On Thursday night, November 3 I had the honor of speaking at a town hall meeting, organized by a coalition of local environmental groups including Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light (GWIPL). I presented the faith perspective in a town hall meeting that included faith-based environmental activists, mainstream environmentalists, wind power energy representatives and even the United Steelworks of America!
The theme of the meeting was that offshore wind power, proposed in Maryland, could address the needs of this diverse coalition, improving the economy of Maryland, adding jobs, reducing health effects of pollution, and fulfilling our moral obligation to protect the environment (with our children and grandchildren in mind).
I first heard of the town hall meeting from Joelle Novey, a friend and director of GWIPL. Joelle has been attending the meetings of our local Silver Spring Sustainability Circle, which has been meeting every 4-6 weeks in my neighborhood since July 2010. This local sustainability circle includes a diverse group of Jews who are interested in improving our environmental actions at the personal level.
When you start a local group like this, you think of the water saved from people’s faucets and the lights turned off in their homes. You think about building a space for people who care about the environment in the community, and a regular stream of events to educate, inspire and engage. You don’t think of this: the day when your community will be needed to make real political change.
It turns out that our Silver Spring Sustainability Circle is in District 19, one of the key districts for the passage of an specific offshore wind power bill in the Maryland State legislature. Suddenly, in addition to our personal actions, we had the opportunity to be a meaningful part of a statewide campaign.
That’s what we don’t see about creating local groups. At first the impacts seem so small and modest. But there is power in people coming together, first in local communities and then bringing those local communities to the table in larger coalitions.
When I stepped up to the podium representing the faith-based environmental movement, I was not just another environmentalist. I was a community leader, a person driven by faith. With my hat and skirt, I represented a different part of our county that doesn’t often stand up to fight for environmental campaigns. It was surprising, and meaningful. I told them not only about climate change but about what Jewish tradition teaches about responsibilities, and not only about the environment but also about a community coming together bound by shared values.
I hope that it inspired people to think not only about business interests and whether wind power might cost a couple extra dollars in their electricity bills. I hope it reminded them what’s truly at stake, and what’s truly possible.
To see my talk, visit http://www.jewcology.org/resource/In-Support-of-Offshore-Wind-Power-in-Maryland