I spend most of my day thinking about environmental sustainability and, in particular, climate change. I think about it as part of my work, as a Social Psychologist at Penn State, studying how to encourage scientifically grounded public discourse climate change, individual actions to reduce our personal contribution to climate change, and collective action to adopt policies and procedures to address climate change. I also think about it when I make decisions about my personal everyday actions and civic activities. Because I have attended religious services all of my life, it is not surprising that my thoughts and actions would be a part of my spiritual life as well.
There are two aspects of religion that motivate my actions. First, my experience with religions is that they promote self-transcendence. This can be spiritual transcendence as people connect with a “higher power” and psychological transcendence as people come to understand themselves as part of larger systems of life—both human-social systems and ecological systems that comprise our physical world. This idea is more formally stated in one of the Unitarian Universalist seven principles of affirming and promoting “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” It is this self-transcendence that allows us to have compassion for people we have never met and care for other creatures that share the planet with us.
Second, my observation is that religious groups go beyond sharing common beliefs and worshiping together during services. Religious services often reminders and encouragements to live out the principles of their faith. For me, this means that I strive to demonstrate my respect for the interdependence of all life through my actions. More concretely, this would be not just professing concern for the impact our actions on climate change and, as a result, all life in the planet now and in the future, but gong the next step of taking this concern to action.
Bicycling to DC with a committed group of people who share ethical concerns about climate change is one way that I can express my belief that there is an urgent need for us as individuals, members of religious communities, Pennsylvanians, and as a nation to take concrete actions to address the planetary changes we are making on this planet. I hope my actions cause others to think about their actions, provide them with a trigger to contribute to the work that PA-IPL is doing, and remind our congressional representatives of their constituents concerns about climate change.
Beyond my bike and my work I enjoy traveling, especially international travel. One of my favorite trips was hiking through the Andes with my husband Jeff for our 25th anniversary. More recently, I got to hike in Norway with my son, Chris, and tour Berlin with my daughter, Cassidy.
Closer to home, my activities include playing the piano (having recently started taking lessons again), watching my daughter at her gymnastics meets and playing chess with my son.
We’ve made climate-friendly changes to our home, too. Jeff and I installed solar panels on our roof, have two hybrid cars, landscaped our lawn to block the winds and reduce heat loss, to reduce the amount of lawn to mow (yay!), and to grow some of our own fruit and herbs. I try to bike to work, though I’m a fair weather biker (I hope we have at least some of that on the trip!). And of course parents and kids nag each other to turn off lights, sort the recycling and take out the compost.
Donate online to PA IPL in support the PA-to-DC riders (or send a check, memo: bike 2014 to PA IPL 2100-C East College Ave., State College, PA 16801)