Bill McKibben: What Faith Leaders Can Teach Us About Effective Climate Messaging
From Pope Francis’ climate encyclical to the Episcopal church divesting from fossil fuels, the climate movement is gaining serious momentum among faith communities. But as environmental advocate Bill McKibben points out in this Boston Globe article, the link between faith and climate isn’t new. In fact, the recent surge in support is the result of decades of hard work by faith leaders who have long understood that fighting hunger and poverty and caring for the earth were tied together. McKibben gives shout-outs to Blessed Tomorrow partners Interfaith Power & Light and Blessed Earth and leaders Rev. Dr. Jim Antal and Dr. Matthew Sleeth for their tireless efforts. He also points out one of the main reasons they’ve been successful at spreading their message – it’s about hope, harmony, and individual freedom, not dire warnings or sacrifice.
We can all learn a lesson from this. People are more likely to accept that climate change is happening if they believe it can be solved – so it’s important stay positive and focus on the benefits of solutions. And for people who believe in social justice, it’s important to show how fighting climate change helps protect the most vulnerable among us.
To learn more about how faith leaders are inspiring their congregations and communities to act on climate, visit our faith initiative, Blessed Tomorrow.
Bill McKibben, contributor to The Boston Globe
Pope Francis’s remarkable encyclical, Laudato Si’, has been rightly hailed as a watershed moment in the climate debate, the moment when religion finally took note of what science had been saying for a couple of decades. As with all watersheds, though, the river at the bottom draws its power from all the creeks that feed in along the way — it’s worth remembering just how many people (a large number of them in Massachusetts) have worked over the years to build a true faith-based environmental movement. How they’ve managed to do it holds lessons for all of us trying to spread the word about climate change.
Twenty-five years ago, when this work was just getting started, there was nothing easy about it: In liberal churches and synagogues, environmentalism was considered slightly elitist, a task to be gotten to once the serious business of war and hunger had been dealt with. In conservative congregations, anything green was considered a depot on the track to paganism.
But there were always a few people who read Scripture with enough care to find consistent threads of stewardship and ecological consciousness. To see, in fact, that war and hunger and poverty were deeply connected to the earth. And not just in the Judeo-Christian tradition: Harvard, under the leadership of Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, convened a series of remarkable conferences where theologians from Islam, Jainism, Confucianism, and a variety of other global faiths mined their traditions for contributions to an environmental worldview.
Image credit: Steve Liptay