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Earth Day spotlight on fossil fuel impact
FEAST: Faith, Environment, Advocacy, Science, Technology

By Phina Borgeson
[Episcopal News Service]  From Canterbury to Wellington, Anglican church leaders have beenspeaking out on climate change and deploring the growing dependency on fossil fuels. In February, more than 80 prominent American Evangelicals issued "Climate Change: an Evangelical Call to Action." The devastation  of hurricane Katrina showed that the predicted disproportionate impact of climate change on the poor can happen here in the United States, while the shortages of gasoline in Katrina's wake underscored increasing dependence.

Such are the topics drawing attention as the Episcopal Church prepares to join in observing Earth Day on April 22, and Earth Sunday, April 23.

The National Council of Churches eco-justice unit chose "Through the eye of a Hurricane" for this year's Earth Sunday theme, and the Earth Day Network's packet for congregations features "Climate Change Solutions Campaign."

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City invites congregations of all sorts to attend "Greening the Religious Community: Energy Solutions for the Earth" on Sunday afternoon, April 23. Rabbi Lawrence Troester of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life will keynote. Organizerspromise usable information from real life energy success stories, and remind us that greening our church plants is "an opportunity to accomplish so much good in one step -- saving energy and saving costs while helping to protect God's creation."

Interfaith Power and Light has worked with Earth Day Network to present a panel response to their Climate Change Live Chat on April 21. Immediately following a two- hour exchange between a panel of scientific experts and students around the country, a panel of religious leaders will respond from 3 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.  The web cast will be available later for downloading. The panel will be moderated by journalist Larry Witham and includes the Rev. Richard Cizik, a leader in evangelical "creation  care" circles, the Rev. Alida M. DeCoster of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Rabbi Daniel Swartz of the Washington Office of Interfaith Power and Light, and Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University.     

But what President Bush has called our "addiction" to fossil fuels is not just about climatological impacts.  

In March more than 70 faith leaders from across the nation endorsed "Renewing the Ground: A Call for Faithful Stewardship of Energy Resources on God's Lands" expressing concern to land managers and governing bodies about the current state of oil and gas development on public lands in the United States. 

"We don't often talk about energy development in the church," says Christine Hoekenga, an Episcopalian and former Public Lands Fellow at the National Council of Churches. "We tend to focus on issues related to energy use, such as global warming and air pollution. These are very important, but we must also address the serious impacts of fossil fuel production on the land."

"We're on the front line," says Warren Murphy, an Episcopal priest directing the Wyoming Association of Churches, "up against an expanding economy of energy production." 

"Wyoming leads the states in coal production.   We also extract oil and gas, and are leading in coal-bed methane, a new technology which seriously impacts the land and leads to the waste of water". Whether the entry point to the issue is climate change or impact on lands and habitat, the call of "Renewing the Ground" may sum up the intention of Christian environmentalist.  

"We seek a just transition from our current energy policies and habits to a clean, sustainable energy system that shows our reverence for all of creation. During this time of transition, we must not allow the destruction of natural landscapes, ecosystems, and cultural heritage or let our communities fall prey to the boom and bust cycles of oil and gas development. Instead, we should embrace energy conservation and renewable energy sources to reduce pressure on our public lands, balance natural resource extraction and global wealth, and lessen the harmful effects of fossil fuels, like air pollution and global warming."

Referring to his organization's letter in the Denver Post, National Council of Churches General Secretary Robert W. Edgar asserted, "It may be true that our 'addiction' to fossil fuels cannot be dealt with by going 'cold turkey.' But we have to start somewhere."

As New England's bishops (in the Episcopal Church's Province I) noted their 2003 pastoral letter on the environment: "Global warming is but one stark example of the troubled relationship between humanity and the natural world. Environmental issues are not just scientific, political, or economic issues, but ones that are profoundly moral and spiritual, as well. As Christians we cannot remain silent."
For more information and action suggestions:

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

The Regeneration Project and Interfaith Power and Light

Earth Day Web Cast Link

Earth Day in a Box for Faith Communities

National Council of Churches Western Lands

National Council of Churches Earth Day Sunday