350 Spokane's poster lists 12 steps individuals and groups can take
The 350 Spokane Interfaith Committee on Climate Change recently developed a poster listing 12 actions individuals, faith communities and businesses can take to challenge climate change.
To invite action, steps are verb forms ending with "-ate": facilitate, motivate, educate, advocate, reallocate, detoxicate, anticipate, accentuate, eliminate, contemplate, rejuvenate and activate.
One column lists practical ideas for individuals. The second column is for faith communities, the third is for advocating government action, the fourth lists organizations to join and the fifth column gives websites.
"People of faith have reason to care about creation," said Patrick McCormick, professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University since 1994 and leader of the 350 Spokane Interfaith Committee.
It includes people from Catholic, Episcopal, Jewish, Methodist, Buddhist and other traditions.
"We educate people on the environment. 350 Spokane advocates in the city and state for legislation to reduce carbon emissions and clean the air," he said.
"Many people feel paralyzed by the size of the task to address climate change. It's hard to know where to start. The chart offers bite-sized actions," he said.
"Joining groups helps multiply and sustain energy, as Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org said. If I act as an individual, it's harder for me to sustain action than in a group," Pat said.
"We will be working to reduce climate change the rest of our lives. We need intergenerational commitment and energy to sustain us. That comes from spiritual resources of prayer, meditation, reading and studying.
"I came into environmental issues through teaching a class on eating and Eucharist," he said. "Reading about the industrial agricultural system piqued my interest in environment."
Pat's wife, Guay Tippett, a retired therapist, took a class on environment from Brian Henning at Gonzaga, who helped start 350 Spokane in 2017 as part of the international 350 group. Pat joined in 2018. Motivation for Pat and Guay also came from the birth of their first grandchild, a grandson, in June.
"His future will be shaped by how we address climate change," he said.
Two members of 350 Spokane on the City of Spokane's Sustainable Action Committee are working on the Fossil Free Spokane Campaign.
In 2018, they had success when the City Council passed a 100 percent renewable electricity ordinance.
Pat lived in various communities on the East Coast as his father moved around in the Air Force. In studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, Pat earned a doctoral degree in moral theology in the 1980s. He taught ethics and Catholic social teachings at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Allentown, Penn., for five years, and taught at St. John's University in the 1990s.
"I am interested in social justice questions related to the environment, because the burdens of climate change are uneven, mostly suffered by poor communities and nations. In the U.S., climate change is disproportionately felt by minorities and communities of color, especially with COVID-19 and many living near refineries, waste plants and toxic waste dumps.
"Climate change is also an economic and social justice issue. Recently, Christians have been rethinking our relationship to nature, especially in documents from the World Council of Churches and Pope Francis' Laudato Si'," he said, noting that modern capitalistic societies have lost their relationship to creation.
Pat said Genesis 1 stories speak of creation's glory, grandeur and harmony. The picture of Creation in Genesis 1 and 2 shows different life forms cohabitating and interrelated. For him, that contrasts to "the western monoculture of the industrial plantation," Pat said.
Many theological documents address climate change as an issue of environment and systematic theology.
The 350 Spokane Interfaith Committee seeks to reach faith groups with online resources and its blog, but it's hard to reach new people because of COVID.
350 Spokane has open monthly meetings at 6:30 p.m. on 2nd Tuesday evenings, often with speakers.
Pat said COVID has taught him several things:
• Communities and societies can make significant changes easily and quickly. Congress passed trillion-dollar packages to help people.
• Many people are social distancing and wearing masks.
• Good leaders can make a difference. Some communities and nations have responded well.
• COVID has reinforced existing demographic inequities. He questions a lawn sign, "We Are All in This Together," saying, "We are not in it together. Some neighborhoods are overcrowded, economically insecure and lack housing. Structural inequities and injustices affect comorbidity to disease, so some people are more susceptible to contract or die from COVID."
• COVID shows "we have to respond to a threat before we see it," Pat said. "If we wait until it is in our neighborhood or water is lapping on our doorstep from climate change, it's too late."
"Science informs us of things we can't see, like the exponential growth of COVID from two cases to one million," said Pat. "While the virus is too small to see with our eyes, science can help us see its effects.
"Climate change and COVID are both threats," he added. "Science moves us beyond anecdotal or personal threat. We need to think long-term how to reach those who think COVID or climate change are hoaxes. Statistics and numbers persuade few. Personal connection is more important.
"Faith communities' responsibility is for the poor, widow, orphan and stranger. We need to tap into the call to be compassionate," he said. "We need to reach out to both the stranger in need and the stranger with whom we disagree. We need to aid those overlooked by society and communicate with those who think differently. People watching MSNBC and Fox disagree and do not talk with each other, but need to."
Pat listed factors in climate change denial:
1) Economic interests of the fossil fuel industry operate by the playbook the tobacco industry used when it denied smoking caused cancer. They try to confuse, obfuscate and muddy the waters to deny, deceive and delay.
2) People's economic self-interests mean those who use fossil fuels want the industry to continue to sell fuel.
3) Many who work for and invest in energy companies are afraid of losing jobs and income.
4) Ordinary people realize their lives have to change to reduce their carbon footprint: flying and driving less, eating less meat. It calls for sacrifices.
"At the heart of denial of climate change is the fear that it is too hard a problem to address," he said.
Already COVID has had major impact on people, and they have made changes. Millions are no longer flying. People in the airline industry face massive layoffs with fewer flights, said Pat, who did not teach in London this summer or in Florence this fall, and did not visit his grandson in Atlanta.
Of the 12 action steps on the 350 Spokane poster, Pat said his focus is "educate," step #3. For him, that means reading, advocating and talking to people.
He has also looked at his lifestyle. Before COVID, he biked and used GU's free bus pass. Now he is considering renewable energy for his house, is turning off appliances and reducing water use.
"We are also deciding what candidates to support," he said.
He writes letters each month to representatives, donates to advocacy groups and reads about legislation on climate issues, like drilling, pipelines and oil trains.
"What I learn creeps into my conversations. I have spoken at City Council meetings and written a guest opinion in the Spokesman-Review on 'What Religion Has to Say about Climate Change'," Pat said.
"It's inspiring to go to 350 Spokane's meetings and hear what others are doing," he said.
For information, call 230-5018 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, info@350Spokane.org, or download the chart at 350Spokane.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree,October, 2020