Written by Emily Mullins
In an effort to protect the Arctic, members of Miami's Coral Gables United Church of Christ hope their Mission 4/1 Earth advocacy work makes a global impact. The congregation has sent letters and photographs to Secretary of State John Kerry to take with him to the Arctic Council's biennial meeting May 14-16 in Sweden. The letters ask the council to take action to protect the Arctic, which scientists say is diminishing at an alarming rate as a result of global warming, oil drilling and other environmental factors.
"Now is the time to reach for every tool at your disposal to strengthen international efforts to tackle climate change, protect natural systems, as well as those who depend upon them, and reaffirm your commitment to future generations," said the Rev. Laurie Hafner, pastor of Coral Gables UCC, in the letter to Kerry.
"We are just saying to John Kerry, 'We have your back, we are supporting you, do the right thing,'" adds Linda Horton, head of the Going Green team at Coral Gables. "Don't let drilling happen out there."
Coral Gables' efforts are part of a Greenpeace campaign encouraging concerned citizens to tell Kerry to use his influence to advocate for the Arctic. Horton, who is also a community coordinator volunteer at Greenpeace, used her connections and resources to get her congregation involved. In addition to writing letters and taking photos, the congregation had an Arctic-themed worship service, complete with a polar bear that taught children the importance of protecting the species and saving its habitat. On April 20, more than 10,000 people from across the world sent images to Greenpeace illustrating the phrase "I Love Arctic," including Coral Gables UCC, which submitted the photo with the most people in it, Horton said.
"We are a neighbor of the arctic, and we need to love our neighbors as our self," Horton said. "This area cannot be recovered, it's a unique system and it's very important to us. We have a divine right to defend that as a neighbor."
The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people there. It has eight member countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The Council meets every six months, bringing together high-level representatives from the member nations. This year, the event is in Kiruna, Sweden, and Kerry will serve as the U.S. representative. During the upcoming meeting, the council will sign an agreement on "Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response," and also review new scientific reports and approve policy recommendations from several environmental groups.
"We are hoping that we make a difference at the Arctic Council," Horton said. "We hope they look at these images and see it is a moral obligation, and know that, at least, Coral Gables UCC really does care about these things."
To count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board, report your earth care hours, trees planting and letters written, report in as often as you like here.
Share the goals of Mission 4/1 Earth with your family and friends and invite them to join the movement.