“The majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers. This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity.” -Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ #201
On January 8, members of the Diocese’s Catholic Green Initiative were invited to attend a gathering of faith leaders of many different denominations from northern California to review the results of the recent climate accords in Paris and learn more about what faith-based groups can do to further promote positive steps to “care for our common home.” The event was sponsored by California Interfaith Power & Light and was hosted by Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. The conference drew 50 faith leaders from Marin, Alameda, and Santa Clara Counties, as well as San Francisco, Sacramento and Stockton.
Presenters included: Jesse Simons, Chief of Staff for the Sierra Club, Bishop Marc Handley Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California and Reverend Canon Sally Bingham, all of whom journeyed to Paris to witness the landmark agreement and make their views known. All agreed that the historic multinational agreement by 200 countries representing 98% of the world’s global emissions was a sign that we are finally moving in the right direction. Simons used the analogy of a river rafting expedition and noted that the major countries, particularly the United States, China and India, finally have their paddles in the water moving in the right direction. Bishop Andrus noted that people of faith are necessary and vital to the work accomplished in Paris and to the efforts promote care for creation. “We all have to be involved to make this happen,” Simons concurred.
The second half of the conference focused on what some groups are doing now to combat climate change. Perhaps the most passionate address came from Rev. Ken Chambers of West Side Missionary Baptist Church who spoke of the campaign he is spearheading to keep coal exports out of his Oakland neighborhood. His concern was that coal trains coming from Utah to an export terminal near his church neighborhood would only further burden its poor residents with undue health threats. He emphasized the importance of taking action and being an advocate in the policy arena, especially when it involves social justice issues.
Finally, attendees had the opportunity to share some of the things their faith communities are doing as faithful stewards of God’s creation. Many are implementing plans for water and energy conservation as well as installation of solar panels on buildings. “It was encouraging to hear that all the Paris attendees returned with a feeling of renewed hope due to the substantial agreements made. The Paris agreement alone is not sufficient to fully avoid climate change, but we’re on the right path. Now we need people to take action individually, and to push for improvements at the local and state levels,” said CGI member Mary Dateo.
The Diocese of San Jose Catholic Green Initiative encourages everyone to take actions for sustainable stewardship in the “Care for Our Common Home.” Our purpose is to enable, inform and advocate environmental practices and policies in keeping with our faith and tradition of social and environmental justice. For more information or to learn more about joining CGI, please contact Laura Barker, firstname.lastname@example.org.