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Faith Fights Global Warming

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

In what’s being called the era of “extreme energy,” meaning that sources once considered too difficult or dangerous to tap are now being mined for oil and gas, it’s urgent that we be informed about what that mining is doing to the environment.

A Canadian documentary, Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands, will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 6 at the Putney Friends Meeting House, 17 Bellows Falls Road, Putney, Vt. The film narrates the battle of people in Alberta to get the government to recognize and admit that the mining of the tar sands for oil was putting toxic chemicals into drinking water, and existing regulations weren’t working to control the pollution.

The organization that is sponsoring the screening of Tipping Point is Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, a group of faith-based organizations bent on combating global warming, first by making their meeting places as energy-efficient as possible, then by encouraging their members to do the same for their homes. IPL, which also has chapters in Massachusetts and some 18 other states, comprises mostly Christian churches, but includes Jewish and Islamic congregations as well. Members commit themselves to “reduce and offset our greenhouse gas emissions; conduct an energy audit of our building(s); buy clean electricity or adopt a renewable energy technology like solar or geothermal; educate each other on faith, conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy;” and “support public policies to fight climate change.”

In the Brattleboro area, four churches are members of Vermont IPL: All Souls Unitarian Universalist, Centre Congregational, Trinity Lutheran and Dummerston Congregational.In Springfield, the Unitarian Universalist Society and Trinity United Methodist Church belong to Massachusetts IPL (MIPL); in the Upper Valley, several groups from Amherst and Northampton to Northfield belong, including Northampton’s Congregation B’Nai Israel. MIPL’s website boasts of successes such as this one in Needham: “Temple Beth Shalom’s switch to high-efficiency boilers is resulting in about $3,500 reduction in heating cost.” Massachusetts IPL also offers its members a specialized energy audit geared to the architectural features and energy needs of churches.

The IPLs are evidence of the deep split between some religious people of conservative political bent who are not convinced that global warming is an issue, and others who are of the opposite view. Churches affiliated with IPL see a call to radical change for people of faith as the 21st-century way of dealing with the environment becomes increasingly unsustainable. That call to change is expressed in a sermon posted on Massachusetts IPL’s website: “All of these issues, global climate change, war, food, health, are interconnected. The stressed-out planet is, in effect, telling us this, and everything must change. The ecologically and financially unsustainable economic system; the morally deplorable inequities—ultra-rich and extremely poor—of our social systems; the frightening security issues that are the predictable results of these inequities: all are indicating the same thing. How we live our lives must fundamentally change.”•

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