When the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned earlier this year that humanity has only 12 years to save the planet from catastrophic ecosystem collapse, Roger Cook knew it was time to ramp up efforts, and the mid-term elections seemed the right time to do it.
Cook is a member of Riverside-Salem United Church of Christ/Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on Grand Island in Western New York, a congregation with particular emphasis on such issues as the environment, peace and justice, and food issues. He also is co-convener of the ecumenical Interfaith Climate Justice Community of Western New York.
In September, ICJC released a "Join with us this November in Voting for Climate Justice" resolution that has been signed by some 75 clergy and lay persons and endorsed by 5 organizations across the religious spectrum.
"We are in the midst of a climate crisis that endangers God's gift [of creation] and is already harming people across the globe with rising seas and severe weather,” the resolution reads in part. "We know we must come tougher and address this crisis or we endanger all beings across the planet, including our children. We are the generation that must act."
The statement was adopted unanimously by ICJC's membership, and by western New York's inclusive interfaith organization, the Network of Religious Communities. It then was sent to 195 faith leaders for endorsement.
"The resolution was endorsed by 75 clergy, Catholic communities of women religious, and laity representing 30 congregations from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and other faith communities," said Cook. The hope is that the signers "will encourage members of their congregations to vote, and to reflect on the climate justice issue when they do."
UCC members not only received the statement, but also the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries' "Our Faith, Our Vote" materials to assist them in properly advocating for issues while remaining non-political. All signatories received a follow-up email Nov. 1 reminding them to vote for climate justice on election day.
"In this election season, it is critical for voters to lift up the issues they care about, and to hold candidates accountable to those priorities. It is how voters set the policy table for future decisionmakers,” said Sandy Sorensen, director of the UCC's Washington, D.C., office. "The Voting for Climate Justice statement is a powerful effort that leverages the unique voice of the faith community in the climate change debate, and helps put the environment on the policy table for the new Congress."
The statement includes a specific call to vote for issues that help save the planet.
"We have the right and responsibility to vote for climate justice — to vote for life, for the people of this earth, for wisdom to take action, and for future generations," the statement reads. "We encourage all of us to fulfill our civic and moral responsibility to vote to protect all of God's people and this blessed planet. Moreover, we encourage [everyone] to encourage and enable members of our congregations to fulfill their obligations as citizens and people of faith."
Voting with one's climate conscience really can help effect positive change, said the Rev. Brooks Berndt, the UCCVs minister for environmental justice.
"Now, more than ever, we need to vote our values and vote with a deep concern for those most impacted by climate change today," Berndt said. "This is voting with the 3 Great Loves foremost in our minds, because it is about caring for our children, our neighbor, and all of creation."
Learn about becoming a Creation Justice Church in your community.