As a partial indication of the deep history of sustainability activity among faith communities in North America, here is a brief listing of some of the most significant events of the past 30 years as reported by leaders from across multiple traditions participating in the Faith for Nature global conference. Leaders were asked to share the most significant sustainability initiative of the past 2 years, along with the top 5 events or accomplishments or statements in their community in the past 30 years. Those responses can be found here (Historical Role of FBOs Highlight ) and are also copied below:
Historical Role of FBOs for Sustainable Development: Highlights polled from North American Hub participants
Format for the examples below is:
Most important accomplishment of past 2 years
5 Most important accomplishments in past 30 years
United Church of Christ:
In September 2020, the UCC’s Council for Climate Justice issued a 10 year mobilization plan to address the intersectional crises of the climate emergency, economic inequality and racial injustice. It’s called “A Kairos Call to Action”: https://www.ucc.org/a_kairos_call_to_action
-In 1987, the United Church of Christ published the groundbreaking statistical survey, “Toxic Waste and Race” http://www.reimaginerpe.org/node/5346, which drew on census data and EPA information to show that toxic “superfund” sites are disproportionately located in communities of color. It is race, not income, which is most closely correlated with the location of those polluted sites. (A follow-up study 20 years later revealed that disproportionately large numbers of people of color still live in hazardous waste host communities, and that they are not equally protected by environmental laws.)
-In 2013 the UCC became the first national body to vote to divest from fossil fuel companies; https://www.sneucc.org/newsdetail/92879
-In 2017 the national UCC Synod voted to declare a new moral era in opposition to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord; https://www.macucc.org/earthislords
-In 2019, the UCC national Synod became the first Christian denomination to endorse the Green New Deal. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/unitedchurchofchrist/pages/23700/attachments/original/1561418028/UCC_Support_for_Green_New_Deal.pdf?1561418028
-In 2020, the UCC release a report “Breath to the People” that examined sacred and toxic air across the United States: Report: https://www.ucc.org/breathtothepeople Tool kit: https://www.ucc.org/breathtothepeople-kit
Columbus Diocese (OH) Creation Care Team:
Facilities Office of Columbus Diocese retrofitted schools and parishes with LED lights to the tune of over $700,000 in annual energy cost savings and impressive GHG reductions, as a response to climate change (2019): see p. 2 at: https://columbuscatholic.org/documents/2019/10/October%206%202019.pdf
1) Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis (2015): http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
2) Pope John Paul II World Day of Peace Message about Environment, 1990: http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/messages/peace/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_19891208_xxiii-world-day-for-peace.html
3) US Catholic Bishops Statement on Climate Change, 2001: https://www.usccb.org/resources/global-climate-change-plea-dialogue-prudence-and-common-good
4) Cardinal Peter Turkson’s address to Ohio State University and dialogue with university president Michael Drake (and related events in Columbus during the same week), 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1nz-ChNses&feature=emb_logo
5) University of Dayton divests from coal and fossil fuels, first Catholic University in the US to do so, 2014: https://u.osu.edu/religionandenvironment/2018/06/12/university-of-dayton-divests-from-fossil-fuels/#:~:text=In%20June%202014%2C%20the%20University,from%20coal%20and%20fossil%20fuels.&text=Their%20decision%20was%20one%20inspired,financial%20stability%20for%20the%20university.
United Religions Initiative:
Education and action around many of the SDGs and Drawdown solutions, namely: tree planting, educating girls and gender equity.
URI performs grassroots action around the world, through its Cooperation Circles (CCs). CCs are restoring the Earth with daily actions every day. URI is 20 years old.
The Women’s Rabbinic Network (a constituent organization of the Central Conference of American Rabbis):
Fighting to enact the Resolution on Climate Justice, even when (especially when?) elected leaders do not share our values
Adopted Resolution on Climate Justice (October 2015) Be It Resolved, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis:
- Articulates global climate justice as a priority social justice initiative.
- Calls upon the United States of America to lead the world in addressing the climate justice crisis by: Dramatically reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and then a. Leveraging U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to seek similar reductions worldwide. b. Endorses The Clean Power Plan.
- Asserts that the Executive Branch possesses authority under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act to implement The Clean Power Plan and other initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Appreciates the new emissions standards for large trucks.
- Applauds President Obama’s Executive Order reducing the Federal Government’s carbon footprint.
- Advocates that Congress:Immediately approve seed funding of the Global Climate Fund in the amount of $500 million.
- Adopt legislation to make the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit permanent and refundable. a. Urges state governments and industry to abide by federal environmental regulations and/or to adopt their own comparable plans to reduce greenhouse emissions. b. Prevails upon all U.S. Presidential candidates to:Acknowledge the scientific consensus that global climate change is real and primarily the result of human activity.
- Propose a plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse emissions.
- Articulate a commitment to reducing the impact of global climate change on the world’s poor.
- Commits itself to working in concert with leaders of other faiths who share our commitment to climate justice.
- Urges its members to advocate within the congregations and communities we serve to reduce our own carbon footprints, as institutions and as individuals.
- Pledges to continue reminding ourselves, our communities and our leaders the teaching of our tradition that, if we corrupt this Earth, “there will be no one to set it right thereafter.”[Ecclesiastes Rabbah]
Baha’i International Community:
Recognizing that the root causes of the challenges facing humanity such as climate change and environmental degradation will best be addressed by a change in attitudes and habits, Baha’i communities are taking an organic approach to social action. Working shoulder to shoulder with members of their communities, Baha’is have adopted a process-oriented approach, rather than focusing solely on events and initiatives, and are directing their energies to learning about new patterns of human relationships and corresponding social structures that embody the principle of the oneness of humankind. They are setting in motion processes of capacity building that enable people of all backgrounds to participate in the transformation of society and to make conscious decisions about, for example, patterns of production and consumption, through the implementation of educational programs. Examples of such programs include:
-The junior youth spiritual empowerment program—aimed at awakening the potential of young people between the ages of 11 and 15 to develop their talents and direct their abilities toward service to humanity—and
-The Preparation for Social Action (PSA) program. Each unit of the PSA program aims at enabling the participants to serve their regions as “promoters of community well-being” by strengthening a set of related skills and abilities as well as attitudes and spiritual qualities in order to take charge of their own development.
-Many community-based environmental awareness and protection initiatives have been initiated as a result of these programs and have strengthened patterns of community life as well as an appreciation for the environment.
-The publication For the Betterment of the World provides examples of such social action initiatives, and a framework for action has been developed to guide these endeavors based on the experience generated by the Baha’i community over the years.
World Evangelical Alliance:
Formation for the International Council of Faiths for Urbanism and convening our community to attend the 10th World Urban Forum in Feb. 2020.
The Global Evangelical Clean Energy Commitment.
I’ll add a third, today’s release of the Evangelical Call to Action on Biodiversity and commitment to develop an evangelical long term plan for conservation.
– Creation Care and the Gospel: Jamaica Call to Action statement (2011) that led to regional creation care conferences in 12 regions around the world that has catalyzed a global network of creation care organizations and the Lausanne/WEA Creation Care Network.
– The Gospel and the Future of Cities: A Call to Action statement (2017) in conjunction with attendance at Habitat III. This lead to a series of groundbreaking UN-Habitat Faith_Based Urban Thinkers Campuses 2017-2019, convening at the 9th World Urban Forum (WUF 10) & WUF10, and the formation of the International Council of Faiths for Urbanism (ICFU)
– The Evangelical Call to Action on Biodiversity (2020) and commitment developing a global evangelical long term creation care plan.
– Evangelical principles of faith consistent investment in the SDG’s and work with FaithInvest.
– The global evangelical clean energy initiative and Project 20.’25, which is a commitment that 20% of the global evangelical footprint will convert to clean renewable energy by 2025.
Stopping multiple proposed coal, oil, and fracked gas projects in the NW
– Development of a nationally-recognized Faithful Advocacy program
– Standing in solidarity with NW Native nations to stop over 30 fossil fuel projects in OR, WA, ID, MT
– Passage of over 50 progressive environmental bills in the WA state legislature
– First in the country to offer a Greening Congregation program
– Lead organizer for a 3-day Interfaith Creation Festival
Muslims for Progressive Values:
A children’s curriculum for Burundi that mirrors and affirms the SDGs in Islamic terms and that includes caring for the environment.
Parliament of the World’s Religions:
Climate Commitments Project
-‘Faith and Earth‘ book
-Climate Commitments Project
-Report on Faith and SDGs
– Global Conversations initiative
Our work on COP25 has been our greatest work of the past two years. From the past 30 years:
-Strengthening and supporting Texas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard;
-Participating in the most recent 5 COPs;
-Creating a study guide using content from COP25;
-Helping to pass Texas’ omnibus energy efficiency legislation
Interfaith Power & Light:
- Cool Congregations – assisting congregations and households in lowering their carbon emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy.
- Faith Climate Action Week – mobilizing faith leaders to preach and teach on climate change as a moral issue.
- Policy Advocacy – mobilizing people of faith around the country to advocate for climate and energy policies at the local, state, and federal levels.
- Collaborative efforts with faith partners such as the Faith Principles for a Green New Deal, Faith Principles for Carbon Pricing, and joint advocacy efforts on federal policy.
- Faith Climate Justice Voter Campaign in 2020, mobilizing people of faith to vote with climate and Creation in mind.
Plant With Purpose:
In past 2 years:
Worked with rural communities to grow and plant 10 million trees across eight countries
In past 30 years:
-Planted 40 million trees
-Empowered 45,000 subsistence farmers to work their way out of poverty while healing their land by farming sustainably
-Partnered with 800 local churches in eight countries to teach Biblical principles of environmental stewardship
-We established an annual tree planting celebration on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro that attracts 10,000 people, celebrating the annual planting of over 1.5 million trees by our partner farmers
Sisters of Mercy:
Being recognized by the RC Dioceses to receive 10, 000.00 to further the work of Pope Francis on his encyclical, Laudato Si’, in the Archdioceses.
- Working with an International Mercy Sisters Cosmology Committee and based on information I provided we had an an urgent letter of Appeal written and had it presented at the United Nations to stop Fracking in NL. It was signed by Mercy Sister representatives from around the world and supported by many religious and other than minium Groups and Organizations who inserted their logos.
- Becoming a Blue Community as a congregation of sisters.
- As a member of the Sandy Pond Alliance Board we brought a court challenge against the Vale Mining Company to prevent them from using Sandy Pond, a Lake with a rare breed of fish, as a tailings area for their processing plant at Long Harbour in NL. Unfortunately we lost the Court case but continue to expose the weakness in the Fisheries Act
- Presented a written document to the Review Panel of Government to show the weakness in the Muskrat Falls Project project and the danger of its continuation.
- With the workers Labour Union presented to Government and to a Public Hearing the need to raise the minimum wage.
Parliament of the World’s Religions:
Adoption of the Fifth Directive of the Parliament’s Global Ethic Partnership with UNEP Faith for Action Initiative
Publication of Faith for Earth–A Call for Action
Online Creation of the Climate Commitments Project Hub
2018 Parliament Convening in Toronto
Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’ Webinar
Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace:
Divestment from fossil fuels (see link below)
CSJP Environmental Programs The simplest way to tell the story of our environmental activism is to see the summary that was broadcast this week (23/10/2020) by Project Noah, in the UK that includes our decision to divest from fossil fuels in the UK. The decision was made to do so in the US but the divestment is expected to be completed in the coming year. You can find the broadcast here: https://youtu.be/XoSWjJQMnjU Sr. Susan Francois is on the Leadership Team and is Congregation Treasurer. Her part of the video presentation starts at 35:00. It includes: CSJP Constitutions (Canonical and communal rational for the congregation’s existence and rules for life together.) With reverence for the blessings of creation, we use our resources, both individually and collectively, in a spirit of stewardship. The spirit of poverty also calls us to work for a more just society so that all may be enriched by a more equitable sharing in the goods of the earth. #56 Chapters, held every six years are the highest decision making bodies of the Congregation the following Chapter titles tell of our engagement with Earth. 1990 Chapter: One Creation, One Future 2002 Chapter: Living Water 2008 Chapter Act: Care for Creation and Climate Change Earth is the Revelation of God and the sustainer of all life. We recognize that the exploitation and destruction of Earth’s air, soil, water and species is a sacrilege. We are committed to a spirituality of peacemaking which compels us to live in tight relationship with the entire community of life. We commit ourselves personally, and communally, to: • Identify and reduce our carbon footprint in our communities, ministries and institutions • Pray, study, act to promote a sustainable lifestyle. LAND ETHIC In addition, after the Chapter of 2014, the decision was made to create a Land Ethic that was adopted by the congregation (video- 39:31) Find the land ethic here. A PDF can be found here. The Land Ethic and announcement of the divestment from fossil fuels in the UK are the most important efforts taken in the past few years. An announcement on the divestment of fossil fuels in the US, is expected in 2021. Other misc: • The eco-spiritual ministry of Waterspirit (www.waterspirit.org) • Monthly NewsNotes always includes a section on the Environment. Find copies here: https://csjp.org/peace-through-justice/newsnotes/ • Completion of the renovation of St. Michaels according to green standards (2020) • Working with shareholder resolutions connecting environmental pollution with human rights violations. We have been publishing a full magazine called Living Peace which is a bi-annual publication (in normal times). • Some issues have been dedicated exclusively to Creation Care (https://csjp.org/assets/uploads/documents/about/LivingPeacesautumnweb2011.pdf) • Many others contain important stories, all contain the spirituality that support care for Earth. (https://csjp.org/assets/uploads/documents/about/Autumn%202013%20Final.pdf)
Fondazione Proclade Internazionale-onlus/Claretian Missionaries:
- Greening our buildings – converting takes place 2. The organization has taken Environment/Climate Change as priority focus of all our JPIC related activities.
- Laudato Si promotion and preparing a 7-year roll-out program
- Every year we have global level meetings on Earth Day.
- International Days of Ocean, Environment, Forest, Plant Health, Water are celebrated
- 2020 lenten Campaign was based on SDGs 6, 12, 13 14, 15 and daily action based prayer reflections were prepared.
- Policies are prepared for the congregation on greening our buildings, on green construction, greening environment etc.
Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America:
- a) FEZANA, with other faith-based NGOs, participated in a parallel event on the occasion of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), on the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. The meeting, “A Shift in Mindset: Faith-Based Solutions to Climate Action Obstacles in implementing Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement at the Grassroots” took place on Monday, July 13th, 2020.
- b) FEZANA SELECTED TO PRESENT WORKSHOP AT THE UNITED NATIONS ON 13 MARCH 2020 The FEZANA delegation was selected to present at the 64th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) conference held in March 2020 at the United Nations HQ in New York, USA. This year’s conference theme focused on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women. The FEZANA panel presented a workshop titled “Empowering Women through Health, Education and Enhancement in the Workplace, covering five of the Sustainable Development Goals: · Goal 1: No Poverty · Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being · Goal 5: Gender Equality · Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth · Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
- c) Member Associations, Small Groups of FEZANA and individuals who constitute our world wide Zarathushti community without borders, are urged to start action programs ( huvarshtra ), when making choices locally every day, in addressing the issue of caring for our global environment. Could we begin by stopping the use of single use plastic in the events we organize as Zarathushti communities? See this call for action at https://fezana.org/are-we-drowning-in-plastic/
The most important document in our faith that teaches us to be responsible Stewards of the Environment, of all the nature on our planet, is our Prophet Zarathushtra’s own words of wisdom and guidance for all humanity, sung in the form of hymns by him called the Gathas, almost 4000 years ago, when he lived. It is a Zoroastrian’s moral and religious duty, if not doing it simply because it is the right thing to do, which is, to live responsibly in this world, without greed, caring for ALL creation, and doing everything in our power to heal our world towards perfection. Ours is probably the smallest (in numbers) faith community in the world, even though it is the first revealed monotheistic faith in the world that has greatly influenced Judaism and Christianity. Even in such a tiny world-wide community, we have many Zoroastrians who work towards bringing in greener energy options in our daily lives, like installing solar roofs and driving hybrid or electric cars, running businesses that involve transitioning communities from fossil fuel use to solar energy use, etc. We have had Zoroastrians representing our faith and its teachings aligning with the UN goals for a sustainable planet, in several national and international events like: The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, Conference of Parties (to end use of fossil fuel) (2015) Parliament of World Religions conferences Religions for Peace USA events An entire Journal (which is published quarterly by FEZANA, Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America) Winter 2015, has been dedicated to Climate Change and Stewardship of the Environment. Besides the above, as I said earlier, our Prophet’s own Gathas, as well as several of our prayers in our holy scriptures are dedicated to inspiring humanity on being good stewards of nature. It is engrained in a Zoroastrian’s daily life to live in harmony with nature.
The congregation teamed up with other Dominican Sisters congregation to set up the Dominican Climate fund, contributing largely to the Climate Solution Funds in collaboration by Morgan Stanley.
-Created 3 Environment centers – Philippines, Panama, USA
-Established a Conservation Trust for Swamp ecosystem Joint the Voluntary Contribution to the Ramsar Convention
-Maryknoll Sisters Land Ethic
-Maryknoll Sisters Environmental Resource Assessment: Toward the Practice of Earth Healing
-2014 General Assembly Vision of One Earth Community Cosmic Journey Meditation
-Sisters who are missioned globally are working individually and in collaboration with other entities in the field of natural resource conservation, climate action, disaster risk reduction, action against mining, ecological education centered on nature-human harmony;
Launched Shine – a faith-philanthropy initiative that is increasing funding and investments by values-driven investors and donors in decentralized, last-mile renewable energy projects in Africa and India Helped launch the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, a global effort with in-country work in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
-Leadership in global fossil fuel divestment movement
-GreenFaith Fellowship Program – long-running multi-faith climate justice training program
-Mobilizing large scale faith turnout for multiple climate marches
-Co-launching Interfaith Rainforest Initiative
-Launching Living the Change – global, multi-faith sustainable consumption initiative
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach:
Elevating and participating in the Synod on the Amazon- this was a major moment in the Catholic Church and its moves toward environmental justice and supporting indigenous communities.
-Columban Society Statements on Climate Change, Water, Extractive Industries
-A website for faith resources on extractive industries around the world- justresponse.faith
-Jubilee for the Earth podcast on biodiversity around the world
-Mobilizing hundreds of faith-based comments on environmental regulation rollbacks in the US
-Our participation in and shaping of the Synod on the Amazon in the Catholic Church
Evangelical Environmental Network:
A leader in the Great American Outdoors Act Developing Our EEN Partner Programs – a dedicated outreach efforts to build grass roots and creation care leaders in their faith community
-Evangelical Climate Initiative
-Saving the Endangered Species Act in the 1990’s
-The Pro-Life Campaign For Reducing Mercury From Coal Fired Power Plants
-Book – Caring For Creation – The Evangelicals Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment
-The Cape Town Commitment by the Lausanne Movement
Blessed Tomorrow / ecoAmerica:
supporting major U.S. denominations in building and implementing climate programs to engage their many millions of congregants
-Blessed Tomorrow “Let’s Talk Climate” Guide,
-“Moving Forward” Guide (mitigation & advocacy),
-Faith and Climate Forums,
-BT Climate Ambassador Training Program,
-BT Climate Leadership Circle
Note: These examples will be added to the RESTORExchange religion and sustainability database in the near future, which is a growing repository for such examples.