The Dernogalizer

March 2, 2010

Environmentalism and religion: The climate of faith

Filed under: Dernoga,Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 6:26 pm
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I have an op-ed in the University of Maryland newspaper Diamondback about the growing  intersection between environmentalism and the religious community, with a call to action at the end.  Enjoy!

Environmentalism and religion: The climate of faith

By Matt Dernoga

You might be surprised who just encouraged Catholics to go green for Lent: the Pope. Pope Benedict XVI has been called “the green Pope” because of his efforts to make the Vatican carbon neutral and his use of religious doctrine to advocate for humanity’s moral responsibility to care for the planet. In 2008, one of the new sins announced by the Roman Catholic Church was “polluting the environment.”

It’s important not to view the leadership of Pope Benedict on environmental issues as an anomaly in the religious community.  Despite the stereotype that environmental disputes such as climate change pit religious conservatives on one side versus godless liberals on the other, environmental stewardship is meteorically rising as a top issue in the religious community.

An organization, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG), has taken up the Pope’s challenge, launching the Facebook campaign “Go Green for Lent.” Several Anglican Bishops are calling for a “carbon fast” to reduce their environmental footprint, and the Archdiocese of Washington has made a calendar listing 40 ideas for reducing that footprint.

But it’s not just Catholics and not just for 40 days. Evangelicals, considered some of the most conservative Christians around, have formed several organizations in recent years such as the Evangelical Environmental Network, Evangelicals for Social Action and The Evangelical Climate Initiative. In 2006, 86 Evangelical leaders signed a document titled “Climate Change: A Call to Action.” This included Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, the largest Evangelical church in America.

And it isn’t just Christians. Green Muslims is a local Washington environmental network founded on educating communities on implementing sustainable ways of living while at the same time relating it to their faith. As part of an event called “No Impact Week” last fall, they created a guide which placed quotes from Islamic texts next to tips on a more sustainable lifestyle and related the two.

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life is the leading Jewish environmental organization in the United States that links Judaism and the environment. Their website has a wealth of resources and information on what’s Jewish about protecting the environment, such as commandments to protect God’s creation and Bal Tashchit (do not waste) to conserve resources. Last fall when I was tabling on the mall for my environmental group, a rabbi from Hillel walked over to talk about getting the Jewish student community more involved. He said, “A green Jew is a good Jew.”

The cross-cutting themes I’ve seen in the rationale for religion and environmental protection are those of morality, being stewards of creation and conserving resources. The moral argument is centered on the threat of climate change, “not only an urgent public policy challenge, but also a profound moral issue,” the Pope explained in his circular last week. “It is the poor that are most affected by this grave threat to human dignity.”

There are some things all of us should be able to come together on. This is one of them. Before the seas rise too high, before deserts sprawl across the Earth, before the oceans acidify, before we’ve cut down the last tree and caught the last fish … put your faith into action.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

July 27, 2009

World Religions fighting Global Warming

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 12:44 pm
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I’ve blogged previously about the increasing role of religious groups in combating climate change(see here and here).  There’s a great article in the Jerusalem Post about Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Sikh leaders pledging to draft climate plans for educating and raising awareness about the need for environmental stewardship and sustainability.  They plan to present their plans in November, which should be a piece of great momentum leading up to international climate negotiations in Copenhagen.  Article is reposted below!

Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs fight global warming


As political leaders aim for a momentous climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, religious leaders are rolling up their sleeves as well.

This month, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu and Sikh leaders all pledged to build climate change plans for their adherents. Jewish leaders have also promised to build a seven-year climate change plan.

The world religions initiative is being organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, a UK-based organization founded 14 years ago by Prince Philip.

What differentiates each religion’s take on the environment? In truth, not much. They base their actions on words of wisdom from their prophets or leaders of old, and plan to focus on education, and to take action to become examples to the wider world of their followers. Of course, each religion uses its symbols and concerns in the fight to cope with climate change

Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI firmly placed ecology and the environment into the mainstream of Catholic concerns in a new encyclical. The pope argued, much as Jewish leaders do, that the Earth was given to human beings to preserve and protect. He singled out fossil-fuel-guzzling countries for criticism, both for their deleterious effect on climate change and for the social inequality he said they engender.

The pope also linked what he called “human ecology” to the right to a natural life and death and the absence of experimentation on embryos.

“In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society.

“If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves,” Benedict wrote.

The pontiff also condemned contemporary society’s tendencies towards “hedonism and consumerism.”

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation is organizing five- to nine-year plans from the 11 major religions of the world which will be presented at Windsor Castle in November, ahead of the Copenhagen conference. At Copenhagen, world leaders are expected to work out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, whose greenhousegas limitations expire in 2013.

The Muslims, including many significant scholars, proposed a series of measures such as “greening the Haj,” greening some cities to act as models for the rest and a host of certification and best practices measures during a conference in Istanbul at the beginning of the month.

British Hindus have also pledged to examine their temples and their other assets and to try to implement greener practices. The UK Hindu community also hopes to reach out to India.

Ranchor Prime, author of Hinduism and Ecology, said: “Food has always been at the heart of the Hindu way of life. Now with food, and especially the environmental cost of meat, right at the top of the global climate change agenda, Hindus feel they have something to say. One of their key concerns is to change public perceptions of the cow as simply a source of food.”

The Sikhs have dedicated the new 300-year cycle, which began in 1999, to nature. During the previous cycle, dedicated to protecting the vulnerable, they fed 30 million people a day from their free soup kitchens in their temples. While 300 years may be too long to save the planet, their track record for religious action remains impressive.

The alliance was founded to harness the potential of the world’s religions. Taken together, they hold sway over vast numbers of people around the world. The potential for reaching out and changing the habits of ordinary individuals is tremendous, the organization believes.

From a materialistic perspective, the world’s religions own many profitable temples, tracts of land and other assets, which, if greened, would be beneficial in and of themselves.

May 13, 2009

American Values Network

I recently blogged about the Catholic Climate Covenant’s involvement in trying to pass climate change legislation.  As I mentioned in the post, there are plenty more efforts by faith organizations to push for the moral courage to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  I’ve come across a coalition called the American Values Network, which according to their website is a coalition of faith based and military leaders to ensure the passage of a climate bill with the right provisions.  Here is what they have on their website regarding climate change.

“Climate change poses grave dangers to the world’s poor and America’s national security. Our failure to answer the calling to be good stewards of God’s creation has consequences.  As food, water, and land become scarce due to climate change, millions of people here at home and globally are suffering and American security is endangered by the the threat of political destabilization in regions around the world.  A new Congressional coalition spearheaded by Rep. Heath Schuler and Rep. Tom Perriello, has  joined an unprecedented assembly of  religious and military leaders working to ensure that the new climate bill creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and pays special attention to the needs of those most affected by climate change and our attempts to combat it.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             They also have a couple of great radio ads they’re running trying to influence public opinion.  I’m also going to post some of the list, they have of organizations and military leaders involved.  This is pretty impressive.  Three notable quotes follow.

Evangelical Climate Initiative, Southern Baptist Environmental Climate Initiative, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Episcopal Church, Redeem the Vote, Evangelical Environmental Network, VeteransGreenjobs, VETPAC, Rear Admiral Stuart Franklin Platt, USN (Ret.), General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.), Admiral Frank “Skeip” Bowman, USN (Ret.), Lieutenant General Lawrence P. Farrell Jrl, USAF (Ret.), Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, USN (Ret.), General Paul J. Kern, USA (Ret.), Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, USN (Ret.), Admiral Donald L. “Don” Piling, USN (Ret.), Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, USN (Ret.), Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, USN (Ret.), General Charles F. “Chuck” Wald, USAF (Ret.), General Anthony C. “Tony” Zinni, USMC (Ret.), Jonathan Powers, CPT, US Army, Michael Hallinan, CPT, Marines, James Morin, CPT, US Army, Scott Holcomb, CPT, US Army, Seth Moulton, CPT, Marines, Robert Diamond, LT, US Navy, Christopher McGurk, SSG, US Army, Rye Barcott, CPT, Marines, Michael McNerney, CPT US Air Force

“The brutal consumption of creation begins where God is not… I think, therefore, that true and effective initiatives to prevent the waste and destruction of creation can [start] only where creation is considered as beginning with God…Particular attention must be paid to the fact that the poorest countries are likely to pay the heaviest price for ecological deterioration . . . This in turn calls for a responsible relationship not only with creation but also with our neighbors, near and far, in space and time, and with the Creator”

– Pope Benedict XVI

“I tell you stay in doors ladies and gentleman. Stay cool. Get fans. And the poor, they need emergency fans and ice to cool down — the number of people dead is awful. I have not been one who believed in the global warming, but I tell you, they are making a convert out of me…it is getting hotter and the ice caps are melting and there is a build up of carbon dioxide in the air. We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels because if we are contributing to the destruction of the planet, we need to do something about it.”

– Rev. Pat Robertson

“Threats to nations and our world economies do not always originate with our enemies. Global climate change is one of the greatest threats to our national security both because it literally threatens the very planet we inhabit and because the droughts, famine, and floods it creates threaten to destabilize regions around the world.”

– Rear Admiral Stuart Franklin Platt, USN Ret, a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran, with over 20 medals for military sea and combat service

This movement is growing, another reason if you’re a polluting industry, you should get with the program.

April 23, 2009

Catholics and Climate

Ordinarily, we don’t think of religion and global warming solutions mixing all that well.  However, I’ve noticed in recent years more and more of a voice from the religious community regarding the moral imperative to stopping catastrophic warming.  I personally just had a meeting with some members of the Saint Andrews Episcopalian Church in College Park last Monday, where we discussed the issue, and them attending the town hall meeting with Congressman and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer which I’m helping to organize.  I’ve also seen in the news recently about how evangelicals, especially younger ones, consider climate change to be an important issue.  

Today, I’m focusing on Catholics.  There is a website called the Catholic Climate Covenant, which is run by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.  The CCCC “was launched with the support of both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change supports and complements USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (formerly, the Department of Social Development and World Peace) and the bishops’ Environmental Justice Program.  The Coalition is a membership organization consisting of twelve national Catholic organizations that offers advice and assistance in implementing its programs.”

The Coalition sends regular updates to its growing database of interested Catholics and others of goodwill to keep them informed of its activities and current events. Find the recent and previous updates from CCCC

They had an Ad  in the New York Times a couple days ago about the need for climage change solutions.  On top of this, the pope mentioned in his Easter message the danger of runaway cliamte change.  On top of all this, they made the video below on their website about the need for adaptation and mitigation funding for the poor who will be disproportionately affected.  This is the explanation on the youtube video’s page…

“After decades of steady progress in reclaiming and advancing the Catholic Churchs efforts to embrace an ethic of environmental stewardship, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change is ready to launch an unprecedented and historical campaign to take responsibility for our contribution to climate change and do what we do best: be advocates for those who will be left out of the public policy debate on climate change.”


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