If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.
--Lyndon B. Johnson

People of Faith Gather around the State for Interfaith Climate Vigils

As international leaders met in Paris for COP21, religious leaders in our state came together in a similar act of solidarity. On December 3, 2015, interfaith groups across Texas hosted events during which members of various faith communities shared their traditions’ perspectives on climate change and discussed what it means to come together in pursuit of a common goal: climate justice and sustainability.

The vigils—which took place in houses of worship in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston—opened with readings of excerpts from various traditions’ declarations and statements on climate change. Whether the words came from the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, Pope Francis’s Laudato Sí, or a host of other faiths’ statements, they all communicated consistent themes: religious conviction, solidarity with the most vulnerable, a shared concern for the natural world, and a vision of hope.

Some of the vigils also participated in a call with Bee, Yaira, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool, who shared stories and encouragement from their time at COP21. The vigils closed with a time of reflection and discussion during which religious leaders grappled with big questions—How do we continue to effect change at a local level? Where do we find hope in the face these challenges?

Now, COP21 has come to a close. The Paris climate agreement signals a profound moment in the history of international climate work, and the presence, witness, and efforts of the faith community helped make this agreement a reality! 

Media coverage of the vigils:

TXIPL is Going to Paris for COP 21

Texas Interfaith Power and Light is going to Paris! We (that’s us, Yaira & Bee) will be there for the first week of UN climate talks, November 30-December 6, 2015. As leaders from 196 nations meet to hammer out a binding and universal agreement on global climate action, we’ll connect with activists, scientists, and religious leaders from around the world in order to bring real-world climate justice stories home to the Texas faith community through videos, photos, and blog shorts in a special series we’re calling “Boots ‘n’ Berets.”

Learn more about COP 21 here. Follow Bee and Yaira's adventures here.

Local, state and national faith groups from around the U.S. are sending delegates to the talks. Meanwhile, back home in Texas, we know you’ll be calling for climate action in all kinds of ways:

Texas Climate Vigils

On Thursday evening, December 3rd, we hope you’ll join with others in your community to hold an interfaith vigil for climate action. These events will provide dedicated time for reflection, community connection, and shared commitment…plus, we’ll video-conference in from Paris to provide a live update! So far, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston have events planned—and there’s still time to host a vigil if there’s not one already planned near you!

In the wake of the devastating terror attacks in Paris, some of the public actions planned for Paris won’t be possible. This makes global grassroots action—your action!—all the more important. Large and small, from Nacogdoches to El Paso, Amarillo to McAllen, our actions matter and can help make a difference.

As world leaders struggle toward agreements to protect the climate we all need to survive, faith voices are crucial. Faith groups from around the world are issuing calls for strong action, like this statement from the World Council of Churches/ACT Alliance. In the face of daunting challenges, the world needs faithful voices of hope. Join us!

Learn more about the Paris climate talks and ways to take action here.

We will be providing updates 2-3 times per day from November 30 until December 6. Join in the conversation on Twitter #BootsNBerets or follow @TexasInterfaith for news from Paris. You can also keep up with Bee and Yaira's travels on the TXIPL Facebook page or at http://texasimpact.org/Paris-2015.

Host an Interfaith Vigil for Climate Action!

This is an important time in terms of climate conversations and decisions at both the national and the global level, and our leaders need to see grassroots support for action on climate. 

We invite communities all across Texas to hold interfaith vigils for climate action on Thursday evening, December 3, 2015. 

We're all in this together. Climate change is global and affects all of us. It's time now to work in partnership with our brothers and sisters of different faith traditions in calling for a different way forward.

Together, we can pray, learn, and act. Click here to see which cities are already planning a vigil. Not one already happening near you? Sign up to host one!

This is an important year for climate action.

  • In August, 2015, President Obama and the EPA announced final Clean Power Plan standards—our first-ever national standards on carbon pollution from power plants. 
  • In December, 2015, world leaders will meet in Paris for two weeks of UN climate talks. At this COP21 meeting, leaders are expected to adopt a new protocol to reduce global carbon emissions, replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is due to expire. Leaders will also decide if and how to help the world’s poorest, developing countries adapt to climate change. 

What happens at an interfaith vigil for climate action?

Each vigil will be different, because it will be planned by local leaders to reflect the needs and interests of each community. Here are some ideas:

  • Host the gathering at a centrally located house of worship.
  • Gather at 6:00pm and share a vegetarian potluck meal. Sharing a meal is a great way to build community! (Maybe make it meat-free, because that’s the easiest way to accommodate dietary restrictions for members of several different religious traditions.) OR…skip the potluck and gather food-free, at 7:00pm.
  • When people arrive, collect their names and contact information on a sign-in sheet. This will help you and us plan future events and get information out to concerned Texans about ways to be involved. Download and print a sign-in sheet here.
  • At 7:00pm, begin the program. Invite local religious leaders from different traditions to read excerpts from recent religious statements about climate change. It would be great to have leaders from each particular tradition read from their tradition’s statement or to share teachings from their traditions. Make it fun! Invite leaders to read excerpts in an engaging and compelling way, poetry-slam-style.
  • At 7:30pm, “dial” into a video conference with other Texas communities who are hosting vigils as well as with TXIPL’s Executive Director, Bee Moorhead, and Associate Director, Yaira Robinson, who will be in Paris during the UN climate talks!
    • In order to connect to the simulcast video call, you will need a reasonably new computer (≤ 5yrs old, preferably with a web camera and built-in microphone) and a broadband Interent connection (1Mbps minimum, 3Mbps or higher preferred.) The video conference will be held using Citrix GoToMeeting software. Learn more about requirements for Citrix software here.
    • Audio can be handled by phone or by computer speakers (or, e.g., by connecting the computer to a large set of speakers or your venue’s sound system.) If you do not have access to the video call, you can connect and join the audio call, either by phone (number forthcoming) or by computer. 
  • Ask people to commit to at least one action. People can commit to making changes in their personal practices at home; making changes in their neighborhoods, schools, houses of worship, and workplaces; and/or advocating for policy changes at the local, state, and/or federal level. Our actions matter.

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Attend a vigil in your community. (Click here to see which cities are planning a vigil.)

Not one already happening near you? Sign up to host one!

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Top photo used courtesy John Ragai via Flickr Creative Commons.

Special Event! Catholic Climate Covenant in Austin, Oct. 20, 2015

On Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in Austin, Dan Misleh, Executive Director of Catholic Climate Covenant, offers a special presentation, Our Common Home: Care for Creation, Care for the Poor.

See event details.

Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, says that climate change is real and mainly “a result of human activity.” The problem is urgent: “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”

We must all change our day-to-day actions to live more sustainably: “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage, and responsibility. Solving climate change means protecting the planet and vulnerable people, and we must hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."

Faith can guide us. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains—everything is, as it were, a caress of God.” The problems are big and urgent. But hope remains if we act in honesty and love. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home…. Truly, much can be done!”

Join us in Austin on October 20th to hear Dan Misleh speak about Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, resources for learning and action from Catholic Climate Covenant, and ways that we can join together in common effort to care for our common home.

                       When: 7:00-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 20, 2015

                       Where: University Catholic Center
                                     2010 University Ave.
                                     Austin, TX 78705
 
 

This program is sponsored by TXIPL along with EnviroMediaUniversity Catholic Center, St. Edward’s University Campus Ministry, St. Edward's Office of Sustainability, St. Edward's School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and the Interfaith Environmental Network (IEN) of Austin. For more information, call 512-472-3903 or e-mail Yaira.

Ready to learn more and take action? These resources from Catholic Climate Covenant can help:

  • Encyclical toolkit, from Catholic Climate Covenant and Interfaith Power and Light

    "I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all." -Pope Francis

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    Photo "Pope Francecso I" by Flickr User Jeffrey Bruno licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

 

Houston Event | More Bright Ideas In Energy Efficiency For Religious Facilities | October 1, 2015

More Bright Ideas In Energy Efficiency For Religious Facilities

When: Thursday, October 1 | 7:30 - 11:00 am
Where: Grace Presbyterian Church | Massey Tucker Hall
10221 Ella Lee Ln, Houston, Texas 77042

RSVP Today!

Join us for a second workshop in a series focusing on how smart energy practices in religious facilities can promote environmental stewardship, increase staff and congregant comfort and save scarce funds. This workshop will focus on practical application of the fundamentals of benchmarking, preventative maintenance, and financing energy efficiency projects.

  • Energy Benchmarking 101
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Financing tools and resources 

Agenda:
7:30 - 8:00 - Breakfast / Networking
8:00 - 11:00 - Workshop
*Breakfast will be provided.

Speakers:

  • Jerry Lawson, National Manager, ENERGY STAR Small Business & Congregations Network, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Jim Brown, P.E., Principal, Energy Systems Associates
  • Colby May, CEM, President, LIT
  • Kristi Hardy, Energy Efficiency - Program Manager, CenterPoint Energy

*Parking is in the lot at the corner of Ella Lee and the tollway.

Learn more and RSVP for this free event today!

Houston Creation Care Fest

The 2015 Houston Creation Care Fest & Environmental Extravaganza on September 27, 2015 will feature presentations by experts on the environment to address the The State of Our World.

In addition to the talks provided by the speakers, there will be childrens' activities about nature for children 5 and older, as well as informational materials from local environmental non-profit organizations.

This is a wonderful opportunity for people of all faiths and ages to gather and learn about the world in which we live, the challenges we face, and what we can do in our own communities to be compassionate and active stewards. 

When? Sunday, September 27, 2015

Where? The University of St. Thomas, Robertson Hall

Schedule of Topics and Speakers

1 p.m. The State of the Air  | Professor Dan Cohan, Rice University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

1:45 p.m. The State of the Waters | Professor Hyun-Min, Texas Southern University, Department of Environmental Science and Technology

2:30 p.m. The State of the Land | Professor Maury Harris, University of St. Thomas, Department of Environmental Science and Studies

3:15 p.m. The State of the Plants | Professor Chris Gabler, University of Houston, Department of Biology and Biochemistry

4:00 p.m. The State of the Animals | Kathryn Hokamp and Ben Johnson, Rice University, students in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

*There are Metro bus stops nearby for lines 25, 56, and 82; parking is available in the lot located on Graustark near Alabama for $5, and bike parking is available in front of Robertson Hall. 

For more information about the event, please contact Lisa or call 713-372-7345.

You're Invited! Fort Worth IPL's "Pope and Potluck"

On September 24, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. central time, Pope Francis is scheduled to become the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress. Following on the heels of Laudato Si, the pope's encyclical on ecology issued in June, this much-anticipated visit offers the opportunity for people to come together in community and explore how we can better care for God's creation and our neighbors.

On the evening of September 24, the day of the Pope’s Congressional address, Fort Worth Interfaith Power & Light invites you to a “Pope and Potluck” to reflect, discuss, and share good food. Mary Jo Kaska, PhD, Biblical Scholar, and Rita Cotterly, PhD, retired, will offer Catholic perspectives in response to the Pope’s address to Congress. People of all faiths are welcome to attend!

When: September 24, 6:00 PM

Where:  University Christian Church of Fort Worth, room 207

To ensure that we have adequate space, please RSVP to Sandra by September 23, 2015.

 

“We have forgotten that we ourselves are the dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” – Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

Above photo of Pope Francis used courtesy of The Catholic Church of England and Wales via Flickr Creative Commons; potluck photo used courtesy of Texas Impact. 

A Teaching Resource for Yom Kippur and More: The Pope, Jewish Sages, & Climate Justice

We are delighted to offer a study guide to discuss climate justice in Jewish communities, just in time for Yom Kippur and Sukkot, holidays that invite us to focus on themes of repentance, corrective action, and our relationship with other people and God's creation.

Rabbi Daniel Swartz, spiritual leader of Temple Hesed of Scranton, PA, wrote this study guide, "Laudato Si and the Sages: Reflections on Climate Justice," which connects the Pope's encyclical on ecology with Jewish wisdom and teaching. It features selections from the encyclical paired with a variety of texts from the Jewish tradition, and includes a discussion guide and suggestions for ways to take action. Download the study guide here.

In Rabbi Swartz' own words of introduction:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Shanah Tovah!  As you prepare to welcome 5776, I invite you to connect with one of the most notable faith events of the year – Pope Francis’s visit to the United States just after Yom Kippur, during which he will speak about his encyclical on climate change and justice, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home.  At this time of year, as we reflect on how we have treated our fellow human beings and how we might better live up to God’s expectations of us, we have a special opportunity to examine our relationship with all of God’s creation – and the Pope’s encyclical provides us with an excellent way to do just that.

To that end, I’ve selected a number of excerpts from the encyclical and paired them with Jewish sources ranging from the Tanakh, to midrashim, to Heschel, to rabbis of today. Here at Temple Hesed in Scranton, PA, I will be using this text study, “Laudato Si and the Sages: Reflections on Climate Justice,” on Yom Kippur afternoon, and we have invited the press and other faith communities as well. Please use it however it might work best for you: at High Holy Day Services, at a multi-faith gathering, at a social action weekend etc.

The texts are presented in two formats. The first is a more complete four-page selection, designed for in-depth or multi-session discussions; it can be studied in a larger group setting, in hevruta, in small groups or in some combination. The second is a single page of texts, meant to serve as a ready-made one-hour program. In both formats, I’ve included questions on each topic highlighted by the texts, as well as some summary questions. 

I also hope this text study will inspire further action to combat climate change. To help with this, some “next steps” are presented at the end of each discussion guide. 

Many thanks to Rabbi Swartz for compiling the guide, and to him and our friends at Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light for sharing it! If you have questions about how to use this in your community, please email us.

Download the study guide here.

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Above photo used courtesy of Chajm Guski via Flickr Creative Commons.

The 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina: Thoughts, Prayers, and Resources

Ten years ago, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were struck by one of the most devastating and costly disasters in U.S. history. The trauma of Hurricane Katrina spread across the world through shocking images of families stranded on rooftops, shattered homes, destroyed communities, and people seeking refuge in a dilapidated Superdome. The storm tore across the Southeast, claimed 1,833 lives, displaced nearly one million people, and left a wake of brokeness in its path. 

A decade later, rebuilding efforts are still underway and many people have returned home. However, in the continuing aftermath of this human and environmental catastrophe, we are faced with big questions: questions of increasing natural disasters due to climate change, of racial and socioeconomic inequality, and of social and environmental justice. 

Here, some resources from different religious traditions in commemoration of Hurricane Katrina. If you have a prayer, resource or link to share, please e-mail us.

 

Prayers, Litanies, & Hymns

A Prayer for Victims of Hurricane Katrina,” by Rabbi Naomi Levy

Prayer of Comfort and Support,” by Rabbi SueAnn Wasserman

Four Prayer Poems for Natural Disasters,” by Rabbi Zoe Klein

A Prayer for Safety After Violent Weather,” by Alden Solovy

"Litany for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina," by Education for Justice, based on Catholic Social Teaching 

"Hurricane Katrina Prayer of Consolation," by the National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life for the major National African American Catholic organizations and the Offices of Black Catholic Ministry

“Litany in Response to Natural Disaster” and “A Prayer for the Victims of Katrina” by Reverend William Stokes

Prayer After Katrina,” by Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie

In the Wake of Katrina: Lest We Forget… Call to Renewal,” by Dr. Valerie Bridgeman Davis

Prayers for Those Facing Disasters,” from the United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries

A Christian Hurricane Prayer,” by Rev. James Martin, S.J.

Prayers for Hurricanes, Natural Disasters,” a collection compiled by the Huffington Post

"God of Creation," hymn by Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

Denominational Resources

Special Coverage: Hurricane Katrina,” from the United Methodist Church.

10 Years After Hurricane Katrina,” from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Disaster Response.

Hurricane Katrina and Systemic Racism,” from the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Through the Eye of a Hurricane: Rebuilding Just Communities,” from Creation Justice Ministries. 

 

“ We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way." - St. Francis of Assisi

Above stop sign photo used courtesy Jeffrey Schwartz via Flickr Creative Commons; "make leeves not war" photo used courtesy Infrogmation of New Orleans via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Trans-Pecos Pipeline Project

The Trans-Pecos Pipeline is a proposed 143-mile pipeline that would bring natural gas from West Texas to the U.S.-Mexico border, as part of an agreement with the Mexican Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). At 42 inches wide and just under 1,200 pounds of pressure per square inch, the pipeline will carry as much as 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day after its projected completion in 2017. The gas transported by the pipeline will originate in Texas’s Permian Basin at Fort Stockton and travel the length of the line, currently projected to run east of the Davis Mountains, skirt the town of Alpine, and pass through the famous Marfa Lights as well as the historic town of Shafter on its way south to the border at Presidio, TX, and Ojinaga, Mexico. From there, it will be piped further into Mexico for industrial use and power generation. The holder of the contract for this project is a consortium that includes two large energy companies—Mexico-based Carso and Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP).

Community Concern

Texas Pipelines MapThe energy industry is an integral part of the Texas economy. Much of Texas is already covered in a maze of oil and gas transmission pipelines, but so far the Big Bend area has largely been reserved as a pristine natural landscape. It is one of the biggest intact bioregions in the country. The Big Bend area is a geologically rich, wide-open expanse of mountains, desert, and ranch land—the nearby UNESCO biosphere reserve Big Bend National Park is home to 1,200 species of plants and scores of mammals, birds, reptiles, and other animal species. The uniqueness of this area is widely recognized and was even a focal point of a 2010 bilateral cooperation discussion between President Obama and President Felipe Calderón. 

Though the exact route of the pipeline has yet to be finalized due to ongoing surveys being conducted by ETP and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) current environmental assessment period, the proposed direction shows the pipeline running through private ranch land, close to Big Bend Ranch State Park, and even closer to the Chinati State Natural Area, an undeveloped swath of land known for its diverse flora and fauna.

Many opponents of the pipeline—including two affected counties who fear the possibility of severe environmental degradation—have called for more federal oversight of the project. 

Community concerns about negative environmental impacts and inadequate federal oversight were compounded in June when, in Cuero, Texas, a pipeline owned by ETP and regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) exploded, releasing a fireball that could be seen more than twenty miles away. If such an explosion occurred in the semi-arid grasslands of the Big Bend region, resulting wildfires could be devastating. In addition, the Big Bend is part of the most seismically active area of the state, significantly increasing the risk of pipeline ruptures.

How can you get involved?

The FERC has extended the deadline for public comments until September 4, 2015 as it continues to conduct its environmental review of part of the planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline. The commission is currently studying the possible environmental impacts of the pipeline’s border crossing section—the part where it would cross underneath the Rio Grande and connect with another natural gas pipeline coming from the Mexican side. This environmental review is supposed to help regulators decide whether or not the pipeline is in the interest of the U.S. public and, ultimately, whether or not they should issue the border permit the project needs in order to bring natural gas from the Permian Basin to the power plants in Mexico.

To learn more about the Trans-Pecos pipeline and its projected impacts, visit the ETP site about the project, the Big Bend Conservation Alliance (BBCA) website, or follow Marfa Public Radio’s continuing coverage of the project’s progression. 

To learn how to submit a comment to the FERC during this extended period of review, visit the BBCA blog.

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Big Bend photo used courtesy of Katie Floyd.

"It is to the Creator of the universe, then, that we are accountable for what we do or fail to do to preserve and care for the earth and all its creatures." - US Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Earth, 1991, p. 6.

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