This year on April 22nd, we're celebrating Earth Day's 50th Anniversary, honoring the living world around us and taking any steps we can to protect our planet. There are many ways to virtually engage this year, and however you choose to do so, you won't be alone in celebrating.
The Human Element Documentary
The Human Element is an inspiring documentary that "captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change" and Interfaith Power and Light has partnered with the filmmakers to offer a link to view the documentary for FREE! The Human Element sign up.
Faith Climate Action Week
Faith Climate Action Week, April 17th-26th, is 10 days during Earth Month when IPL congregations focus on how we can all take action to protect our planet. This year's theme is Love Made Visible: Engaging in Sacred Activism to protect the people we care about who are the most affected by climate change. Download resources HERE.
Earthday365 Virtual Festival
For those of us craving community, St. Louis Earth Day Festival has transformed this one day celebration into a week long interactive event featuring speakers, panels, music performances, yoga classes, and more. Click here to read more and register for this free online festival! You do not have to live in St. Louis to join this event!
Giving Directly to Those in Need during COVID 19
COVID 19 has been on our minds constantly, and the pain it causes can be overwhelming. But let's not let our grief overwhelm our ability to assist others in this time of crisis. As stewards of the Earth, we know part of caring for the planet is caring for our most vulnerable populations. COVID 19 has hit these vulnerable communities the hardest, but local organizers have stepped up to provide resources that make all the difference. One example is Solidarity Economy St. Louis, a group organizing mutual aid efforts that provide funding to people in need. Check out this article to learn more about mutual aid and its importance for building resilient communities. Learn more about Solidarity Economy St. Louis on their website and check out their Facebook for webinars and virtual events.
Have you heard of the #ShareMyCheck movement? You can pledge to donate a portion of your stimulus check to those that need it most. There's a variety of mutual aid funds and grassroots movements listed on their website, or you can donate directly to the STL mutual aid fund.
Thoughts on Earth Day During a Pandemic
Below, our steering committee member Jeanne Clauson shares her thoughts as we approach celebrating Earth Day during a pandemic.
"Countries that have been under the longest lockdown are showing large reductions of greenhouse gas emissions through satellite images. However, enduring a pandemic by forced quarantines and shuttered businesses is not the way anyone wants to achieve the goal of pollution reduction. Have you noticed the air outside seems clearer? After the pandemic subsides and we're back to our daily lives, what are the ways we can remember to focus on reducing air pollution and other environmental issues? Missouri Interfaith Power and Light will continue to bring individuals and congregations the resources needed to move away from our habit of burning so much coal, oil and gas, so that we can all enjoy clean air, all the time."
Nicole Muschinske, Communications Volunteer
With the high heat of mid-summer, it is easy to lose our motivation to get outside and enjoy God's bounty. It can be even harder to continue the work of protecting it. I find it inspiring, though, to see how God has provided for each minute of the season. As my coneflowers start to brown, my black-eyed susans take over. While raspberries are long gone, blackberries are starting their peak. Soon, Fall gardens will be planted to sustain us through the dark Winter months. God does provide. With all the recent bleak news regarding climate change, I want to provide you with some inspiration. Sometimes we forget that there are a whole lot of folks doing good work and making real changes in their communities.
Erbab and Aamna are active members of the Islamic Foundation of Geater St. Louis and have started an environmental initiative at their mosque. I had the great fortune of presenting there a few months ago and am very impressed with their dedication and enthusiasim in making their mosque "greener". They undertook a special project for this past Ramadan. The following is Aamna's description:
"We were inspired to undertake this project when we noticed how many plastic water bottles were going to waste during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. Well-meaning individuals would bring huge cases of plastic water bottles to offer to the couple thousand--rather parched--congregants of the prayers that take place every night in Ramadan. Most of the bottles ended up in the trash and many of them would not even be half empty. After visiting the Shedd Aquarium last year, we were inspired by the "Washed Ashore" art pieces made from trash salvaged from the ocean. Our display was up for the last 5 nights of Ramadan, and we received some mixed reactions from community members. Some people couldn't believe that these bottles were collected from just the one mosque over the span of 20 days. We heard of a family who, after seeing the display, went out and bought reusable stainless steel bottles. A few individuals tried to make the argument that you just can't beat the convenience of bottled water--plus, who can remember to take a reusable one every time they leave the house? We tried to tell those folks that it's just a matter of building a habit, like putting on your shoes before you leave the house! On the last night of Ramadan, the chairman of the mosque's board announced that for the following Ramadan, plastic water bottles would be banned from the mosque! After putting so much work into something we care about so deeply, it was so validating and gratifying to hear that announcement! (Some tears may or may not have been shed.) Sometimes the hard work of a few individuals can bring about serious change!"
I appreciate that Aamna describes that there was some initial resistance to the idea. That happens and can be discouraging. Don't let it stop you, though, from doing what you know is right for God's creation. Who knows what minds might be changed. Thank you for sharing Aamna and Erbab!
The Rev. Pamela Dolan, a friend to MO IPL, recently posted this to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Please read it as she captures why this is such an important issue.
The reason water is such a powerful symbol in religious ritual, poetry, art, and even in dreams is because it is so powerful in our real lives. It is the primary component of our bodies. We cannot survive without it; at the same time, we know it can kill us.
This post is brought to you by Gail Wechsler the Director of Domestic Issues and Social Justice at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. The post originally appeared on their Planet Jewish blog.
Lent is quickly approaching. For those who observe this time of reflection, repentance, and sacrifice, I encourage you to spend the next forty days opening your hearts and mind's to the care of God's beautiful creation.
Following are some sites and programs that may help you in your spiritual journey.
:: Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast
:: Daily Lenten Carbon Fast from Michigan IPL
:: Presbyterian Tread Lightly for Lent
:: A Green Lent - 40 Days of Green Preparation for the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
:: Christ Church ESM Lenten Care Practices
If you have any additional resources, please let me know. May this Lent reflect our passion for all that God has made!
* I would love to compile a list of *greener* fish fries in Missouri. Drop me line if you know of one!
This has been an exciting year of growth for Missouri Interfaith Power & Light! Thanks to your help, we:
Tax deductible donations can be made to:
MO Interfaith Power & Light
4651 Shaw Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63110
The encyclical by Pope Francis makes a compelling case as to why, as the pope stated, “climate change is a global problem with grave implications” and “one of the principal challenges facing humanity today.”
Many of the themes noted by the pope are resonant not only to the Catholic faith, but to other faiths as well. A core tenet of Judaism is that the Earth is a gift from G-d and human beings are stewards and protectors of G-d’s creation. As Jews we learn that we are not to destroy G-d’s world, “for there is no one to repair it after you.”
Another theme common to the encyclical and Judaism is that we have a duty to address the needs of the poor. Just as Pope Francis connected the fragility of the Earth and its devastating effect on the poor, so we as Jews view repairing the Earth as connected to helping those in low-income communities, communities that often bear the worst consequences of pollution and environmental degradation.
We hope people of all faiths will heed the pope’s words to recognize we all have a moral imperative to love and care for creation. This should compel us to take bold steps to address climate change, including drastically reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and expanding our development of clean, renewable energy. We must change our behaviors as individuals, organizations and citizens of the planet for the good of humankind.
Susan Mlynarczyk • Creve Coeur
Chair, St. Louis Jewish Environmental Initiative, a committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis
Gail Wechsler • Creve Coeur
Director of domestic issues/social justice, Jewish Community Relations Council
This summer will be an important one for the environmental movement. With the upcoming Pope's environmental encyclical, the release of the Clean Power Plan, and the release of the Missouri Comprehensive State Energy Plan, we need to make sure the faith voice is heard! As people of faith, we realize this is a moral issue that needs to be addressed now.
One of the best ways to do this is to write Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds. I would like to compile a list of folks who would be interested in helping with these. Fear not if you have never written one! I am here to help and guide you. Please let me know if you would be willing to be contacted to write one. The larger and more diverse our voices, the better chance we have in making a difference and preserving God's beautiful Creation. Never forget that your voice matters.
In faith and hope,
Thank you, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for publishing my letter to the editor!
Kevin Horrigan’s May 17th op-ed, “Reason v. Guilt” makes no sense. How is it rational to know the devastating effects of climate change, yet completely ignore any culpability you may have in the problem? As a person of faith, I see it as my moral responsibility to take care of all that God has given us. I want my children to enjoy all the beauty and diversity in the world that I have enjoyed. I also realize that to make this happen, I need to take action. While it will be a challenge to make the necessary changes, it’s increasingly clear that supporting clean energy will have both economic and health benefits. According to a recent NRDC report, Missouri could see the creation of over 3,900 jobs. I encourage my fellow rational Missourians to contact Gov. Nixon’s office to support a strong, clean energy based Comprehensive State Energy Plan and to advocate support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan with our Senators. Not only is this a rational approach, it will also relieve some of that guilt.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote "Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of invevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men (and women) willing to be co-workers with God, and with this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation."
While King was writing about the Civil Rights movement, I believe that the current environmental crisis is facing the same urgency. Environmental justice needs folks like you to work on the behalf of those who do not have a voice. Climate change will affect those who are least able to adapt. We need to step up and demand justice for everyone. I invite you to join us and other groups across Missouri to Take Back Earth Day. We need voices of faith to show Missouri lawmakers that we see climate change as a moral issue. As stewards of God's creation, we have been covenented to take care of his masterpiece. We need lawmakers to support policies that bring about this end. God did not say it would be easy or comfortable or convenient. It is, though, important and necessary. Please join us April 22nd, 10am in Jefferson City.
Genesis 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good"