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

You're Invited! Fort Worth IPL's "Pope and Potluck"

On September 24, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. central time, Pope Francis is scheduled to become the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress. Following on the heels of Laudato Si, the pope's encyclical on ecology issued in June, this much-anticipated visit offers the opportunity for people to come together in community and explore how we can better care for God's creation and our neighbors.

On the evening of September 24, the day of the Pope’s Congressional address, Fort Worth Interfaith Power & Light invites you to a “Pope and Potluck” to reflect, discuss, and share good food. Mary Jo Kaska, PhD, Biblical Scholar, and Rita Cotterly, PhD, retired, will offer Catholic perspectives in response to the Pope’s address to Congress. People of all faiths are welcome to attend!

When: September 24, 6:00 PM

Where:  University Christian Church of Fort Worth, room 207

To ensure that we have adequate space, please RSVP to Sandra by September 23, 2015.

 

“We have forgotten that we ourselves are the dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” – Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

Above photo of Pope Francis used courtesy of The Catholic Church of England and Wales via Flickr Creative Commons; potluck photo used courtesy of Texas Impact. 

A Teaching Resource for Yom Kippur and More: The Pope, Jewish Sages, & Climate Justice

We are delighted to offer a study guide to discuss climate justice in Jewish communities, just in time for Yom Kippur and Sukkot, holidays that invite us to focus on themes of repentance, corrective action, and our relationship with other people and God's creation.

Rabbi Daniel Swartz, spiritual leader of Temple Hesed of Scranton, PA, wrote this study guide, "Laudato Si and the Sages: Reflections on Climate Justice," which connects the Pope's encyclical on ecology with Jewish wisdom and teaching. It features selections from the encyclical paired with a variety of texts from the Jewish tradition, and includes a discussion guide and suggestions for ways to take action. Download the study guide here.

In Rabbi Swartz' own words of introduction:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Shanah Tovah!  As you prepare to welcome 5776, I invite you to connect with one of the most notable faith events of the year – Pope Francis’s visit to the United States just after Yom Kippur, during which he will speak about his encyclical on climate change and justice, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home.  At this time of year, as we reflect on how we have treated our fellow human beings and how we might better live up to God’s expectations of us, we have a special opportunity to examine our relationship with all of God’s creation – and the Pope’s encyclical provides us with an excellent way to do just that.

To that end, I’ve selected a number of excerpts from the encyclical and paired them with Jewish sources ranging from the Tanakh, to midrashim, to Heschel, to rabbis of today. Here at Temple Hesed in Scranton, PA, I will be using this text study, “Laudato Si and the Sages: Reflections on Climate Justice,” on Yom Kippur afternoon, and we have invited the press and other faith communities as well. Please use it however it might work best for you: at High Holy Day Services, at a multi-faith gathering, at a social action weekend etc.

The texts are presented in two formats. The first is a more complete four-page selection, designed for in-depth or multi-session discussions; it can be studied in a larger group setting, in hevruta, in small groups or in some combination. The second is a single page of texts, meant to serve as a ready-made one-hour program. In both formats, I’ve included questions on each topic highlighted by the texts, as well as some summary questions. 

I also hope this text study will inspire further action to combat climate change. To help with this, some “next steps” are presented at the end of each discussion guide. 

Many thanks to Rabbi Swartz for compiling the guide, and to him and our friends at Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light for sharing it! If you have questions about how to use this in your community, please email us.

Download the study guide here.

____________________________________

Above photo used courtesy of Chajm Guski via Flickr Creative Commons.

The 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina: Thoughts, Prayers, and Resources

Ten years ago, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were struck by one of the most devastating and costly disasters in U.S. history. The trauma of Hurricane Katrina spread across the world through shocking images of families stranded on rooftops, shattered homes, destroyed communities, and people seeking refuge in a dilapidated Superdome. The storm tore across the Southeast, claimed 1,833 lives, displaced nearly one million people, and left a wake of brokeness in its path. 

A decade later, rebuilding efforts are still underway and many people have returned home. However, in the continuing aftermath of this human and environmental catastrophe, we are faced with big questions: questions of increasing natural disasters due to climate change, of racial and socioeconomic inequality, and of social and environmental justice. 

Here, some resources from different religious traditions in commemoration of Hurricane Katrina. If you have a prayer, resource or link to share, please e-mail us.

 

Prayers, Litanies, & Hymns

A Prayer for Victims of Hurricane Katrina,” by Rabbi Naomi Levy

Prayer of Comfort and Support,” by Rabbi SueAnn Wasserman

Four Prayer Poems for Natural Disasters,” by Rabbi Zoe Klein

A Prayer for Safety After Violent Weather,” by Alden Solovy

"Litany for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina," by Education for Justice, based on Catholic Social Teaching 

"Hurricane Katrina Prayer of Consolation," by the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life for the major National African American Catholic organizations and the Offices of Black Catholic Ministry

“Litany in Response to Natural Disaster” and “A Prayer for the Victims of Katrina” by Reverend William Stokes

Prayer After Katrina,” by Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie

In the Wake of Katrina: Lest We Forget… Call to Renewal,” by Dr. Valerie Bridgeman Davis

Prayers for Those Facing Disasters,” from the United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries

A Christian Hurricane Prayer,” by Rev. James Martin, S.J.

Prayers for Hurricanes, Natural Disasters,” a collection compiled by the Huffington Post

"God of Creation," hymn by Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

Denominational Resources

Special Coverage: Hurricane Katrina,” from the United Methodist Church.

10 Years After Hurricane Katrina,” from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Disaster Response.

Hurricane Katrina and Systemic Racism,” from the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Through the Eye of a Hurricane: Rebuilding Just Communities,” from Creation Justice Ministries. 

 

“ We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way." - St. Francis of Assisi

Above stop sign photo used courtesy Jeffrey Schwartz via Flickr Creative Commons; "make leeves not war" photo used courtesy Infrogmation of New Orleans via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Trans-Pecos Pipeline Project

The Trans-Pecos Pipeline is a proposed 143-mile pipeline that would bring natural gas from West Texas to the U.S.-Mexico border, as part of an agreement with the Mexican Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). At 42 inches wide and just under 1,200 pounds of pressure per square inch, the pipeline will carry as much as 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day after its projected completion in 2017. The gas transported by the pipeline will originate in Texas’s Permian Basin at Fort Stockton and travel the length of the line, currently projected to run east of the Davis Mountains, skirt the town of Alpine, and pass through the famous Marfa Lights as well as the historic town of Shafter on its way south to the border at Presidio, TX, and Ojinaga, Mexico. From there, it will be piped further into Mexico for industrial use and power generation. The holder of the contract for this project is a consortium that includes two large energy companies—Mexico-based Carso and Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP).

Community Concern

Texas Pipelines MapThe energy industry is an integral part of the Texas economy. Much of Texas is already covered in a maze of oil and gas transmission pipelines, but so far the Big Bend area has largely been reserved as a pristine natural landscape. It is one of the biggest intact bioregions in the country. The Big Bend area is a geologically rich, wide-open expanse of mountains, desert, and ranch land—the nearby UNESCO biosphere reserve Big Bend National Park is home to 1,200 species of plants and scores of mammals, birds, reptiles, and other animal species. The uniqueness of this area is widely recognized and was even a focal point of a 2010 bilateral cooperation discussion between President Obama and President Felipe Calderón. 

Though the exact route of the pipeline has yet to be finalized due to ongoing surveys being conducted by ETP and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) current environmental assessment period, the proposed direction shows the pipeline running through private ranch land, close to Big Bend Ranch State Park, and even closer to the Chinati State Natural Area, an undeveloped swath of land known for its diverse flora and fauna.

Many opponents of the pipeline—including two affected counties who fear the possibility of severe environmental degradation—have called for more federal oversight of the project. 

Community concerns about negative environmental impacts and inadequate federal oversight were compounded in June when, in Cuero, Texas, a pipeline owned by ETP and regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) exploded, releasing a fireball that could be seen more than twenty miles away. If such an explosion occurred in the semi-arid grasslands of the Big Bend region, resulting wildfires could be devastating. In addition, the Big Bend is part of the most seismically active area of the state, significantly increasing the risk of pipeline ruptures.

How can you get involved?

The FERC has extended the deadline for public comments until September 4, 2015 as it continues to conduct its environmental review of part of the planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline. The commission is currently studying the possible environmental impacts of the pipeline’s border crossing section—the part where it would cross underneath the Rio Grande and connect with another natural gas pipeline coming from the Mexican side. This environmental review is supposed to help regulators decide whether or not the pipeline is in the interest of the U.S. public and, ultimately, whether or not they should issue the border permit the project needs in order to bring natural gas from the Permian Basin to the power plants in Mexico.

To learn more about the Trans-Pecos pipeline and its projected impacts, visit the ETP site about the project, the Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA) website, or follow Marfa Public Radio’s continuing coverage of the project’s progression. 

To learn how to submit a comment to the FERC during this extended period of review, visit the BBCA blog.

___________________________________

Big Bend photo used courtesy of Katie Floyd.

"It is to the Creator of the universe, then, that we are accountable for what we do or fail to do to preserve and care for the earth and all its creatures." - US Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Earth, 1991, p. 6.

August 5 Austin Clean Power Plan Press Conference

On Wednesday, August 5, Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler, Representative Donna Howard, many City Council members, and a host of Austinites joined together at Austin City Hall for a press conference in support of President Obama’s recently announced Clean Power Plan, which places limits on carbon pollution from power plants across the nation.

Mayor Steve Adler opened the event by pointing to the floods, drought, and wildfires that have affected Austin and the surrounding areas in recent years as symptoms of climate change. “While the time for action on climate and carbon pollution was long ago, I applaud President Obama and the EPA for making history by bringing forward the Clean Power Plan to put common sense limits on carbon pollution from power plants,” Mayor Adler said.

The Clean Power Plan set forth by President Obama and the EPA requires a 32 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector's 2005 levels by 2030 and encourages more use of renewable energy resources such as solar and wind.

Multiple City Council members spoke in favor of the new plan and its goals of mitigating climate change. Delia Garza of District 2 recounted stories of her constituents who experienced firsthand the Onion Creek flooding that devastated parts of Southeast Austin in the fall of 2013, and said that decreasing carbon pollution can save future communities from similar destruction. Greg Casar of District 4 said that attacks on the Clean Power Plan are short-sighted and that, rather than detrimentally affecting working class Texans, a move to renewable energy has the potential to provide new jobs for employees who may lose power plant jobs. “I, along with my colleagues, am up to the challenge of bridging the political divide and making sure we protect our environment,” Casar said.

A nurse with the Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility spoke about the health impacts brought on by climate change. She focused on asthma, which affects nearly 1 in 4 children in Texas and is caused by particulate matter in the air—these particulates are greatly increased by pollutants from coal-fired plants. By cleaning up our air, she said, we can create healthier lives for children, the elderly, and everyone in between.

Reverend Amelia Fulbright spoke on behalf of Texas Impact and many Texans of faith. She emphasized just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, and commitment to society. Here’s what she said:

“In the book of Genesis, we are entrusted with the stewardship of creation -- called to be caretakers, not destroyers. We have a moral and spiritual obligation to protect the environment, both for ourselves and for future generations. And when I think about future generations, it is not an abstract concept to me. I think very concretely about my daughter and her potential children. And I think about the very real inevitably that if you and I and the state of Texas don’t make serious changes now, my daughter will not know the joy of living, working, and playing in a safe, clean, hospitable world.  

The great 13th c. Catholic Saint Francis of Assisi, known for his attention to the natural world, said:“Remember that when you leave this earth you can take nothing of what you have received, but only what you have a given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.”

Today, all across the world, people of faith are responding to the crisis of climate change. Pope Francis, who chose to be named after Saint Francis, draws clear connections between our treatment of the earth and the suffering of the poor. In his recent encyclical on ecology, he writes: “...Everything is interconnected, and...genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice, and faithfulness to others.”

Scripture tells us that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon their children, up to the third and fourth generations. I believe this to be true in the sense that if climate change continues undeterred on its current trajectory, you and I will be to blame. The Clean Power Plan is a crucial first step in combating climate change by allowing Texas to create a plan of its own to reduce carbon pollution. The choice is not between caring for the environment OR creating jobs. The choice is between thinking only of ourselves OR thinking about the legacy we will leave to our children and grandchildren.  

Until now, there have been no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that power plants could dump into our air, wreaking havoc on our health and our climate.  May we have the moral courage to act now for a better tomorrow, for the sake of all the world’s children.”

For more information about the Clean Power Plan and how you can support climate action, visit the Texas Interfaith Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Clean Power Plan and Texas

The Clean Power Plan gives us the first-ever national standards on carbon pollution from power plants. While the electric power sector is responsible for nearly 40 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution in the United States—our largest single source—until now there have been no national limits on the amount of carbon pollution these plants can pump into the air. 

The Clean Power Plan will bring health and climate benefits:

  • When the Clean Power Plan is fully in place in 2030, carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32 percent below 2005 levels – or 870 million tons less carbon pollution.
  • Reducing exposure to particle pollution and ozone in 2030 will avoid a projected 1,500 to 3,600 premature deaths; 90,000 asthma attacks in children; up to 1,700 heart attacks; 1,700 hospital admissions; and 300,000 missed school and work days.
  • From the soot and smog reductions alone, for every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan – American families will see up to $4 in health benefits.
  • Due to increased energy efficiency, the Clean Power Plan is projected to reduce electric bills by about $7 per month by 2030. 

State-Specific Goals

The plan sets state-specific goals for reducing CO2 emissions from the power sector in order to allow the states flexibility in meeting the reductions targets.

There are many ways states can cut their emissions, including:

  • Installing new clean energy such as wind and solar power;   
  • Shutting down high-polluting coal plants;
  • Improving the efficiency of fossil-fuel power plants;
  • Making homes and buildings more energy-efficient;
  • Enacting a state-level tax on carbon pollution.

A Look at Texas

The carbon pollution reduction goals for Texas are moderate as compared to other states. Texas emits the highest amount of carbon pollution in the country. In the plan, Texas is expected to reduce its carbon pollution by 34 percent by 2030. Because of our use of wind and natural gas, Texas is already moving closer to the new EPA target.

Taking Moral Action on Climate

The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, President and Founder of Interfaith Power & Light, says in a statement about the Clean Power Plan: 

I applaud the EPA for moving forward with these landmark rules. It’s an important step in addressing climate change, which is not just a matter of science or policy, but one of faith. Congregations across the country are responding to the moral obligation to care for creation, so I suspect faith communities will be a primary voice calling on their leaders in Congress to support this rule.

Call Congress to Support the Clean Power Plan

Senator John Cornyn: 202-224-2934

Senator Ted Cruz: (202) 224-5922

Find out who your Congressional representative is here. Then contact that office directly, or call the main House switchboard: (202)225-3121.

Pope Francis Releases Encyclical on the Environment, "Laudato Si'"

On Thursday, June 18, 2015, Pope Francis issued a new papal encyclical, a much-anticipated pastoral statement on the environment. The statement, known as a "papal encyclical" is entitled Laudato Si' (Praised Be)—a quotation from St. Francis’s prayer praising God for creation.

En Español.

What is an encyclical?

Encyclicals are formal letters issued by a pope to the universal Catholic Church concerning moral, doctrinal, and disciplinary matters. It is a teaching document for bishops and Catholics everywhere.

What does this encyclical say?

In “Praised Be,” Pope Francis teaches that the Catholic voice on climate change is clear and distinct and stands in protection of Creation and all of God’s children.

Calling climate " a common good, belonging to all and meant for all," (Laudato Si’ 23) Pope Francis calls for a "new and universal solidarity" (LS 14) in defense of Creation.

The encyclical calls for a broader recognition of "both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor," (LS 49) pointing out that the poor suffer the most from consequences of improper care of the environment, even though they have contributed the least to climate change (LS 51).

Pope Francis argues that the climate challenges we face require an intergenerational effort and a reimagining of local, national and international responses. He writes, "Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress." (LS 194)

The encyclical concludes with calls for a renewed notion of the common good, grounded in the obligation we have to future generations to address climate change, and insistence that we must all act to care for Creation.

"Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal." (LS 202)

Why is this encyclical important?

The Pope is one of the most popular public figures in the world, both inside and outside of the Church. The release of “Praised Be” offers inspiration to faith leaders and organizations across the globe to come together to amplify a common message of caring for our shared home.

The timing of the Encyclical’s release is especially important in light of the global climate talks that will take place in Paris at the end of this year. Now is the time for all people, everywhere, to raise a common call for world leaders to take meaningful action on climate change at the UN climate negotiations in December.

People of Faith Taking Action

Here are some ways that people of all religious traditions are heeding the Pope’s moral call to action—and some ways you and your congregation can be involved.

Take the Paris Pledge

In December, leaders from across the world will meet in Paris to negotiate an agreement on how the global community can take action on climate at the governmental level.

The Paris Pledge is a bold two-step commitment that individuals and congregations can make today to take action on climate. When you sign the Paris Pledge, you commit to cutting your carbon pollution in half by the year 2030, and to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Learn more and take the Pledge here.

One Earth, One Human Family: Interfaith March into St. Peter’s Square

On Sunday, June 28, Catholics, people of diverse faiths, and others will take part in a march from Piazza Farnese in Rome to St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. The march will be called One Earth, One Human Family.

That same day, faith communities around the world are invited to join a Global Climate Chorus—to ring their bells, sound their gongs or chimes, sound their shofars, or offers prayers outdoors in solidarity.

Learn more here.

A Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis

Hundreds of rabbis have signed a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, calling for vigorous action to prevent worsening climate disruption and to seek eco-social justice. A brief excerpt: "We believe that there is both danger and hope in American society today, a danger and a hope that the American Jewish community, in concert with our sisters and brothers in other communities of Spirit, must address. The danger is that America is the largest contributor to the scorching of our planet.  The hope is that over and over in our history, when our country faced the need for profound change, it has been our communities of moral commitment, religious covenant, and spiritual search that have arisen to meet the need. So it was fifty years ago during the Civil Rights movement, and so it must be today."

Read the full text of the letter and, if you are a rabbi, sign onto the letter here.

World leaders need to see massive support for climate action from diverse faith communities.

Please stay tuned for more updates and ways to take action!


Additional Resources


  1. Photo "Canonization 2014-The Canonization of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II" by Flickr User Aleteia Image Department licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.
  2. Photo "Pope Francecso I" by Flickr User Jeffrey Bruno licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.
  3. Photo "Vatican Easter Mass 73" by Flickr User Karl Villanueva licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.

Spring 2015 Interfaith Environmental Stewardship Event, Houston

Join with people of all faiths—or no faith at all—in caring for our shared environment on World Water Day!

On Sunday, March 22nd, from 1:30-4:30pm, we will engage in hands-on environmental stewardship by removing invasive species and planting native plants in wetlands at the Willow Waterhole Conservation Reserve. This event will offer activities for all ages and skill levels, so bring the whole family, neighbors, and friends!

Meet at the Gathering Place, located at 5310 South Willow Drive, Houston, to sign in. Metro Bus lines 33 and 163 stop nearby. Tools and supplies will be available, but participants are asked to bring empty milk jugs or soda bottles to use in watering the new plants. In addition, those who can are asked to bring wheelbarrows, rakes, and shovels, to ensure sufficient quantities for volunteers.

This event is organized by Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church, Congregation Brith Shalom, and the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, in partnership with the Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy. The Conservancy requires signature of a waiver to participate.

Contact Lisa at gcs.lrc@gmail.com or (713) 372-7345 for more information, to sign up, or to get a copy of the waiver form.

The site of the "trash bash" conducted at the Fall 2014 Interfaith Environmental Stewardship Event.

You're Invited! Austin's Second-Annual Preach-Off on Climate Change

In February 2015, religious communities across the U.S. will participate in the national Interfaith Power & Light Preach-In on Climate Change. Clergy and lay leaders from many different traditions will highlight the importance of religious leadership on one of the most pressing challenges of our time. It’s one of Interfaith Power & Light’s most-beloved annual programs.

In Austin, we’re taking it up a notch.

Austin’s Interfaith Environmental Network and iACT (Interfaith Action of Central Texas) are inviting religious leaders to share their tradition’s wisdom with not just their own congregations, but with the entire community. Back by popular demand, we are holding our second-annual Preach-Off on Climate Change—and we invite you to come!

Sunday, February 8, 2015, 4:00 p.m.
The Sanctuary
2614 Exposition Blvd.
Austin, TX 78703

What to expect: Learning, community-building, inspiration, and laughter! Our goal is to make this a playful, interactive program that doesn’t skimp on the gravity of the topic at hand or our traditions’ power to help guide us—but that doesn’t skimp on the simple joy and celebration of life and love, either.

  • Religious leaders from a variety of congregations and traditions will share brief teachings (3-5 minutes each) from the messages they delivered to their own communities as part of the Preach-In on Climate Change.
  • We’ll have “judges.” (It's fun. We promise!)
  • We’ll have an announcer.
  • We’ll offer ideas about how you and your community can stay involved and take action on this very real challenge.

We can’t wait to learn, laugh, and take action on climate change with you.

For more information, to R.S.V.P., or to ask about participating as a speaker, please contact Yaira Robinson or Sarah Macias.

Pages