Fracking Ban in New York State Made Official!

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced on June 29th that high-volume hydraulic fracturing is now banned in New York State. The ban was made official with the recent release of the state’s Final Findings Statement.

This is a true grassroots victory!  New Yorkers like you kept up the pressure on the Governor and lawmakers, making phone calls and sending messages. Thank you for your efforts.

Please join us in calling Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390 to thank him for protecting our state from fracking.

NYIPL meets with U.S. Congressman Gibson from the 19th District of New York.

At NYIPL we recognize that conversation creates change and we encourage our members to talk with their representatives about global warming. We’re excited to report that this month, NYIPL board members Gerard Falco and Dr. Donald McCrimmon, and Executive Director Janna Stieg Watkins met with Congressman Chris Gibson, Republican from the 19th District of New York.

Congressman Gibson has drafted a resolution to acknowledge the reality of climate change. His goal is to address the skepticism toward climate change science that is common among the members of his party.  He (and we) believes that if enough Republicans support this resolution, it would cause the discourse on climate change in Congress to shift significantly. He has not yet introduced the resolution, but we will keep you updated on its status and how you can help.

Please join us in thanking Congressman Gibson for his leadership.  Call (202) 225-5614. If you host a meeting on climate change with your local, state, or national representatives, please tell us about it so we can share your experience in our newsletter.

Another Voice

Pope Frances

by Patricia K. Townsend

Patricia K. Townsend is a board member of the New York State affiliate of Interfaith Power and Light, a religious response to global warming. Dr. Townsend is an environmental and medical anthropologist residing in Amherst NY.

As Pope Francis prepared to issue his encyclical Laudato Sii on June 18, some politicians called into question the appropriateness of his addressing climate change as a moral issue. On the contrary, I believe that it is the responsibility and practice of religious leaders of all faiths to speak up prophetically when they identify a problem that affects the common good.

Nearly 20 years ago a Presbyterian pastor invited me to lead a discussion of climate change for an adult study group in her Town of Tonawanda congregation.  National and regional bodies of the Presbyterian denomination, like many other faith groups, had already taken a position on climate change, even though the scientific evidence was not yet as powerful as it is now. In order to make the issue more personal, I decided to ask the class to role play some of the victims of global climate change who had already been identified at that time. The ones that stick in my memory were elderly residents of a Chicago apartment building who died because they were too poor to afford the electricity to run their air conditioning during a heat wave, Bangladeshi farmers whose near-sea-level fields were flooded, and Ethiopian and Somali children starving during a drought.

We then acknowledged that those who were suffering most from new climate extremes were the poor and marginalized. They were not the same people whose carbon pollution was responsible for the human-caused portion of global warming.  This profound injustice is one that all religions can acknowledge.

Locally the faith community has taken action to combat global warming. Several Catholic schools and many church buildings, including First Presbyterian in Youngstown, Amherst Presbyterian, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst, and North Presbyterian in Williamsville have covered their roofs with solar panels that produce much of the electricity that they use and reduced their energy costs. Other congregations have made efforts to retrofit their worship spaces to be as energy-efficient as they can. Others have helped needy people improve home insulation, reducing their contribution to climate disruption.

The message of the papal encyclical resonates beyond the Catholic Church with people of other faiths. Pope Francis speaks as well to those of little faith who nonetheless have an ethic of care for the earth and all its creatures in this and future generations.

Speak Up

Speak Up, advocating and lobbying,  is bringing the power of moral authority to the political process. Whether it’s lobbying legislators, attending rallies, signing letters or speaking at public hearings – NYIPL mobilizes people of faith across the state to engage in the political process.

As one house of worship, any of us can find ourselves easily dismissed but when we stand together as one united voice of many faiths across New York State, our representatives take note. In 2016, we are are already making a difference, pushing legislators and regulatory agencies to put climate change at the forefront. We visit our representatives and our senators, both State and National, and lobby for legislation based on climate science as our conscience demands. 

You are invited to join us.  Our legislators pay attention when we, their constituents, take the time to meet with them, either in their Albany office or in-district.  You can find your Assembly member here and find your state Senator here. 

Here are eight tips for an effective citizen lobbying visit:

  1. Make an appointment. Call, be polite, and request a meeting with your Senator or Assembly member. They will most likely direct you to a staff member who handles the energy portfolio.
  2. Prepare your case for support on the issue but conclude with a specific ask. If there is already a bill, tell the legislative consultant the name of the bill and its number. Summarize your points on a page you can leave with the office along with your contact information.
  3. Dress neatly: business attire is necessary. If you have a suit, wear it.
  4. Be on time. Better yet, be early.
  5. During your visit, remain polite and patient but stay on topic. Be prepared to bring the conversation back to climate change if you are lead off-topic.
  6. Tell your personal story — why are you concerned about global warming? Reference your faith tradition and how that informs your concern.
  7. It’s ok say “I don’t know” if you are asked a question you can’t answer. This gives you an opportunity to follow up after the meeting with a response.
  8. Lastly, call or email NYIPL to tell us about your visit! We want to know how it went, and we’ll feature a quote from you on our website! Your experience will help inform and inspire others.

Annual Assembly of the Metropolitan New York Synod Divests!

Gerry Falco presenting ESC report

At the end of March, the Annual Assembly of the Metropolitan New York Synod, one of the most populous geographical divisions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), resolved to divest from fossil fuels within five years. The Synod Assembly also voted to ask the national body of the church to do the same at the Church-wide Assembly in 2016. We are grateful to leaders from NYIPL who participated in this very significant step forward!

The divestment resolutions were the culmination of work that began shortly after the People’s Climate March in New York City last September that elevated the climate crisis as a moral issue.  Gerard A. Falco, Chair of New York Interfaith Power & Light and Chair of the Synod’s Environmental Stewardship Committee explained, “Lutherans from our Synod and across the country were deeply involved in organizing the People’s Climate March and making it the success it was. The march galvanized public opinion, and our committee decided to build on that momentum to get these divestment resolutions passed.”

The Metro New York Synod now joins the New England and Oregon Synods, as well as many other congregations and religious bodies in the US and abroad, in divesting from coal, oil, and natural gas companies because of their damaging effects on the climate. This religious divestment movement parallels the strong student-led campaign to divest colleges and universities, and the growing campaign to divest state and municipal pension funds.

Terra presenting eco-resolution
Terra Rowe, Member of the Synod’s Environmental Stewardship Committee and member of the board of New York Interfaith Power & Light also testifying on behalf of the resolutions

Robert Rimbo, Bishop of the Metro NY Synod, said “With this action, our Synod joins the chorus of those who acknowledge that ‘if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.’ This is a fiscally responsible step, but it’s also the right thing to do. As Christians, we are called to care for all Creation. As Luther himself wrote, ‘God is essentially present in all places, even the tiniest tree leaf,’ so ‘to do harm to Creation is also to assault God. And when humans assault God, there is only one outcome, and it is not a good one for humans.’ With these resolutions, we’ve taken a further step in living out our Lutheran vocation.”

The Metropolitan NY Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church covers the five boroughs of New York City and Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties. The Synod has approximately 64,000 baptized members in 190 congregations served by about 300 pastors and 100 lay leaders. For more information, visit http://www.mnys.org/. For the texts of the resolutions, go to http://tinyurl.com/MNYS-ELCA-resolutions.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical – Laudato Si

Yesterday we celebrated a new reason to hope! Pope Francis released “Laudato Si (Be Praised): On the Care of Our Common Home,” an encyclical on stewardship of the environment and human ecology. The Pope’s pastoral letter, the boldest environmental signal to date from the Roman Catholic Church, calls on all people of conscience to take up climate change as a moral imperative.

This is a tremendous moment for those of us who recognize that global warming is the moral issue of our time.  Reverend Sally Bingham, President and founder of Interfaith Power and Light, spoke about the encyclical and what it means for the climate movement on the Diane Rehm show on NPR. Listen here.

Learn more about the encyclical, and on Interfaith Power & Light’s response.

Climate Ride 2015

Climate Ride

starsIt’s time again for the Climate Ride!

If you enjoy biking (or hiking), consider joining one of these rides (or hikes), which benefit organizations like New York Interfaith Power & Light.  Please contact us if you would like to ride on behalf of NYIPL!

Climate Ride California North Coast

May 17-21 – Humboldt to San Francisco (http://www.climateride.org/events/california-coast)
The epic coastal route returns! This gorgeous ride begins in the Redwood Empire near Eureka and ventures into the famed Russian River Valley before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco.

Climate Hike Glacier National Park

August 24-28 (http://www.climateride.org/events/climate-hike)
This hike is limited to 30 participants and has reached capacity, but a wait list is started. Please add your name to the wait list here.

Climate Ride Northeast

September 17-21 – Bar Harbor, Maine to Boston (http://www.climateride.org/events/northeast)
This inaugural ride begins in Bar Harbor, Maine where riders will pedal “Downeast” through Acadia National Park before experiencing Maine’s rocky coast. From there, we’ll travel south and visit lighthouses, sample local foods and ride through scenic coastal towns. Then, it’s an exciting ride following the route of the Founding Fathers for the celebratory end in Boston.

Climate Ride Midwest

September 27-30 – Grand Rapids to Chicago (http://www.climateride.org/events/midwest)
Cycle through beautiful western Michigan (known as Cape Cod of the Midwest). Enjoy sailing towns, wonderful bike paths, blueberry picking, local beers and wines, and friendly people all culminating in a triumphant ride into Chicago.

Climate Hike Bryce-Zion

October 6-10 (http://www.climateride.org/events/climate-hike-bryce-zion)
Spend five days hiking in two of the most epic National Parks in the US with 25 others. Explore Southern Utah’s “Grand Staircase” – an immense structure of sedimentary rock layers carved by nature into beautiful canyons and formations.

EcoSattva Training

What does it mean to express a Buddhist response to climate change? One Earth Sangha is presenting an online, interactive “EcoSattva Training,” featuring Joanna Macy, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, and a powerful collection of teachers, activists and experts. This course will develop participants’ capacity to effectively engage on climate change and other ecological challenges with courage, compassion and wisdom. Those interested can learn more and register here then share this post with their networks.

Hindu & Buddhist Teachings on the Environment

GreenFaith Logo

4/23 and 4/30, 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. ET

In the world, there 950 million Hindus and 350 million Buddhists.
Greenfaith is offering two great webinars on their environmental teachings.

Register for the webinars today.

On Thursday, April 23rd from 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET, Dr. Pankaj Jain will speak about Hindu teachings on the environment. Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of North Texas, Pankaj is the author of award-winning “Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities” and contributes to the Huffington Post, Washington Post’s forum On Faith, Patheos.com, and Times of India’s Speaking Tree.

On Thursday, April 30th from 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET, Dr. David Loy will speak about Buddhist teachings related to the environment. David is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism. His articles appear regularly in the pages of major journals such as Tikkun and Buddhist magazines including Tricycle, Turning Wheel, Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma.

Register for the webinars today. Register even if you can’t make it live, and they’ll send you the recordings.

These webinars are part of their series on eco-teachings from the world’s great religions. Stay tuned for news on upcoming webinars on Muslim eco-teachings.

Student Climate & Conservation Congress

“A weeklong journey that lasts a lifetime”

The Green Schools Alliance is currently accepting applications for their Student Climate & Conservation Congress, an environmental training program for students.

Students (and a limited number of faculty or staff) are invited to apply to become U.S. Green School Fellows and participate in the 2015 Sc3 Congress.

Sc3 is a program of the GSA in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Community Service Credit offered.

The mission of the Student Climate & Conservation Congress (Sc3) is to empower outstanding student environmental leaders with the skills, knowledge, and tools to address climate change and natural resource conservation challenges and better serve their schools and communities. Learn more here.

WHO: Current 8th - 11th Grade Students
WHEN: Sunday, June 21 – Saturday, June 27, 2015
WHERE: National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdstown, WV
COST: $950 if you apply by May 1
$1050 if you apply after May 1
6 nights, all-inclusive (except transportation to DC)
Financial aid is available on an as-needed basis