I was surprised to learn that President Obama had focused part of his inaugural address on climate change. When I heard the speech I was particular struck by the language he used in calling for action. President Obama stated the following: "We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared."
From 2007-2010 I was the executive director for Faiths United for Sustainable Energy an organization with the goal of mobilizing and education faith communities on environmental issues. One of the major issues we focused on was climate change and we joined with many other coalitions in an attempt to take action. At the time of President Obama's first inaugural address, we were very hopeful that meaningful climate legislation could be passed, however, that hope quickly faded as climate change was essentially erased from the political lexicon in the United States. As I stated in my blog last week, the prospect of any broad climate legislation in the U.S. is unlikely due to the political climate, however, there is now new hope that action can be taken on a national level. It is time for faith communities to step up the fight on climate change and other environmental issues. We must support President Obama's goal statement on climate change and put pressure on him to select a strong new head for the EPA and take other executive action that does not require the approval of Congress. We must come together and let President Obama know that faith communities agree with him that we are stewards of this earth, and the United States should be leaders in taking action on climate change and other pressing environmental issues.
During my time at FUSE we interacted with many other groups around the country who do this type of interfaith work, including GreenFaith, (http://greenfaith.org/about) and Interfaith Power and Light (http://interfaithpowerandlight.org/). There are also organizations with a mission of mobilizing a particular religious group around environmental issues such as the Evangelical Environmental Network (http://creationcare.org/), the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program (http://nccecojustice.org/), and the Coalition on the Environment on Jewish Life (http://coejl.org/. Many groups focused on Judaism and environmental issues are members of Jewcology, including Canfei Nesharim (http://www.canfeinesharim.org/index.aspx), Hazon (http://www.hazon.org/), and the Green Zionist Alliance (http://www.greenzionism.org). This is just a short list of groups focused on climate and environmental issues. Since 2010, every time I do a search for environmental faith groups I come across new organizations seeking to protect the environment based on their belief that it is a religious obligation to do so.
As I stated last month, I think much of our impact as faith communities can be through local action. That being said, we should use President Obama's call to action on climate change, specifically his invocation of God in his speech, to make a push both locally and nationally for meaningful action on climate change.