If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.
--Lyndon B. Johnson

Sustainable Holiday Ideas

Christmas and Hannukah are, among other things, about deepening our connections to family, friends, and faith—but sometimes it can seem like the main focus of the season is shopping, stress, and stuff! Here we offer some ideas to cultivate appreciation this season and celebrate in ways that are more sustainable for both you and the planet.

There are a lot of ideas here, but please don't feel overwhelmed. The best approach might be to add one or two new practices each year, and grow into a more sustainable holiday season over time. We wish you much joy this season!

If  you have suggestions for other ways to celebrate sustainably or resources to share, please e-mail us to let us know.

November Interfaith Environmental Conference Call: In a Time of Darkness, Light

Our November interfaith environmental conference call is scheduled for Wednesday, November 30th at 12:00 p.m. On this call, we'll focus on some religious themes and teachings of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Hannukah and Christian holiday of Christmas, and connect them to our work of caring for Creation. Both holidays have a theme of light and hope emerging in a time of darkness, and we'll wonder what these teachings might mean for us today.

We are delighted to have as guest speakers on the call, Rabbi Neal Katz of Congregation Beth El in Tyler, Texas; and Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a professor at the University of the Incarnate Word and member of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

As always, we will have some time for callers to ask questions, share ideas and connect!

November Interfaith Environmental Conference Call

     Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 12:00-1:00 p.m.

     Dial-in number: (712) 432-3066 

     Conference Code: 424548

To RSVP for the call, receive a copy of the call's agenda or request notes from the call, please e-mail Amanda. Feel free to invite others to participate!

In our monthly environmental calls, we seek to connect faith leaders around the state who are engaged in the work of caring for Creation; provide updates about environmental legislation and advocacy opportunities; keep you current on new programs and initiatives; and create a space for sharing hopes and frustrations, plans and ideas, stories and prayers.

(Photo courtesy Victor Rocha. Attribution: Wikimedia Commons)

Texas Impact Supports Proposition 8

Texas Impact (of which Texas Interfaith Power & Light is a part) is among a broad, diverse group of statewide and local organizations that has pledged its support for Proposition 8 in this November’s state constitutional election. Proposition 8, known as the Water Stewardship Amendment, will create an incentive for landowners who manage their property in a way that conserves and protects water for future generations of Texans.

Proposition 8 was passed unanimously by the Texas Legislature with bipartisan support and will provide private landowners another tool as stewards of the state’s natural resources. Currently, Texas property owners who use their land to promote agriculture or protect wildlife are eligible to have that property assessed as agricultural land, which tends to reduce their property taxes.  Proposition 8 would extend a similar tax incentive if they choose to manage their land to conserve water and protect water quality.

And because the water incentives in Proposition 8 would only apply to property owners who already qualify for the agriculture or wildlife incentives, it would not reduce the State’s tax revenues or raise taxes.

Other major supporters of Proposition 8 include the Texas Wildlife Association, the Texas Association of Realtors, the Lonestar Chapter of the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, the Texas League of Conservation Voters, the Hill Country Conservancy, the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, Houston Wilderness, the Hill Country Alliance, the Texas Society for Ecological Restoration, the Texas Land Conservancy, the Texas Land Trust Council Plateau Land & Wildlife Management, the Greater Houston Partnership, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Laura Huffman, Texas State Director of the Nature Conservancy, said the broad base of bipartisan support for Proposition 8 – which includes farmers, ranchers, landowners, industry and conservation groups – demonstrates that the measure is good for Texas.  “The Texas Legislature voted unanimously to put Proposition 8 on the November ballot because they recognize the need to provide practical solutions to our complex water supply issues.  Our State Water Plan says that more than a quarter of our future water supply must come from conservation. Given that more than 90 percent of Texas is privately owned, working with Texas landowners to protect our water supply is a no brainer.”

Proposition 8 will be on the November 8th statewide constitutional amendment ballot. Early voting is October 24-November 4, and Election Day is November 8. For more information, go to Clean Reliable Water for Texas.

Rev. Sally Bingham's Visit to Austin, 2011

On the weekend of October 21-23, Reverend Canon Sally Bingham, Founder and President of Interfaith Power & Light, brought to the Austin religious community a strong message about our shared responsibility to care for creation. Through a series of events, people came together to listen, learn, share, and connect.

The weekend kicked off on Friday evening at All Saints Episcopal Church with a community celebration of art and music, "Under the Same Sky," featuring an interactive performance by the Drumsistas.

On Saturday morning, Rev. Bingham offered a keynote speech about climate change that highlighted the challenges we face, our religious responsibility to respond, and the reasons we can hope for the future. Her address was followed by a panel presentation and community conversation with notable climate scientist, Dr. Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas at Austin; Ilan Levin of the Environmental Integrity Project; Amanda Yaira Robinson of Texas Interfaith Power & Light; and Rev. Sally Bingham.

Rev. Bingham preached both services at All Saints Episcopal Church on Sunday morning, and on Sunday afternoon, she and Amanda met with local representatives of the student division of the University Interfaith Council, Texas Hillel, and the Austin Zen Center. In this conversation, they explored possibilities for future interfaith partnership and student engagement in the work to care for people and the planet that we share.

Rev. Bingham's closing words from her Saturday address are a perfect summary of the weekend's overall message: "Let’s all commit to a regeneration of spirit," she said, "both inwardly and outwardly. Commit to being an example to others and show our love for Creation in all our behaviors. Choose resurrection and life over death and destruction. We are all in this together, one family with one shared purpose and one hope for all. We are here, and the time is now!"

The weekend was sponsored by Texas Interfaith Power & Light and All Saints Episcopal Church, and was co-sponsored by the Interfaith Environmental Network of Austin, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the Seminary of the Southwest.

Rev. Sally Bingham's Message to Austin's Interfaith Community

This message was delivered by Rev. Canon Sally Bingham to an interfaith gathering in Austin on Saturday, October 22, 2011.

We are living at a difficult time in history, but at the same time, it is an exciting moment to be alive.  Things around us are changing very fast. There have been uprises in the Middle East, but I am not referring to the death of Osama Bin Laden, or Qaddafi or the trouble in Syria and Afghanistan, but rather the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt and now taking place on Wall Street and around this country. None of these events would be so successful without the aid of social networks. They have changed our lives. We are having to create “new norms for a new reality.” In the meantime, we are dealing with economic recession, terrorism, severe environmental degradation all over the world and along with that, the increasingly scary signs of runaway global climate change which is what I am here to talk about.

Climate change is a complicated issue that often evokes feelings of loss, hardship, unfairness and certainly confusion. I cannot leave out anger and frustration as well. Those feelings are real just as the climate crisis is real. Sounds scary, but we are also at a moment in time of rare opportunity.  There is something bigger than the feelings of fear and the climate crisis.  We have the chance to come together with a shared purpose—something few generations have had the chance to do. While crisis means danger, it also is an opportunity to work together. This is a chance to redefine the human purpose: Why did God put us here in the first place? What is the human purpose? We might consider coming together with the purpose of healing the earth so that we and the next generations may live in good health and safety. Could that be our shared purpose?

One of the most important things we need is a cultural shift in the way we think about, create, and use energy. But the challenges we face in making the necessary changes are huge. We have had serious coal mine disasters where many people have lost their lives. Coal is the most dangerous and dirty of the fuels we are using. Besides mining through tunnels, coal is extracted by blowing the tops off mountains. Not only does that destroy the entire ecosystem in the vicinity, I think it is a sin against creation and an insult to God. There are other less harmful ways of extracting coal.

Many men have lost their lives in mining accidents and recently as a result of a major oilrig explosion—events that didn’t have to happen. The worst oil disaster in the history of this country in the Gulf of Mexico happened a little over a year ago.

NASA just came out with a report saying that 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record since 1880 and multi-year winter sea ice area decreased by 42 percent between 2005 and 2008. And still, our elected officials in Washington have utterly failed to pass any energy, climate change, or even oil spill response legislation and at the same time, they voted to preserve subsidies to the oil industry.  This is what we are up against.  They have rejected climate science, calling global warming a hoax and stood behind a well-funded misinformation campaign paid for by the oil, coal and gas industry.

It makes you wonder, “where is the moral integrity of our elected officials?” And how can they put re-election ahead of what is best for their country, for the American people and best for the poor and vulnerable around the world—not to mention the preservation of the planet?

There is no doubt that every form of energy has risks, but we do not and should not take the kind of risk that BP oil company, Halliburton and Deepwater Horizon did with the Southern Coast of the US and the men aboard an oilrig.  Another risk is on the horizon with the Keystone XL Pipeline which will carry dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Until we are 100% sure of the safety, we have no viable reason to take that kind of risk. This is risking the heartland of our country and its water supply. We can save energy though conservation and efficiency. We don’t need to do this. I am told that 1/3 of all energy created is lost en route from the source to the project that needs it. We need to tighten up the grid and conserve before we build more dirty plants, run pipes right through aquifers or dig deeper and deeper into the ocean for oil.

Now I know we aren’t supposed to make connections between weather and global climate change, but… twenty to thirty years ago, scientists said we would have more and longer periods of hot weather due to global warming. Scientists said droughts would be longer and more forest fires would happen. Scientists said that storms will be more severe and we would experience much heavier rain and more serve flooding. Listen to what was in the June issue of Newsweek:

In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage. The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years, forcing the Mississippi to flood thousands of square miles, even as drought-plagued Texas suffered the driest month in a century. Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions. The 2010 heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 15,000 people. Floods in Australia and Pakistan killed 20,000 and left large areas of each country under water. A year-long drought in China has devastated millions of acres of farmland.  2010 was the hottest year on earth since weather records began.

Texas and New Mexico are suffering from unprecedented drought that will cost the states more than four billion dollars in agricultural losses; Russia lost 40% of its grain crop last year. Climate change is causing economic losses and food shortages. Many insurance companies no longer provide insurance for homes on the coasts in some parts of the world. What to do? 

If the government won’t protect us and oil and coal companies continue to gush carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for increased profit, who and what is going to motivate the change we need?

YOU WILL! People of faith, people of faith who see climate change and environmental degradation as a moral issue. We are the foundation of a fast-growing movement.

For people of faith this challenge is probably our greatest one.  It is a moral challenge that will decide our relationship with God, each other and the natural world. And the choices we make will decide the future for our children. If we love God and love what God created and loves, aren’t we the ones to protect and cherish our world? If God so loved the world that He gave his only son, aren’t we obligated to take care of it? 

It is in direct disobedience to the commandment to love one another, that wealthy nations have, through their pollution, destroyed the very basic physical stability on which poor nations and communities depend. It is the people who contribute the least to the problem who will suffer the most. That is a justice issue if there ever was one.

The poor, both here in the U.S. and around the world, are paying for mistakes made without their knowledge or contribution. This is an issue of human rights. It is one where one group of people has prospered at the expense of another. We must restore a shared sense of purpose. We all—rich and poor and everyone in between—share this fragile planet and we all need to share the responsibility for keeping it safe and healthy for every living thing, human and non-human and for future generations.

There are solutions on the horizon and our grass roots Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) campaign is promoting many of them. People of faith can and are beginning to lead the way in energy efficiency, conservation and education—and we hope, too, that our campaign will have political influence with a values-based message. We have 14,000 congregations participating with programs in 38 states. Religious involvement will be the moral influence that this movement needs. We are the hope in the dark times.

Our generation has the opportunity to engage in a cultural revolution similar to the industrial one 200 years ago, but this time, a clean one.  The Gulf oil disaster is an example of humans taking great risk with nature and it certainly makes a clear and powerful case for using less oil and getting ourselves onto clean, renewable energy. Prevention of that kind of disaster is paramount. There has never been a solar spill.

The United States, more than any other country in the world, is divided over this issue, but whether or not you think our warming global climate is human-induced, most people agree that the solutions addressing climate change line up with the solutions that will save a broken economy, it will encourage investments, create jobs and increase national security.  You cannot argue with those goals.

When it has been made clear that renewable energy sources like solar and wind power generate four to six times as many jobs as coal plants, you cannot help but wonder why don’t we make the switch. Switching to carbon-free energy helps—rather than hurts—the nation’s economy. It is safer and cleaner, too. This is a message the climate skeptics don’t want you to hear, but it is a message we need to all emphasize in these times of economic uncertainty. Whether you believe in global warming or not, switching to a low-carbon economy is something we should do anyway.

The faith community has an important role. Major social changes in America do not happen without the moral voice of religion. That voice is needed now and I believe it will be the voice that pushes and creates real change. It will be the voice that brings the world together with a shared purpose.

The U.S. has long held a clear separation between church and state. Yet our democracy is best when all voices are heard in the political process.

The moral responsibility to be good stewards of the earth fits side by side with our human desires to provide a safe and healthy world for our children. Those are shared values.

You don’t have to believe that humans are warming the climate to recognize that reducing energy consumption and boosting renewable energy supplies is the single best prescription for lifting the U.S. economy. We can propel a global economic recovery not based on the exploitation and degradation of the environment, but rather, based on a smart and sustainable approach that will democratize energy supply and enrich regional communities and economies. Jobs in the U.S. solar sector have doubled since 2009, even without climate or energy legislation. One hundred thousand people are working in solar-related jobs now.

I see the climate crisis as one of the most, if not the most, important moral issues of our time, and when moral and economic priorities align as they do now, there is no justification for inaction. Inaction now will only cost more later on.  

The best hope for all of civilization right now is that people of faith stand up and voice the moral responsibility of a nation to protect its people from potential catastrophic disasters.  And it is happening! Religious people are not waiting for international treaties or government regulation—they are putting faith into action.

Clergy preaching from the pulpit about the moral basis behind environmental stewardship may have far more impact than that of a politician or scientist alone.

As far as I am concerned, this is the most exciting and hopeful thing.

Here in the U.S., our 14,000+ IPL congregations are doing things like putting solar panels on our roofs, putting in geothermal systems, installing energy-efficient appliances, and developing creative liturgy to help change both hearts and minds. Churches, mosques and synagogues are serving as examples to the community. Clergy are walking the halls of legislative buildings and talking to lawmakers. This is what they did during the civil rights movement, and many credit the faith community with playing a decisive role in that successful effort to convince politicians to do the moral and right thing that supports the common good.

IPL has engaged individual congregations in a program called, Cool Congregations.  This program invites congregations to cut their own carbon footprints. We have videos and tools available and a contest going on right now that will give a financial prize to the congregation that is “the biggest loser”—loser of CO2 emissions, that is.

Modeled after Cool Congregations is our Cool Harvest program linking food, faith and climate.  Nearly all faiths have rituals that focus on meals.  We have seen tremendous enthusiasm around this program with congregations having sustainable meals or all locally-grown, organic potluck events that introduce congregants to how one’s food is grown, transported, prepared and consumed, and how that process affects the climate.

Carbon Covenant is our international program that connects congregations here in the U.S. with communities of faith in the developing world who are reforesting, including monks in Cambodia, Presbyterians in Cameroon, Lutherans in Tanzania, and Evangelical Presbyterians in Ghana. These four projects need help in planting trees and our program is providing much-needed funding to assist in recreating healthy forests that not only serve as carbon sinks, but also hold water and soil, preventing erosion.

In the increasingly polarized arena of politics, we are staging a strong resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline, doing our moral best to defend the Clean Air Act, and holding the “frackers” to ethical standards that will require regulated transparency, disclosure of chemicals used and 100% proof that wells don’t leak methane. These are contentious issues that need values-based arguments that speak to both sides of the aisle if we are going to be successful. We are working to find the effective messages and the most influential people to deliver those messages.

This is not about sacrifice. It is about stewardship. Doing the right thing is not always the easiest, but for people of conscience, it is the only thing to do.

I am not a scientist, but for the last ten years, I have worked almost exclusively on a religious response to global warming. I have read and studied it. I have met and sat down with climate scientists. I believe them.  They are the modern day prophets. 

One of my strongest arguments in response to climate skeptics and deniers is, “what if the denier is wrong?” If I am wrong, we have cleaned up the air, cut down on lots of pollution, created jobs, and boosted the economy. If the deniers are wrong, they will have condemned our children to an unhealthy and miserable future. 

Think of this: if the abolitionists had backed down because plantation owners in the South didn’t like the message, we might still have slaves. For those of us who recognize the climate crisis, this is our time to speak out.  And for religious leaders, we have an obligation to speak out.

Science tells us that we have but a scant few years to turn the trend around in order to avoid catastrophic weather conditions and unprecedented sea rise, putting entire nations in the developing world at risk. Some say we are already too late. We, therefore, all have to work together to curb our energy use in order to slash greenhouse gas emissions that have been linked to climate change. To limit carbon dioxide—which is the most serious and prevalent greenhouse gas—we need everyone working together. No one segment of society can do it alone. This is our shared purpose and we have a shared responsibility to turn things around.

While moral obligation should compel the U.S. to act, the message we need to share to convince the rest of society that action is paramount is the economic benefits that will flow to society. If we consume less energy and shift to more sustainable and non-polluting renewable fuels and supplies, we will be safer and healthier, too. We will put people back to work and bring manufacturing home.

It is time to look for solutions to save the entire community of life, not one species, one disease or one problem. This is about the well being of the entire communion of life. 

What does it say about our elected officials when they continue to avoid doing anything about this immense challenge? Isn’t it a crime not to even try to protect us?  And….. the U.S. government is letting China take over world leadership in renewable energy. Our politicians care more about their personal power than the power of America in the world.

The decisions made today will affect neighbors near and far, and most importantly, our future neighbors: our children and their children. We have a responsibility to the next generation—and to today’s calls for greater economic opportunity. 

Isn’t it strange that we spend an entire lifetime trying to leave wealth and other forms of inheritance to our children, yet we don’t seem to care about leaving them clean air, clean water and an atmosphere that supports life as we know it? How are the children going to survive? Some people just think that somebody somewhere will figure it all out. I think this is irresponsible! 

I refuse to believe that we are so lacking in moral integrity that we don’t care. If I thought we couldn’t do something or didn’t care about the climate problem, I wouldn’t have dedicated my ministry and life to this effort and I wouldn’t have HOPE. Without hope I wouldn’t be here. 

My reasons for hope were growing thin until earlier this year when I visited a high school in Massachusetts. Now I have a new full tank of energy moving towards a “We Can Do This” just from being with a group of young smart students. Their teachers get it and they get it. One class had an assignment to find a climate denier and do some research. Well, they found out a lot by doing that. Two weeks later, I was with college students in Indiana and it was the same. The hope is with youth, college students and young adults.

I think we are reaching a threshold where enough people are aware of the daunting issues we face with climate change. 85% of people polled say they care. It isn’t always the top priority, but they care. And 65% of Americans attend a house of worship on a regular basis. We have an audience and a lot of influence. We don’t need a majority. We need a critical mass.

Clergy preaching from the pulpit about the moral basis behind environmental stewardship may have far more impact than that of a politician or scientist alone.

This is the moment when we must take responsibility for the destruction that humans have caused to Creation. This is the moment when we need to pledge to take an unwavering stand to preserve and protect the creation over which we have been given dominion—not domination. If we choose life then we choose to live in harmony with one another and all creation. This is the time to make better choices. This is the time to redefine what it means to be human and to seek justice on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. This is the time for a generational shared purpose, one that can bring us out of recession and start healing the abused earth.

Faith and hope are crucial to celebrating a shared purpose, and I sense hope in the form of new technologies, efficiency, investments in renewable energy and in the students I have visited. But most of all, the recognition by people of faith who believe in the power of the human spirit and hope is here with you.

I hope that we will commit to finding and holding joy as we move forward in a peaceful campaign—one that can bring healing to this fragile Earth our island home, a campaign that will boost the economy, clean our air, and cut pollution.

We have a great opportunity now.  While the climate situation is a major crisis, and crisis is usually associated with danger, crisis always brings opportunity. We cannot waste this opportunity. We can run from the danger or we can face it and move forward together, unified, with a shared purpose.  There is unlimited and sustainable economic growth beckoning on the horizon with new technologies to be researched and developed, creating millions of new clean energy jobs. 

We have the tools and, I pray, the will to make things right. It is time to put our faith into action toward a shared purpose with a healthy future.

Let’s all commit to a regeneration of spirit—both inwardly and outwardly. Commit to being an example to others and show our love for Creation in all our behaviors. Choose resurrection and life over death and destruction. We are all in this together, one family with one shared purpose and one hope for all.

We are here, and the time is now! Thank you for your attention.

-The Reverend Canon Sally Bingham, October 22, 2011

This Saturday in Austin: Community Conversation on Climate Change with Rev. Sally Bingham and More

Join us at All Saints Episcopal Church, Austin, on Saturday, October 22nd at 9:00 a.m. for a Community Conversation on Climate Change, featuring the President and Founder of Interfaith Power and Light, Reverend Sally Bingham, and including three other great speakers: Dr. Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas at Austin, Ilan Levin of the Environmental Integrity Project, and Amanda Yaira Robinson of Texas Interfaith Power & Light. Read on for more information about all four participants, and we hope to see you on Saturday!

Rev. Canon Sally Bingham is president and founder of Interfaith Power & Light and continues to bring widespread attention to the link between religious faith and the environment through her work with The Regeneration Project.  As one of the first faith leaders to fully recognize global warming as a core moral issue, she has mobilized thousands of religious people to put their faith into action through energy stewardship. Sally serves as Canon for the Environment in the Episcopal Diocese of California and is the lead author of Love God, Heal Earth.  Interfaith Power & Light is a national movement connecting people of faith with energy and environmental stewardship.  There are 39 state IPL affiliates, including Texas.

Dr. Camille Parmesan is a professor of Integrative Biology at University of Texas, Austin and National Aquarium Chair in the Public Understanding of Oceans and Human Health at the University of Plymouth, UK.  Dr. Parmesan's research focuses on the current impacts of climate change on wildlife, from field-based work on American and European butterflies to synthetic analyses of global impacts on a broad range of species across terrestrial and marine biomes. Reuters ISI Web of Science ranked Parmesan the second most highly cited author in the field of Climate Change in 2010.  She works actively with governmental agencies and NGOs to help develop conservation assessment and planning tools aimed at preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change.  In 2007, she was awarded the Conservation Achievement Award in Science by the National Wildlife Federation, named "Outstanding Woman Working on Climate Change," by IUCN, and named as a “Who’s Who of Women and the Environment” by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).  Parmesan has been involved as an author and reviewer in multiple reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and shares in the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to IPCC in 2007. Dr. Parmesan is a Professor in Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin and holds the National Aquarium Chair in the Public Understanding of Oceans and Human Health at the Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, UK.  Dr. Parmesan is also a participant in the Scientists/Evangelical expedition to Alaska, organized by PBS and the Harvard Center for Global Change.

Ilan Levin is the Associate Director of the Environmental Integrity Project, a watchdog organization that advocates for effective enforcement of environmental law.  Prior to that, Ilan practiced environmental law with the Austin firm Henry & Levin, where he represented landowners and conservation groups on water issues. Ilan has also worked for the Texas Legislature’s Sunset Commission, where he played a key role in developing and drafting state anti-pollution laws. Ilan has authored or presented numerous reports and articles including Texas State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations, Salt Lake City, August 2003 (co-author), and Environmental Water Rights in Texas, 12th Annual Texas Water Law Conference, Water Law Institute, October 2002.  Ilan serves on the board of the non-profit Texas Campaign for the Environment, and has been appointed by the Austin City Council and Mayor to local boards and commissions, including serving as Vice Chairperson on the City of Austin Ethics Review Commission (2001-2003).

Amanda Yaira Robinson is the Coordinator for Texas Interfaith Power and Light (TXIPL), the environmental program of Texas Impact and one of 39 state Interfaith Power & Light programs.  Prior to that, Amanda served as Director of Religious Education for two Unitarian Universalist churches. Amanda is working on a Masters in Theological Studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is a Fellow in the 2012 Fellowship Program of GreenFaith, an interfaith environmental coalition whose mission is to educate and mobilize diverse religious communities for environmental leadership, and is a Contributing Scholar for State of Formation, an online forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders founded by the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue.

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To register for the Saturday workshop, click here. For more information about the event, please contact Amanda at amanda@texasimpact.org or call: (512) 472-3903.

About Sukkot and Our Work to Care for Creation

Submitted by Yaira on Wed, 2011-10-19 17:57

At the end of each month's interfaith environmental conference call, we close our time together with a prayer. Often, I'll ask a clergy-person to lead us. Today, though, the theme of this month's call--"greening" the holidays--had me thinking about the current Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which ends today at sundown. What follows are the words I offered at the close of today's call.

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Today is the last day of the Jewish festival of Sukkot, during which we are commanded to go outside and sit in temporary dwellings, open to the elements. This act of moving outside for seven days is a reminder of our impermanence and fragility, our connection to the natural world, and our responsibility to be engaged with and active in the larger world, outside our comfort zone. All of that might sound pretty heavy.

But during this festival of Sukkot, we are also commanded to be happy and joyful!

October Interfaith Environmental Conference Call: Greening the Holidays

Our October interfaith environmental conference call is scheduled for Wednesday, October 19th at 12:00 p.m. On this call, we'll focus on upcoming winter holidays and explore environmentally-friendly ways to celebrate on the individual and congregational levels. We'll also include information about ongoing programs, upcoming opportunities, and policy updates. If you or your congregation already does something green for the holidays--or if you don't but are looking for ideas, please plan to join us!

As always, we will have some time for callers to ask questions, share ideas and connect.

October Interfaith Environmental Conference Call

     Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 12:00-1:00 p.m.

     Dial-in number: (712) 432-3066 

     Conference Code: 424548

To RSVP for the call, receive a copy of the call's agenda or request notes from the call, please e-mail Amanda. Feel free to invite others to participate!

In our monthly environmental calls, we seek to connect faith leaders around the state who are engaged in the work of caring for Creation; provide updates about environmental legislation and advocacy opportunities; keep you current on new programs and initiatives; and create a space for sharing hopes and frustrations, plans and ideas, stories and prayers.

Interfaith Service of Public Prayer and Purpose Kicks Off Austin's Keystone XL Hearing

September 28, 2011

AUSTIN—Texas religious leaders led an interfaith prayer service at the LBJ Fountain on the UT Campus this morning immediately before the start of US State Department hearings on a controversial international oil pipeline. Worship leaders representing Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist and Jewish traditions offered prayers, readings and meditations that highlighted the interconnected nature of life on earth and called for renewed stewardship of our shared resources.

Faith communities across the nation are coming out in strong opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Texas gulf coast. Faith opposition includes concern for Canadian indigenous peoples, concern for the climate, and increasing alarm at potential risks to Texas’ water supply.

Texas Interfaith Power & Light (TXIPL), a statewide religious environmental network, sponsored the service. TXIPL is one of 38 state Interfaith Power & Light affiliates. The national movement includes more than 14,000 religious congregations and supports sustainable clean energy solutions.

Amanda Yaira Robinson, Coordinator of Texas Interfaith Power and Light, said the Jewish theme of teshuvah, or “turning,” offers wisdom for consideration of the controversial pipeline. “We are told that this pipeline will create new jobs, but it will also create new problems. My hope and prayer as Rosh Hashanah begins this evening,” she said, “is that we as a nation will do some teshuvah, some turning, and choose a path of life and health for all people and the planet that we share.” Robinson said that teshuvah is central to the Jewish High Holy Days. She noted that no Texas rabbis could participate in the service or the State Department hearing because of the conflict with the major religious holiday, but said that several rabbis have authored a joint statement to be presented at the hearing.

Rev. Meg Barnhouse of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin said, “One of the core principles of our faith is an understanding that we are part of an interconnected web of life. So when we cut down boreal forests in Canada for tar sands mining, we are contributing to global warming, which affects the entire planet.”

Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, called attention to the risk the pipeline presents to water resources. “The path of this pipeline would cut through the Carrizo Aquifer in east Texas. A spill there would be devastating for the communities who depend on its water.”

Kosho McCall, Teacher and Head Priest at the Austin Zen Center, highlighted the Buddhist principle of ahimsa, or “no-harm,” saying, “When we consider what action to take, we must include in our deliberations the effects our actions will have on others.”

Rev. Tim Tutt, pastor of United Christian Church of Austin, voiced concern about increased air pollution that would be created in the Houston area as a result of refining tar sands oil there. “The refining of this heavy tar sands oil emits more dangerous toxins in the air than conventional oil does. That spells trouble for our neighbors in Houston, especially children and the elderly, who suffer from asthma and other respiratory problems.”

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For more information contact yaira@texasinterfaith.org

Interfaith Service of Public Prayer and Purpose before Austin's Keystone XL Hearing

Please join us in Austin on Wednesday, September 28th at 10:30 a.m., before the U.S. State Department hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline begins, for an interfaith prayer service. Religious leaders of different traditions will frame the day by offering words and readings, prayer and meditation. This interfaith service of prayer and purpose will be held just outside the LBJ Library. Please join us and invite others.

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