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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » A Greener Spirit: How Faiths are Uniting for Environmental Progress

A Greener Spirit: How Faiths are Uniting for Environmental Progress

By Austin Billings

The first two installations in the Greener Spirit series covered environmentalism in evangelical and traditional Christianity, and the next two will cover Judaism and Islam. But while individual faiths are indeed doing remarkable things, some of their best work is accomplished when they work together. This post will cover several interfaith environmental campaigns.

Past posts in this series have covered the Christian arguments for environmentalism, but almost all faith traditions – from Hindus to First Nations – have something to say about the intersection of creation and justice. Taking a particularly bold stand is the Dalai Lama, who has endorsed the bold climate campaign In 2008, His Holiness signed a Buddhist climate declaration, which begins, “Today we live in a time of great crisis, confronted by the gravest challenge that humanity has ever faced: the ecological consequences of our own collective karma.” Elsewhere, he has written movingly about the heartbreaking loss of wildlife and habitat in his native Tibet.

One of the most prominent green groups bringing different faiths together is the California-based Interfaith Power & Light.

The campaign, founded in 1998, has grown from a small collection of Episcopal churches to a national movement of more than 10,000 houses of worship and 35 state affiliates. They’ve run campaigns on clean energy legislation, coal ash, the BP oil spill, and more. The group’s current focus is their annual National Preach-in on Global Warming, to be held the weekend of February 11-13th. Over 500 preachers participated last year, taking advantage of IPL’s sample sermons, study guides, and devotionals to help them prepare for both sermons and discussion groups. From IPL’s many resources, my own favorite is the Preaching for the Planet DVD, featuring lessons from Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Episcopal leaders - watch the trailer here.

Another great interfaith group is GreenFaith, which offers a speakers program, eco-based worship services, and most importantly, the nation’s premier faith-based environmental training program. The rigorous GreenFaith Certification Program helps houses of worship undertake major action plans. Success stories include New Jersey’s Temple Beth Rishon, which saved $16,000 through energy conservation, and Florda’s Jacksonville Jewish Center, which organized a major interfaith environmental conference. The similarly rigorous GreenFaith Fellowship Program offers similar training on an individual level. The programs are costly and time-consuming, but I’ve previously worked with two ministers who went through the Fellowship Program, and both say it was well worth the cost.

Other interfaith campaigns are more local in nature, and focus on bringing individuals of different faiths together. Just last week, the L.A. Times had a great article on the Desert Stewardship Project, an interfaith venture that finds spirituality in the fragile California desert. According to one member, Fatima Alrahem, "Islam, which was born in the barren Arabian deserts, encourages us to be mindful of the fragile environment, and to take special care of our life-giving rivers."

Similar local groups are taking action from the mountains of Appalachia to my own inland northwest.

I think it’s abundantly clear that, despite the American media’s infatuation with such ignorant religious figures as James Dobson, the national and global faith communities are highly energized around environmental issues. It won’t be hard to get your own house of worship even more involved with this movement.

You can start small by praying ecological prayers, urging your leaders to participate in IPL’s climate change preach-in, and using the Cool Congregations Carbon Calculator to assess your congregation’s carbon footprint – or if you’re ready for a bigger commitment, consider participating in Green Faith’s trainings.


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