A letter from Canadian faith leaders

A letter released on October 25, 2011 titled “Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change” is worth reading.  Excerpts appear in Canada’s Embassy magazine here.  A PDF of the entire text can be downloaded from the national IPL website here. (Click on “read this important statement” just below the paragraph announcing the letter.)

The first paragraph states
“We, representatives of Canadian faith communities, are united in our conviction that the growing crisis of climate change needs to be met by solutions that draw upon the moral and spiritual resources of the world’s religious traditions.  We recognize that at its root the unprecedented human contribution to climate change is symptomatic of a spiritual deficit: excessive self-interest, destructive competition, and greed have given rise to unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.  Humanity’s relationship with the environment has become distorted by actions that compromise the welfare of future generations of life.”

Paragraph 4 is my favorite as an inspiration for both speech and action by individuals, voices of faith, and communities of faith in our wider communities.
“All religious traditions uphold the nobility of the human spirit, calling us to seek moderation and service to the common good.  Such a vision empowers individuals to take responsibility for relationships with each other and our planet.  Indeed, our everyday choices about food, transportation, clothing and entertainment are all practical expressions of what we value.  At the same time, disconnections between our professed beliefs and our daily actions indicate our need for personal and collective awareness and transformation.  We need to seek coherence between our beliefs and our actions, so that our lives and consumption habits reflect our relationship with the rest of humanity and the Earth itself. “

Which parts speak to you?  Please use the comments to lead us to the writings within your own denomination or tradition that have inspired you to act on energy use and climate change!

COOL chants!

Since our “kickoff” was in State College, on a Temple-PSU game weekend, we had a small team of cheerleaders on the downtown streets in the couple of hours before kickoff.  The cheers (and pom-poms) were provided by Barbara Ballenger, and she has given me permission to share them here.  You may use them, too, but please credit Barb when you do.  High tosses, human pyramids, and back handsprings are optional, but attention-getting! (If you’re not sure it enhances the message, check out this 2 minute video of rapping climate scientists  — use the closed captions to catch the lyrics.)

Cricket’s elementary and middle-school daughters have been caught chanting several of these to themselves around the house in the last year.  Neither is interested in cheerleading normally…

Ready! OK!
I say … you say
·      I say Pennsyl, you say vania…
Pennsyl … vania; Pennsyl … vania
·      I say inter  you say faith
·      I say power and you say light….
·      Put it together and say it right – Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light
Climate Change Cadence 
I don’t know but I’ve been told (echo)
The North Pole isn’t very cold
The Polar bears are really steamed
Had to buy an ice machine
Sound off…1 2 
Sound off … 3 4 
Take it on down  1 2 3 4, 1 2 3-4

It’s hot in hell or so they say…
I’ll tell you how it got that way
Lucifer that blind old fool
Runs the place on fossil fuel
Sound off …

So do something and do it well …
Join the PA  IPL
Make your carbon footprint small
So there’s a little left for all
Sound off
Lean to the left…
Lean to the left lean to the right
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light
People of faith come join the fight
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light

Win one for the planet

Hey Pennsylvania!
The earth can’t take it.
Win one for the planet
Before we bake it.  (repeat)
It’s Hot

It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot out here
There’s green house gases in the atmosphere!
It’s not, it’s not, it’s not a lie
The temperature is on the rise.

It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot out here
Green house gases in the atmosphere
It’s not, its not, it’s not so nice
Antarctica is losing ice.

It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot out here
There’s green house gases in the atmosphere
It’s not, it’s not, it’s not a blast
Climate change will cook your … grass

I’m just saying … 
I’m just saying, I’m not lying
Mother Earth is really frying
We can’t let it end this way
Got to reverse climate change

Push it back, push it back 
Way back, way back  2x

I’m just saying, I’m not lying
Congress isn’t even trying
Who’ll run our economy
When we’re all floating in the sea?

Push it back, push it back 
Way back, way back …

Ain’t no Power
Ain’t no power like the power of the people
Cause the power of the people don’t stop! uh!
Ain’t no power like the power of the sun
Cause the power of the sun don’t stop! uh!
Ain’t no power like the power of the wind
Cause the power of the wind don’t stop! uh!

Children’s Message: Footprints

Yesterday, for our Annual Meeting and conference, PA IPL member University Mennonite Church hosted the worship service.  Following the opening hymns, Bethany Spicher Schonberg offered a fantastic children’s message that could be used in many contexts and any faith community.   On request, she wrote it up for us.  I hope many of you will use it!

Footprints on the Earth: Helping Children Understand Environmental Impact

Materials needed: a globe, a giant boot, a tiny toy shoe (the one from Monopoly works great)

Show children the globe. What do you see here? A globe, yes. This is a way for us to imagine the world – the earth – because the real one is too big for us to see! We’re sitting on the earth right now, right about here. Show location on the globe. Who made this earth that we’re sitting on? Who made the light, the sky and oceans, trees and animals and all the continents that we see on the globe here? God did. And God gave this earth to us to care for and to walk on.

Now, there are two ways that we can walk on this earth. We can walk in big shoes or little shoes. Show two shoes. If I were to step in the mud with this shoe (show giant boot), what sort of footprint would I make? And what if I stepped in the mud with this shoe (show tiny shoe)? If I were trying to walk around this globe here, what shoes would work best? What if I wanted to dance on this globe? 

It’s the same with the real earth. Whenever we use something on the earth – like water – we’re making a footprint. And whenever we throw something away – like a piece of paper – we’re making a footprint. We can make big footprints or little footprints. So, here’s a test. If I turned on the water and let it run for an hour, is that a big or little footprint? What if I turned on the water just long enough to get a drink? And if I colored on ten pieces of paper and then threw them all away, is that a big or little footprint? What if I colored on one piece, turned it over and used the other side and then recycled the paper?

This week, whenever you use something from the earth or throw something away, think about your footprint on the earth. Is it a big stomping footprint or a little dancing footprint? God gave us the earth to walk on and God can teach us to walk in smaller shoes.

Close with a prayer.  

Micah and Bethany Spicher Schonberg
Plowshare Produce

One Year

Here at PA IPL we are preparing for our 1-year anniversary.  To celebrate, Barb Ballenger has given us permission to share her delightful song lyrics from our big Kickoff weekend in 2010.  Please feel free to use them, but, of course, credit where credit is due.  Look for her cheers next week…

The Climate is a-Changing

(To the tune of The Times They are a-Changing, By Bob Dylan)
Come gather round people wherever you roam    
And admit that the sea levels you have grown.
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If the planet to you is worth saving.
You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone,
Cause the climate is a-changing.
Come scientists, pragmatists, beautiful minds
And add up the numbers a couple more times
While Congress ignores all the obvious signs
That we can’t win the game we’ve been playing.
Cause the temperature’s rising along with tides
And the climate is a changing
Come all you deniers and stand on the on the shore
Of an island that soon won’t be there anymore
And try to believe it’s a stunt by Al Gore
To make all the wealthy start paying.
Tell me how do things look from the new ocean floor?
Cause the climate is a changing
Come people of prayer and people of faith
Tell me how will you look own God in the face
When asked why we made such a mess of the place?
Did you stand like a prophet a raging,
Or did you step on the gas just to keep up the pace?
While the climate was a -changing?
Come mothers and fathers from throughout the land
Tell me what did you help your kids to understand
About the true cost of the purchase at hand?
Did you teach them the earth is worth saving?
Do they realize things won’t work out like they planned
If the climate keeps a-changing?
Now people of conscience and people of creed
Who cannot ignore how the earth cries with need
And who see what’s connected to all of this greed
It’s time that we began engaging
With people who long to reverse the degree
Of the climate that is changing.
The Cycle Round  — this one is great for a bike-to-worship celebration!
(sung to the tune of “Don’t throw your trash in my backyard”)
I. Don’t park your car in my driveway, my driveway, my driveway, don’t park your car in my driveway, my driveway’s full.
II. With one bicycle, two bicycles, three bicycles, four bicycles, fives bicycles, six bicycles and one built for two.
III.  Idling in traffic jams, traffic jams, traffic jams

Idling in traffic jams won’t get you very far. 

The Little Light of Mine
·       This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine …
·       Don’t need no ‘lectricity, I’m gonna let it shine…
·       To shed some light on climate change, I’m gonna
·       To build a world we can sustain, I’m gonna …
·       Put it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
·       Ain’t no one gonna “poof” it out….
Sowing on the Mountain
(Guy Carawan, George Tucker)
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what their greed has done to our mountains…
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what their oil has done to our ocean.
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what our factories have done to our atmosphere…
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Things are gonna change cause
There’s power in the people… 
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.  
 The Garden Song

(Dave Mallet, Pete Seeger)


Inch by inch, row by row / gonna make my garden grow. /All it takes is rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row, by row/ someone bless the seeds I sow. Someone warm them from below till the rain comes tumbling down.
Pulling weeds and picking stones/ We are made of dreams and bones. Need a place to call my own for the time is near at thand. Grain for grain, sun and rain, find a way trough nature’s chain
From my body and my brain to the music of the land.
Plant your rows straight and long.  Temper them with prayers and song. Mother earth will make you strong if you give her loving care. And old crow watching hungrily from his perch in yonder tree. In my garden I’m as free as that feathered thief up there.


For the Beauty of the Earth
(FS Pierpoint and Conrad Kocher)
For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the sky
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the wonder of each hour
Of the day and of the night.
Hill and vale and tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of night
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For each perfect gift of thine
To our race so freely given
For thy constant love divine
Peace on earth and joy in heaven
God of all to thee we raise 
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Nothing more than nothing

During lunch at PSU IPL’s  Positively Green event, Cricket Hunter read this story, which someone passed on to her many years ago.  If anyone recognizes it, please let us know so that we can properly attribute it.

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake” a coalmouse asked a wild dove.

“Nothing more than nothing” was the answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story” the coalmouse said.  “I sat on a fir branch close to the trunk when it began to snow; not heavily, not in a raging blizzard, no, just like in a dream, without any violence.  Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch.  Their number was exactly 3,471,952.  When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch — nothing more than nothing — as you say — the branch broke off.”

Having said that, the coalmouse fled away.  

The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for a while and finally said to herself “Perhaps there is only one person’s prayer lacking for peace to come to the world.”

Cricket adds: the small choices I make daily and weekly to reduce my impact on the world are my prayers, my contributions to a healthier climate.  Today I hung the clothes on racks in my living room, and my family and I are using only cold water in the handwashing sink during Lent.  What were your snowflakes today?

A Baha’i Perspective

Bill Sharp generously shared these words with us at the Interfaith Convocation service, teaching us first a bit about Baha’is, and then sharing exerpts from texts with his thoughts.
Bahá’ís are followers of the nineteenth century Persian teacher Bahá’u’lláh who spent most of his life in exile and his last days in what is now northern Israel where the Bahá’í World Center is located.  Today a terrace of gardens ascends Mount Carmel at the place he designated for the seat of a council that guides a virtual global Bahá’í congregation.

The Bahá’í Faith has roots in Shi’a Islam and the Sufi tradition but is an independent world religion with members in most of the world’s countries.
Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh’s spiritual role is to confirms the message found in Genesis (chp. 45) that God will never leave or forsake the human race.  We call this Progressive Revelation.  Bahá’u’lláh said that his mission was to provide teachings for the emergence and eventual spiritual transformation of the modern world.
We are here in an interfaith gathering.  Let me recite a passage from Bahá’u’lláh that speaks to the importance of such meetings: 
“… [C]onsort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship, to proclaim that which the Speaker on Sinai hath set forth, to observe fairness in all matters.
“They that are endued with sincerity and faithfulness should associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance, inasmuch as consort­ing with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord, which in turn are conducive to the maintenance of order in the world and to the regeneration of nations.  Blessed are such as hold fast to the cord of kindliness and tender mercy and are free from animosity and hatred.”
There is another reason I am privileged to be here tonight.  My belief is that we are meant to live well and prosper physically and spiritually in this world, and germane to this is a statement from Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablet of the World
In regards to “… that which is conducive to the advancement of mankind and to the reconstruction of the world:”

First:  “It is incumbent upon the minister of the House of Justice to promote the Lesser Peace ….  This matter is imperative and absolutely essential inasmuch as hostilities and conflict lie at the root of affliction and calamity.”

Second:  “Languages must be reduced to one common [auxiliary] language to be taught in all the schools of the world.”

Third:  “It behooveth man to adhere tenaciously unto that which will promote fellowship, kindliness and unity.”

Fourth:  “Everyone, whether man or woman, should hand over to a trusted person a portion of what he or she earneth through trade, agriculture or other occupations for training and education of children….”

Fifth:  “Special regard must be paid to agriculture.  Although it hath been mentioned in the fifth place, unquestionably it precedes the others.”
This fifth passage is relevant to me because my vocation is sustainability and because my attention increasingly turns to how we draw sustenance from God’s Good Earth. This sentiment was echoed by an American contemporary of Bahá’u’lláh’s, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said:  “Every man has an exceptional respect for tillage, and a feeling that this is the original calling of his race.”
At the heart of such passages is our respect for sustainability.  To Bahá’ís, how we live during our time on the Earth is as important to our spiritual development as the life in the womb is to our physical development.  
God created us to know and worship Him.  The Earth seems to have been created to support life as we know it for many millions of years to come.  Untold generations to be born will share our destiny of reverence to God and right living only if we fulfill our duty to God, and to them, to be good stewards. 
Emerson also wrote that fortunate is the man or woman who is awakened to worship by nature.  I believe that this worship is founded in the gratitude we each feel for God’s bounty of land and water and sun.  It is found in the work we do as well.  Bahá’u’lláh said that work performed in the spirit of service is worship.  Much of our work today, perhaps the most important work we have to do, is to preserve the bounty of the Earth.
I believe that we are meant to live well, to live in community, to live in peace and to prosper on the land, to draw from it, as Bahá’u’lláh said in a letter to physicians, not only our subsistence, but our health.  To do that we must learn to live sustainably, that is, to live within the means God has provided for our own well being and for that of all generations to come.  The future thus starts in the present moment.  It lies in our hands.