PITTSBURGH: chapter meeting

Next meeting of the newly formed Pittsburgh Chapter of Interfaith Power & Light.
New members encouraged and always welcome! 
Email pittsburgh@paipl.org for the East Liberty location and directions.
This month, Rev. John Creasy will be updating us on the recent actions taken by the Pittsburgh Presbytery on the petrochemical infrastructure and on divestment.
Want to learn more right away?
In addition, we will discuss:
  • What does IPL’s faith-based perspective bring to our work on climate justice?
  • How can we support one another?
  • How can we increase the faith-based public presence for climate action?

PITTSBURGH — Dr. John Francis, Planetwalker, and local leaders talk about Environmental Justice and Civic Conversation

** Please note: registration for this event closes at 12:00 noon on Thursday, April 20. If you miss the window for online registration, not to worry! You can register at the door.

This event is offered by our friends at the Green Building Alliance, Pittsburgh


At the age of 27, Dr. John Francis stopped talking. A few months prior, an oil spill prompted John to stop using motorized vehicles, and his quiet act of defiance set his town into a roaring debate. In the clashing of voices, John lost his own, and took the next 17 years (no, that’s not a typo!) to simply listen, and walk. His feet traveled through Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and the US, and eventually came upon the beating heart of environmentalism. More than 20,000 miles and a doctorate later, this Planetwalker has devoted his life to civic engagement and sustainability, and understands preservation as the interplay of human rights, gender, race and economic equality.  Join us as we experience Dr. Francis’ Planetwalk firsthand, and gain perspectives from Khalif Ali (Pittsburgh Foundation), Evaine K. Sing (GTECH), Joan Haley (Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows) and Jason Beery (UrbanKind Institute) about civic conversation in Pittsburgh.  We’ll even flex our own public dialogue skills at the end.


4:30-5:30 – Food, Drinks, and Networking

5:30-6:15 – Keynote by Dr. John Francis and short introductions by local panelists

6:15-7:00 – Facilitated Dialogue with Presenters and Audience

More About Our Speakers:

Dr. John Francis


Dr. John Francis traveled by foot for 22 years, and spent 17 of those completely silent.  When John was 26 years old, an oil tanker collision prompted him to give up motorized vehicles, a decision which spurred so many arguments that by 27, he decided to stop talking.  During the two decades when he became the Planetwalker, John earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctorate, all while spreading a silent message of sustainability and social justice with his banjo. He founded the Planetwalk Foundation in 1982, and upon breaking his silence on Earth Day in 1990, Dr. Francis dedicated his life to creating conversation.

After ending his silence in 1990, Dr. Francis has spent his subsequent years carrying that same message across the country.

Here are some ways he has shared his message:


Khalif Ali

Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, The Pittsburgh Foundation

Khalif is the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at The Pittsburgh Foundation. In partnership with residents, grassroots activists and political leaders, Khalif works to craft and advance a policy and advocacy agenda for the Foundation. He has a graduate degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in community organizing. When he’s not at the Foundation, you might find him volunteering with the Reaching Back Program or coaching male Pittsburgh Public School students in health, wellness, nutrition, exercise and meditation.

Evaine K. Sing

Executive Director, GTECH Strategies

Evaine is the Executive Director of GTECH Strategies, which mobilizes residents, policy-makers, and like-minded organizations to transform vacant spaces into thriving places across Allegheny County. She is a registered landscape architect with a background in public policy and economic development. She has worked to engage individuals to implement creative, sustainable solutions that can lead to larger changes in their neighborhoods. Evaine has also worked with partners at the policy and decision-making level to ensure pathways for change exist.

Joan Haley

Executive Director, Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program

Joan is the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program and the former Clinical Director of Southwest Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center. With more than thirty years working in the non-profit sector in the fields of management, adult education, training and development, she has taught leadership training and strategic planning to professionals and volunteers and is an experienced curriculum writer and fundraiser. Joan received a Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Adult Education and Training.


Jason Beery

Senior Research and Policy Analyst, UrbanKind Institute

Jason is the Senior Research and Policy Analyst at UrbanKind Institute. Trained as a geographer, he examines spatial difference from a holistic, intersectional perspective, blending political, economic, environmental, legal, and health issues with race, gender, and class. Jason focuses on a variety of areas, including environmental justice, community development, food systems, transportation, and housing. Jason received his PhD in Geography from the University of Manchester (UK), his M.S. in Geography from Penn State, and his B.A. in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University.  His research has been published in Political Geography, Geoforum, and elsewhere.

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Federal Coal Program comment period

Comment in person  at a “public scoping meeting”  Pittsburgh Convention Center, Pittsburgh, PA; register in person at 11:00 AM to give comments.  See agenda.  Watch the meeting by livestream via your computer

Submit a written comment
as a citizen, with a spiritual study or prayer group, or with your congregation or  community until July 23 (or July 28, depending on the web page):  BLM_WO_Coal_Program_PEIS_Comments@blm.gov

What is this?

The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management is beginning a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) of its coal program.  It has been over 30 years since the last review (How long ago was that? 1986 was the year of the Chernobyl disaster and Microsoft’s IPO.  Ronald Reagan was president, Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s secret vault, and Matt Groening created the Simpsons.)

How do I learn more?

Our friends at Creation Justice Ministries have shared an excellent briefer on the program with us.  While Christian in its bent, it is informative and will provide background and suggest connection points for commenters of any faith tradition.

The press release from the Department of the Interior summarizes the project this way:

The programmatic review will examine concerns about the federal coal program that have been raised by the Government Accountability Office, the Interior Department’s Inspector General, Members of Congress and the public. The review, in the form of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), will take a careful look at issues such as how, when, and where to lease; how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production; and how to ensure American taxpayers are earning a fair return for the use of their public resources.

“Even as our nation transitions to cleaner energy sources, building on smart policies and progress already underway, we know that coal will continue to be an important domestic energy source in the years ahead,” said Secretary Jewell. “We haven’t undertaken a comprehensive review of the program in more than 30 years, and we have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change.” [source]

Public comment helped lead to this review, and the full process will likely take several years.

“As we begin this review, we are looking forward to hearing from the public about a wide range of issues about the federal coal program,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “The information we gather will help shape future decisions about this public resource.”

The BLM is particularly interested in gathering public input on the issues and policies that should be outlined in the PEIS, including topics such as whether Americans are receiving a fair return for federal coal, how market conditions affect coal, how federal coal affects the environment, and how these and other factors impact coal-dependent communities. Public feedback obtained during these meetings will help inform the size and scope of the review conducted in the PEIS. [source]

Anyone may access the federal fact sheet on the program.

There are few BLM lands (and few coal leases) in Eastern States, but our comments still count — particularly  because we are still a state that burns coal.



PITTSBURGH – Public Talk

On Wednesday October 7th, 7:00 PM a talk entitled “Laudato Si, Be praised:  On the care of our Common Home” by Daniel Scheid, PhD, professor at Duquesne University Theology Department, longtime environmental activist, and a participant in the Catholic Climate Covenant. His talk will highlight and explore the main themes of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical, underscoring that care for the Earth is not marginal to Christian vocation, but central.  Dan will also propose ways in which Catholic ecological teaching can be further developed in wake of the encyclical.

Event to be held at the Kearns Spirituality Center, Sisters of Divine Providence. Contact Sr. Mary Jane Coultas, 412-366-1124.

Ice Cream and Action: Beat the Heat (PITTSBURGH)

PA IPL will share a short faith-rooted message at each of 2 Beat The Heat rallies with PA environmental partners PennFuture and PennEnvironment to demonstrate support of the Clean Power Plan as an important and immediate step toward a fair clean energy future.  These were the remarks we delivered as testimony to the EPA in hearings last year.

EVEN IF you cannot GO: Send a message to your Senators and your Representative letting them know you are there in spirit, and telling them what you are doing to reduce emissions and beat the heat.  EASY format, you add details.  (Sharing with your friends?  Here’s the short, sensible link: http://tinyurl.com/BeatTheHeat2015)

plan to SHOW UP in Pittsburgh?

  • RSVP (to PennFuture) to make sure there will be enough ice cream!
  • WEAR or CARRY something that will reveal your faith connection or voice, or silly heat-beating gear (giant fans, hats with shade umbrellas, snorkels, water wings…)
  • TAKE PHOTOS: a selfie and an event photo, and share them with us on Facebook, or via email.

The Good Earth: Creation and Ministry in an Ecological Age

Conference flier: SLC 2015 flyer 050915
Jump to conference info,  or  go to blog post to watch videos of the plenary speakers.

PA IPL will have a table on Monday and Tuesday — drop by and see us, or send news and photos of your most recent climate-response work for us to share with others!

Some parts of this conference are FREE, and there is a buy-two-get-one-FREE discount for registrants from the same congregation.  Attend all or part, but PLEASE REGISTER (for the sanity of the organizers and food-preparers)

NOTE: This conference by the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary department of Continuing Education was designed for pulpit clergy in mainline Protestant churches, but it is absolutely open to all — lay leaders, public, people from all faith traditions are welcome.  Attend and listen for the deep echoes from the scripture, wisdom, and practices of your own tradition and then SHARE SHARE SHARE with us!

The Good Earth:
Creation and Ministry in an Ecological Age


Fred Bahnson is director of the Food, Faith, & Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He is the author of Soil & Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith (watch Fred’s TED x Manhattan talk) and (with Norman Wirzba) Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation. He holds a masters in theological studies from Duke Divinity School. After being drawn to the agrarian life while serving as a peaceworker among Mayan coffee farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, he returned to the U.S. and in 2005 co-founded Anathoth Community Garden, a church-supported agriculture ministry in Cedar Grove, NC which he then directed until 2009.

Norman Wirzba is professor of theology, ecology, and rural life at Duke Divinity School. (Watch an interview with Norman at Duke University on Food and Faith). He pursues research and teaching interests at the intersections of theology, philosophy, ecology, and agrarian and environmental studies. His work focuses on understanding and promoting practices that can equip both rural and urban church communities to be more faithful and responsible members of creation. Current research is centered on a recovery of the doctrine of creation and a restatement of humanity in terms of its creaturely life. Professor Wirzba has published several books; his most recent are Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating and (with Fred Bahnson) Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation. He is co-founder and executive committee member of the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology.


Full Conference Fee (includes all events except the Farm to Table Banquet): $150

Individual Event Rates:

  • Sunday Only: $10 • Farm to Table Banquet on Monday evening (optional): $30
  • Monday, Tuesday, OR Wednesday: $75 / day
  • Tuesday Movie Night, The Power of One Voice: A 50-Year
  • Perspective on the Life of Rachel Carson: $10 donation

More information: ConEd@pts.edu ~ 412-924-1345