Putting our Faith into Action
The faith community of Yolo County is ready to put their faith into action to slow climate change. More than eighty representatives of about 20 different faith groups met for a three-hour interfaith conference “Climate Crisis: Putting Faith into Action” on March 3rd as a first step toward taking action as individual congregations and together.
“Touch the earth lightly; use the earth gently. Nourish the life of the world in our care.” Reverend Dan Smith of the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation strummed his guitar to the opening song. Beth Banks of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis added her blessing. Then the participants turned to the serious business at hand.
“We have no model to understand this unprecedented change,” began Isabel Montanez, UC Davis Professor of Geology and climate scientist, referring to climate changes on earth occurring faster than at any time in the last 6.8 billion years. She continued her review. The last 150 years of burning fossil fuels and deforestation have caused a one degree Fahrenheit change in temperature. Before then, the ice cores tell us, the atmosphere stayed a steady 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide, but now it has increased to 396 parts per million. To keep the planet livable, we have to return to 350 ppm within the next few decades.
Even then, California can expect a 3-10 degrees rise, though it will not be evenly distributed. Los Angeles and the Imperial Valley will reach higher temperatures. As the jet stream moves farther north, we will experience more frequent and more extended droughts, 50% – 80/90% loss of Sierra snowpack, and storms coming as an atmospheric river of warm rain from Hawaii as the new norm. With the expected one half to 3 foot sea rise, Davis will become beachfront property.
Fortunately, Susan Stephenson, the Executive Director of The Regeneration Project and its Interfaith Power and Light Campaign(IPLC) spoke next with her encouraging story of 560 Cool California congregations mobilizing for a safe climate and clean energy. Nationally, 15,000 congregations in 40 states participate in Interfaith Power and Light.
For perspective, Susan asked us to consider our role in the abolition movement, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. “What can we learn from these justice movements to apply to the moral issue of our day: climate change,” she said as heads nodded throughout the room. “We don’t have to completely stop global warming. We just need to get to a tipping point where enough people choose renewable energy and sustainable ways of living. When we reach that critical mass, things will change fast.”
How do we get there? Faith, fellowship, friendly competition, and fun. Faith groups can adopt early and model what works. Interfaith Power and Light offers a carbon footprint calculator on its website as well as tools for cutting emissions. Susan suggests local offsets can provide funding to boost projects in our communities. IPLC promotes competitions between congregations and always encourages fun.
Faith, fellowship, friendly competition, and fun.
For the remainder of the afternoon, participants divided into interest groups for smaller discussions. A small group met with Jim Cramer of the United Methodist Church and Dina Biscotti of the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation to explore developing an environmentally sustainable church, including specific steps to “green” an existing church building.
A second small group met with Reverend Ernie Lewis of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church and Rev. Dan Smith of the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation to consider integrating the care for Creation into Liturgy. Rev. Lewis stated that “liturgy is not passive, but the active work of the people and it is important to find many different ways to bring people to hear the message.”
Twenty-two participants choose the topic “Engaging Hearts and minds to build sustainable lifestyles” with the intention of exploring how to transform the individual households of a congregation. Susan Stephenson and Rev. Kelly Love of the United Methodist Church of Davis led the discussions.
Twenty four participants were drawn to “Acting Ethically for a Planet in Peril: Advocacy beyond the local Congregation – including spiritual/moral imperatives to pursue social justice in the context of local people and those around the world who are and will be affected by climate change. Earl W. Koteen, consulting Minister for Environmental Justice and UU Legislative Ministry for California Climate and Water advocacy, spoke with compelling clarity of his experience. Unlike Susan Stephenson, he suggested that if we acknowledge reality by giving up hope, then we can allow grieving for the losses. On the other side of that pain is a space for new community and action driven by passion and courage. To his amazement, Earl feels great joy in his work now that he has let go of hope. Many in the group were at a loss where and how to begin, but others spoke of ways to take action to curb emissions or to influence political decisions.
After a brief summary of the four discussion groups, the group sang together the familiar, “We’ve got the whole world in our hands,” letting the startling truth of the familiar words sink in.
“We’ve got the whole world in our hands,”
To close, all the faith groups read the U.N. Environmental Prayer together, “join with the earth and with each other…for the healing of the earth and the renewal of all life.”
Cool Davis and the partner faith groups who planned the conference urge faith groups to join Cool Davis, making this conference only the first of many ongoing gatherings to take steps together.
The conference was sponsored by Cool Davis and its faith group partners: the Green Task Force of the Davis United Methodist Church, the Green Sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, the Stewards of God’s Creation Group of Davis Community Church, the Green Team of the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, God’s Creation Committee of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church and the Earth Care Group of Davis Friends Meeting. In addition, members from Bet Haverim, SALAM, Church of Scientology, Unity Center of Davis, St. James, Newman Center, Center for Spiritual Living, SRF/Amma, pagan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, UU Society of Sacramento, The Belfry – Lutheran Episcopal College Ministry and Elk Grove United Methodist Church attended. The intent was to provide information and inspiration, and open the door for next steps.
Move your money to a credit union or ethical bank! Credit unions usually donate to projects that strengthen local communities, and ethical banks make a commitment to support good causes. Green America Bank For Good BankTrack and Mighty Deposits are all great resources to find ethical banks!
LEARN MORE with Cathy Becker of Green America, Wednesday, November 15 at 6pm PST online. Our moderator will be Rekha Vaitla, Cool Davis board member and officer at CalSTRS.
Sign up here: www.cooldavis.org/2023/11/02/green-finances-banking-and-credit-cards-panel-yolo-earth-day-pledge/
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