What drew me to join a faith community is the same draw that led me to climate activism. I wasn’t raised in a traditionally religious household, so when my husband and I experienced the loss of several pregnancies, I began to ask some complicated existential questions that I didn’t have any means for understanding on my own: What does it mean to be a mother? Will I be able to find peace and happiness? How do I accept loss and still find joy in living? What, if anything, can I do in my life to create change? How can I protect what is most vulnerable in myself? These were questions, I came to understand, that I could only meaningfully address by developing a relationship with God.
Thankfully, through God’s grace, we now have a three-year-old son, but those questions haven’t gone away. In fact, in the face of a world that has already been deeply impacted by climate change and in the face of a future that is so threatening to my own child’s security – and even more so to the security of those children who are among the world’s poor – those questions have taken on even greater weight and import. What does it mean to be a mother in the face of destruction on such an enormous scale? Will we be able to find peace and happiness in this world as parts of it potentially become uninhabitable? How will we accept the current and coming losses and still find joy in living? What can I do in my life to create change to prevent the most catastrophic destruction from occurring? How can I help to protect what is most vulnerable?
These questions motivated me to apply to become a Climate Reality Leader through The Climate Reality Project, the nonprofit founded by former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore after the release of An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. A dear friend, Meghan Marohn, sent me the application, and we applied and trained together in Denver in March after our acceptance. We spent three days in training with Mr. Gore and many other experts in the fields of science, technology, energy, and public health. Their insights helped us to dramatically broaden our understanding of the crisis and of the many readily actionable solutions that are available to us to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
Through the training and our own discussion, I think we also came to broaden our understanding of the responsibilities of “mothering.” As women, we realized that we have a special role to play in this movement because mothering means more to us than one woman raising her own child: it means extending the notions of caregiving, stewardship, and teaching beyond the home and out into the wider world. In fact, it means extending the notion of mothering beyond women and beyond parents of children. I think of my toddler, who often calls out to me amidst tears, “I need you, Mommy.” We are – all of us – needed now.
Our goal is to mobilize all kinds of communities to join the global People’s Climate Movement to compel our elected leaders to move away from a dirty fuel economy toward a future powered by renewable energy, and to support our most vulnerable communities in the process of that shift. To do that, we’re giving the Climate Reality Project’s presentation, designed by Mr. Gore, in our local community, and we are so thankful that my own church, the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, offered to host us for our very first public presentation this month. Because Redeemer is a GreenFaith site, the pairing was a natural fit, and it was enormously helpful for me to present for the first time in such a familiar and comforting place. On the evening of April 4, 2017, over 30 people attended, including children and families, and two religious leaders from the Muslim community.
I believe that people of faith are central to the success of climate action, perhaps even the linchpin on which that success depends because so many of us, across varied faith communities, feel deeply and spiritually compelled to act. At Redeemer, we recognize our own flawed humanity and the many lifestyle choices we all make each day that are detrimental to our environment, that stand in the way of the Earth’s capacity to regenerate. As people of faith, we ask for forgiveness for our trespasses and to forgive those who trespass against us. And in receiving our bread and wine, we reaffirm our communion with God and with one another. It is on that very communion – and its growth and development – that I believe the survival of God’s creation depends. The spirit calls us to act, not despite our flaws but because of them, a belief the Episcopal Church and the People’s Climate Movement share.
And now, because our elected leaders have ignored climate change for so long, individual lifestyle changes won’t be enough to secure a stable planet, which is why it’s more critical than ever that people of faith organize to act collectively to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis. Whether it’s through The Climate Reality Project, 350, or our own congregations, lending our voices and our hands to this struggle for justice – and working together – is our best, and our only, chance for success.