At a climate protest last week, I saw a sign that said, “Only everyone can save us now.” It’s a powerful reminder that climate action isn’t individual, but instead requires all of us to work together. And yet it can be very easy to feel isolated and alone, which is why it’s so important to find other people with the same values and passion for climate action and inspire each other to keep up the good work.
One local organization making that happen is Faiths Connect for Climate Action, one of several initiatives of the Wisconsin Creation Care Ambassadors (WCCA). Many churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith communities are starting to create Green Teams, also known as Creation Care Teams, as a means for members of the congregation to work together on climate action within their faith community. Faiths Connect for Climate Action is a way for members of faith-based Green Teams throughout the region to network and support one another.
Although the group’s quarterly Zoom meetings are a valuable opportunity for learning and discussion, everyone was particularly excited to meet in person a few weeks ago for a potluck. Even better, it was held in conjunction with the Middleton Sustainability Committee’s Solarbration, a celebration on the occasion of new solar panels at Lakeview Park’s shelter.
As a climate-action-focused member of a faith community myself, I jumped at the chance to sit down and share a meal while hearing from local community members about the actions their congregations are taking to go green.
Ryan O’Connor, a member of Blessed Sacrament, was passionate in describing how his Catholic faith informs his environmental work: “Pope Francis has said that caring for creation is essential to a life of virtue. In fact, all the last three popes have said it’s a moral issue.” His church agrees and is working to educate their parish about environmental issues. In the next year or two they’re hoping to get solar panels on the roof of their school. Ryan noted that not only would they be economically beneficial, but also that it’s important for churches to lead the way in the energy transition.
(Solar panel photo from FUS Solar, used with permission)
Liz Hachten described how the First Unitarian Society (FUS) she attends has been improving their energy efficiency as well. The main building is a historic Frank Lloyd Wright building, but they built a LEED Gold addition and added solar panels. As a Unitarian, she feels that climate justice fits in very well with principles of her faith: respect, the interdependent web of life, and the search for truth. A few weeks prior to the potluck, the FUS Sustainability Team ran their Sunday service, sharing personal reflections about how their values and experiences motivated their climate actions. As Liz said, Unitarians are generally already onboard with sustainability; now, it’s just a question of where they’re choosing to focus their attention.
It wasn’t just faith communities attending the potluck, either. Jackie Harrison-Jewell, executive director of the Couillard Solar Foundation (CSF), also stayed to chat and enjoy the food. CSF wants to make solar more affordable to nonprofits, including faith communities, so created the program Solar for Good, which partners with RENEW Wisconsin to award nonprofits up to 50% of the solar panels needed for a planned solar project.
As the potluck wound to a close, a rainbow stretched across the sky and all of us headed over to watch it. It seemed like a promise, a reminder to never lose hope. The climate crisis is massive and daunting, but that’s no reason to give up.
Standing there, surrounded by so many representatives from so many different faith communities, all working in our own ways towards a liveable climate for everyone, was more than enough inspiration to roll up our sleeves and get back to work.
Heather is passionate about protecting our climate and inspiring communities to take action for a sustainable future. As the Climate Action Intern, Heather is focused on outreach for the Climate Champions program and sharing climate action successes through blog posts, the Clean Energy Map, and stories of the county’s new Climate Champions. Heather has a background in education and library work, including teaching English in the Philippines and China, where she’s seen first-hand the challenges of a changing climate. Heather has a Master’s of Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and a Bachelor’s Degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. In her free time, Heather enjoys reading, playing handbells, painting, baking, and playing with her cat.
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