June 2020 Newsletter-On the Horizon—

  • Practice with us!  Around the Spiral meets second and fourth Tuesdays: June 23; July 7 and 21. 
  • Advocate with us!  June’s Policy Update “call” will be summary only.  Have you submitted testimony to Pennsylvania’s proposed existing-source methane rule, or explored the Vision for Equitable Climate Action, laying out policies that would get us where we need to be?  If not, check out the May call summary.
  • Watch with us! An online screening and discussion of the critically-acclaimed film The Condor and the Eagle on June 28th. Learn more and register.
  • Celebrate with us! Our celebration of connection, action, and hope, Stories from the Road, debuts August 1st (Lammas Day), and concludes September 1st (Global Day of Prayer for Creation).  Invitations to join us are on their way!

June 2020 Newsletter-Responding to this Moment

IPL’s national board wrote of a Kairos moment —a time outside of our usual, chronos, clock-time moments that presents us with “God-moments” when there is ripeness, possibility for growth and transformation. Other religious traditions describe such moments of unforeseen openings, too. Writer Rebecca Solnit speaks of “the spaciousness of uncertainty,” and Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy speaks of recognizing the possibility of being “strengthened by uncertainty.” Such a time invites us to step boldly into spaces of moral imagination and reimagination.

This Friday, Juneteenth, IPL leaders across the country will be in attendance at the US Climate Action Network (USCAN) Virtual Annual Meeting. We at PA IPL, and all of the USCAN network invite members to actively participate in three days of action being lifted up by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). Members of USCAN know the creativity and courage of each person is needed to reimagine and recreate the just systems that we need to move us from systems that extract, expend, and punish, to systems that support, uphold, celebrate. For those ready to be outside in crowds with masks, there are opportunities to demonstrate in multiple ways, including commiting to dismantling structures of systemic inequity and racism —closing the green gap— particulate matter emitted by power plants and affecting neighboring communities. There are also opportunities to lift up creative, generative, and ongoing work without being in crowds.

  • Commit to M4BL actions on and around Juneteenth
  • Stand in solidarity with the Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington via a 2 hour program broadcast on Saturday, June 20th at 10:00am and 6:00pm, and again on Sunday, June 21st at 6:00pm. Sign up, and visit June2020.org to tune in.
  • Participate in the #GreenGapChallenge, a call led by USCAN member Nakisa Glover/Sol Nation, to all – especially culture workers – to highlight on social media the connections between racial justice and environmental justice through varied artistic forms of expression. This challenge will launch on Saturday, June 20; we’ll share more on our Facebook page. This video by artists Marcus Kiser and Georgie Nakema will give you a taste of creative, generative art meant to communicate harms, and lead us into new spaces.

If you are curious about connections between the Movement for Black Lives, and the work we are committed to, we invite you to read “If you care about the planet, you must dismantle white supremacy” by Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, and published in Grist just this week.

DEP: Love our people through your work.

Download this testimony as a PDF

Testimony to the Environmental Quality Board of the DEP
Proposed Rulemaking: Control of VOC Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Sources (#7-544)

Thank you to those of you who are here to listen and record testimony tonight, to those who figured out how to do the virtual hearings, and to those who have participated in outlining and refining this proposed rulemaking.   I hope that you and your families are well. 

Because this is the last step on a very long path, you already know what Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL) has to say about the rule:

  1. We are so glad that the rule for existing sources is finally here.  Existing sources are, after all, the source of 100% of the existing pollution from oil and gas operations in this state.
  2. The rule, as proposed, will do some important work cutting emissions from large operations.  We ask that you amend the rule to close the massive loophole for emissions from smaller operations because neither bodily systems nor ecosystems care about the size of the source.
  3. The rule, as proposed, requires inspections.  That is good.  We ask that you amend the rule to require ongoing inspections even after repeated passing grades.  It is too easy for leaks to go undetected, and many leaks occur unpredictably.  Without regular, required inspections, leaks could go on for far longer, polluting our air and atmosphere much, much more, even when people are trying to do the right thing.
  4. This rule is a good start, but it does not yet limit methane directly.  VOCs are not co-emitted with methane at the same rates across the state.  We agree that we need to limit methane emissions (this rulemaking is specifically named as part of the Methane Reduction Strategy).  When this rule —this good start— is tightened and completed, we need you to move onward to direct methane surveillance and limits.

    You have seen the Pennsylvania Climate Change Impacts Assessments.  You know that climate change is here and now, not theoretical nor eventual.  You know it impacts infrastructure, water systems, and agriculture across the state, as that was the focus of the 2020 report.  You know, too, of increasing heat and humidity in various parts of the state, the impact of which is only compounded in hotspots like Hunting Park, which can be up to 20 degrees hotter than surrounding neighborhoods — where community members don’t have the resources to run air conditioners, and heat is a direct threat to our elders. 

Those points are all specific to this rulemaking.  They are things you know, they are things we have said before, and they are things that others will detail in depth. So this evening, I’d like to take us in a different direction.  I would like to invite you to bring your whole selves into this space.  You are, after all, more than just your expertise. 

Whether or not we identify with a particular faith tradition we know, each of us, foundationally, morally, and in our bones that people are not disposable.  When we stop to think about those things that are most important to us, when we pause for gratitude and Thanksgiving, it is the people who have cared for us, celebrated with us, challenged us, and stuck by us, it is the places where we have laughed, and sung, and healed – these are the “things” for which we give thanks.  These are the “things” that weave us together.  People and places fill us and feed us as profit and stuff never will.  Americans know this.  Pennsylvanians know this.  

We know people are not disposable, and we know that our Common Home is not disposable – we know that the web of life is, in fact, a web of interconnection. 

We know real community. 
I know, and you know. 

Unfortunately, at work, there are a lot of scoresheets, and the way we keep score doesn’t have this knowledge of heart and soul the way you do, and I do, and the way the residents of our Common Wealth do.  So we need rules.  And that rulemaking is your job.  Tonight, I’m asking you to hear it as a calling.

I am asking you to use your expertise, and to bring your whole self.  Write the rules that truly protect what matters.  In doing your work, love our places.  Love our people.  Love our children’s futures, and their grandparents’ longevity.  Write the rules we need.  Here at PA IPL we see that all policy is a covenant with the future. 

I am asking each of you, and each one of your colleagues: on Friday morning, after the last of these hearings, take your whole selves to work and love us all.  Write the covenant we need.  Do it for your family, and for mine, for our Common Home, and all who live here. 

Close the loopholes.  Raise the bar.  Write a good covenant.  Finish this one, and write the next.

Testimony given virtually via WebEx on June 23, 2020
Cricket Eccleston Hunter
Director of Program, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light
paipl.org

Residents of Pennsylvania may submit written testimony until July 27.

Written comments may be submitted through DEP’s eComment webpage, by email to: RegComments@pa.gov or in writing to: Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477.  Note that comments must include that they are in response to the Proposed Rulemaking: Control of VOC Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Sources (#7-544)

Breathe.

We breathe in, and breathe out, thousands of times, every day. We don’t have to think about it.  Our bodies do it automatically.  Prompted by a complex physiology of which we might be dimly aware, our chests rise and fall – our lungs inhale and exhale, expanding and emptying – oxygen is absorbed into our bloodstream, carbon dioxide flows out of our nostrils.

As humans, we can live for quite some time without food, much less time without water; but for mere minutes without breathing.  Quite simply, it is necessary for us to breathe in order to live.

We breathe in, and out, until we don’t.  Breath is ever-present, until it isn’t.

Seared into our collective consciousness now are the last words of George Floyd, ‘I can’t breathe’ as his life was brutally ended on an ordinary day in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Just as Eric Garner’s life ended, his breath taken away. As it has been for tens of hundreds of thousands of men and women whose lives have been brutally taken from them, the same words cried out or silent.  Now those words are repeated by millions around the country who march and chant, fists raised in the air.

I can’t breathe.

Marchers wear masks, so what is breathed out doesn’t become what the person standing next to them breathes in. Because we are in the time of a pandemic, when anyone might, at any time, be contaminated; be a toxin to the stranger or lover a few inches, or feet, away. 

But you have to breathe to march and chant.  You cannot hold your breath.

Continue reading Breathe.

Injustice compounds injustice.

by Andrea Sears, Public News Service, published June 2, 2020

Sign image from the linked article.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and protests over the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man in Minneapolis, have eclipsed many other major news stories. But according to the Rev. Alison Cornish, executive director at Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, the long history of systemic racism sparking nationwide protests is part of the climate crisis, too.

“We know that people with fewer resources and less power and who are more oppressed are going to be people deeply affected by climate,” Cornish said.

She said the challenge is to confront racism and climate change not as separate problems, but as related crisis that must be dealt with as a whole to save the planet and each other.”

Read the full article here.

Read the May 28th statement from our friends at Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light.

Read the June 2 letter from the National IPL Board of Directors.

Position announcement to pair with our April 9th letter — Alison is departing

Each person on our mailing list received this letter on April 9, 2020. We now have an important addendum to share: the official job announcement. The hiring committee will review applications on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

Dear PA IPL friends and supporters,

As the global pandemic invites us all to focus our priorities, make unanticipated changes, and answer to our best angels, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light remains committed to our mission while anticipating some big changes in our organization in the coming months.

This summer we will be saying goodbye to our talented and dedicated executive director, Alison Cornish, who is moving from Pennsylvania to be closer to family.

Alison has held this part-time position with PA IPL since 2015. She has led us in fostering effective conversation that crosses difference on climate change, promoting understanding, and inspiring collective action. In the past five years she has worked tirelessly to increase our base, strengthen congregational members, support chapters, and help steer the organization through a major strategic planning process. Her compassion, organizational savvy and pastoral skill have been a blessing and a gift to all who have worked with her on climate issues.

We will miss her immensely.

In these challenging months to come, the PA IPL staff and Board of Directors will continue to focus on tending to and strengthening the diverse relationships necessary to address climate change as a moral issue.  We look forward to further conversations with you as we focus on how best to apply the talents and resources of PA IPL to the challenge of the climate crisis in the current environment.

Sincerely,