In his first State of the Union address, President Donald Trump talked about a strong economy, immigration reform and even the opioid crisis. But he didn't mention much about climate change. So a number of national organizations in the environmental movement are coming together Wednesday night, Jan. 31, to plan a way forward, with a goal of ending the use of fossil fuels and ushering in renewable energy.
It's called Fossil Free Fast:The Climate Resistance.
Taking place in Washington, D.C., the event is being live-streamed into fellowship halls, living rooms, classrooms and libraries all around the country. The United Church of Christ Council for Climate Justice is one of two dozen partner organizations making it happen.
"This event is essentially a State of the World event, said the Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC minister of Environmental Justice. "It has some of our brightest minds addressing the most critical issue our planet faces today. What makes it all the more compelling is that it is also a community-building event. We are not simply receiving great ideas alone at a computer. We are receiving great ideas within a community that can do something real and tangible."
And there are several UCC congregations planning to watch parties to participate. First Church in Wenham, Mass., is one of them.
"The Rev. Judy Proctor, the associate minister at First Church in Wenham, said this in her sermon recently: 'If a powerful government or corporate conglomerate defiles the earth when no one is around to see it, is that a sin? God is present among all of creation. God sees. And we must act.' I feel compelled to do something," said Cecilia Mullings, First Church's green team leader. "Hosting a watch party is a small action, but hopefully it will build toward something bigger that helps us change the destruction of our beautiful Earth."
The Fossil Free Fast, the climate movement's answer to Trump's State of the Union begins at 8:00pm Eastern Time on Jan. 31, here. Expecting to last between 60-90 minutes, speakers include Senator Bernie Sanders, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, Rev. Lennox Yearwood from Hip Hop Caucus, Jacqueline Patterson from the NAACP, and several more. They will share stories on the urgency of the current political and climate crises, and urge local participants to take action in their communities.
Lin Hagedorn, a member of Northshore UCC in Seattle, Wash., and of 350 Seattle, says her group already has an action plan for the party 350 is hosting at her church.
"We plan to begin the evening with a potluck, show the livestream, and then break out into "city groups" with the purpose of developing city resolutions to take to our respective city representatives, she said. "The City Resolution will call for No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure construction, and a fair and just transition to 100% renewables within the next 10 years."
Hagedorn, part of the Justice Leadership Jubilee Program in the Pacific Northwest, chose to work with 350 Seattle, and brought that work for the climate into her congregation.
"People of faith have a clear moral lens with which to see a need to protesting unjust systems that disproportionately affect people of color and marginalized folks," Hagedorn said. "Organizations like 350 Seattle have the knowledge and expertise, and proven strategies to shine a spotlight on these unjust systems and illuminate a more just path forward. The moral compass, love of humanity and this beautiful planet is the same for all of us; the path forward has been forged by 350.org."
In Raleigh, N.C., Community UCC has been forging a path with movement partners for more than a decade.
"At Community UCC in Raleigh we recognized that climate change has its biggest impact on low income individuals and families because they have few resources to adapt," said Gary Smith, chair of church's Justice in a Changing Climate Task Force, formed to work against climate change and its impact on those with few resources. "We have worked with other churches, nonprofit organizations (including Triangle 350.org and Interfaith Power and Light) and government organizations to speak out encouraging decreased fossil fuel use and conversion to renewables. We also help low income families save money and decrease their fossil fuel use by preparing their homes to be weatherized - cleaning attics and crawl spaces and performing home repairs to enable professional weatherizations. We are decreasing our church"s carbon footprint; with the community's help, we have installed a solar PV system on our church that provides about half of our main building's electricity, and we are helping other churches solarize as well. We actively recycle at the church and are currently working with a local high school to increase their special events recycling efforts. We know that the Spirit is here because we see and feel her energy and love in all people we work with."
Fossil Free Fast: the Climate Resistance organizers hope the Tuesday evening event encourages more communities to find that energy for the sake of the earth.