Bridging Faith and Science to Fight Climate Change

Guest Blog | July 30, 2013 | Energy Policy

“We must find common ground or we lose all ground.”  Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley

Over the weekend, an impressive line up of community leaders gathered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta, Ga. to show support for President Obama’s Climate Change Plan as a part of the larger ‘I Will #ActOnClimate’ campaign.  The event, which was only publicized locally this week, gathered an impressive and diverse crowd—from local residents to environmental advocates to  tourists visiting the National Historic Site–all dropping by to hear the inspiring words from the speakers. 

Congressman John Lewis speaks at an #ActonClimate event, Ebenezer Baptist Church

Rev. Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, host of the event, set a tone of action from the beginning “… when we are talking about the Earth, and the care of the Earth we are talking about a spiritual issue, a moral issue, a public health issue, an economic issue, a social justice issue. And so we stand this morning in support of President Barack Obama and his bold initiatives to make a real difference by reducing carbon emissions in our atmosphere.”

President Barack Obama released a new climate change plan on June 25, 2013.  The plan addresses cutting energy waste in businesses, our homes, and factories; building a new transportation sector; accelerating clean energy leadership; preparing for the impacts of climate change; and, most significantly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon emissions from power plants. As highlighted by Rev. Warnock at the event, “We need to recognize that U.S plants are responsible for 40% of the carbon pollution that causes climate change–pollution that has gone completely unchecked. The result has been the effects of climate change, increased health risks and extreme weather which threatens communities across the country. Action on carbon pollution from power plants is the largest step that has been taken to combat and address the social injustice inflicted on our community. Let us be clear this morning, carbon pollution affects everybody, but it does not affect everybody equally.”  

Also speaking at the event, local pediatrician and health advocate Dr. Yolanda Whyte highlighted the impacts of air pollution to health from cardiovascular and respiratory disease to asthma and increased allergies.  A local mother, Regina Fambro, also shared her story of caring for her niece who was diagnosed with asthma after moving to Atlanta and how it has changed her path. Former Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli shared his experiences with asthma and why he works to fight climate change. He closed his remarks by stating that he wants his legacy to be that he is leaving the Earth a better place for his children. 

Dr. George Luber, from the Centers for Disease Control, outlined the current and future impacts of climate change from extreme weather and events and Stan Meiburg, EPA Region 4 Acting Regional Administrator, laid forth actions that the Obama Administration is focused on to compact climate change. 

Finally, civil rights leader and environmental advocate Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley charged us to find common ground emphasizing that science and faith should not be at odds. Last, but certainly not least, The Honorable Congressman John Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and continues to fight for civil rights issues, proclaimed that “the issue of climate is not a joke.  It is real.” He urged us to use our vote to rise up and make a difference in the environment.

2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the U.S. It was the warmest year on record for the U.S., it was one of the driest years on record and wildfires burned more than 9.3 million U.S. acres.  The extreme weather cost the American economy more than $100 billion in 2012. 

There are many events like these happening around the country, but I don’t think there are any that are bridging the connection of faith, human rights and science in such a powerful message. As Rev. Warnock shared in his comments, “… it is significant that we are standing here at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It signifies our recognition that civil rights activism and environmental activism, care for the Earth and care for the Earth’s most vulnerable citizens, are connected. We must all work for a place where we can all breathe free and we can all freely breathe.”

It is going to take each one of us to realize change, but as the speakers charged to all of us, it is time to act on climate.  We can make change in many different ways from turning off the lights when we leave a room, driving a little less, eating more local food to reduce the burden from transporting food long distances, and contacting our legislators to urge them to act.

I was so moved and inspired by this collection of speakers and the words they shared. I envision this to be the start of a new wave of change and action on climate. Yes, we must rise up for environmental change! 

Check out the media coverage here and photos here.

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