Environmental activists who attended a climate change forum at The Selig Center auditorium of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta last month definitely walked the talk.
Arriving at the June 25 event, “Faithful Climate Change Conversations: Public Forum on Faith, Science and Climate Solutions,” a man riding up on a bicycle told me he came from Decatur. I also noticed a parked Nissan Leaf covered with stickers. They included “Citizens’ Climate Lobby: Political will for a livable world,” “I Pray, I Act. I Vote for the Earth,” and “I love Solar: There has never been a solar spill!”
The latter two are put out by the forum’s sponsor, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, a national faith-based environmental nonprofit. Georgia is one of 30 state affiliates. About 125 people who attended the forum last month represented a wide spectrum of the religious community. Including leaders of the religious and scientific communities, speakers revealed their hopes to help fulfill GIPL’s mission of connecting faith, community and our planet.
Rev. Susan Hendershot, an ordained minister and executive director of GIPL-Atlanta, used a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.” She said that “science tells us what is happening, where faith tells us why it matters.”
Kenneth Kimmell is president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the tagline of which is “Science for a Healthy Planet and Safer World.” He asked those gathered, “Is nature telling us it’s time to change? Will we act in enough time?” Scientists said we have a couple of decades, he said.
Kimmell spelled out affordable plans using current technology such as non-carbon wind and solar power or seeing a future with more electric cars. Georgia is ranked 10th in the nation for its solar power capacity and a company in Dalton, Ga., is building solar panels.
When Kimmell stressed that it will take political will to have a “clean world economy” with the same financial and political bipartisan commitment the United States had to put a man on the moon, a large image of that moment appeared on his PowerPoint screen.
According to Kimmell, 2020 needs to be about climate change for both Democrats and Republicans, not just for the White House, but also the Senate and House of Representatives. He urged the audience to vote for local, state and federal leaders who promote energy efficient strategies while stressing the sense of urgency. By stepping out of the Paris Agreement and weakening the federal Environmental Protection Agency, he feels the United States is going backward. Kimmell asked how many would give 1 percent of their income for climate change solutions? Every hand went up.
“Climate change is the single most compelling issue of our time,” said Myrtle Lewin, who is Ahavath Achim Synagogue’s “Greening Group” chair.
“Our future is not already written,” Hendershot told the crowd. “The time is now. Find your place of power.”
For more information about GIPL, go to www.gipl.org.