Celebratory and Personal Letter of Goodbye from Executive Director Alison Cornish

Dear PA IPL Friends

At the end of this month, I will depart from my role as the Executive Director of PA IPL.  It has been an honor and privilege to serve in this capacity for the past five years – and what a time it has been! When I stepped into this position, Laudato Siwas hot off the presses at the Vatican; we were prepping to offer testimony for the Clean Power Plan; and PA IPL friends from around Pennsylvania were inspired by our annual conference keynote speaker, Keya Chatterjee, who offered us a vision of building an inclusive movement in support of climate action with organizations small and vast through the USCAN. The sense of urgency of action on climate change was becoming more palpable, more real, and people of faith were increasingly welcome at the table – in fact, sometimes at the head of it!

Now, five years later, the good news is that more people, across generations and identities, agree with the need to act now in the face of alarming news delivered nearly daily – new record high temperatures; more loss of species; increased drought in some places, while others suffer intense rain events; and so much more.  Yet this is set within an environment of rollbacks of environmental protections, the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and enormous new subsidies to fossil fuel industries. 

In the past four months, during the interconnected world-wide events of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the call for long-delayed racial justice and equity, the needs before us have us both reeling and inspired, alternately energized and devastated.  Our work in this time has been so welcomed by you – our email missives of hope and inspiration, the Around the Spiral community of practice, monthly Advocacy Update calls, and soon – Stories from the Road reflecting on the inspiring experiences of PA IPL bike trip participants from the past eight years. 

What the past five years has taught me is that our movement grows in numbers and depth when we listen deeply to one another, so that we can meet one another where we are – not where we expect one another to be.  When there are ‘multiple points of entry’ into the work on climate, people are ready, willing and able to become involved.  This work is so huge, we cannot be afraid of failure, but must embrace it as a way to learn. Hard as it is, the work works best when we leave room for all the unspoken fears, sadness, and loss that people may be carrying, but also may be unable to articulate – or are even unaware of.  And perhaps most importantly, our work is most powerful when we ground our work in our faiths, not in the news cycle.

Thank you for the opportunity to do this work with you. I will continue to cheer on the work of PA IPL from my new home in Massachusetts, where I know there will be plenty of chances to continue to act on climate as the urgent moral issue it is.  I carry with me the presence of all who have welcomed me into circles of impassioned work, friendship and care in this state I have been so fortunate to call home for the last seven years. Please know you have gifted me with so much that I will carry with me into this next chapter.