this guide from Blessed Tomorrow.

Find more resources at Blessed Tomorrow to help you engage people of faith this Passover, and empower them to reach out to other faith communities. Climate change impacts all of us and it will require the collective work of all Americans.

Let us know what you have planned by connecting with us on Twitter: @BlessedTomorrow.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of March 24 – 30

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Should your climate leadership be featured in Blessed Tomorrow's weekly round up? Email Ryan Smith and let him know about the climate leadership you have accomplished or upcoming events.

This week in faith and climate news…

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Is There Space for Faith in the People’s Climate March?

On Sept. 21, 2014, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited world leaders to discuss climate solutions needed to fix “one of the greatest moral issues of our time” — a phrase borrowed from Pope Francis. The world was over a year away from the Paris Agreement (COP21) and still reeling from the setbacks of the Copenhagen Agreement (COP 15) which dismantled many regulations of the Kyoto Protocol.

Promises of a successful United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru (COP20) in December 2014 filled many Americans with hope. Still, a great number remained skeptical of the South American summit goal of implementing international climate regulations — prompting climate leaders to get ahead of it by organizing the first People’s Climate March during the United Nations’ Climate Summit.

The event welcomed climate leaders from around the world to descend on New York City to amplify their voices and to urge the United States and the United Nations to take swift action to curb the harmful impacts of climate change. Health professionals, scientists, politicians, and faith leaders not only made the first People’s Climate March a success, they made it one the largest climate gatherings the world had ever seen. 400,000 people from every walk of life marched through the streets of New York City demanding bold and urgent action, which organizers fondly recall as being the “re-boot the climate movement needed.”

Since the first march in 2014, climate solutions have largely moved in the right direction with Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement, but there is a new hurdle to overcome, and this year’s climate march will mark its one-hundredth day in office. The People’s Climate March website explains: “On the 100th Day of the Trump Administration [April 29], we will be in the streets of Washington D.C. to show the world and our leaders that we will resist attacks on our people, our communities and our planet.”

President Trump’s first one hundred days in office have been a roller coaster of policy changes and executive orders, including restrictions placed on America’s Environmental Protection Agency followed by a major cut to the agency’s funding. Between these restrictions and an administrative cabinet full of climate deniers and skeptics, the People’s Climate March has never been more important. But climate leaders aren’t stopping there.

While April has been home to Earth Day for decades, it’s now been transformed into an entire month of action, community building, and faith outreach. From the March for Science to Interfaith Power and Light’s Faith Climate Action Week, April has something for everyone.

Blessed Tomorrow’s partner organization Creation Justice Ministries, for example, will gather “people of Orthodox, Protestant, Historically Black, Baptist, and Peace Church traditions to connect with their religious leadership” during this year’s People's Climate March in Washington, DC.

Among the many amazing faith communities participating, The United Methodist Church is hosting a special event the day before the People's Climate March in Virginia. The Climate Justice Conference (United Methodist Caretakers for God’s Creation) is designed to inspire worship, welcome climate leadership speakers, and host workshops to help people of faith develop climate justice within faith communities.

Can’t make it to D.C., Virginia or New York? No problem! There are plenty of sister marches and events around the world. From Seattle to Miami, climate marches are happening all over America, and finding an event near you is easy. Simply enter your zip code and see what’s happening in your city.

A great way to stay connected to faith events surrounding the People’s Climate March is to join the Facebook page People of Faith & the People's Climate March. Updates are posted regularly and new events are added as they come.

As a faith leader, your presence at the People’s Climate March is invaluable. People trust faith leaders and their advocacy for value-based climate solutions that will help get America back on track. Together, people of faith can tell President Trump and his cabinet that we demand solutions before it’s too late.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of March 16 – 23

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Should your climate leadership be featured in Blessed Tomorrow's weekly round up? Email Ryan Smith and let him know about the climate leadership you have accomplished or upcoming events.

This week in faith and climate news…

Are you ready for Faith Climate Action Week? Here what you need to get started.

Cumberland church didn't just install 57 solar panels. They are "preaching energy efficiency." 

Pope Francis' climate message is filling the pews with climate communications. 

Find out why these Catholic House Republicans just asked for climate justice.

Tending the Earth: The Art of Living with God's Creation explores Islamic stewardship with Umar Faruq Abd-Allah.

UCC tackled the top priority for its congregation and won 'Cool Congregations Challenge' in the process.

What a 13th-century hymn has to do with environmental ethics.  

Edgewood United Church is the first in Michigan to go solar! And they started with 70 panels! 

199 solar panels installed at St. John’s Lutheran Church! Is that a new record? 

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Faith Climate Action Week Aims to Preserve Our Climate Laws

Blessed Tomorrow is proud to name Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) among our many inspiring partners. Since 2000, IPL has assisted thousands of faith communities to address climate change through acts of better stewardship. Founded by Blessed Tomorrow leader Rev. Sally Bingham, IPL’s goal is to mobilize a faith-based response to climate change while instilling strong solutions along the way, including energy audits and solar panels for faith facilities across the U.S.

From their Cool Congregations program to their Paris Pledge, IPL has designed some amazing avenues for new and seasoned climate leaders to begin or enhance their efforts. Among the many awesome programs IPL offers is their annual Faith Climate Action Week (previously known as the Preach-In on Global Warming), scheduled for April 17 – 23, which will encompass seven days surrounding Earth Day to encourage people of faith to act on climate.

This year, the national event will place a special emphasis on “protecting our climate laws,” and encouraging our “senators to share their climate action plans” with their constituents and fellow legislators. It’s no secret that U.S. laws and regulations designed to protect God’s creation from the harmful impacts of climate change have faced their fair share of hurdles over the last few months. And faith leaders are stepping to tell legislators that they want action now.

As a faith leader, it's sometimes difficult to have your voice reach all the way to Washington, but when combined with our moral call to act on climate, our sacred values will shake the halls of our nation’s capital. Together, across faith traditions, we may choose to put our politics aside in favor of God’s gift, because when we protect His creation we are fulfilling our responsibility to love thy neighbor, care for the least of these, and ensure transgenerational health.

Our climate laws and regulations are the only things standing between the impacts of climate change and our children. But our actions now will have a longer trajectory than one or even two generations. Climate laws protect many generations to come by ensuring a healthy world for them to prosper in, and preserving laws designed to protect our climate is fundamental to this process.

Join IPL April 17-23 to tell our legislators that people of faith insist on a healthy world for our child and future generations. Here’s how you can get involved:

Begin by finding an event in your state or registering your own event with IPL

Gather resources to host or join:

IPL supplies are available for order

The first step in promoting climate solutions is to get involved, but there is a spiritual component to these efforts. As a person of faith, you not only hold an imperative to care for creation but to pray as well. Prayer means different things to different people, and whether you lay prostrate on the floor or raise your hands to the heavens, your prayer is important. During Faith Climate Action Week, individuals and faith communities across the U.S. will offer a collective prayer for the climate. But don’t worry, God’s line of communication can handle the flood of requests, unlike Pruitt’s phone line.

Find out how you can get involved in IPL’s Nationwide Climate Prayer

Calling on our political leaders to act on climate change and preserve America’s lifesaving laws is invaluable, but simply speaking about climate change to your congregants can also make a real difference. During this week, faith leaders will deliver sermons to inspire, motivate, and call their congregations to action. And this year, it’s your turn!

Check out these videos from last year's sermons

Get inspired and then start writing with Blessed Tomorrow’s guide to crafting a strong and effective creation care sermon, designed specifically for your community. Let’s make this year’s Faith Climate Action Week the best ever!


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of March 10 – 15

Every Friday, Blessed Tomorrow releases the top faith and climate stories from the previous week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communications from to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Should your climate leadership be featured in Blessed Tomorrow's weekly round up? Email Ryan Smith and let him know about the climate leadership you have accomplished or upcoming events.

This week in faith and climate news…

Should climate communicators use the term Climate Change? Not with every audience, study suggests. 

The world’s first film festival dedicated to climate-linked migration is underway.

Pope Francis' climate message as increased church attendance more than any other message.

Temples plan women's seders focusing on climate change and the role of Jewish women in history. 

Just eight years ago, even the most conservative players in the religious-right supported creation care. 

What it means for this community of color to go solar.

"The real threat to our Jewish grandchildren is a not bomb threat," its climate change. 

Interfaith Power and Light's Faith Climate Action Week is just around the corner.

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The Power of Language in Climate Solutions

Language has the ability to guide cultures, advance leadership, or crumble societies, but words themselves are not inherently valuable. Their merit rests in the concepts that support them, which are subject to change depending on the time or setting of their use. Comparing concepts to bricks, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze famously explained how both may be “used to build a courthouse of reason, or…be thrown through [its] window,” depending on who, when and where they are expounded.

At ecoAmerica (Blessed Tomorrow's parent organization), we think a lot about words and the concepts that drive them — as do our leaders. We test words and phrases, and research their meaning and use to determine what language is effective in prioritizing climate change for more Americans. In our many reports designed to advance these efforts, we found that word usages and meanings are changing faster than ever before, causing us to continually reevaluate and refine their effectiveness. And, even the most trusted terms and phrases are subject to rigorous tests from the broader climate communications community.

In the early 2000s, for example, the phrase “global warming” was used to describe the earth’s rapid increase in global temperature. By the end of the millennium's first decade, the term had become over-politicized and subject to misuse. The brick that once supported the courthouse of reason had been plucked from its wall, only to be hurled back at the structure’s window. The result was a transition to our current phrase “climate change,” an expression seemingly liberated from the confines of our political arena….for a time.

While global warming indicates rising surface temperatures, climate change refers to a broader, long-term change in the Earth's climate, rendering it less vulnerable to unrelated dissuading factors such as cold weather in traditional warmer months. Case in point: Senator Jim Inhofe’s memorable snowball on the senate floor.

From farm to Congress…

We have reached a period in which even the term “climate change” is due for investigation. As it turns out, many have already moved on, and it may have started in America’s heartland.

Farmers throughout America’s midwest are among the many moving beyond terms like climate change, focusing instead on the solutions proposed to fix it. Fourth-generation grain farmer Doug Palen, whose crops have been repeatedly devastated by drought and soil erosion, explained that he doesn’t care much about what is causing his farm to suffer, so long as it stops before he loses everything. “If politicians want to exhaust themselves debating the climate, that’s their choice,” Mr. Palen said, “I have a farm to run.”

If politicians want to exhaust themselves debating the climate, that’s their choice,” Mr. Palen said, “I have a farm to run.

The American midwest is filled with farmers like Mr. Palen, who keep their political leanings private and avoid terms like climate change given its connotation or their disbelief in its existence. While not specific about his position on climate change, Palin is clearly in favor of climate solutions, many of which are already implemented on his farm, including “a no-till farming method that prevents erosion and keeps carbon in the soil.” And Palen’s straight-to-solution attitude appears to be making waves in Washington.

After years of infighting over climate science, legislators are beginning to avoid the term climate change altogether, instead relying on its impacts and solutions to advocate for change. As Slate Magazine explained in a recent article, “Many have argued it’s better to focus on strategic solutions to climate change than on science or politics or pundits. Solutions directly affect our future, whereas past-oriented debates focus on who or what is to blame and who should pay, and thus are highly polarizing.”

Bypassing climate change and jumping straight into its solutions may sound impossible, but most Americans have already made the leap. A survey released by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that while many Americans remain skeptical about climate change and its cause (30 percent), they overwhelmingly support solutions such as renewable energy and emission reductions (82 percent).

The survey found that 70 percent of Americans believe that climate change is happening, with only 49 percent who believe it’s human-caused. While only 51 percent of people think climate change is already harming people in the US, 82 percent of Americans support funding research into renewable energy sources. Put simply, 12 percent more Americans support solutions to climate change than those who believe the climate is actually changing.

A study conducted by PLOS ONE not only concurred that solutions are a better lead but added that solutions are best coupled with preparedness messages. They found that if a person supports preparedness measures that reduce the vulnerability of social and biological systems, they are more likely to support climate solutions, such as emission reductions.

This method is particularly useful in faith communities that are situated in conservative regions of America. If a faith leader serves a community that is less receptive to climate change discussions, they would be better served to skip straight to solutions and their benefits. If possible, it’s best to couple those solutions with preparedness and to leave climate change out of it. In providing solutions for a congregation’s immediate concerns such as drought, floods, and severe weather, faith leaders may frame climate change in a way that evades politics while emphasizing a person’s values.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of March 3 – 9

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

This week in faith and climate news…

Historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan activated a geothermal plant. 

Washington won't address climate change "until you start preaching environmental justice issues from the pulpit."

Greenfaith created a coalition to promote a healthy environment, but they still need "100 clergy endorsements." 

Willis Jenkins gave a lecture at St Mary's College: “After ‘Laudato si’’: Revisiting the Ecological Legacy of Thomas Aquinas.”  

Dominican Sisters found a way to protect ecosystems and improve motorist safety on California's highways. 

"The state of the state human soul and the environmental are interconnected…We are stewards, not owners" 

Mormon leader Dallin Oaks points to climate change as a "big worry" for LDS Church. 

Anglican Lent campaign of prayer and action for climate justice is underway! 

Sojourner explains why "we can’t easily fathom a plan to care for the entire planet, but we can envision our watershed." 

Everything you need for Faith Climate Action Week (previously Preach-In on Global Warming).

This eco-parish has been awarded for living in solidarity with the poor. 

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Local Climate Leadership Starts at the Pulpit

Your church, mosque, or synagogue may be small and far from Washington D.C., but it just became a vital component in climate solutions.

As the tug of war between Trump and the climate rages on in our nation’s capital, faith communities across the U.S. find themselves at a loss when it comes to taking action on meaningful solutions. People of faith want to do more than express their frustrations on Twitter, but many people struggle to find significant footing in what is routinely seen as a national, or global issue. As it turns out, our representatives in Washington not only recognize the power of local level climate leadership but depend on it.

Addressing the congregation at the Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Petersburg, VA, U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D) explained, "The environment has yet to rise to the level of Democratic orthodoxy. And it's not going to rise to the level of Democratic orthodoxy until we have a broader coalition, and we're not going to get a broader coalition…until you start preaching environmental justice issues from the pulpit."

The freshman representative of Virginia's 4th District has quickly positioned climate change and environmental issues as a priority during the early stages of his tenure. For McEachin, an ordained minister, his deeply held commitment to “creation care” is about more than a responsibility to protect God’s gift; it presents the greatest opportunity for “the religious left and the religious right to meet.” But McEachin warns against the intervention of fossil fuel companies in manipulating this process.

Last December, fossil fuel tycoons the Koch Brothers hosted a gospel concert in Richmond, Virginia, called Fueling U.S. Forward. The event expounded the “economic benefits” of fossil fuels while offering to pay for a few electricity bills from the low-income neighborhood — a manipulation that McEachin likened “to the 30 pieces of silver Judas took to betray Jesus.”

The fossil fuel industry has worked at the local level for decades, convincing underprivileged communities that their livelihoods depend on the existence of fossil fuels and offering small tokens to entice their audiences. Often that persuasion comes on the back of faith messages, cleverly disguised by organizations such as Cornwall Alliance or the Heartland Institute. These fossil fuel-funded organizations have shaped the local conversation on climate change since the early 1990s, but faith leaders are taking charge by developing their own unique solutions.

Interfaith Power and Light’s recently awarded five faith communities their Cool Congregations Award to highlight some of these solutions. Recipients of the award were honored for their creative and impactful commitment to climate solutions, which include:

  • Community United Church of Christ (CUCC) of Raleigh, NC installed solar panels and weatherized community homes.
  • Temple Shalom’s of Chevy Chase, MD launched their Bright Idea Project to reduce their yearly carbon emissions by 48,733 lbs. and save their community $6,400 in the process.
  • Congregational Church in Cumberland, ME found “creative financing to lower their carbon footprint and create momentum for community members and other local groups and governments to take their own climate reducing actions.”
  • Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, NY built on their responsibility to God’s creation by further protecting land trust and affirming a Land Ethic Statement to help guide Brentwood toward further solutions.
  • Manchester United Methodist Church (MUMC) in Manchester, MO conducted an energy audit and “installed newer high-efficiency equipment, converted constant volume systems to variable air volume systems, upgraded to high efficiency condensing boilers, re-designed the chiller plant for thermal ice storage, and installed a building automation system.” These changes have reduced their carbon emissions 35 percent.

Learn more about these exciting initiatives and how you can get started on your own project at Interfaith Power and Light. The Cool Congregations program offers some exciting possibilities and assistance in achieving your creation care goals. With Spring just around the corner, now is the time for your congregation to prepare for next year’s selection.

Not only could this reduce your facility’s overhead costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions, but it will send a clear message to Washington that people of faith care about climate change. But to achieve this, we need everyone. As McEachin shared, "We need you all, not just rural preachers, but all preachers, to stand in the pulpit … and remind people that creation care is a tenet of our beliefs.”


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of February 24 – March 2

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

This week in faith and climate news…

Blessed Tomorrow's discovered why faith leaders are joining scientists to model inequality in climate communications. 

Diana Butler Bass, religious scholar and author, visited the No Place Like Home Podcast to explain how politics have shaped the climate debate and culture. 

Court of Appeals scheduled to hear arguments on nonprofits selling solar energy to churches. 

Archbishop says that taking care of God's creation is a moral and spiritual duty. 

Guilt over enjoying warm winters. An unforeseen consequence of climate change.

Interfaith Power and Light's Cool Congregation winners were announced. 

Rep. Donald McEachin: A broader coalition will require "preaching environmental justice issues from the pulpit." 

As a person of faith and a scientist, Daniel Weber is compelled to act on climate change. 

Methodist Theological School in Ohio installed a geothermal well, grew a farm, and built a solar array for the 'least of these'.  

Blessed Tomorrow leader & Religious Action Center Director, Rabbi Jonah Pesner appointed to NAACP board.

Wayland Baptist University's "primary focus in sustainability efforts on campus is an emphasis on Creation Care." 

Pope Francis says indigenous peoples exemplify “how cohabitation with creation can be respectful, fruitful and merciful” 

Here's why climate leaders are kicking meat for the Lenten season. 

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Faith Leaders Join Scientists to Model Inequality in Climate Communications

For most Americans, scientific data is abstract, complicated, and generally unconvincing in its plea for climate solutions. While most skilled communicators would agree that effective climate messages avoid arguing over science, should we throw the baby out with the bathwater and leave science out completely? It is, after all, the only reason we actually know anything about climate change. We are dependent on it to help determine our solutions and track their progress — still, there is something amiss. Scientific data, however accurate, remains sterile and lacks humanity. It seems incapable of transmitting the human side of our climate story.

Some scientists have noticed their discipline’s inadequacy in this regard – but rather than exclude themselves entirely from advocating for solutions, they’ve employed the assistance of faith leaders to sharpen their communication skills. Following a panel discussion that featured our latest report, Let’s Talk Climate: Communication Guidance for Faith Leaders — one of the world’s largest general science conferences invited Rev. Fletcher Harper, Blessed Tomorrow leader and founder of Greenfaith, to speak about value-based climate communications. “My entreaty for scientists is to be able to speak publicly about why they care,” explained Harper. It’s a move that climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe calls, “connecting our heads to our hearts” — a goal she’s worked toward within her own Evangelical Christian community.

In Palm Beach, Florida, Nature’s Spirit Conference took a similar approach when they brought faith leaders and scientists together “to explore interfaith and spiritual opportunities that will invigorate environmental activism.” Rather than continue to operate in their respective echo chambers, these faith leaders and scientists are working with one another to better understand climate change and find solutions for Florida’s sinking south shore.

Not everyone, however, shares their enthusiasm for turning scientists into climate advocates, and that includes some scientists. Robert S. Young, a professor of coastal geology at Western Carolina University, knows a lot about climate communications. For years, he was tasked with conveying the urgency of climate change to politicians using scientific data, models, and predictions. According to Young’s account, his use of scientific proof was largely unsuccessful, resulting in his suggestion to cancel the March for Science on April 22nd, citing concerns over the march’s potential to “trivialize and politicize the science.” Young's hesitation toward advocacy is common among scientists, but, as Chris Mooney explained, their fear is largely unfounded with little evidence to suggest that will jeopardize their standing.

Scheduled to occur in cities across America, including Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago, the March for Science coincides with Earth Day and challenges scientists to “get out of the labs and into the streets." While Young’s suggestion to move away from using scientific imperatives to incite climate action is reasonable given his experience, his opposition to the march isn’t exactly a remedy to the issue.

Katharine Hayhoe, by contrast, agrees that if climate science hasn’t swayed public opinion by now, there is no reason to believe that more science will help us achieve our goal. But her suggestion is not about rejecting scientists as valuable advocates – rather, it's a call to empower them with the tools needed to become effective communicators. More and more researchers are finding good communication skills imperative to motivating Americans to action, but they also think that scientific models must reflect the values that climate change threatens.

A study from the University of Maryland, published in the National Science Review, explained that for the past two centuries, scientists have followed an “Earth Science” model, focusing exclusively on the state of our planet and its various ecosystems. The primary issue with these models is that they usually neglect the impact on humans beyond a biological framework, overlooking sociological ramifications. While “Human-System models” do exist, researchers are now suggesting that scientists converge the two, to offer what they call an “Earth-Human System,” that will factor things like population, inequality, and consumption into their climate models.

Adopting an Earth-Human System could be an important move in connecting systemic inequality, racism, economic disadvantages, gender, and other social issues that alter how the climate changes and how those changes will impact people differently. Not only would these models better display the trajectory of climate impacts, they would humanize the abstract data that turns so many Americans away from climate science in the first place.

Our goal as climate communicators is to find more effective methods of connecting with our values, not to dismiss the science that helps us protect them. Instead of rejecting the March for Science, we should join scientists by helping them speak more effectively about climate change and better incorporate aspects that speak to our deeply held beliefs.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of February 17-23

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

This week in faith and climate news…

Blessed Tomorrow's blog explored the "culture change" that is enabling faith communities to capitalize on America's solar boom. 

Blessed Tomorrow's February newsletter was released! 

Katharine Hayhoe explained why it's not too late to act on climate change.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explained why they care about climate? Genesis 1:27-31, Deut. 15:7-11, Matthew 25:35-40, and I Cor. 12:7, 12.

Scientists asked climate faith leaders guidance on climate communicating. 

New York Council of Churches planned to took clean energy to the state capitol. 

Mid-Atlantic Congress opened with an Archbishop's call to care for creation. 

Rev. Carol Devine asked, "must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet?" Ezekiel 34:18.

Historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan has activated a geothermal plant. 

Coming Up in Faith and Climate…

Our partner Islamic Society of North America will host the Power of Faith conference in Houston.

Next week, the Blessed Tomorrow blog will examine the complicated role of science in climate communications and explains why we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sign up to get Blessed Tomorrow's weekly blog delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday at 8 a.m. (ET). 

The “Culture Change” Enabling Faith Communities to Capitalize on America’s Solar Boom

2016 was a great year for solar power as America celebrated its one-millionth-panel installation. Ranging from simple home systems to massive commercial farms powering cities, the solar boom in America is alive and well. Renewable energy has grown steadily in the past few years, and solar power is projected to double in 2017, despite the “missed growth opportunities” of the current presidential administration. Taking part in this transformation isn’t always easy – would-be adopters sometimes face legislative setbacks, high upfront costs, and cultural obstacles—but many churches are learning to overcome these barriers through community outreach and skilled communications.

Trudy Mott-Smith, the Project Manager for the Unitarian Universalist Church in Concord, New Hampshire, was surprised to encounter opposition when her church moved to install two rows of 50 panels each in its front yard. After a torrid struggle with the city council who responded to neighbor complaints of the solar panels being an eyesore, the church settled on hiding them from the street behind shrubbery.

For many, this seemed like a fair compromise—but as I’ve written before, solar panels on faith facilities are about more than reducing fossil fuel consumption (which could save facilities like Concord’s Unitarian Universalist Church $5,000 annually). They send a message to their surrounding community that people of faith care about climate change and are finding solutions to fix it – and hiding the panels from view defeats that purpose.

While Mott-Smith complied with the request to plant concealing shrubbery, she wasn't exactly thrilled, explaining, "Where there used to be a church….there's going to be a sudden wall of green. We were not what you would call extremely happy." Many congregations are surprised to learn that city ordinances impeding their efforts have more to do with aesthetic appeal than resistance from energy companies (though utility companies present their own host of objections).

Overcoming strict city ordinances is one step in the process, but upfront costs can also present new challenges to surmount. According to some sources, solar panel installations can initially cost anywhere from $10-30 thousand, but that expense is usual recuperated within a few years through reduced energy costs. Thanks to Google’s Project Sunroof, you can now see just how much your faith facility would save by simply entering the street address. They even calculate how many usable hours of sunlight your rooftop gets and exactly how much space is available for panel installations.

Grants are another possibility for building solar communities. One state over from New Hampshire, our partner Vermont Interfaith Power and Light (VIPL) announced last week that they successfully secured Katy Gerke Memorial Program (KGMP) grant funds for seven Vermont churches and faith communities to cover the cost of professional energy audits.

Energy audits like these do more than determine the solar rewards available for a building. They examine every specific opportunity to reduce energy use, often saving faith communities tens of thousands of dollars annually. Recommended retrofits may include lighting, heating, and cooling changes, but often require costly experts to conduct the initial audit. Grants like those retrieved by VIPL help faith facilities in overcoming the first step in their walk toward caring for creation.

We look forward to seeing the incredible changes being made at the seven recipients facilities: Federated Church of East Arlington; Knights of Columbus, Rutland; Norwich Congregational Church; United; Church of Dorset and East Rupert; United Church of Northfield; Waitsfield United Church of Christ; and White River Junction United Methodist Church.

Organizations like VIPL are changing the way people think about their access to renewable energy, but, as Christian Science Monitor staff writer Zack Colman explained, there are unseen hurdles that exist beyond upfront costs or city ordinances—and faith leaders are at on the frontline of fixing it.

In an interview, Dant’e King, the Director of Community Outreach for Groundswell in Baltimore and Washington, and senior pastor at Maryland’s Greater Mount Zion Church explained, “I don’t think it’s a matter of whether it’s too expensive or not. I think the misperception is that it’s exclusive.” In King’s fervent outreach, he’s found that the prevailing perception of solar energy is that it’s for “white yuppies.” But King is hoping to change that misconception by increasing outreach programs in low- and middle-income communities.  

By working to break these cultural barriers, Groundswell has successfully unleashed a tidal wave of major solar projects on faith facilities. A recent undertaking on a Washington church created “a solar-paneled canopy for its parking lot. The resulting power will flow onto the local electric grid and then be purchased by about 150 ratepayers who are seeking clean energy.” That's not simply cost-reducing – that’s revenue-generating.

Solar remains the fastest-growing energy source in America and stands to benefit the climate, investors, and job seekers like no other source available. But our shift toward renewable energy will require people of faith to change the way we think about it, dispelling myths and preconceived notions along the way. As King aptly summarized his efforts, “It’s a culture change.”


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of February 10 – 16

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

 

This week in faith and climate news…

Blessed Tomorrow's blog explained why people of faith don’t need to choose between national security and caring for refugees

Blessed Tomorrow leader and President of World Vision USA, Richard Stearns was selected as 2017's Indiana Wesleyan World Changer 

Minister of Green Chalice, Carol Devine explains why the Kentucky Council of Churches agree with coal regulations 

The Rev. Fletcher Harper of Greenfaith: “To address climate change, we need a broad base of support” 

Pope Francis speaks out against Dakota Access Pipeline

Conservative Republicans call for a carbon fee. Will the GOP listen? 

Indiana University of Bloomington’s religious scholar are primed to study climate change and the project title alone is amazing 

Vermont Interfaith Power and Light helped 7 faith facilities secure energy audits 

Churches resist Indiana's solar regulations

Monterey Parish moves California toward clean energy 

Coming Up in Faith and Climate…

Trinity Institute brings together  Barbara Boxer, Christiana Peppard, Winston Halapua, Thabo Makgoba, Katharine Hayhoe, Maude Barlow, David Toomey, Kim Stanley Robinson, and others to secure water justice! 

Don't miss Greenfaith's People's Climate March webinar on 2/6 at 5:30 p.m. ET. 

Next week's Blessed Tomorrow blog will look at how churches are overcoming the three impediments to putting solar panels on their faith facility: costs, regulations, and culture.  Sign up to get Blessed Tomorrow's weekly blog delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday at 8 a.m. (ET). 

 

People of Faith Don’t Need to Choose Between National Security and Caring for Refugees

Trump’s executive order to ban refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries deepened the debate over U.S. national security and the refugee crisis. Many Americans felt torn between their responsibility to protect their country and caring for those unable to return to their own. People of faith felt as though they were asked to pit values against values, but, as research suggests, fighting climate change may address both issues.

In 2011, climate scientists concluded that the Syrian Civil War started over climate-induced water scarcity. Within a year, what began as a regional conflict had (d)evolved into the world's worst refugee crisis in decades. Between extreme drought and the civil unrest it caused, hundreds of thousands of Syrians fled the region looking for a safe place, but they aren’t the only ones forced to flee their homes.

According to the United Nations, twenty to thirty million people flee climate impacts each year (140 million total) — 85% of which hail from Southeast Asia. From the vanishing shoreline of the subcontinent to the arid deserts of Sahara Africa, millions of people are forced to migrate throughout Europe and America, and as long as climate impacts persist, this number will reach 300 million by the end of the century. 

Every year, 300 million people around the world, including the United States, suffer from climate-related health issues, according to the World Health Organization. Sadly, 600,000 of them die from these impacts each year. These harsh realities are not only sad but expensive as they cost over one billion dollars in annual medical expenses (projected to increase to $2-4bn by 2030).

Climate Change Weakens National Security

Despite its inevitably, refugee migrations have met resistance from many politicians including President Trump, who cited national security reasons for ordering travel restrictions specifically targeting Syrian refugees. Despite the fact that Americans are more likely to be harmed by their furniture or toddlers than a refugee, we must recognize and address the swelling concern of our fellow citizens. To do so, we need to effectively communicate to our fellow Americans that if they really want to ensure national security, they should start by addressing climate change. If not for the refugees, then for the sake of our troops.

In 2014, the Pentagon called climate change “a threat multiplier” because “rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict,” leading to “food and water shortages, pandemic disease…and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel encouraged “wise planning and risk mitigation” to ease the stress that climate change placed on our military whose strategic bases of operation are regularly forced to relocate. Pentagon reports went on to explain that the changing climate will only further endanger our troops if we don’t do something about it now.

 

Muslims Lead the Way in Climate Solutions

Apart from climate change exacerbating the refugee crisis and weakening our national security, Trump’s travel ban has significantly impacted the work being done to find solutions. Within hours of the executive order, climate scientists struggled to continue their work, much of which was reliant on their timely return from overseas. One Iran-born, Canadian researcher whose travels were interrupted by the ban found herself unable to conduct critical climate research in Greenland, jeopardizing months of data and valuable instruments that could help turn the tide on climate change.

National security, the refugee crisis, and uninterrupted climate solutions are only a few of the reasons President Trump should act on climate change. The values that we hold as Americans and people of faith compel us to care for God’s creation and that begins with addressing the root of the problem. Luckily, many Muslims have already started.

Prominent Islamic leaders are taking action to find solutions, including Blessed Tomorrow leader Imam Magid, former president of our partner organization, The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). With a legacy of climate action including their Green Masjid Task Force, ISNA re-avowed their commitment to interfaith climate action in a statement released during COP22 in Marrakech. That statement was shortly followed by their announcement to fully divest from fossil fuels in 2017.

Muslim leaders around the world are dedicated to caring for God’s creation, including the many signatories of the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. And you can join them! Call your representative today, and explain why your concern for national security and the refugee crisis has made climate change a priority for you and your faith community. Tell them that you want a total and complete shut down of climate change.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of February 3 – 9

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

This week in faith and climate news…

Blessed Tomorrow’s blog gave you everything you need to know about our new climate guide for faith leaders. 

A step-by-step look at how EnergySage helped Sudbury United Methodist Church find it solar powered footing. 

College Mennonite Church "has spent the last year formulating the plan for CMC’s solar panels." Here’s what they’ve been working on. 

ecoAmerica’s eUpdate was released, giving you the details on what’s been happening in all of our exciting programs! 

Georgia Interfaith Power and Light helped America navigate the “sea of uncertainty” by “focusing on local water." 

Jewish Climate Action Network mobilizes leadership in bold climate campaigns.

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life supports US commitment to the Green Climate Fund. 

We learned why you can't talk about hunger without addressing climate. "Social justice & environmental justice go hand in hand" 

Coming up…

Don’t miss Greenfaith's webinar on February, 26 at 5:30 p.m. ET to learn about faith organizing at People's Climate March. 

The Parliament of the World's Religions is seeking a Climate Action Task Force Intern. Do you have what it takes? 

We’ve been told that you can’t ensure national security while caring for the world’s refugees. Next week’s Blessed Tomorrow blog will explain why that’s entirely false and people of faith are primed are to do both better than anyone has before. Sign up to get Blessed Tomorrow's weekly blog delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday at 8 a.m. (ET).

Everything You Need to Know About Our New Climate Guide for Faith Leaders

Blessed Tomorrow's new report, Let's Talk Climate: Communication Guidance for Faith Leaders is finally here! Main authors Kirra Krygsman, ecoAmerica’s Research Manager, and Meighen Speiser, ecoAmerica's Chief Engagement Officer; along with contributors Shantha Ready Alonso, Creation Justice Ministries; Kara Ball, Blessed Tomorrow; and myself, designed this report to be a one-stop shop for faith leaders to get clear directives on how to effectively communicate on climate change in any faith community — regardless of denomination, size, or location.

After thorough peer reviews by Blessed Tomorrow's leadership circle, we have condensed years of research into one report, offering faith leaders trusted guidance on climate awareness and attitudes as well as successful strategies for communication. In this report, faith leaders will be shown which words to embrace and which to replace, along with key talking points and constructive responses to counterpoints. They'll also be shown 15 steps to creating a personalized message, and a sample sermon demonstrating how to preach creation care from the pulpit.

American faith leaders have a long tradition of ministering to communities on issues of social justice. Apart from an enthusiastic passion, they share a common ability to communicate effectively on the issues most important to their community. People of faith want to do what is right, but they don't always know which issues align most closely with their values. In today's world, people of faith have a lot of different messages coming at them. How will yours stand out among the rest?

Now is the time to elevate faith’s leadership role in providing inspiration, hope, and commitment to care for creation, starting with our families, children, the elderly, those with chronic health conditions, and communities of color. The truth about climate change is that while all of us will feel its impact, there are some who will bear the brunt of it — usually those least responsible for causing it in the first place.

You may be asking, “Why is faith leadership so important in raising awareness on climate change?” Climate change is a moral and spiritual issue that is impacting God’s creation, including people. Climate change is currently having and will continue to have, profound effects that will increase the frequency and severity of illnesses while displacing millions of people around the world, with the most vulnerable among them being harmed first and worst. In Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si', His Holiness explained that “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications. . . It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. . . A great cultural, spiritual, and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.”

For faith leaders such as Pope Francis, climate change poses the greatest threat to our values and our responsibility to care for the least of these. The values that we protect are not, however, restricted by doctrine, as they are found in every major tradition around the world. And in America, faith is still one of the most influential motivators.

More than half of Americans (53%) say religion is very important in their lives, according to a Pew Research Center report released last week. Among western nations, the U.S. ranks among the most religious in the world. The U.S. also ranks among the greatest contributors to climate change through the burning of fossil fuels. While scientists have tried for decades to convince the American public to implement climate solutions immediately, their motivators have not been working fast enough. America needs a cultural shift in the way we view energy, health, prosperity, and fulfilling our values. Learn how faith leaders can get us there with our full report, free for download now.

You can also listen to the complete webinar Blessed Tomorrow hosted on Jan. 26 with guest speaker Rev. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Disciples of Christ, highlighting key features of the report. Get the full recording to learn how the report was created, its intended purpose, and how you can implement its best practices today.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of January 27 – February 2

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

This week in faith and climate news…

Climate Communication tips…

Last week’s solar champions!

Coming up next week…

Conservative Americans Discover Climate Solutions in the Garden of Eden

Climate communicating will undoubtedly face new obstacles under the Trump administration, and the first couple of weeks have only been a taste of what is in store. On the morning of Trump's inauguration, information regarding climate change disappeared from the White House website. The following week, the White House added an energy plan that doubled down on fossil fuels as Trump reopened negotiations to advance both the Dakota and KeyStone XL Pipelines. All of which came after a series of troubling cabinet nominations for the EPA and Department of Energy and an immigration ban that will endanger thousands of climate refugees.

Like Sisyphus, people of faith who care about climate change feel caught in a cycle of triumphs and setbacks, never really advancing beyond the hill ahead. But I assure you, there is a way forward – we just need to find an alternative path (not alternative facts).

Those advancing jeopardous initiatives under the leadership of Trump are largely politicians who sway American conservative values, which means that we must alter our messaging strategy to address their specific priorities. But we’ll need to downplay the science to get there.

As Katharine Hayhoe shared in her latest episode of Global Weirding, Why Facts Aren't Enough, people who deny the realities of climate change may have been influenced by unfounded science and manipulated data, or they choose to ignore the factual data because they don’t like the proposed solutions. Ergo, "giving them more science won't help." In many cases, "arguing over data and facts can be counter-productive" considering that one’s willingness to accept climate science is often deeply rooted in one's political identity. Instead, Hayhoe suggests that we begin by finding common, faith-based values to connect on. But what happens when we try to connect strictly on religious affiliation?

As Hayhoe pointed out in the episode The Bible Doesn’t Talk About Climate Change, Right?, there are many Roman Catholics around the world that disagree about climate change, "and they share the same Pope!" Jay Michaelson, a prominent U.S. writer, and educator on law and religion, similarly explained that Trump’s appointees such as Scott Pruitt, despite holding deep Christian values, are unwilling to admit the existence of anthropogenic climate change. Pruitt and Hayhoe are both Protestant Christians, so how did they arrive at vastly different conclusions on climate solutions?

For Christians like Pruitt, it comes down to what Hayhoe calls being “politically Evangelical” (those who fear government intervention) – but there is a new way of addressing those often partisan ideologies without validating their claims or getting caught in a fight over data. Last month, University of Cologne researchers uncovered what is being called the "Garden of Eden" effect in climate communicating, but we’ll need to retrace our footsteps to understand it.

During the early 2000s, predictions of climate change catastrophes were used to galvanize people into action. Stories of impending tidal waves, earthquakes, and famine petrified people, creating the adverse effect of paralyzing rather than motivating them. Soon, however, our fear of the future was replaced with a dream for a better tomorrow as messaging began to connect our concern for future generations with our willingness to act on climate change. The values of preserving God’s creation for our children and grandchildren tend to resonate well with people of faith, but as Cologne researchers found, so might conservative nostalgia.

In Abrahamic traditions, there is a transgenerational pull to return to innocence — best exemplified in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. As it turns out, this "past-focus" has influenced the way conservative people of faith view their political dealings as well. One example is Donald Trump's campaign slogan to "Make America Great Again," a message that, while vague and unfounded, harkened to an American utopia. Though many have argued that this ideal past never existed, the slogan was effective in rallying conservatives to his cause.

This sentimental way of looking back (fictitious or not) has actually been used by generations of conservatives to envision a better future. In looking back, conservatives begin to feel as though the impossible is possible. Simply put, if we have been there before, we can find our way back.

By showing conservatives what the world once was, and how it has changed, we create a sense of urgency and hopefulness in seeking solutions, while speaking to their longing for a rosier past. Let's take for instance the juxtaposition of these two images of Lake Oroville, captured less than three years apart.

     

Matthew Baldwin, a post-doctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Cologne and author of the study, found that “the trick is to present a very positive past standard, and then draw attention to the less positive present.” Baldwin continued, “Our studies describe in words and pictures what the past used to be like, an almost Eden-like version of the planet, one with clean forests and little traffic and pollution."

Conservative or liberal, climate change remains an abstraction that is difficult to envision. Many Americans require tangible examples to understand that the climate is changing, which can easily be diverted by a good weather day or misinformation regarding a pause in rising global temperatures. In comparing the past to the present, we not only demonstrate the unquestionable changes that have occurred, but we motivate Americans to preserve our future in the process.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

 

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of January 20-26

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

This week in faith and climate news…

This week's Blessed Tomorrow blog: Helping Americans Find Their Moral Ground on Climate Change 

Rev. Sharon Watkins helped Blessed Tomorrow host an awesome webinar for out latest report, Let's Talk Climate: Communication Guidance for Faith Leaders 

Facts won't help your climate communication, and that's a fact. 

How Pruitt's Christianity lost its creation care on his way to the EPA 

What is the psychology behind climate change denial?  

Blessed Tomorrow's newsletter released! 

A Jersey coalition of labor, faith, community, and environmental organizations are fighting climate 

UCC Council for Climate Justice held nationwide climate vigils during Trump's inauguration 

With all our heart and with all our mind: an Inauguration Day prayer by Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe 

Next week's Blessed Tomorrow blog…

Will examine the importance of adjusting our communication strategies to accommodate new faith audiences. Conservative Americans want to go backward on climate change and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Check out next week's blog to find out how skilled faith and climate communicators may help them get there. Get our weekly blog published on www.BlessedTomorrow.org/blog every Tuesday at 8 a.m. (ET).

UCC's Trading Places video is a beautiful reminder of our shared values 

Helping Americans Find Their Moral Ground on Climate Change

If you google the term “climate change,” you’re likely to amass a vast array of studies, op-ed pieces and articles on the scientific, economic, and political factors in assessing the situation. There are compelling arguments in these categories, most of which insist that America needs to implement climate solutions quickly to preserve national security, human prosperity, or fiscal growth. As compelling as these materials may be, there is a growing onslaught of articles that manipulate this data to misrepresent findings in ways that bend the truth toward inaction, denial, and skepticism.

Luckily, arguments that refute the scientific consensus that climate change is real and manmade are not working. More Americans than ever before are “very concerned” (45 percent) or “somewhat concerned” (29 percent) about climate change, according to a recent study from Quinnipiac University. This is something to be proud of, but it falls short of inciting action, largely because our climate messaging lacks a moral component that faith leaders are poised to address.

This issue stems, in part, from the partisan nature of the discussion over the past two decades and the inaction it caused among many faith leaders. Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, a spokesman for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) explained that “a lot of people think of climate change first and foremost through the lens of Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative, and not through the lens of their faith.” Organizations like YECA are working to change this by shifting the focus of the conversation toward a moral one.

There are many groups and subgroups within the climate discussion, ranging from those that outright deny its reality to those who are “very concerned” but lack the motivation to act. Gloria Jones recently joined Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (PAIPL) to plant trees for National Day Against Denial, in order to increase awareness of the impact that climate change is having on communities of color. But, as Jones explained, that message doesn’t always push people toward action. When Jones speaks about climate change, “…most African-American Christians do believe it is real, but what [she] finds is that most think other things are more important,” she shared. Despite scriptural teachings to “love thy neighbor,” hurdles such as this are plentiful in the climate movement, forcing many faith leaders to dig deep on the issue.

Participants of Philadelphia’s National Day Against Denial included Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders who spent the afternoon calling on Trump to address some troubling climate opinions and the questionable dealings of his cabinet selections, many of whom remain skeptical of the solutions already in place to fix climate change. Solutions that if abandoned, would lead to negative impacts that fall disproportionately on communities of color.

Event attendee Mary Wade highlighted the influence of the faith leadership at Wayland Temple Baptist Church for her attendance. It was the associate pastors’ insistence that “race, violence and environmental issues should remain among the focuses for faith-based groups and churches” that tied the climate movement to her existing values.

Similarly, Ohio Rabbi Alex Braver of Tifereth Israel is one of the many faith leaders drawing deep connections between our religious responsibility and how our “exploitation of natural resources severely affects the world’s poorest populations and violates divine dictates on how people should treat the planet.” During an interview with Columbus Dispatch, Braver explained how “the big-picture view is what religion can offer.” He continued, “I think [environmentalism] has very deep roots in ancient text and tradition, but it’s been lifted up in a different way now that we’re seeing the immense power we can have over the environment.”

Tying climate change to our religious morals is the starting place, but turning those moral responsibilities into action is what is most important. For the past few years, faith leaders have championed the Green Climate Fund for its ability to help mitigate impacts and to prepare the least of these for impending shifts in the climate. Last week, the State Department announced the second U.S. contribution of $500 million to the Green Climate Fund, a move that was met with resounding applause from faith leaders around the world for its direct assistance toward the safety of those impacted by the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Check out some the statements from some of America’s most active faith and climate leaders regarding this contribution.

If you would like to learn more about sharpening your faith and climate communication skills, join ecoAmerica for the webinar release of their latest report, Let’s Talk Faith and Climate: Communications Guidance for Faith Leaders, on January 26, 1 pm – 2 pm ET.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of January 13-19

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

This week in faith and climate news…

Blessed Tomorrow's blog explored why Americans need a prayer for climate reconciliation

Katharine Hayhoe: "The book that can help evangelical Christians skeptical of climate change begin to change their minds — the Bible"  

Pope Francis names new Bishop and he is all about creation care 

Talking climate: from research to practice in public engagement 

Here's why scientists are learning to communicate on climate through skilled writing

U.S. faith leaders affirm $500 million investment in the Green Climate Fund 

Faith advocacy has emerged as a powerful tool in the climate movement by reframing climate change as moral issues

Protestants turned the world upside down once. Is it time to do it again on climate change? 

Catholic campaigners urge Trump to honor climate action already in place 

Parliament of World Religions' full statement to U.S. Senate Committee on Pruitt Hearing 

Clean Technica explains how solar installations for churches are getting easier and cheaper

A Prayer for Climate Reconciliation

In 1908, the inaugural Octave of Christian Unity was formed to nurture international Christian community building. By the 1930's the event had transformed into a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, offering a more inclusive invitation for Protestant congregations to join in prayer and song around the world. With somewhere between 33,000 and 38,000 Christian denominations in the world, events like the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which occurs every January 18-25, have come to define an ecumenical need that mirrors the diverse religious tradition of Christian theology.

In the U.S. alone, somewhere between 70 to 80 percent of Americans claim Christian affiliation, comprising over four hundred different denominations, making the United States one of the most varied Christian enclaves in the world. Despite these many differences, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity represents an ever-present continuity of shared values — a time for Christians to strengthen their commitment to protecting their core principles.

This year, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will focus on a theme of "Reconciliation: The Love of Christ Compels Us," inspired by 2 Corinthians 5:14-20. Working with the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute, they have developed an amazing collection of materials for promoting and celebrating this year’s event.

There are many ways to understand the concept of reconciliation, a vital component of Catholicism, commonly achieved through confession, sacrament, and penance. These opportunities are a time for one to seek forgiveness and to reunify with God, neighbor, and creation.

Climate change has put a strain on all three of those relationships. From the disproportionate damage inflicted upon communities of color, to our turbulent relationship with the natural world, our century of burning fossil fuels has created some serious schisms. Pope Francis felt so strongly about the need for climate reconciliation that he included it in his Encyclical, Laudato Si’.

In calling to mind the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change. The Australian bishops spoke of the importance of such conversion for achieving reconciliation with creation: 'To achieve such reconciliation, we must examine our lives and acknowledge the ways in which we have harmed God’s creation through our actions and our failure to act. We need to experience a conversion or change of heart.'

In the tradition of reconciliation, Pope Francis went on to offer an opportunity to not only achieve reproachment but strengthen those bonds which we have damaged in seeking a life of convenient abundance.

A few months after the Encyclical's release, Pope Francis called climate change a grave sin, declaring all protection of creation to be a work of mercy. But climate change also offered an unexpected opportunity by serving as a conduit for strengthening a relationship fractured between Roman and Orthodox Catholics centuries ago. There were many factors leading to the recent reconciliatory moves by these churches, but climate change is among the key issues facilitating the budding friendship.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis included many citations from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s years of climate advocacy. In turn, the Patriarch highlighted the issue during the Pan-Orthodox Council in June 2016, which welcomed Vatican officials, as well as 10 Orthodox churches who affirmed their full unity with one another. Both the Pope and Patriarch have been vocal about climate change for years, but the historic event allowed further connection on the issue, which continues to expand today. In seeking reconciliation with creation, religious communities are discovering common ground on which they may mend their interreligious relationships; but is it enough? Or do we need a formalized "process and mechanism" for "truth and reconciliation commissions,” as religious leaders like Desmond Tutu have suggested?

A formal process would certainly be beneficial, but there’s no need to wait around for one to form. Climate reconciliation is something every faith community may work toward in their own terms. You'd be hard pressed to find a tradition that does not already have some method of reconciliation in place, to either build bridges between communities or restore one's own commitment to caring for God's creation. How will you reconcile climate change this year?

"Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation."

-2 Corinthians 5:18


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of January 7-12

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

 

This week in faith and climate news…

James Bevan and Ellen Dorsey of Divest-Invest discussed faiths, foundations, and finance at COP22

Coming up in the faith and climate community…

Click here to host one in your area

Click here to join one in your area 

Next week's Blessed Tomorrow blog…

Faith leaders have suggested that people of faith seek reconciliation not only with their neighbors but God’s creation as well. That’s nothing new to Christian theology, but it's never been more important than it is now. Here’s why you should join the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Get our weekly blog published on www.BlessedTomorrow.org/blog every Tuesday at 8 a.m. (ET).

How Martin Luther King Jr. Changed The Way We Think About Climate Justice

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did more than point out social injustices – he dug at their root cause while mapping the extent of their growth. In recounting his father's legacy, Martin Luther King III explained how his father had "devoted his life to achieving civil equality in our democracy, but that was only the beginning. The poor and disenfranchised – too often those in communities of color – still disproportionately bear society's harms through no fault of their own. That truth has compelled the fight for social justice across the spectrum: labor rights, women's rights – and yes – environmental rights."

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work on injustices perpetrated directly against communities of color was regularly in the headlines throughout the civil rights era, but he also sought to rectify the secondary and less obvious ramifications of those harms. “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly,” explained King.

Every action and inaction – intended or not – carries with it a consequence. It’s no secret that environmental degradation impacts communities of color the hardest – forcing many to breathe unhealthy air and drink unclean water. These hazards are immediate and worthy of attention; and still, just beyond the horizon, awaits a greater danger.

As it stands, the U.S. is without a regulation on emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane gases, the two leading causes of climate change. According to the NAACP, in cities like Detroit, Ohio, Chicago, Memphis, and Kansas City, people of color regularly suffer illnesses from exposure to toxic facilities that emit these gases and others. In addition to their immediate impacts, these fossil fuel byproducts also contribute to the severity of natural disasters, from which, less affluent communities are less able to escape.

As climate change progresses, super storms like Sandy will devastate poorer communities more frequently and with a greater force than ever before. Rising sea levels have already displaced communities along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, where a football field of land is lost daily. So how do we address these secondary consequences in a world of immediate problems?

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King wrote, “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: a collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.” Unfortunately, America appears to be stuck on step two, negotiating the evidence of climate change with an incoming presidential cabinet and host of representatives who deny its existence. The problem in addressing this issue does not rest solely on our inability to convince them otherwise — it is partly due to our inability to mitigate expectations.  

Carly Schwartz recently explained that the fight for the climate is often envisioned as a singular battle with a definitive triumph, and that's where Americans have gone off track. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach toward climate solutions, we must be realistic about our goals. This is less a compromise and more of an effective strategy dating back to the Gospel of Jesus.

Jesus went from encouraging his disciples to abandon their flock to pursue one lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7) to later commanding that they "…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Matthew 10:15). Jesus understood doubt well – he knew that every situation was different and that he would not win over everyone immediately (John 20:24–29).

Our climate advocacy could take a note from both the Synoptic Gospels and the persistent flexibility of King’s methodology. King moved America toward a better version of itself, but he did not achieve his dream overnight. Rather, he relentlessly spoke to crowds big and small. At first, his outreach connected with only the few who would listen, but his persistence made room for him to expand.

On January 16th, we will celebrate King’s legacy by noting his many achievements, and those are worth recognizing. But this year, I ask my readers to think about King’s long-tail approach, and what that process may teach us about our own climate communication strategies. I ask that you think about how we as concerned people of faith may better apply that process to our own methods of communication in 2017.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of December 31 – January 6

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to inspire everyone.

Every week we'll let you know about upcoming events in the faith and climate community, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

Email Ryan Smith with questions, comments or to be featured in next week's roundup.

 

This week in faith and climate news:

Coming up in the faith and climate community…

From Exile to Oneness: The Bahá’í Faith Talks Climate in a Divided World

Following the execution of his teacher Siyyid ‘Ali Mohammad (Bab) in 1844, Bahá'u'lláh was exiled from his home in the Persian Empire to live out his remaining years in the neighboring Ottoman Empire. Bahá'u'lláh’s claim to Abrahamic heritage had proven too much for the Qajar Dynasty who had grown increasingly troubled by his syncretic view of Krishna, Jesus, Zoroaster and other spiritual messengers throughout history. Avowed to fulfill their collective prophecy, Bahá'u'lláh’s teachings’ spread quickly throughout a divided west before planting firm roots in the U.S.

Born Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí in modern day Tehran, Bahá'u'lláh studied under Bab, the founder of the Babism Movement which built on its Shiite roots to develop a message uniquely its own. Determined to fulfill the mission of his predecessor, the displaced leader created a new tradition during his forty-year imprisonment (terms of his exile), one that found power not in absolutist exclusivity, but rather an interconnectivity of all traditions and their shared values. Bahá'u'lláh called his teachings the Bahá'í Faith.


"I have never aspired after worldly leadership. My sole purpose hath been to hand down unto men that which I was bidden to deliver by God…"

— Bahá'u'lláh


Bahá'u'lláh’s son `Abdu'l-Bahá carried his father's message throughout Europe and America to new audiences — receptions that throughout the decades included Queen Marie of Romania and the actor Rainn Wilson (yes, Dwight from The Office and co-creator of Soul Pancake). The message `Abdu'l-Bahá delivered was clear, value-based, and concisely captured in three core principles.

  • The oneness of God: The only source of all creation is God
  • The oneness of humanity: All humans are created equal by God
  • The oneness of religion: All major religions come from God

On a January morning in 1950, Bahá'í communities gathered around the world to share these teachings commonly referred to as the “three onenesses.” The inaugural World Religion Day had been organized by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States (the national Bahá'í governing council) who sought to unify people of faith and to promote and continue Bahá'u'lláh’s message of interfaith social action.

The event was honored in many different ways, but all participants sought to define in very clear terms the Bahá'í notion that all faiths are created by God and that all humans are connected regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. Indefinitely scheduled for the third Sunday of every January, the global event continues to offer an opportunity for all people of faith to gather and connect on their shared values to address the major issues facing humanity.

The US Bahá'í Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has long positioned the protection of God’s creation as a paramount issue among these concerns. Their salient leadership on climate change is one of the many reasons that Blessed Tomorrow is proud to partner with the OPA community.

Here are just a few examples of their climate leadership over the past few decades.

  • OPA works with the U.S. Bahá'í community to encourage their participation in Interfaith Power and Light’s annual National Preach-In on Climate Change.
  • OPA representatives have served in advisory roles for Interfaith Power and Light.
  • OPA representatives have served on the steering committee of the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate Change.
  • OPA representatives regularly give presentations at Bahá'í schools across the country to promote climate leadership at the local level.
  • OPA joined over 1,200 other signatories in endorsing the Climate Ethics Campaign’s statement, “Our Nation’s Moral Obligation to Address Climate Change.
  • OPA representatives opened a White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and the Environmental Protection Agency event with a speech on the “Power of Interfaith Collaboration.”
  • OPA’s representatives have attended meetings for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to share Bahá'í perspectives on climate ethics and to assist in drafting policy statements.

This short video explains how Bahá'í leaders “helped governments see things from an elevated viewpoint” by changing the way we talk about our “common homeland.”

 

 

If Bahá'í leaders were able to have that much influence on global governances, imagine the impact they could have over the next four years.

This year, World Religion Day falls on January 15th, just five days before a presidential inauguration that will solidify Donald Trump’s ascension to commander-in-chief. This makes 2017’s World Religion Day an ideal time to remind Donald Trump and his administration that faith leaders are watching and expecting nothing less than swift action in favor of the climate, the least of these, and the oneness of God’s creation.

World Religion Day events offer many activities including symposiums, festivals, and lectures! Contact your local temple to find one near you and connect with other faith communities to start a collaborative climate effort in your area.

 

 

“Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.”  

—Bahá’u’lláh


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis in faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Faith and Climate News: Top Stories for the Week of December 23-30

Every Friday, we release our favorite faith and climate stories from the week. We highlight achievements in climate solutions and effective climate communicating to people of faith. We feature helpful tips and strategies for you to implement in your faith community and stories to share with your friends and family. We also let you know about upcoming events for the faith and climate community in the coming week, including a special glimpse into our weekly blog which publishes here every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. (ET).

If you think we missed anything, email Ryan Smith, or comment your suggestions below.

 

 

Faith and Climate Leadership

Faith and Climate Communications

Events Next Week

  • New Year’s Day is World Day of Peace, for which Pope Francis will deliver a message, as every Pope has since 1967. Last year, Pope Francis' message focused on creation care, but did you know that Pope John Paul II was the first to highlighted this issue on World Day of Peace in 1990? Check out Pope Francis 2017 message early here. (Vatican)

Next Week's Blog

  • From exile to climate leadership, Blessed Tomorrow's blog will examine how the history of the Bahá'ís Faith has enabled community leaders to influence United Nation climate policies since 1992. (Blessed Tomorrow)

Published on www.BlessedTomorrow.org/blog every Tuesday at 8 a.m. (ET).

Why Delaware Faith Leaders Can’t “Live in a State of Denial” About Climate Change

Delaware is a beautiful and tiny state with a big impact on the United States. Known for its significant role in ratifying the U.S. constitution, Delaware was the first colony to sign it. While The First State, as it came to be known, has long been a leader in American history, it has recently been making a name for itself as a leader in climate solutions.

Delaware's mid-Atlantic river opens into the Delaware Bay which, according to the state’s climate impacts report, is rising at an alarming rate, with projected increases of 1.6 to 4.9 feet by 2100. In some cases, according to an Aljazeera report, major roadways have already been closed due to ocean sediment and water overflow. For Delaware’s residents, these impacts act as visible reminders of the consequence of inaction.

If the rising sea level persists as it has in Florida and Louisiana, it would effectively submerge up to 11 percent of the state’s land mass – but Delaware citizens aren’t wading around to find out. State and local officials, business leaders, and faith communities have all seen a recent uptick in climate action.

With years of successful climate leadership behind them, our partner organization Delaware Interfaith Power and Light (DIPL) is stepping up their efforts by teaming with Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility to “expand energy conservation resources for Delaware’s faith-based institutions.” These expanded efforts will provide “energy audits, remediation strategies, funding options, and ongoing cost-saving energy education” for the state’s many faith facilities.

One participant of the DIPL’s Faith Efficiencies program is John Mears, Green Team co-chair at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lewes, a seaside community that would undoubtedly be on the front line of coastal climate impacts. While the encroaching water level is motivation enough, the church's involvement is actually a response to “The Episcopal Church’s Genesis Covenant goal of reducing [their] carbon footprint by 50 percent in ten years.” Mears explained that the “Efficiency Program enabled [them] to establish a base year, identify reductions that have already been achieved and quantify costs, savings, and resources to support additional efficiency upgrades.”

But this isn’t DIPL’s first rodeo in the Delaware climate circuit. For years, they have worked closely with Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, also in Lewes, to combat climate change and take action on Pope Francis’ call to 'care for our common home.' Together they helped initiate the Efficiency Program to help other Delaware faith communities reduce their carbon footprint.

Climate solutions and climate talk go hand-in-hand

Lisa Locke, Executive Director of Delaware Interfaith Power & Light, has had many successes under the Efficiency Program, but she also understands the importance of talking about climate change to provide insights on what she recently called the “defining moral challenge of our time.” Addressing national columnist Susan Stamper Brown’s article It's Time to Chill About Global Warming, Locke examines Brown’s parting question, “What if man has no control over what happens on the planet but the God who created it does?” Brown continues, “Maybe it’s time for alarmists to chill, stop guilting, and trust God more.”

Ideas like this may appear fringe in nature and isolated to faith outliers but the truth is that Brown isn’t alone in her thoughts. Earlier this year, the Yale Program On Climate Change Communications reported that “fifteen percent of Americans think God controls the climate, therefore people can’t be causing global warming.” Surveys conducted in March 2016 in Yale’s report, Global Warming, God, and the “End Times,” found that 11 percent of respondents expressed a belief that “the apocalypse will happen within their lifetime, therefore we don’t need to worry about global warming.”

While eschatological indifference is more of an American pastime than modern phenomena, there is a swelling number of faith leaders engaging those who perpetuate it. But, we need more!

Locke explains, “We do not believe that God will intervene to save us from our ill-informed and reckless mistakes,” continuing, “We cannot afford to live in a state of denial. Nor can our policy makers. We need a reality check for ourselves and we need to hold our leaders accountable.”

Talking about climate change has never been more important, but maintaining an optimistic approach is even more critical. As Locke says, “We need to believe that we can pull back from the brink of our own destructiveness. It will require inquiring minds, open hearts, helping hands and a certain leap of faith…”

Hats off to Delaware climate leaders like Locke for their persistent and long history of caring for God’s creation. They are a testament to the power of faith in climate solutions, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for 2017.

While Delaware has challenged itself to complete some amazing tasks for God’s creation, I have a challenge for you. In the first month of 2017, I am asking you to write one letter to an editor explaining why climate solutions are important to you. Write this from any perspective you like, submit it to any publication you like, and share it on social media. Who knows – we may just be writing a blog about you in the new year.

Need help getting started? Check out our many resources at Blessed Tomorrow.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Does Size Matter In Creation Care Leadership?

When we think of creation care leaders in the climate movement, we imagine Pope Francis orating before the U.S. House of Representatives, The Islamic Society of North America divesting from fossil fuels at COP22, or the African Methodist Episcopal Church ratifying their first climate resolution during their 2016 general conference. With a combined audience that reaches into the billions, these leaders and institutions are able to motivate climate solutions around the globe, but leadership happens every day with local leaders taking action on climate change regardless of their size or outreach.

This fall, the Mennonite Creation Care Network awarded two grants totaling $15,000 to Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship and Albuquerque Mennonite Church to assist them in acquiring rooftop solar panels. The New Mexico chapel services a congregation of over two-hundred people, while the Vermont chapel accommodates a community of sixty people of faith. To top it all off, the Vermont chapel was and is without a pastor, leaving the legwork required for achieving their solar goals to unordained leaders within the congregation. If that's not a testament to the irrelevance of the size or qualifications needed to be a climate leader, I don't know what is.

More and more, American congregations are enacting the values of their traditions by implementing climate solutions in their facilities, but they aren't limited to major retrofits or construction projects. Faith leaders have a unique position to engage communities on the importance of acting on climate change in their messages from the pulpit, and to encourage climate-minded voting and investments by empowering a growing force of lay people in roles of faith-based climate leadership.

As you know, faith facilities rely on the contributions and volunteerism of the unordained to accomplish many of the important tasks that come with operating a church, mosque, synagogue, etc. Sometimes acting on climate change requires little more than redirecting these busy bees to work on what Pope Francis called “the cry of the earth, the cry of the poor.” But it's about more than delegating tasks –  it’s about creating an ecosystem of climate-minded people of faith.

On April 23rd, the Archdiocese of San Francisco launched a major Laudato Si’ initiative to urge California parishes to act on Pope Francis' Encyclical. Eight months later, the results are in, and they are impressive.

At St. Anselm Parish in Ross
, California, Father Jose Shaji began implementing a regular “Care for Creation Mass” to discuss the importance of living out the message of Laudato Si. It wasn't long before his congregation formed a creation care committee, comprised entirely of lay people with oversight from Father Shaji.

In less than one year, the eight team members have "conducted a lighting audit of all parish buildings, formed a task force of conservation-savvy parishioners and school parents, introduced the use of reusable and/or compostable cups, dishes, and utensils at parish events, and sold copies of Laudato Si’ after Mass."

These efforts bred an ecosystem of thriving climate awareness as "liturgies began to include creation-conscious intercessory prayer intentions and the bulletin included tips to help parishioners make more environmentally sustainable decisions in their daily lives." Soon, entire families got involved, committing to walk together to Mass or ride bikes thanks to recently installed bike racks. The congregation is currently conducting a water-use audit and investigating solar power options for 2017. 

Not far from St. Anselm, St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Burlingame, CA joined with our partner Catholic Climate Covenant to "start a weekly column in the Sunday bulletin and measure parish energy consumption and waste generation to uncover areas to work on." Similarly, lay people Gail Kendall and Stephen Miller of St. Teresa of Avila of San Francisco
, who each work professionally on sustainability projects, helped reach a major milestone for their congregation.

On November 30th, St. Teresa of Avila installed 25 rooftop solar panels, saving the parish "$244 per month, or about $3,000 per year."

In many cases, faith leaders are discovering the resources for change are right in front of them. And, as St. Teresa of Avila demonstrated, tapping those resources can save a church a substantial amount of money.

Regardless of your congregation’s size, every faith community has something to contribute to climate solutions. Learn how to get started with Blessed Tomorrow's how-to-guides. We have everything you’ll need to empower the climate leaders in your town.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Why 2016 Was Better Than You Think For Climate Leaders

It's been a long year for climate advocacy.

The road to solutions has been a winding path with turns we did not anticipate. Some good, some bad, but ultimately forward. This is the inevitable nature of the American spirit, to progress and enact the values that define us in the face of adversity. We're resilient that way.

When Donald Trump was elected President in November, there was an expected lament for the climate (among other concerns) that was quickly replaced by a compulsion to continue on. President Trump's approach to climate change is concerning, no one is doubting that, but let's not forget the astounding accomplishments we have already made in communicating the urgency of climate change to millions of Americans. In remembering what we have achieved, we can plan ahead for the new year and make 2017 the best climate year yet!

How we contributed…

Blessed Tomorrow is a program of ecoAmerica, America's most unique climate change communications nonprofit that empowers leadership in higher education, faith, health, politics, business, and local communities. We believe that through tested research, we may provide strategic communication expertise to help leaders speak to their communities, stakeholders, and board members about the importance of acting on climate change.

For years, we have helped develop programs and research that speak to the base of America's diverse population by addressing their immediate concerns of faith, prosperity, family, economic security, and health. We do this by identifying key strategies and messages that enable our leaders and programs to speak frankly and effectively about climate change. And, we accomplish this in a number of unique ways.

Through our four channels of engagement, we are able to reach people where they live, learn, work, and pray. Blessed Tomorrow alone has allied with 7 partner organizations and 18,785 local and global congregations with a combined membership of over 57 million Americans. That's over seventeen percent of the US population, but we won’t stop until we have every single American talking about climate change.

To keep this trend going, we’ve teamed with more prominent faith leaders in 2016 to add to our already amazing circle of reverends, rabbis, imams, and community leaders.

 

In 2016, Blessed Tomorrow also welcomed new partners United Church of Christ, U.S. Baha'i Office of Public Affairs, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who ratified their first-ever climate resolution at this year's annual conference. The resolution is monumental for both the church and the climate movement, with an AME church outreach of 2,500,000 members.

Faith is the focus of Blessed Tomorrow, and we truly believe that speaking to American values is the most effective way to forge lasting solutions. American climate values do, however, extend beyond the walls of our respective faith facilities, permeating every aspect of our lives including health care and local communities. That’s why ecoAmerica also maintains a steadfast outreach to these audiences through programs like Climate For Health and Path To Positive Communities.

Together, these programs have reached millions of Americans from all walks of life through a rapidly growing network of 200+ mainstream institutions and leaders who exist outside the traditional environmental movement. These efforts have engaged 1,108 American Association of Community Colleges members; gathered 1,407 U.S. Conference of Mayors members who are on the frontline of climate impacts facing their cities; and supported 25,000 Health officials, providers, and organizational leaders in the American Public Health Association. And that's just a few our collective results.

To better accomplish tasks like these in the new year, we have kicked up efforts to bring leaders together from across the US for events and collaborations spanning from Los Angeles to Washington, DC and everywhere in between. And we want you to be part of the process by letting your voice be heard. Download our free 2017 Impact Report to learn more about what we’ve been up to this past year and how you can get involved in 2017!


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

American Leaders to Trump: U.S. Must Look Forward, Not Backward on Climate Change

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to reverse much of the progress our nation has made on climate. His recent appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a fierce critic of the Environmental Protection Agency, to be the EPA’s administrator is a clear indication he intends to follow through on that plan. This is why almost 100 American religious leaders, health and medical professionals, business executives, community leaders, and educators signed an open letter to Trump calling for a clean-energy future in this country.

The declaration, which was spearheaded by ecoAmerica, was published this morning as a full-page statement in USA TODAY. It advises Mr. Trump that the multiple benefits of climate solutions align with his primary goals of growing the economy, bringing jobs back to America, and strengthening national infrastructure. The signatories added their voices to a growing list of mayors, scientists, business leaders, and environmental groups who have released major public statements urging Mr. Trump to heed scientific facts about climate change.

Because I see our neighbors suffering due to a changing climate, I join with other faith, health, business, and community leaders across America to support climate solutions that will equalize the scales of justice for those most impacted, provide healthy communities for our children and grandchildren, and protect God’s creation.

One signatory, Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) asserted, “As a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is called to take action on one of the greatest moral challenges of our time – protecting our shared home. Because I see our neighbors suffering due to a changing climate, I join with other faith, health, business, and community leaders across America to support climate solutions that will equalize the scales of justice for those most impacted, provide healthy communities for our children and grandchildren, and protect God’s creation.”

The Chairman of ecoAmerica’s Board of Directors, former U.S. Undersecretary of State Frank Loy, said the statement was placed to send President-elect Trump a message that everyday Americans are concerned about the future. “The diverse leaders in our extensive network are not environmentalists as such. But they strongly believe that America should keep its climate commitments, including the international Paris Agreement reached a year ago. We should be leading the world on climate solutions. Undoing the progress made to date would be disastrous for the future of our planet.”

ecoAmerica urges local, faith, and health leaders around the country to join us in raising our voices for climate progress. Read and sign the statement at AmericansforClimateSolutions.com.

 

4 Steps To Jewish and Christian Climate Collaboration This Holiday Season

This year, Hanukkah and Christmas Eve are scheduled to begin on the same date (Dec. 24th) — with Hanukkah continuing through New Year's Day. It's always nice when religious holidays overlap to remind us of the congruity between traditions and provide an opportunity to relate familiar teachings and values. It's also a great opportunity for faith communities to join together on a common cause like climate change, or other social justice issues that impact both communities.

Climate change affects Christian and Jewish communities in the same way, and that's why leaders from both traditions have remained powerful voices in the fight against climate change. From some of Blessed Tomorrow's newest leaders such as Rabbi Jonah Pesner to founding partners like Rev. Jim Wallis, faith leaders have offered strong direction to change the way we talk about climate change in America's major faith traditions.

Aligning those common calls to action has never been more important than it is now. On January 20th, President-Elect Donald Trump will take office in the White House, where he has promised to dismantle countless climate solutions implemented under the Obama administration. Here’s what you can do about it.

With Christmas and Hanukkah just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start interfaith community building in your town to develop a plan of action for the coming year (and we’ll show you exactly how to do it). Hanukkah is an eight-day festival of lights that is full of themes on the resilience of the faithful and their responsibility to care for G-d's creation. Hanukkah stories of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees are shared with Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians in the “Old Testament.”

Scriptural alignment (though not necessary) offers common ground for faith communities to meet on but as the threat of climate change increases with every passing year, the chance to rebuild our climate becomes increasingly more difficult. America's fight for the climate is at a tipping point and in dire need of cohesive action across faith communities. But where do you begin?

For starters, you can host an event, and invite your neighboring congregations to join in the celebrations. This will allow you to share your tradition with other communities and begin a climate discussion that connects your shared values on climate change. Here are four steps to turn your holiday season into a festive climate collaboration with your neighbors.

1. Host an interfaith event

Blessed Tomorrow has produced this helpful guide for you to host a successful climate event in any size community. Hanukkah and Christmas offer many opportunities to welcome other faith communities into your house of worship for climate leadership events such as potlucks, speaking engagements, and religious services. This is a great way to get the climate conversation started and meet new people in the process.

2. Build an interfaith team

Creation Care committees are often limited to one house of worship, but who says you can't just as easily build an interfaith committee with neighboring congregations? Not only will this help you build a stronger dialogue with your neighbors, it also allows both communities to pool resources and reach a larger audience of people in other communities.

3. Design an effective communications strategy

Using ecoAmerica's many trusted guides, you may develop a communications strategy based on tested and marketable materials to effectively engage the greatest number of people. Here’s a guide to get you started!

4. Take action!

Now that you've built a strong team of climate leaders, you may develop a unique plan of action that involves both communities. Commit to enacting this plan together in the new year and start 2017 strong! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Call or write your electric power utility company to ask them to switch to wind- or solar-powered electricity. Written statements signed by religious leaders are especially impactful and make people listen.
  • Submit joint articles written by faith leaders from both communities. Faith leaders are trusted sources for moral guidance and often have easier access to local publications considering their established influence.
  • Petition municipal officials to require sustainable retrofits and design of buildings through ordinances and executive orders. Creating change is often easier on the local level.
  • Lobby state representatives to vote in favor of renewable energy by scheduling meetings with them to explain how important swift climate action is to you and your congregation.
  • Urge your senators to strengthen the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions from coal-burning plants, oil refineries, and vehicles.
  • Craft climate sermons as often as possible, but commit to a number. Whether it's every week or once per month, setting a goal to consistently speak about climate change will make you more likely to follow through on it.
  • Sign up with Blessed Tomorrow and join the hundreds of faith leaders and congregations across the US who have committed to climate action. You'll be given exclusive invites to our leadership events, access to our tested materials, and much more!

Encourage your congregation to repeat this list over and over again until we turn the tide on climate change. They, too, can make phone calls, write letters, and vote with the creation in mind. Start building the next generation of climate leaders who will take responsibility for G-d's creation in the coming years. Let this be more than an opportunity to answer a moral call to act on climate. Let this be a time to join faith communities in a way that will bind them for generations to come. Happy Holidays!


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

We Need To Talk About America’s Moral Diversity

If the 2016 elections taught us anything, it's that America is more morally diverse than we had initially imagined (and that's putting it lightly). Despite 64 percent of Americans claiming to be worried about climate change, we elected a President who called climate change a "hoax," promised to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, and vowed to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. As much as we have in common, there appears to be an equal schism in the way we prioritize our moral motivators on climate change.

For decades, faith leaders have championed morally driven climate communications that emphasize compassion and fairness. While this strategy has effectively persuaded a significant number of politically liberal people of faith, it has remained slightly less efficient within conservative communities. Most faith-based calls to climate action remain monolithic in their appeal(s) to social welfare, neglecting profound conservative morals of self-sufficiently and providing for one’s family.

Carolyn Gregoire, a Senior Writer at The Huffington Post, suggests that "most moral arguments around climate change may inadvertently appeal more to liberals by focusing on its effects on animals, vulnerable populations, and future generations." Messages that center solely on communal welfare are impactful to some degree, but if faith leaders hope to break through to all Americans, they'll need to expand their call to represent the concerns of a developing religious base that draws on a variety of morals. For example, if a person of faith is deeply concerned about their moral right to liberty, explaining how renewable energy reduces America’s reliance on foreign oil is a more effective approach than talking about climate refugees.

In 2012, Matthew Feinberg mistakenly claimed, "that liberals, but not conservatives, view the environment in moral terms and that this tendency partially explains the relation between political ideology and environmental attitudes." There are many things that Feinberg gets right, but this is not one of them. Conservatives do not lack a moral framework on the issue of climate change; they merely differ in what morals they use to prioritize their position on the issue and its solutions.

American moral priorities are varied, but they are not altogether untrackable. Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory explains six moral axes that drive most Americans.

  1. Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm.
  2. Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating.
  3. Liberty: the loathing of tyranny; opposite of oppression.
  4. Loyalty or in-group: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal.
  5. Authority or respect: obeying tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion.
  6. Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation.

Less than one month before the Presidential election, Cornell researchers applied Haidt's Moral Foundation Theory to American climate opinions and found that "compassion and fairness were strong, positive predictors of willingness to act on climate change" among liberal communities. Conservative Americans, however, responded more positively to moral messages that focused on "purity, authority, and in-group loyalty." Similar findings were reported in ecoAmerica's, Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Communication released last year. The joint report by ecoAmerica and Columbia University found that “climate communicators can channel the influence of groups by helping people view their actions and responses to climate change as part of a larger group effort, whether that group is a neighborhood, a company, or a faith-based organization.”

Cornell researchers suggest that America's "response to climate change can have existential, moral, social, and pragmatic components. This complexity means that the relationship between attitudes, intentions, and behavior is not straightforward. Even when we believe climate change is real and caused by humans, heuristics, and cognitive biases can hinder our ability to act." Environmental psychologist Dr. Renee Lertzman agrees that "strong moral values can easily conflict with other values a person might hold, limiting that person’s willingness to make personal choices that benefit the environment" and "those conflicts need to be considered." In the 2016 election, many Americans were convinced that mandates like the Clean Power Plan minimized their ability to care for their family, citing economic insecurities. Explaining the economic resilience of renewable energy in this instance will be far more effective than evoking moral responsibilities to social welfare.

Faith leaders hold a unique position to help navigate these diverse moral courses toward positive climate voting patterns. This should not, however, apply solely to communities living in Midwestern flyover states as previously assumed. Considering historically liberal strongholds such as California, New York, and Illinois managed a thirty to forty percent voter base for Donald Trump, it’s safe to assume that congregations in all regions of America likely maintain diverse moral approaches to climate change, as well as a thriving conservative base. But the moral diversity surrounding climate change is more nuanced than discussions of partisan alignment.

Case in point: Washington State, where “most of the environmental community and a broad coalition of progressives did not support the long-coveted ‘holy grail’ of climate policy, a carbon tax (state ballot – I-732).” KC Golden, Senior Policy Advisor of Climate Solutions, suggests that the climate movement must address these moral divides to “find common ground with more than its overwhelmingly white, green, liberal elite.” There is no such thing as a homogenous voter precinct or single moral call on climate — a diversity that our communications strategies would benefit from recognizing.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

 

We Gathered America’s Most Influential Climate Leaders: Here’s What We Found

For almost 20 years, the Milken Institute School of Public Health has provided a platform for cutting edge solutions to the world's most pressing health issues. With climate change impacting the welfare of all Americans, it seemed only suiting to host ecoAmerica's American Climate Leadership Summit at their beautiful Georgetown University location. On September 14th and 15th, ecoAmerica and Blessed Tomorrow welcomed nearly 300 leaders of business, health, faith, higher education, communities, government, culture, philanthropy, and climate to discuss precisely what we mean when we talk about "climate solutions" – this year's theme – and to consider productive paths forward in our responsibility to act on climate.

Comments by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D–RI) at this year’s leadership summit have never been more important than they are now, with his encouragement to increase (counter) lobbying efforts to demand that Congress address climate change immediately. In the wake of president-elect Donald Trump’s promise to “bring back coal,” and appoint climate denier, Myron Ebell to head the EPA transition team, many Americans are wondering how they might still lead on climate.

With a conservative upset of senate and house seats, the often neglected legislative branch has quickly become the focal point of the climate movement. Luckily, leaders such as Senator Whitehouse have maintained outspoken leadership for the climate over the years but he needs help from all leaders to combat the onslaught of fossil fuel lobbyists.

Fossil fuel lobbyists hold an enormous amount of sway on Capitol Hill, but their influence reaches far beyond Washington, all the way to the United Nations. This past week, a multinational petition signed by 500,000 people was given to the COP22 US delegation in Marrakech calling for a ban of fossil fuel lobbyist who have swayed UNFCCC negotiations for years.

Fossil fuel lobbyists receive their funds from special interest conglomerates that funnel millions of dollars annually into persuasive tactics that promote climate denial and inaction at the world’s highest regulatory negotiations – efforts that many small nations simply cannot compete against. Considering Senator Whitehouse's remarks at this year’s leadership summit, perhaps people of faith should focus 2017 on getting rid of fossil fuel special interests on Capitol Hill by starting their own petition or simply phoning their representatives to demand swift action on climate solutions.

Senator Whitehouse was joined at this year’s summit by Senator Brian Schatz (D–HI), who echoed his sentiments and explained ten ways in which Americans are collectively winning on climate, reminding us that effective climate leadership can come from anywhere. Read both Senators remarks in ecoAmerica's full report.

Politicians weren’t the only leaders forging solutions at this year’s event with Blessed Tomorrow leader Shantha Ready Alonso of Creation Justice Ministries sharing her excitement over the mingling of health and faith leadership: “As faith communities, we talk to each other quite a bit, but opportunities to interact with the health sector are so rare and important."

For many people of faith, their concern for God’s creation and the health of those who inhabit it are inseparable – particularly concerning the health impacts that climate change is having on “the least of these” domestically and internationally.

The proceeding was also a time to welcome one of Blessed Tomorrow’s  newest partners, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The AME church has been an outspoken leader of social justice in America for over 200 years, earning their leaders’ heavy political influence in Washington – so much so that Hilary Clinton made the AMEC’s Philadelphia headquarters a campaign stop to hear the concerns of Bishops who were in the middle of voting in the church’s first climate resolution.

The American Climate Leadership Summit also welcomed Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Rev. Jim Wallis, Rabbi Steve Gutow, Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Brian McLaren, and many more to tackle three critical questions in the faith and climate community:

  1. How can faith communities be engaged with climate solutions?
  2. How can faith communities engage society with climate solutions?
  3. How can ecoAmerica help faith communities engage with society on climate solutions?

Read their full responses by downloading ecoAmerica’s free report today!

Earlier in the summer, ecoAmerica hosted another summit focused on climate leadership specifically within the Latino community, and ways to engage the growing number of Latino-Americans concerned with climate change. Among Latino leaders in health, business, faith, and politics, Blessed Tomorrow leader Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, President of National Latino Evangelical Coalition, helped navigate a strong path forward on engagement in the broader Latino community. The findings from this event have been compiled into a special report, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate U.S. Latinos, which will be shared via a free webinar on Thursday, December 1st. From 1pm to 2pm ET, ecoAmerica’s research team will offer an in-depth look at the results from this multi-phase research project, which leaders can use to successfully engage Latino audiences on climate, and create the optimism and intensity needed to inspire action.

Join the discussion by reserving your spot in the webinar today. You won't want to miss it!


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

What A Deadly Chicago Heatwave Taught Us About Community-Building Climate Resilience

Chicago is a vibrant city, electrified by its beautifully diverse population of almost three million residents. Its rich history is palpable with institutions and families spanning generations in this lakeside metropolis – one you've probably visited on vacation, for work, or to catch a Cubs game at historic Wrigley Field. But for those that call Chicago home, there is more to this Second City than its monumental Willis Tower or iconic Cloud Gate. I should know, I live here.

For decades, much of the city has been plagued by gun violence, poverty and a lack of educational resources, forcing many Chicagoans to put climate change on the backburner. For those that struggle to pay the bills, find work, and keep their family safe, abstract and seemingly distant threats such as climate change aren’t exactly a dinner table topic. But in reality, climate change has been anything but abstract or distant for Chicago.

WBEZ Chicago wanted to know how the home to one of America’s most deadly heatwaves remains silent on the issue of climate change considering its ability to exacerbate the frequency of similar impacts. Teamed with climate scientists and Climate Central creator Heidi Cullen, WBEZ’s Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda visited thirteen Chicago families to ask what they thought about climate change and how they were talking to their children about this critical issue.

In speaking with families that span the cityscape and vary in economic and educational level, the project uncovered two takeaways to illuminate America’s overall climate silence.

  • Climate change is scary, and we don’t like being scared

For most Americans, climate change is frightening – and the onslaught of doomsday scenarios aren’t helping. Many of the narratives we’ve been given are fear-laden in an attempt to scare people into action. Unfortunately, they’ve had the opposite effect, petrifying more people than they animate.

One participant explained that the reason for not talking to her children about climate change was to avoid ingraining a “sense of hopelessness.” Cullen refers to this condition as “pre-traumatic stress disorder,” a state in which people become distressed not by past pains; rather, future traumas.

It’s a diagnosis eerily reminiscent of the one given to prisoners in Nazi Germany who failed to imagine a future for themselves, leading to Austrian neurologist Victor Frankl’s development of logotherapy.

  • Climate change is important, but it’s not urgent

In a city known for its host of social ills, it's difficult for people to maintain consistent climate priorities. For many Chicago families, their daily concerns center around keeping their families safe, fed, and educated, and despite climate change already having immediate impacts on poor communities, it feels distant for many Chicagoans – and not, as one might think, for a lack of understanding. Most people interviewed appeared well educated and concerned on the issue of climate change, and yet lacked the motivation to fix it for various reason, citing more pressing worries.

Chicago’s Deadly Heatwave

In 1995, Chicago lost 739 lives during “one of the most unexpectedly lethal disasters in modern American history.” A blistering heat wave swept across Cook County, crashing power grids, bringing roadways and public transportation to a halt. Temperatures reaching 105 degrees Fahrenheit tormented senior citizens, young children, and a staggering homeless population that fell victim to relatively high heat. Largely, these deaths happened in Chicago's lower income southside, where many residents lacked air conditioning. But a closer look by sociologist, Eric Klinenberg uncovered that death tolls had more to do with a lack of community connections  than proper cooling.


This is important, because climate change virtually guarantees that, in the next century, major cities all over the world will endure longer, more frequent, and more intense heat waves. – Eric Klinenberg


When Klinenberg compared economically similar neighborhoods like Chicago’s Englewood and Auburn Gresham, he found something unexpected. Both areas look identical on paper with devastatingly poor populations, and yet one fared far better than the other for reasons that became apparent only after Klinenberg visited them:

“Residents described [Englewood] as “bombed out” and “abandoned.” Empty lots, boarded-­up houses, and broken, uneven sidewalks discouraged people from going outside, especially older people. During the heat wave, the residents of Englewood tended to hunker down in the safety of their homes—which became brick ovens. Englewood’s death rate was among the highest in the city.”

Neighboring Auburn Gresham, however, though known as one the “worst neighborhoods in Chicago” and identical to Englewood in many ways, fared much better than most other Chicago neighborhoods, including affluent white areas. The difference, according to Klinenberg, being community.

“Auburn Gresham…never lost its core institutions or its people. Stores, restaurants, community organizations, and churches animated its streets, and people hung out on the sidewalks. Older people there belonged to block clubs; residents assured me they knew who they had to keep tabs on during the heat wave.”

Researchers realized that community and social cohesion, above all, kept people safe during the heatwave, with similar occurrences found during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Not only did more tightly knit communities on the east coast have higher survival rates, but their ability to rebuild was much greater than those without strong community ties.

In places like Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood multiple generations often live in the same house. Community members grow up with one another and remain connected into adulthood, often attending the same faith facility. Faith communities like Auburn Gresham staple Trinity United Church, pastored by Rev. Otis Moss III, have been connecting communities for decades – making them more resilient to climate impacts in the process.

Rev. Moss is a long-time Blessed Tomorrow leader who has worked closely with local and national climate partners to ensure that his strong and vibrant community remains a bedrock in times of difficulty. And according to ecoAmerica's recent American Climate Leadership Summit findings, his actions are on target.

Not only do institutions such as Trinity United help their communities endure impacts better than others, they help community members take a role in preventing them. By “connecting climate to core faith values,” faith leaders “make climate a moral responsibility” while inspiring hope and productive actions.

Organizations like Chicago’s Faith In Place, an Interfaith Power and Light affiliate, regularly host events for Chicago residents to connect their faith and climate values while preparing for impacts. Through workshops and community building, Faith in Place is producing a brigade of climate voters, stronger communities, and an educated base of young climate leaders.

Learn more about leaders like Rev. Moss at Blessed Tomorrow and find out how your community can become stronger and more resilient to climate change.  


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Innovative Climate Media Makes Room For Faith

Climate communications are an ever evolving myriad of mediums and expressions. From major productions like the new film Before the Flood to distribution tools on social media, the way we talk about climate is changing not only in language but also the methods with which we deliver it. These methods have increasingly welcomed people of faith, allowing them to reach unprecedented audiences with the click of a button.

When the television series Years of Living Dangerously premiered in 2014 and received overwhelming support on social media, I was pleasantly surprised by its focus on people of faith. Highlighting the accolades of skilled communicators such as Anna Jane Joyner and Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, the National Geographic series thrust their respective successes into the national spotlight.

Joyner, who deftly tried to convince her Evangelical pastor father to accept the reality of climate change in Years of Living Dangerously, teamed up with her costar, Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign director, Mary Anne Hitt, to launch No Place Like Home, a podcast that welcomes successful climate leaders to share their positive methods and useful communication strategies. These open and honest thirty-minute installments are unique not only for their helpful guidance about what works but also for their frank discussion about what does not work, freely noting pitfalls from which we all may learn.

Fellow Years of Living Dangerously star Dr. Katharine Hayhoe went on to develop a web series for PBS called Global Weirding, where she dissects both climate solutions and effective ways to communicate those actions. Hayhoe, who I had the pleasure of interviewing last year, wears many hats in her home state of Texas. From a university professor to an Evangelical climate communicator and author, her days are busy. But not busy enough to stop her from visiting the White House when invited to share the stage with President Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Similarly, the work of character actor and activist Peterson Toscano has become a staple of innovative climate communications with his podcasts, Citizen Climate Radio and Climate Stew Show.

A recent episode of Citizen Climate Radio featured Young Evangelicals for Climate Action’s national spokesperson, Rachel Lamb. The episode discussed the effectiveness of faith leaders who speak about climate change and the power of young leaders to act as “cultural brokers” for people of faith who feel alienated by the climate movement.

Young leaders like Lamb are able to demonstrate that people of faith don’t need to abandon their traditions, but rather embrace their existing values that call them to care for creation. In doing so, these cultural brokers are better equipped to inspire hope by telling a “different narrative” along the way. For Lamb, this method is essential to garnering support for climate action, something she experienced personally. When faced with the dilemma of climate change, she turned to her Baptist theology for motivation, discovering climate solutions because of her faith and not, as some have misunderstood about Evangelical traditions, in spite of it.

Toscano, the host of Citizen Climate Radio, has a beautiful way of getting people to open up to share something meaning about their climate motivations. For people of faith, this may often be a difficult process, with the political divisiveness of climate change reaching fever pitch in recent years– something Toscano remains sensitive to.

As an active climate leader, Toscano finds inspiration in his Quaker faith, and while that certainly has a lot to do with his motivation, it's far from his only method of relating to diverse audiences. For Toscano, a character actor who regularly performs his climate-minded theatrics in live productions across the country, the art is to bring people in with laughter and not scare them away with doom and gloom scenarios. He purposefully avoids shame and instead provides hope accompanied with a chuckle, giving audience members something to feel good about. Rather than viewing climate change as an unfortunate result of human activity (and subsequent inaction), Toscano magically transforms it into an opportunity to fulfill our religious and nonreligious values – inspiring a new generation of climate advocates with skillful exegesis and lighthearted storytelling of familiar narratives.

The humorous performances of his stage show, as well as YouTube characters Marvin Bloom and Elizabeth Jeremiah, frequent guests on Climate Stew, are not to be missed. I particularly recommend Bloom’s rendition of the Biblical account of Joseph and the hidden climate message found within. If you haven't met Marvin yet, take a moment to do so.

As we move forward and build on the successes of past communication strategies, we must embrace the changing landscape of how new generations engage on the issue and more importantly, its solutions. These platforms are not looking to dismiss climate communication methods of the past, but rather to expand them to their full potential by incorporating waves of creativity and inclusiveness. And you can be a part of it too!

Your community likely has a few members with unique capabilities in video, audio, and other visual productions. Take advantage of those skills and begin to create climate communications that are unique and fun to make. Start a podcast, make short videos or write a piece of music. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

No one ever said the future of the climate movement had to be boring, and from the looks of it, it’s not going to be.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

Climate Progress: Why Moving Faster Than Nature Can Be a Good Thing

While at the beach last August, I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. While my husband wasn’t sure that this qualified as vacation reading, I enjoyed a number of her other works there (especially The Sea Around Us), and hadn’t yet read her seminal work, so it seemed like a good time. 

Some credit Silent Spring for helping launch America’s modern environmental movement because Carson spurred awareness of how the biggest threats of her time – radiation, pesticides, and fertilizers – were harming people and the planet. She made an important point that radiation and chemicals were not new. What was new was the rapidity with which mankind was introducing them into the atmosphere. Mankind was moving faster than nature, and nature didn’t have time to adjust.

It took hundreds of millions of years to produce the life that now inhabits the earth—eons of time in which that developing and evolving and diversifying life reached a state of adjustment and balance with its surroundings. …Given time—time not in years but in millennia—life adjusts, and a balance has been reached. Time is the essential ingredient, but in the modern world, there is no time. The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature.

She cites it as a detriment, but moving faster than nature can be our strength. We can marshal this ability to outpace nature, and apply it to eliminating carbon pollution and getting more people from all walks of life – especially people of faith – engaged in solving the biggest threat of our time: climate change.

We’ve already achieved faster progress on climate solutions this year than many expected:

Despite our progress, keeping the world below the 1.5 degree Celsius goal is not yet assured, so we need many more people committed to accelerating climate solutions. Faith leadership has been an important part of every successful social movement in America. More and more Americans are receptive to a moral argument for climate solutions, so as some of our most trusted moral messengers, we especially need more faith leaders to join the thousands of faithful who are already leading.

At the American Climate Leadership Summit in September, faith leaders met to strategize on the best opportunities for expanding, accelerating, and increasing the impact of faith leadership on climate. Read their top recommendations here

Let’s embrace our ability to move things faster, and marshal it for the good to solve climate change. I think Rachel Carson would be pleased.


 Kara Ball is the Program Director of Blessed Tomorrow.

Loving Our Neighbors, Loving God’s Creation

In today’s highly polarized world, and especially in this emotionally charged political season, it’s easy to break into separate camps, to lump people as “us” and “them.”  As a Christian, I believe that all people are created in God’s image. Likewise, I believe the Earth, and all that is in it, belongs to God. For a reminder of our unity and interdependence, one only needs to take a breath of air, drink a glass of water, and admire the interconnected web of life God has created.

Yet, in numerous places, we are failing to sufficiently protect the gifts of God’s creation on which we all depend. One of the special places that most needs our attention right now is the Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage area, the public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon.

The immense space, layered beauty, and diversity of life of these public lands invite reflection on our place in this world and the grandeur of God’s power. For many that venture there each year, the Grand Canyon and the lands and waters that surround it are awe-inspiring. For Native American Tribes in the area, these lands, and especially these waters, are sacred.  Many springs in the region are important not only as water sources in the parched landscape, but also for cultural identity.

Yet, these same waters are threatened by uranium mining pollution. Already local communities’ drinking water supplies have been contaminated, and cancer clusters have developed among communities with few resources to cope. Past pollution remains a present threat, and few steps have been taken to ensure such tragedies will not be repeated. The status quo is unacceptable.

With plans for new uranium mining on the horizon, the time to act is now. Recently,32 faith leaders from the Southwest and across the country sent a letter to President Obama urging him to safeguard the precious waters and lands of the Greater Grand Canyon by making that area a national monument. “We stand with our indigenous neighbors to defend health, dignity, and justice for all,” stated the leaders. 

The leaders’ letter also notes that God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves – including our Native American neighbors. Respect for Native cultures and tribal rights is not only a stated value of many faith traditions, but should also be a core value for all of us who live in the United States.

Lastly, the letter highlights our shared belief in the value of conserving God’s creation for the sake of future generations. As people of faith, we have a responsibility to protect, restore, and rightly share all of God’s creation. This includes sharing the gifts of the natural world with people from all walks of life, as well as all other species who share in the abundance, too. For our fellow species – both plants and creatures — having space, clean water, and abundant food sources is crucial for helping them adapt to climate change – particularly when they are trying to survivein the harsh desert. Certain desert plants have also proven to be powerhouses for carbon sequestration. It is amazing what God’s creation can do for our climate, if we conserve enough of it to let it do its job.

It’s in wild places that we can hear the still small voice of God. There where we can grow our faith and our connections with others; and there that we store wonder for future generations.

These common values – the importance of protecting and restoring God’s creation, finding God in the wilderness, caring for our neighbors, and seeking justice for all, especially the vulnerable – are the motivating force behind all of the campaigns Creation Justice Ministries takes part in, from addressing climate change to transitioning to clean energy.

I hope and pray for the thriving of the land, creatures, and communities of the Greater Grand Canyon.  I will continue to stand with the tribes of the region and to advocate for this proposal which unites so many different groups of people behind a common vision– for what is faith without works?  Now it is President Obama’s turn to act. I hope he will do so without delay. 

Shantha Ready Alonso is the Executive Director of Creation Justice Ministries, a Christian organization that educates, equips, and mobilizes 38 denominations, communions, and fellowships to protect, restore, and rightly share God’s creation.

The Historical Value(s) Of A Faith Facility’s Solar Panels

A faith facility is more than a place for congregational worship. Whether it’s a single room in Virginia or a megachurch in California, religious sanctuaries are an outward expression of a community’s faith, values, and purpose. But how that’s been accomplished throughout history hasn’t always been the same.

When Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity in the fourth century, for example, basilica-style churches were erected in grandiose fashion. Often situated in affluent centers, they exemplified an admiration for the newly adopted religion as it fought to make a name for itself. As Christianity migrated West, Romanesque style churches – famous for their nave and transept floor plan – incorporated more durable materials that could withstand the harsh European climate. By the high middle ages, engineering capabilities had reached new heights, raising stained glass windows into the heavens and forever changing the way we experience churches.

The Protestant Reformation later gave way to pragmatic colonial-style churches that replaced the ornate design of the Romanesque and Baroque architecture with simple, single room floor plans ideal for a puritanical errand into the wilderness. These modest churches were simple to build, required fewer materials, and could withstand the even harsher climate of the American Midwest.

The history of church architecture is vast, and the same may be said for many of the world’s religions as they too planted their faith firmly in new lands. Mosques changed and continue to change, as do synagogues, gurdwaras, and temples. Studying these innovations often tells us something meaningful about cultural, social, and environmental shifts, as well as the values and situations that inspired them.

Since the diverse designs of the twentieth century gave way to literally thousands of styles of churches, mandirs and meeting houses, how will people of faith today leave their mark on the world’s rich history of faith facilities? How will our respective theologies, values, and efforts contribute to these changes?

From the convenience of a repurposed strip mall outlet to ornate cathedrals that transmit a sense of timelessness, the trends occurring have grown increasingly difficult to track. As the architecture of the past incorporated new technologies, engineering marvels and material expressions of theology, modern designs follow a similar and yet altogether unique pattern. Evading standard practices of religious design, facilities now incorporate new and innovative design features while maintaining something entirely special to our era.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church of Little Rock, Arkansas, for example, looks like many churches in the area, but its unique features become apparent only as its roof comes into view. This year, the community installed 10 solar panels that produce 300 kWh per month, reducing 4 tons of carbon emissions per year. Part of Interfaith Power and Light’s (IPL) Cool Congregations program, St. Mark’s became the first church in Little Rock to install solar panels.

Under IPL’s similar program, Cool Harvest, Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina built a fifty-four-acre network of community gardens that display their collective concern for sustainable food and water sources. There are literally hundreds of stories just like this across the U.S.

Just as the changing cathedrals of the Roman Empire adapted to new lands, faith leaders are implementing changes to reflect their theological responsibility to act on a changing climate. Both instances address the values of a community in their own right.

Greenfaith is another organization that assists with these climate-minded changes to faith facilities with their Greenfaith Certification Program. This two-year environmental leadership program not only helps houses of worship save money by lowering energy costs but also contributes to projects that decrease a faith facility’s climate impact through community gardens and solar panel installations.

There are many others who have adopted climate-minded solutions including Bernardsville Church and Florida Avenue Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Earl D. Trent, Jr. explained, “We are a mid-sized church, not a mega-church. If we can do it, anybody can.” And many others are following his lead.

Certainly, our “culture of waste,” as Pope Francis called it, has devalued our era’s place in architectural history with cheaply constructed buildings found in every city. High building costs have forced us to choose between a place in the annals of history and building with God’s creation in mind.

Some, however, accomplish both beauty and sustainability such as Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light that incorporated special design features into their 224,000-square-foot complex. These forward-thinking designs rely on natural light that comes through specially angled windows and openings, flooding the facility with endless sunlight. Rather than pay for costly but efficient technologies that would put the builders over budget, architects designed slots in the cathedral floor to draw cool air up from the crypt below to circulate throughout the building naturally. 

Instances of sustainable design come in many forms and vary in degree but all contribute in their own way to a growing design movement that incorporates our moral call to care for creation with aesthetic beauty we love.

What will be your contribution to religious design when the diverse architecture of today evades the categories of tomorrow? As historians now stand in awe of Rome’s majestic basilicas, they may one day marvel at the thoughtfulness of our solar panels, wind turbines, and sustainable gardens. If not for their aesthetic appeal, then for what they meant and the values they inspired.

Learn about the solar "contagion" effect and how faith facilities have contributed to America’s one million solar panels!


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

 

Can Renewable Energy Break America’s Silence On Climate Change?

You might not recall the last time a presidential candidate was asked about climate change during a general election debate. That’s because in eight years of political sparring matches the issue has only received 82 seconds of debate time, prior to the second Clinton/Trump Debate. In sixteen years (five election cycles), climate change has received 37 minutes and 6 seconds of airtime, and that includes the Gore/Bush standoff. Sunday night, the second Clinton/Trump debate briefly discussed energy sources with climate change as a secondary issue but that conversation was quickly abandoned by both candidates. What's with the climate silence?

The week after NBC’s Clinton/Trump debate, Pew Research uncovered that the greatest contributor to climate disagreements are political, attributing these fractures unsurprisingly to partisanship. While this is certainly a major factor in national differences, it neglects a critical component highlighted by America's history of presidential debates. We are not talking about climate change and our political process reflects that.

According to public opinion research released last week, 70 percent of Americans “rarely or never discuss global warming…” which may account for its omission during general election debates. The same poll found that only one in five Americans report hearing someone they know talk about climate change per month. Surprisingly, this does not reflect public concern over climate change, as a Gallup Poll found that 64 percent of Americans are “worried a great deal about climate change.” So how do we spark the discussion?

With political candidates and everyday Americans falling silent on the issue of climate change, faith leaders have taken the lead. Last week, the Dalai Lama insisted that more countries adopt renewable energy, and five Catholic organizations on five continents fully divested from fossil fuels in honor of St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day. These sentiments and actions not only carry weight in the faith world but the political realm as well.

Neil Newhouse, a partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, explains that we should “start with talking about clean energy because people are in favor of that, and the more you link that to reducing dependence on foreign oil, the more you’re going to get traction in [the Republican] party.”

Nearly one-quarter of religious Americans report hearing their faith leaders discuss “environmental issues,” but simply talking about them isn’t enough. Without the right messaging tools, faith leaders not only run the risk of ineffective outreach but may further position the issue in a way that turns politically conservative Americans away. Clean energy neutralizes the conversation – creating a common ground on which Americans may form solutions, according to Christian Science Monitor.

Clean energy is a great place to start for many of the reasons clarified by Newhouse, but ecoAmerica’s Let’s Talk Climate Report found that leaders should take this approach a step further. Clean energy resonates with conservative audiences more strongly when its sources are spelled out, such as wind power or solar energy. For many Americans, these specific solutions demonstrate a move away from foreign oil dependency in exchange for domestically produced economic gains that will benefit them directly.

Pope Francis used this approach in his Encyclical, Laudato si' when he discussed climate justice and specific solutions in tandem:

172. Taking advantage of abundant solar energy will require the establishment of mechanisms and subsidies which allow developing countries access to technology transfer, technical assistance and financial resources, but in a way which respects their concrete situations, since “the compatibility of [infrastructures] with the context for which they have been designed is not always adequately assessed.” The costs of this would be low, compared to the risks of climate change.

Gwen Schanker, an editorial columnist for Huntington News, supports this approach, adding, “talking about climate change in the context of clean energy – a still risky but rapidly developing economic opportunity, as well as an opportunity to dramatically reduce our country’s carbon footprint – may be one way to generate more widespread acceptance of the issue as a whole.” Schanker contends that “viewing [climate change] either from an economic perspective or as a growing public health problem…may draw more attention to the problem and could help our country address it on a larger scale.”

Last week’s South By South Lawn climate discussion demonstrated this approach when President Barack Obama, Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and ecoAmerica Leadership Council member, climate scientist and Evangelical Christian Katharine Hayhoe shared their love for all things renewable. Watch the full discussion below!

 


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.

10 Takeaways From ecoAmerica’s 2016 American Climate Leadership Summit

America is at a crossroads in forging climate solutions. The rise of evidence through impacts, our push toward renewable energies, and multi-national agreements have propelled the fight for climate to new heights. Coalesced leadership across sectors is proof that the issue of climate change transcends boundaries, both in its impact and the solutions we create to address it.

ecoAmerica’s 2016 American Climate leadership Summit was a true testament to this reality as 250+ leaders gathered at The Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University on September 14th. Leaders of faith, business, health, higher education, communities, government, philanthropy, and climate shared communications strategies and engagement methods that can engross the broad array of Americans on the moral issue of climate change.

Faith speakers included:

Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Director, AME Social Action Commission, The African Methodist Episcopal Church

Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners

Rabbi Steve Gutow, Chair, Board of Directors, National Religious Partnership for the Environment

Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Brian McLaren, Author and Pastor

See the full list of speakers here

The following day, Blessed Tomorrow hosted a breakout session with over 50 prominent faith leaders to discuss how they may engage their congregations and to amplify the sector’s impact in communicating with American society. The discussion was facilitated by a distinguished panel of Blessed Tomorrow Leadership Circle members and here are some key topics from their discussion.

Engaging people of faith

  1. Connect climate to core faith values
  2. Employ hope, inspiration, and stories
  3. Transform our congregations and families
  4. Become climate literate
  5. Reintroduce a love of creation

Engage society

  1. Connect climate to America’s issues today
  2. Make climate personal with stories and inspiration
  3. Make climate a moral responsibility
  4. Organize for collective impact(s)
  5. Translate spiritual urgency into political power

Segmented into two categories, engaging people of faith and how faith may engage society demonstrates a broader pattern in the way we think about faith and climate. Follow through is key to finding effective solutions in climate communications that not only engage our respective congregations but all communities. Climate change is a moral issue that affects politics, business, higher education and many other sectors. The American Climate leadership Summit is one example of how faith leaders are working with other sectors to advance the fight for climate.

People of all faiths and people of no faith, alike, often find that their interests are shared when it comes to protecting their families, communities and the natural world on which we all depend. Harnessing these shared values is the key to effective climate communications.

As we approach 2017, and the broader concern for climate begins to rise, imagine how your congregation may better serve not only people of faith but the diverse body of Americans. You’d be surprised how effective strong leadership may be.

Connect with Blessed Tomorrow on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on our forthcoming report that will discuss these key takeaways in depth, providing you with the latest and greatest tools for engagement.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside. 

Of Climatology: Climate Communicating In A Post-Truth America

We know that climate change is happening; we know that humans are causing it, and we know that we must find solutions quickly. These indisputable facts have somehow become disputable in a post-truth America as climate skepticism rises faster than the sea level that threatens us. Unfounded “opinions” have become normative, and statements that lack truth are expounded freely – leaving many to wonder how climate communications will remain effective.

What we mean by truth is not Truth with a capital ‘T,’ nor is it a dismissal of postmodern thought in our examination of facts that support our claims. In many cases, our respective faith traditions depend on the former, so, rest assured, no one is asking anyone to position absolutism vs. relativism.

Over the last century, however, America has become infatuated with facts, particularly the numerical kind. Our love affair is so passionate that we have created an entire industry hinged on dispelling the falsehoods that pervade us both in their manufacture and the rebuttals charged to cast doubt over them. Fact checking has become a familiar pastime for Americans as we wait for the post-debate scorecard to be read, telling us how accurate and honest each candidate or pundit has been. But it goes much deeper than that.

Facts hold a sacred place in Western liberal democracies.

The New York Times contends that “Facts hold a sacred place in Western liberal democracies. Whenever democracy seems to be going awry, when voters are manipulated or politicians are ducking questions, we turn to facts for salvation.” Sacralizing secular information bears its own set of problems, but you get the point.

On any given Sunday, we may find facts to support any number of claims but what we lose in our quest for opinion is a grasp of consensus. The now familiar refrain explaining how “most scientists agree that climate change is real and human-caused” has, in Derridean prediction, become powerless. This is not to imply that it is false – on the contrary, it is very true. It simply wields little impact in a post-truth era and its repetition, while critical, weakens with every use. But we need facts to make our case. Without them, our insistence on solutions falls flat.

Unlike other divisive issues, climate denial is more reliant on doubt than it is a battle of truth(s). Similar to the tobacco debate of the 1990s, “the bill of [climate change] has come due. Yet, we have sat around the dinner table denying that it is our bill, and doubting the credibility of the man who delivered it,” suggests Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt.

The move for faith leaders is less about exposing Americans to more facts, truths or even dispelling doubt. It is, and arguably always has been about re-centering our ethos on the values that define us.

In this sense, the most effective climate communicators stay away from science, statistics, or graphs that demonstrate the impacts of climate change and go straight to values instead. According to ecoAmerica's, Let’s Talk Climate Report, successful climate messaging:

  • Presents climate as a moral responsibility to God, our children, our neighbors, future generations, the “least of these,” and all of creation.
  • Uses familiar and resonant faith language and metaphors, such as the “Golden Rule.”
  • Embraces the good intentions and aspirations of people of faith. Limits blame and fear.
  • Talks about creation care first, then talks about climate change.
  • Expresses stability and order with the use of “balance,” which is highly valued among faith audiences.
  • Employs a story arc that encompasses a challenge, an action, and a resolution – similar to story arcs found in religious teachings.
  • Balances belief in God’s will with the American value of choice.
  • Lists personal rewards that are relevant to faith audiences: a stronger faith, a sense of belonging, the protection of family, and bonding with family.

DeSmogBlog similarly suggests that communicators 1) ditch the science 2) think hyperlocal and 3) make their message urgent and personal. Demonstrate to your congregation that climate change is having an immediate impact on their lives and if you must, use local impacts as examples. If the area you are in has not been affected by climate change (unlikely but possible), get as close as possible. Use domestic impacts such as Louisiana’s flooding or the rising sea level that currently consumes a football field of Gulf Coast every hour.

It’s important to remember that climate denial and to some extent skepticism, is not grounded on any real scientific consensus. These sentiments are often a product of group think and a fear of responsibility, so what makes you think that accurate statistics will effectively counter them? As a faith leader, you hold a powerful position to demonstrate how an American’s affiliation with a faith tradition bears with it a responsibility to care for God’s creation – and that sacred responsibility supersedes all other associations.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside. 

Remembering Zusha On Yom Kippur: Climate Leadership In The Jewish High Holidays

September 25th, 2016 marks the one-year anniversary of Blessed Tomorrow’s Coming Together in Faith on Climate. Aligned with Pope Francis’ historic visit to the U.S., faith leaders from across the United States convened at Washington National Cathedral to coalesce their moral call to climate action.

The event was a proverbial who's who of American faith and climate leaders, including Melissa Rogers, Rev. Amy Butler, Rev. Sharon Watkins, Imam Mohamed Magid, Rev. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Rev. John C. Dorhauer, Rev. Jim Wallis, Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Rev. Suzii Paynter, Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crow, Sister Simone Campbell, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Ebrahim Rasool, Brian McLaren & Rev. Otis Moss III. In partnership with the Auburn Seminary, Faith in Public Life, Convergence, Interfaith Power and Light (DC.MD.NoVA), Divest-Invest and The Washington National Cathedral, the night was electric as faith leaders challenged one another to expand their climate works and to build on the momentum generated by Pope Francis.

Among the many faith leaders that inspired me that evening, Blessed Tomorrow Leader, Rabbi Steve Gutow’s recalling the Midrash of Zusha stuck with me. Aboard my flight home, the Rabbi’s words echoed in my mind, “No power on heaven and earth could have prevented you from becoming the best Zusha you could be.”

Zusha wept as he recounted a dream in which angels visited him to explain what they would one day come to ask him. They would not question the holy man’s inability to surpass the works of Moses or Joshua, rather, they would inquire whether Zusha had been “the best Zusha he could be.”

In the climate movement, it’s easy to feel as though you are not doing enough with a mountain of unfinished projects and goals to meet. Strangely, aspiring to surpass our predecessors often feels easier than realizing our own limitations. But, as we move through the Jewish High Holy Holidays, I am reminded of Zusha’s story and the many Rabbinic teachings that lend valuable guidance to the fight for climate solutions. Notably, Yom Kippur (Oct. 11-12), the most widely celebrated of the Jewish Holy High Holidays is among them. Denoted by fasting, prayer and an opportunity to recompense past sins, “an undertone of joy suffuses” this Day of Atonement as participants look ahead to another year – freshly absolved by G-d.


“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d” (Leviticus 16:30)


Capstoned with a single blast of the shofar (Ram’s horn), the holiday ends with a new beginning as G-d “writes in and seals the ledgers of human destiny for the coming year.” Just as He decides the destiny of every soul, we too must decide the fate our climate – continually renewing our commitment to care for creation.

For faith leaders to successfully offer guidance to their community on the moral issue of climate change, there must be a repetition of the message, just as G-d’s mercy is renewed for His people every Yom Kippur. But true climate leadership requires action.

“Addressing the threat of global warming is a religious imperative” Rabbi Mark Barry explained in a recent article for the State Journal-Register. “Prayer alone,” however, will not “suffice to avert this threat. Political will and serious effort at both the national and international level will be required.”


“At the time when G-d created Adam, G-d took him around the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him, “See My works! How beautiful and praiseworthy they are. Everything that I have created, I created for you. Take care not to damage and destroy My world, for if you damage it, there is no one to repair it after you” -Midrash Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Rabbah 7:13


The Rabbinical Assembly is among the many Jewish institutions taking this request seriously and has been for decades. The Assembly passed a resolution in support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in June 2016.

The document, which outlines the moral, spiritual and practical reasons for acting on climate, found quick support from Liya Rechtman, Manager of The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) who publicly penned her agreement"Leadership from the faith community, and particularly the Jewish community, is vital in the fight to combat climate change. The Rabbinical Assembly’s resolution shows a steadfast commitment to environmentalism and the protection of our shared earth. The Jewish community has historically served as stalwart defenders of moral climate policy."

The COEJL, and leaders like Rechtman, are vital to raising the issue of climate change in the broader Jewish communities. To date, they maintain an advisory body that includes 16 national and 125 local Jewish community relations organizations. Rechtman is also the co-chair of the Washington Interreligious Staff Council’s Energy and Environment Working Group and a Religions for Peace USA delegate to the UNFCCC.

Rechtman is a skilled and experienced leader, but the fight for climate isn’t exclusive to seasoned communicators. If you’ve never talked to your congregation about climate change, the High Holidays are a great opportunity to begin the conversation.

This Yom Kippur, be the best Zusha you can be by making our climate a priority with these Ten Jewish Teachings on Judaism and the Environment from Rabbi Lawrence Troster. You may also find tons of climate action materials at The Religious Action Center, Directed by Blessed Tomorrow leader, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner.

Share these materials with friends, family and community leaders so that they can honor creation with you during these Days of Awe.


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside. 

Brian McLaren’s New Book Encourages Climate Leadership To Stand With Love

Alarmed. Worried. Disturbed.

That’s how many of us have felt during this election cycle. Through the primaries to the general election, we’ve heard candidates saying things that bring shock and dismay. Some have fanned into flame old unextinguished embers of prejudice and nativism. Some have proposed that we impose a religious test on immigrants. Some have advocated religious profiling and monitoring of our own citizens. 

Several months ago, I was talking about all this with some friends who are moms of young kids. They were hearing stories about elementary school bullies telling Latino and Muslim children, “You’re going to be deported!” 

“Our fellow moms are scared,” one woman said. “They wonder if this could really happen.” 

“What are we going to do about it?” I asked. “If we remain silent, we are being complicit in what’s happening.” 

“But if we respond to hate, anger, and fear with more hate, anger, and fear,” one friend said, “it feels like we’re just adding to the noise and toxicity.” 

“We’ve got to be creative,” another friend said. “We’ve got to try to put that Bible verse into practice: Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” 

So our creative juices started flowing, and we started dreaming about a different kind of campaign – not for votes, but for attention and action. 

We called our campaign “We Stand With Love.” We invited people to take a stand in anxious times, not just against what’s causing harm, but also for the one force that can bring healing. We decided that “we stand with love” would mean caring about people (all people, no exceptions), and especially the poor and vulnerable. It would also mean caring about peacemaking and nonviolence. “Caring about people, poverty, and peace, that has a good ring to it,” we thought. But something was still missing.

In my upcoming book, The Great Spiritual Migration (available September 20), I explore how one other love must be included if we genuinely care about people, poverty, and peace…namely, the planet:

We are finally coming to understand that love for neighbor and love for self naturally lead to love for the earth. If you love your neighbors as yourself, you want both them and you to be able to breathe, so you need to leave clean fresh air. If you love your neighbors as yourself, you want them and you to be able to drink, so you need to love pure water in all its forms. If you love your neighbors as yourself, you want them and you to be able to eat, so you need to care about the climate and about soil and about fisheries, fields, farms, and forests. If you love your neighbors as yourself, you will want all your children and your future descendants to be able to enjoy the beauty of creation too.

If we are people of faith, we’ll realize that just as each work of art is precious to the artist, each bird, tree, fish plant, river, mountain, wetland, ocean, and ecosystem must be precious to the Creator. In other words, we’ll love the earth not only for other people’s sake, but for its own sake, and for God’s sake.

So in spite of all the disturbing campaign-related news we’ve been hearing, I’ve got some good news for you. All around, people are taking a stand for love…love for people, for the poor, for peace, and for the planet. There’s a campaign we can all feel excited about, and there’s a campaign which produces all winners and no losers.

If you want to get involved, go to www.westandwithlove.org and plug into one of the exciting opportunities you'll find there – from learning to "love beyond" through a daily email, through posting a yard sign, through organizing an "ethical spectacle" in your community. And if you want to focus on love for this beautiful planet, go to Blessed Tomorrow and explore getting on the "path to positive."


Brian D. McLaren is a Blessed Tomorrow leader, author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. Learn more about Brian at www.brianmclaren.net.

5 Things Faith Leaders Should Know About America’s Complex Climate Opinions

Many Americans consider faith leaders to be their most influential guides in navigating social and political issues. As we near November's presidential election(s), the broad and complex network of ideologies, political affiliations, and social associations have expanded existing categories to create new subdivisions on the issue of climate change.

As the political and social landscape changes, so must our engagement to reflect the diversity of these rapidly changing sentiments. A successful communications strategy is one that recognizes the vast array of opinions and ideas by breaking down the old binary approach. Here are five things for faith leaders to consider when engaging the broad trajectory of American climate opinions. 

1. Climate opinions are NOT simply “deniers” vs. “leaders”

Once considered a strict binary between “climate leaders” and “climate deniers,” many Americans are moving toward “skepticism” to reflect a subtle shift away from an outright dismissal of climate change. As this shift occurs, many are subject to the pitfall of “neoskeptics,” a burgeoning group who “recognizes the prevalence and cause of climate change, but still, they advocate against large-scale efforts to stop it.”

An even greater number, however, find themselves in what ecoAmerica calls “persuadables,” those uncertain about what to do on the issue of climate change but remain receptive to solutions. This makes the current work of climate leaders particularly critical in a time when many persuadables are eager for leadership and guidance. Learn more about climate persuadables in ecoAmerica’s report, Let’s Talk Climate.

2. “Climate deniers” are NOT stupid

When the authors of the book, Denying to the Grave, Sara E. Gorman and Jack M. Gorman, typed “climate change deniers” into google, the popular search engine auto-completed the phrase with, “why are climate change deniers so stupid?” According to the authors, and ecoAmerica research, not only is this leading assumption false, it's counterproductive.

The Gormans’ research found that “many intelligent people fall into a wide variety of non-scientific beliefs,” adding, that “years of educational efforts on the part of public-health officials have often been unsuccessful” in “reversing scientifically incorrect beliefs,” in many cases backfiring. Instead, the authors suggest empathy as a far more effective tool in garnering support for climate solutions. Personalizing solutions through compelling narratives is by and large more effective considering the issue is one of “psychology” and “not ignorance.”
 

3. Climate change is NOT about “belief”  

In his response to whether “Christians can believe in climate change,” Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Thomas Ackerman, answered, “climate change (or global warming) is not about belief. For a scientist, one might equally well be asked to respond to “Can Christians believe in gravity?”

Climate change is not an ultimatum between belief or disbelief – it is a choice between accepting responsibility or not. “The disbelief in climate change of many Christians is not so much about the science itself, but rather about its complexity and the moral dilemma that it poses,” Ackerman continues, “If a Christian accepts the scientific reality of climate change due to human activities, then Christian morality demands working to mitigate the impacts of that change.”

4. Climate inaction is a partisan trend (not partisan)

In our current election cycle, Republican candidates have overwhelming moving against climate solutions. But does this mean that conservatives are or always have maintained this stance? Bare in mind, this is the party that gave us the The National Environmental Policy Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Pesticide Control Act, The Environmental Protection Agency, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and created the U.S Forest Service to preserve more than 230 million acres of wilderness.


“You’re worried about what man has done and is doing to this magical planet that God gave us, and I share your concern. What is a conservative after all, but one who conserves?” — Former President Ronald Reagan


Conservatives, who in the past have enacted some of America’s most treasured creation care initiatives, are not necessarily against climate solutions. Partisan trends and actors within conservative institutions are, however, progressing an agenda that dissuades climate action and at times rejects the reality of climate change. By pigeonholing a particular party, community or institution with a specific stance, we leave little room for them to come around on the issue. If your goal is to dismantle the GOP, then continue on. But, if your objective is to fix the greatest moral issue of our time (and I suggest that it should be) then ditch the blame game.

5. Most media outlets aren’t helping (but faith leaders are)

Many news sources incite conflict to entice readership. There is perhaps no greater a culprit than the editors of The Wall Street Journal, who, “out of 93 climate-related opinion pieces published…31 featured climate science denial or other scientifically inaccurate claims about climate change.”  EcoWatch similarly found that from 1996-2016, the WSJ never named fossil fuels as being complicit in our changing climate. There are, however, some news outlets you can trust, such as The New York Times, which Media Matters research claims has never printed climate change “misinformation.” Following close behind are the Washington Times (3 percent) and USA Today (6%).

Put yourself in the shoes of an average American, who knows little more than what they hear on the news. When most news sources, including CNN who aired five times more fossil fuel advertisements than climate coverage as our partners at Greenfaith highlighted, discerning what leaders to trust can get tricky.

Faith leaders, however, are in a unique position to fix this issue. ecoAmerica’s report on American Climate Values found that 44 percent of Americans who consider faith to be the most important aspect of their lives “remain mixed on the science” but “trust [their] religious leaders for guidance on solutions to climate change.” If faith and climate leaders are going to counter the 24-hour news cycle, partisan trends, in a country with opinions becoming more complex every day, they better start talking about climate change as often as possible.

When engaging the myriad of individuals and communities on the issue of climate change, there is bound to be a wide spectrum of ideas and opinions. Luckily, there are a few things that never change. These are the building blocks of a solid communications strategy as outlined in ecoAmerica's report, 15 Steps to Create Effective Climate Communications.

Once these steps are adopted, a faith leader is better equipped to implement the single most important communications tool they have to offer: values. Consistently connecting with others on solution based, moral responsibilities is what our studies continually identify as the most effective approach to climate communications. Learn more here!


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside. 

 

Eid al-Adha Heats Up As Muslims Endure The Changing Climate Of Hajj

Early next week (depending upon the Hijri calendar), Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) to honor the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son. Not to be confused with Eid al-Fitr which signifies the conclusion of Ramadan – Eid al-Adha coincides with two million Muslims descending on Mecca for Hajj, an annual pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia expected to be undertaken at least once during a Muslim’s life.

Apart from the miraculous Zamzam Well, Mecca is an arid landscape roughly 100 miles inland from the coast of Jeddah. Amid sweltering heat, impacted roads, and an infrastructure bursting at the seams, Hajjis will endure the discomfort of crowded passage – provided very few resources to tide them over. Once considered a notable characteristic of the sacred journey, ritual hardships have gone from a cherished trait to a serious health concern as the holiday descends into the summer months.

Saudi temperatures are currently well over 100 °F (37 °C) and expected to skyrocket as the pilgrimages’ lunar date retreats through the static Gregorian calendar with every passing year. Scientists warn, however, that seasonal heat waves are only part of the problem with climate change increasing temperatures to dangerous degrees while spreading insurmountable communicable diseases.

The issue is so immediate that one savvy Muslim inventor created a climate-minded umbrella, equipped with a solar powered flashlight, GPS tracking system, and a built-in fan to keep participants cool during their Saudi sojourn.   

Alas, technological advancements are merely a band-aid on a global issue. For decades, scientists have watched global temperatures escalate around the world. Every month is record-breaking and every subsequent year follows a similar pattern. In July, as Meccan summer temperatures topped 120 °F (48 °C), studies were released indicating that 2016 will likely break the record held by 2015.

Sadly, sacred journeys are far from the only aspect of human life to be compromised by the unforgiving heat. The world is currently experiencing mass evacuations by refugees fleeing regions battered by climate-induced drought, flood, famine, and war. Bangladesh is rapidly slipping beneath the rising tide as Syria finds itself in the throes of a fever pitch war, both instigated by climate impacts.

Islamic Relief highlighted similar issues during their Ramadan Refugee Campaign, a message recently echoed during Pope Francis’ World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation speech when he shared, “Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact. ”


"The world is sweet and verdant, and verily Allah has made you stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves." (Hadīth related by Muslim from Abu Sa‘īd Al-Khudrī)


In 2015, the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change was signed by leaders from Muslim communities around the world, calling on UNFCCC officials to ratify global climate initiatives. This declaration  came to fruition under the long-awaited Paris Agreement, with final ratifications currently happening as we march toward Marrakesh for COP22. Among the document’s signators was Nana Firman, a Greenfaith fellow, and a member of the Green Masjid Task Group of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which recently held its 53rd annual conference in Chicago, Illinois. Both Greenfaith and ISNA are partners of Blessed Tomorrow.

As climate impacts make their way into the U.S., and organizations such as Greenfaith and ISNA work to find climate solutions, why aren’t more Americans addressing the issue? The truth is that most Americans don’t fully grasp its scope, and that might not be their fault.

Covering these impacts and informing the American public hasn’t always been easy. Mark Schapiro explained in his article, The Unique Burden of Covering Climate Change in the Middle East that the information Americans receive about extensive climate impacts pales in comparison to the fear-laden narratives of terrorism. Stifled by foreign government media censorship and fossil fuel industry advertisement buying power, very few Americans are actually getting the news on climate change.

As a seasoned journalist, Schapiro has worked extensively throughout the Middle East, noting:

"The struggle with violent fundamentalists hangs over every country in the region to varying degrees, for secular and religious Muslims alike, but what’s at least equally if not more potent on a daily basis is the threat of environmental degradation and the predations of climate change."

Americans are coming to realize the impact climate change is having on both foreign and domestic territories. And, just as Muslims honor the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim, our infrastructure must sacrifice the burning of fossil fuels that have placed millions in this dilemma. Although, using the term “sacrifice” regarding a transition away from fossil fuels is not entirely accurate.

Not only will transitioning the U.S. to renewable energy save lives, it will strengthen our economy, and secure prosperity for generations to come –generations that both Christian and Jewish followers of Abraham (Ibrahim) are not only charged to “multiply” but commanded to cherish as part of God’s creation (Genesis 35:11).

All people, Muslim or not, are capable of turning the tide on climate change, but we must act now! We must begin by talking about climate and telling its story in houses of worship. We must challenge and support climate leadership in our communities and demonstrate our moral imperative to act.

Learn more talking to your faith community about climate change with ecoAmerica's report, Let’s Talk Climate.

“The creation of the heavens and the earth is far greater than the creation of mankind, but most of mankind do not know it” – Qur’an 40: 57

Eid Mubarak!


Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside. 

 

The Moral Case To Curb Methane Waste And Pollution

Religious communities are actively engaged in many activities to care for and do justice for God’s creation. One of the less-known efforts has been a sustained push by many religious leaders to cut methane waste and pollution. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is dangerous for our climate. It is the primary component of natural gas, and right now, too many oil and gas companies allow it to leak from their operations, or they choose to vent and flare the excess energy that could be u