The following guest post is by Chuck Warpehoski, Director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice. (For a good look at Chuck, check out his photo and info as one of the Social Citizens Makeover winners.) Among its many goals and important projects, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice is committed to environmental protection and stewardship, focusing on climate change. When I asked Chuck to explain why a religious faith-based organization is putting so much effort into environmental stewardship, he responded:
“For those of us in the faith community, climate change and environmental stewardship issues are deeply religious. Jews and Christians, for example, see that in the Genesis creation story God called the earth, the waters, the plants, and the animals ‘good.’ In this creation story God’s first command to humans was to care for the natural world the way a good king would care for his subjects. In a similar manner, the Muslim Qur'an says that humans are appointed by Allah as ‘guardians on earth’ (Qur'an 6: 165).
What’s more, all the worlds’ faith traditions call their followers to care for the weak and vulnerable. In Christianity, for example, Jesus tells his followers they will be judged by how they treat ‘the least of these.’ We know that the people who suffer most from environmental damage are ‘the least of these.’ It is the low-income children who live downwind from power plants. It is the subsistence farmers in Bangladesh who will be washed out by rising sea levels caused by climate change. So whether we look to religious teachings to care for God’s earth or to care for those who would be hurt most by global warming pollution, people of faith increasingly see that there is a spiritual obligation to protect the environment.”
Chuck and other faith-based community leaders have been actively supporting the transition to clean energy and opposing the proposed new coal plants in Michigan. Here is Chuck’s story:
“Clean coal, leprechauns, and unicorns.” Students, faith leaders, tribal leaders, and environmental groups chanted about these three fairy tale creations prior to participating in the April 14 and 15 public hearings regarding the proposed coal-fired power plant in Bay City, Michigan. Meanwhile, coal plant supporters shouted “go live in a cave.” While some Bay City area businesses and unions have supported the power plant for the 1,000 short-term construction jobs and the 100 permanent jobs at the power plant, environmental groups see longer-term concerns.
Michigan is at a decision point. What kind of energy future will we invest in? Will we continue to invest in a fossil-fuel energy system, or will we invest in renewable energy?
There are jobs to be had in both cases. As Van Jones of Green For All is fond of saying, “Solar panels don't install themselves.” But only one path will help us address the threat of climate change, protect children’s health by reducing asthma-causing particulate emissions, and stop the blight that mountaintop removal and other destructive mining practices have created on America’s wild places. Indeed, the very need for the proposed coal plants is under question. Why should Michigan be creating more electricity when demand for electricity is declining in Michigan due to the economic slump and the declines in the domestic auto industry?
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is accepting comments on the proposed air quality permit until May 20. You can make your comments online at the DEQ website or through the Clean Energy Now website.