Combating climate change with faith and science
The Rev. Dr. Anita Louise Schell-Lambert admits the worlds of religion and science do not always agree, but when it comes to the issue of climate change, the two are on the same page.
“It’s hard to deny global warming; no one seems to argue it is occurring,” she said.
Schell-Lambert, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Newport, is president of the Rhode Island Interfaith Power and Light’s (RI IPL) board of directors. The organization, which is set to host its sixth annual conference, is a multi-faith response to climate change. Next week’s conference provides a dialogue between faith communities and the experts behind technologies dedicated to reduce climate change.
Schell-Lambert sees this conference, entitled ECO: Inspired Solutions for a Sustainable Future, as an opportunity to provide assistance to houses of worship across the state.
“The goal is to present and provide climate solutions for members of our faith communities and businesses, and to do that through providing information, resources and conversations,” said Schell-Lambert.
The event will be held March 7 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Roger Williams Park Casino. It will feature a panel discussion during a sit-down organic dinner and will provide networking opportunities for green technologies, faith panelists and technical experts. Tickets cost between $15 and $50, with financial assistance given to those who need it. The price includes participation, access to faith leaders and experts.
During the discussion, speakers will address how their religions respond to climate change. This year’s panel consists of the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, conference minister and president of Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ; Nuri Friedlander, PhD candidate and associate chaplain for the Harvard Islamic Society at Harvard University; Patrick J. Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network; the Rev. Stephanie Johnson, energy stewardship minister for Province 1 of the Episcopal Church; Rabbi Amy Levin of Temple Torat Yisrael and president of the RI Board of Rabbis; the Rev. Charles Redferm, Baptist minister and Huffington Post writer; and Swami Yogatmananda of the Vedanta Society of Providence and Hindu religious affiliate at Brown University. The Rev. Dr. Donald Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island Council of Churches, will serve as moderator.
Attendees will also have the opportunity for more intimate discussions with individuals from sponsoring organizations including National Grid, Real Goods Solar and RISE Engineering. Attendees will have the opportunity to partake in only one discussion, and topics include Fossil Fuel Dis-Investment Campaign and Socially Responsible Investing.
The discussions aim to give individuals of different beliefs the chance to have a dialogue.
“You can really brainstorm with these experts,” said Schell-Lambert.
She hopes attendees walk away with more knowledge, the resources to make changes and the desire to come together to reduce their personal carbon footprints at home and at church.
Another goal is to provide resources and professional connects to houses of worship to implement energy-efficient technologies. William Patenaude, a former president of RI IPL and a Roman Catholic columnist and author, said the conference provides the chance to learn and understand new technologies. “Some of these decisions are difficult to make and some of these technologies are new,” explained Patenaude. “Part of what we are trying to do is both provide and encourage these changes.”
While he understands the irony of the religious community discussing scientific topics, Patenaude sees a direct connection between religion and climate change.
“We live in a world with natural laws. Sometimes our actions affect those laws and, in turn, affect people,” said Patenaude. He believes the goal of any religion is ultimately to help people, so there is a responsibility to inform followers of the issue and ways to rectify it.
Schell-Lambert also sees the importance religion can play in the fight to stop climate change. She feels a dedication to this cause is rooted deep within faith.
“It is not just ethical and moral [to educate people of faith about climate change]. As people of faith, we are called to, and it is our responsibility to, take care of what God has created,” said Schell-Lambert. “It is not just a nice thing to do; it is a moral responsibility.”
Patenaude adds that the worlds of science, government and religion, which can be at odds, must come together to find a solution to climate change.
“Policy, law and government talks to the head; faith will talk to the heart,” says Patenaude.
RI IPL is one of 40 state affiliates of Interfaith Power and Light, a national organization formed over a decade ago with the mission to be faithful stewards of the Earth.
Schell-Lambert explained the RI IPL chapter’s goal is “fulfilling our moral responsibility as stewards of Creation and advocates for the Earth’s ecosystem and those who are affected most by climate change.”
They practice this through a variety of programs to benefit all houses of worship and members of the faith community.
All are welcome to attend the RI Interfaith Conference on Climate Change next week. For information, interested persons are encouraged to call RI IPL at 261-3426 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals can also register on RI IPL’s website, www.ri-ipl.org; registration should be completed over the weekend at the latest.