The faith community and its organizational allies are planning events that will help you implement your commitment to Creation. Check out our upcoming events here.
The faith community and its organizational allies are planning events that will help you implement your commitment to Creation. Check out our upcoming events here.
The recognition of present and future dangers is a true catalyst for action. CIPL and the California faith community have understood this for years and it is based on the increasing danger to health and our planet that we act. As the climate crisis takes on a greater sense of urgency, people of faith are lowering pollution emissions, educating communities and advocating for strong and binding climate policy that will protect our future.
As we enter into 2018, California’s legislative agenda holds challenges leftover from 2017, as well as new opportunities to strengthen climate protections, and remain an example to our nation and the world. Some of the principles that underlay our action were raised in CIPL’s August, 2017 lobby day and training the evening before. Fifteen people, from various faith traditions and regions of the state, shared their story of what brought them into the environmental realm, reflected on best ways to reach others, and did some soul-searching. Rabbi Marv Goodman, former director of the Northern California Board of Rabbis, led a discussion based on a popular saying by Rabbi Tarfon, which reads, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”
Asked for individual interpretations of this phrase from attendees, the following thoughts came forward: ‘even though a system may be unsteady, we are called to keep building’; ‘in the ultimate vision or goal for a livable planet, we all have a piece to construct’; ‘real living is in the struggle – we don’t have a choice not to participate.’ A word of caution also arose – to not feel so overwhelmed by a situation that one feels that they can’t do anything. There is always the opportunity for inclusion, for true efforts and for change no matter the circumstance.
Through these valuable statements and further reflection, the group came to a common agreement that, for true change to take place, we must work on changing ourselves. As one participant put it, “I’m changing the world because I’m changing myself.” Indeed, when others see that external action for change is reflected in the person himself or herself, there is greater credibility to inspire others. Many major faith traditions understand this principle, which is the basis for true and right relationships with ourselves, others, and our planet.
Armed with a renewed sense of purpose, communal strength, and the latest information about legislators and bills, faith advocates attended 39 meetings, focused on garnering legislative support for our priority legislation: SB 100, which would have 100% of electrical energy be from renewable sources by 2045; SB 49, which would have California continue to abide by existing federal environmental and worker safety guidelines, despite new policies from the current Administration; AB 17, which expands free public transit passes to students; AB 179, which would mandate that at least one of the nine members of the California Transportation Commission have direct experience with disadvantage communities; and AB 1082 and AB 1083, which aims to expand EV Charging Stations and infrastructure in public lands and at schools.
Of this legislation, all but SB 100 passed both houses and AB 17 was vetoed by Governor Brown.
In an unexpected turn of events, (though not uncommon for the last two weeks of the legislative session), opposition arose to SB 100. Despite a great deal of support for the bill which would greatly expand California’s renewable energy, create jobs, clean the air and fight climate change, the IBEW Local 1245 came out against it mainly with concerns about job protection for union workers.
As we enter 2018, opportunities for crucial action abound on the local, state and national levels.
In the Golden State, efforts to pass SB 100, now a two-year bill, will continue. On a local level, CIPL and affiliates are involved in a number of issues. One notable effort is in Los Angeles, spear-headed by STAND-LA (Standing Together Against Neighborhood Drilling.) This coalition of environmental justice, faith, public health, housing and community groups, including CIPL, is continuing a multi-year effort to close oil drilling sites that are in proximity to schools and residential areas. One such site is the Allenco drilling site, which has been linked to numerous health issues and which sits on land owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
At the national level, there are several campaigns that continue the US’s commitment to a clean energy future but which are being opposed by the current administration. The “We’re Still In” campaign demonstrates the American people’s commitment to the Paris Agreement despite our nation now being the holdout in supporting it officially.
You, as a person of faith bringing the principles of caring for the common good into the political realm, are encouraged to review, sign on, and share with others any campaigns you are involved in and any online petitions you have signed on to. Please let us know of local efforts that you are involved in that need more support.
Some active campaigns to check out:
There was much cause for celebration on November 15 as CIPL celebrated the 2017 Cool Climate Awards event, its 11th year for honoring outstanding faith communities in the fields of green building, energy efficiency and water conservation, climate education, and climate advocacy. Awards were presented by emcee Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb and CIPL President The Rev. Sally Bingham. See videos of the winners here.
The ceremony took place at the beautiful Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in Oakland. Attendees dined on vegetarian food, and enjoyed musical entertainment by The Austin Hurst Singers. Information about electric vehicles and solar power financing for congregations was also shared.
There were many inspiring moments in the event. Councilmember Kalb, in presenting the award for Climate Advocacy to Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Fresno, mentioned the “No Coal in Oakland” campaign and how crucial it was for people of faith to have a say in policy-making. Rev. B.T. Lewis of Rising Star, in accepting the award, highlighted the work his congregation does in partnership with strong advocacy groups, such as Concerned Citizens of West Fresno and the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. He also brought up the many disparities that exist within the city of Fresno itself in terms of health impacts. “I die twenty years earlier than my counterparts in North Fresno because I live and work in West Fresno,” Pastor Lewis stated. But this is one of the reasons, he went on to say, that the City has adopted a new industrial zoning plan to avoid the dumping of toxins that partially lead to this expected life difference and many other health issues.
Another highlight of the evening was the Laudato si’ award, given to the Catholic Diocese of San Diego for its exemplary work with solar energy. In 2015, after hearing of the benefits of solar energy and influenced by Pope Francis’ encyclical on “caring for our common home,” Bishop McElroy embraced a campaign for energy efficiency and renewable energy for parishes and schools in the diocese. Thus far, 34 solar systems have been completed, two more projects with signed contracts are underway, and another 20 locations are in the contract vetting process. Among the properties that have gone solar are some of the largest solar arrays for high schools in the country: Mater Dei has systems equaling 775-kilowatts; Cathedral High School has systems equaling 1,176-kilowatts, and at the headquarters of the Diocese itself, a beautiful 200-kilowatt solar carport generates renewable energy, while providing valuable shade on hot days.
In giving the award to Church Divinity School of the Pacific for Green Seminary, The Rev. Sally Bingham reflected on her time there in the 1990’s. “When I started talking about environmental care from a faith perspective, it was like I had just grown horns,” she stated, in the way people responded to her. However, after some time, Rev. Bingham’s ideas took hold and environmental care has become a natural teaching theme of many Episcopalian seminaries. The Very Rev. Mark Richardson, responsible for the solar array on the CDSP, believed to be the largest on any seminary in the United States, stated that there needs to be a resurgence of public discourse in faith communities and organizations where climate solutions can be worked on and implemented.
Despite the current federal administration’s reversal on the Paris Agreement and clean energy policies, everyone in attendance knew of California’s and the US’s continued commitment to – and action on – climate change. “I am proud that our state and our congregations are leading the way by showing the world that we will not abandon our moral obligation to act on climate – regardless of what the current administration in Washington says. Faith communities bring a moral voice to this issue that is unifying, hopeful, and cuts through the partisan divide,” she continued. From the actions demonstrated by the faith communities in the room, the California faith efforts on climate remain strong.
The winners of the 2017 Cool Climate awards by category are:
Energy Efficiency and Conservation: Islamic Society of Corona-Norco
Green Building: Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach
Climate Education: Congregation Kol Shofar, Tiburon
Climate Advocacy: Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, Fresno
Green Seminary: Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley
Laudato si’ Award: Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego
Climate Luminary: Barbara Bisel of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Orinda
From a Green Jobs Fair at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in West Oakland to an interfaith tent at Lake Merritt, participation in climate marches in Wilmington, Sacramento, Oakland and San Diego to an Earth Fair at Sacramento’s Trinity Cathedral 2017 reveals a persistent and diverse spiritual and religious witness for the earth in the Golden State. California Interfaith Power & Light’s climate-mindful member congregations and partnering regional action networks are expressing the grief, fear, hope, resilience, strength, and visionary wisdom within our faith communities and us. Whatever goes on in Washington DC, California’s faith communities are resolved to advance meaningful climate action, cut pollution and forward a clean energy agenda.
In Southern California, CIPL began the year with action in the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD). Alongside a coalition of public health, equity, and environmental groups, CIPL pushed for a stronger Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP), which is revised every four years and provides guidance on AQMD policy for mainly stationary sources of pollution. In the January AQMD Board meeting, staff included a moment of silence in its public comment period, for all the persons who suffer as a result of polluted air, and for the estimated 5,200 persons who will die each year from pollution-related causes. CIPL was present again at the February Board meeting, in which the Board was scheduled to vote on the AQMP and, instead, put off the vote when faced with five hours of public testimony and a rally outside its headquarters. In its vote at the March 3 AQMD Board meeting, the AQMP was passed with two important amendments – greater monitoring of emissions at airports and a sunset date for the RECLAIM program.
CIPL also continues to partner with Repower L.A., which provides training for and placement in jobs at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. One of the most creative jobs initiatives in the country, Repower L.A.’s model recruits workers from Los Angeles neighborhoods struggling with high unemployment and pollution. The program is currently working to expedite job placement and grow community engagement in household weatherization and incentive programs.
In Northern California, CIPL staff, member congregations, and clergy spoke before the Bay Area Air Resource Board giving the moral case for strong local pollution reduction standards and in support of clean energy jobs before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
In early February, CIPL held 10 meetings in the Central Valley with clergy, faith leaders and organizations, mostly in the Fresno area. Environmental injustice is visibly evident in the Fresno region and pollution challenges in West/Southwest Fresno stand out in comparison to East/Northeast Fresno. The informative and eye-opening conversations provided insight and direction for an event CIPL will be co-hosting with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Fresno on May 22. This gathering will seek to lay the groundwork for more faith engagement in the struggle for climate justice in the region.
On February 15, CIPL staff attended Green California’s Annual Conference. This year, a large portion of the conference focused on on-going implementation of Climate Investment legislation in disadvantaged areas, transportation, and water. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association and civil rights activist, inspired the crowd in her keynote address.
On February 18, CIPL took part in a “Day of Dialogue” at UU Neighborhood Church in Pasadena. This event focused on finding common ground and ways to support partner organizations, which sometimes have different approaches and strategies in fighting climate change. A common theme among all the organizations was a focus on disadvantaged communities as well as resource and information sharing.
In late February, CIPL staff member Allis Druffel provided support to the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocesan Religious Education Congress. In her role with CIPL and as chair of the Archdiocesan Green Team, she developed a handout – given to some 10,000 Catholics – with a list of energy efficiency, climate advocacy and educational resources, many of them formulated around Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology. The handout was part and parcel of the 2017 Congress “Sacred Space”, an area for attendees of the four-day conference to pray, center, and reflect on caring for our common home.
March witnessed an important gathering of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) meeting in Riverside. The ARB, which adopted its ZEV (Zero-Emissions Vehicles) Mandate in 2012, was faced with the decision to continue it through 2025. Many of the large automakers, shortly after the new administration came on board, wrote a letter stating that the 54.5 mpg standard by 2025, adopted by the Obama administration, was too onerous and could not be accomplished. California has a waiver from the federal government to keep these in place. After almost four hours of testimony, in which 75% of the comments were in support of the ZEV Mandate, the Board voted unanimously to keep the standards in place. Going several steps further, ARB Chairman Mary Nichols openly scolded the automakers for ‘throwing themselves at the mercy of the new administration.’ Board members repeatedly reminded the auto industry that the technology and know-how exist already, the EV infrastructure is increasing, and that electric vehicles must be advertised and made available to all parts of the country, especially areas in which there is a noticeable lack of them currently.
This spring in Northern California CIPL staff spoke at the Contra Costa Interfaith Climate Action Network’s advocacy training, at the Interfaith Council of San Francisco’s monthly breakfast, and at Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church. Throughout April and during Faith Climate Action Week especially, CIPL member congregations hosted educational forums, Earth Day fairs, and made prayer flags for the People’s Climate March.
From April 24th – 27th CIPL staff joined colleagues from IPL affiliates across the country from 37 states for our annual conference, which was held at Bon Secours Center, a Catholic retreat center in Marriottsville, Maryland. The gathering provided a valuable opportunity for Interfaith Power & Light leaders to consider together our organization’s future as our Founder & President retires and the search begins for a new one. California IPL staff also attended a workshop hosted by Minnesota IPL focused on organizing strategies, including the importance of narratives and storytelling as a key component for transformation and action. As we do each year while in the Washington, DC area CIPL staff and advocates made legislative office visits on Capitol Hill meeting with 32 House offices and both Senate offices. We urged full funding for the EPA and passage of the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act; and urged Senators to oppose a Congressional Review Act passed by the House Majority that would undo important methane leak reduction efforts. An overall message was that this is a crucial time for the health of our planet and that actions by the Obama Administration must be strengthened. There was an increased, palpable sense of urgency in the meetings. In all meetings with Republican offices, members were urged to embrace clean energy, clean energy jobs, racial justice and to join the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.
CIPL members, staff, and supporters were out in full force for People’s Climate March and Science March. In addition to lending its support to several state marches, a strong faith presence was evident at the DC Peoples Climate March. California Interfaith Power & Light staff attended People’s Climate March’s in Wilmington CA and Washington DC while member congregations and regional working groups attended marches in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego. The Oakland march included an interfaith service led by three CIPL member congregations, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Montclair Presbyterian Church, and the Islamic Center of Northern California. Thousands in Wilmington gathered at Banning Park to network, build relationships and gather inspiration for the work ahead. With a primary focus on an on-going campaign to defeat a proposed merger of the Tesoro Oil Refinery and BP Carson to create the largest oil refinery on the West Coast. In the march from Banning Park to Tesoro, activists sang, chanted and held signs up to the community and motorists. At the oil refinery itself, members of indigenous communities held a healing ceremony with incense and dancers in traditional regalia. The feeling of connection and community spread palpably among the attendees and only served to strengthen resolve for the switch from dirty-burning fossil fuels to a clean energy future.
The work continues, please consider a special spring gift to support CIPL’s ongoing mission of lifting the moral voice in California for climate action.
Oakland, CA — A Green Jobs & Careers Fair hosted by an interfaith coalition drew a diverse group of job seekers to Mount Zion Church in West Oakland on Saturday.
“As a resident of West Oakland, I want to see this community, which has borne the brunt of fossil fuel pollution, now benefit from the growth of the green jobs sector. As a pastor, I also feel compelled by my faith to care for Creation. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need a green energy revolution, and I want my community to be part of that,” said Rev. Ambrose Carroll, Founder, Green the Church.
The Jobs Fair was planned for West Oakland in order to bring healthy and sustainable jobs to the community where the canceled coal export terminal had been proposed. Oakland clergy and community leaders have found common ground on the need for jobs and sustainable career paths in marginalized communities.
Speakers included Pastor Michael Wallace of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist (the host church), Pastor Ambrose Carroll, founder of Green the Church, Cheryl Vaughn of Solar Richmond, and Ms. Margaret Gordon of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.
Organizers of the event said they hoped to address the challenges of the climate crisis, economic inequality, displacement and high unemployment rates.
In addition to immediate job opportunities, the Green Jobs Interfaith Coalition is focusing on careers and training, and ongoing support for those who request it. “As someone who has done many trainings with those who have had barriers to employment in the past, I am really excited to see the faith community stepping up to provide support. Getting the job is only the first step. Keeping the job is the next – and making that job into a long-term, sustainable career is something we need to pay more attention to,” said Cheryl Vaughn, Executive Director of Solar Richmond.
Employers in attendance included AC Transit, East Bay MUD, East Bay Regional Parks District, City of Oakland, Goodwill Industries of the East Bay, and GRID Alternatives.
The Green Jobs Interfaith Coalition has united to address the economic, environmental and social challenges that face East Bay communities by seeking to foster a thriving green economy that builds equity and inclusion. Members include California Interfaith Power & Light, Episcopal Impact Fund, Faith Baptist Church, Green the Church, GRID Alternatives, Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Sierra Club, Sunswarm, West Side Missionary Baptist Church, and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.
Photo above by Denisha DeLane of Aaron Clay, Sunswarm with Green Job Fair attendee.
For follow-up information, or to interview exhibitors or job seekers, contact Cheryl Vaughn, Cheryl@solarrichmond.org .