California’s Interfaith Community Unites for the Climate

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Audience at 9th Cool Climate Awards participate in a song and dance from the Hawaiian hula tradition (Photo by Robyn Purchia)

Last week California Interfaith Power & Light (IPL), celebrated 22 amazing California congregations and groups at its 9th annual Cool Climate Awards. It was my second year attending the event, and I was once again inspired by the ways the winners reduced their energy and water consumption, advocated for more climate action, and educated their communities. But this year’s event differed from last year’s in a way I found very moving.

Instead of focusing the award ceremony on the award winners’ individual achievements, California IPL structured the event as a service for the entire interfaith community. Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light — the site of the Cool Climate Awards — echoed with songs and prayers from California’s diverse traditions. Christian leaders in traditional robes stood with women in colorful saris and Hawaiian hula dancers. It was truly an interfaith event that was well captured in the service’s opening hymn from Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle for the Creatures, “All creatures of the earth and sky, with gladness lift your voices high, Alleluia! Alleluia!”

I was incredibly moved to see such interfaith passion for the environment. While it’s always wonderful when a religious group installs solar panels on its roof or plants a community garden, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees. At the service, I was able to see the forest and remember just how strong the faith-based environmental movement has become.

Well before Pope Francis published his environmental encyclical and encouraged us all to care for our common home, IPL was working to mobilize different religious groups behind one cause: taking climate action. In a world where bad climate news is plentiful, seeing how successful IPL has been in California, is a blessing.

At the end of the award ceremony, Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder and president of IPL, reminded the audience of about 200 people that our work is not done. She urged individuals and congregations in the audience to sign the “Paris Pledge,” — a commitment to cut carbon emissions by half by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050.

“Your behavior matters; you matter,” she said. “I know everyone here is doing something, but I think we can do more.”

To read more about this year’s award winners, check out California IPL’s web site. And while you’re there, please take a moment to learn more about the Paris Pledge and how you or your congregation can go carbon neutral by 2050. The United Nations’ 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) is only weeks away.

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .