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Presbyterians for Earth Care offers ‘Climate on the Ballot’ workshop out ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections

PEC moderator: ‘If we can’t get this one right, it’s going to be truly tragic for the world’

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Callum Shaw via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — Voters heading to the polls Tuesday have any number of issues on their minds, including their pocketbooks, their personal safety and access to health care.

They’ve also got the care of God’s Creation tucked away there somewhere, and a panel gathered recently by Presbyterians for Earth Care discussed how that concern can be manifest in the candidates that people of faith support. Watch the panel’s 70-minute discussion, “Climate on the Ballot,” here or here.

The Rev. Bruce Gillette, PEC moderator, moderated this panel as well. Panelists included:

  • The Rev. Carol Devine, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor and director of ecoAmerica’s faith program, Blessed Tomorrow.
  • The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, a climate activist and author who serves as special advisor on climate justice to the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ.
  • The Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley, a speaker on civil and human rights issues and the recently retired pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta.
  • Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, founding president of the Ward Economic Development Corporation in Los Angeles, which builds, remodels and manages housing for low-income people.

The Rev. Bruce Gillette

“This is a pivotal time for our planet and for our nation. As people of faith, we need to lift up the greatest moral issue of the day, and that is countering climate change and caring for God’s Creation,” Gillette said. “If we can’t get this one right, it’s going to be truly tragic for the world.”

Devine noted that during the 2018 midterm elections, 12 million voters who identified themselves as environmentalists failed to go to the polls. “We must do better this year,” Devine said.

The Rev. Carol Devine

Sixty years after working in the civil rights movement, “I find myself deeply embroiled in the climate change movement,” Durley said. “I believe in 2022 we have a constitutional right to pollution-free air, clean water and plastics-free oceans, and to reduce hurricanes and floods and droughts and wildfires and tornadoes.”

“Organize, strategize and mobilize was our plan during the civil rights movement,” Durley said. “Today we have organizations all over the country and we have to work alongside one another because we’re all in this together.”

However, “We are abdicating our responsibility and we are suffering from the consequences every day. … God wants this Earth to have life, and to have it more abundantly.”

The Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley

“I’m saying to you tonight, co-laborers and co-warriors, this is our history-making moment. We must vote as if our lives depended on it,” Durley said. “I’ll be 81 on my next birthday and I don’t feel in any way tired. I’m more inspired now than when we got in the [civil rights] movement in 1959, because the cause is bigger now than ever before. We are not fighting for the next generation. We are fighting for the generation right now. We will not bow. We will not bend. We will not take a backseat.”

“Is there a story in your neighborhood that needs to be told?” Dupont-Walker asked those on the call. Tell it, she suggested, because sins including environmental discrimination and racism “result in the loss of land-based traditions and economies.”

When U.S.-based companies pay to have their hazardous waste shipped to the Caribbean or to Africa, “it does not speak well for us and our intention as a neighbor,” Dupont-Walker said. “Sometimes environmental racism is masked and other times it’s in plain view.”

Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker

As Election Day is upon voters on Tuesday, “What is our charge?” Dupont-Walker asked. “Know the candidates and their stands on protecting the Earth, including its people. … Know the values that you hold dear. The overarching question is, which decisions will impact equity? In what ways is the status quo maintained? Equity is not only a good word … it means that if you are ahead of me in receiving resources and accomplishing goals you will wait until I catch up.”

“We must get ready,” Dupont-Walker said. “We must stay ready, and we must be ready to defend God’s Earth as people of faith — not just in word but in deed.”

Antal shared some sobering facts: over the past two summers, regions as much as 70 miles above the Arctic Circle had daytime highs as much as 50 degrees above normal. Air pollution is now killing 9 million people each year, more than malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined. “The past decade has been the hottest since records have been kept,” Antal said, “and the coolest your children and grandchildren will ever experience.”

The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal

Antal shared five principles he holds as sacred:

  • Addressing the needs of the least of these.
  • Assuring and advancing justice.
  • Promoting the common good.
  • Telling and adhering to the truth, “which someone I know said will set us free,” Antal said.
  • Preserving and restoring the integrity of Creation.

“These,” Antal said, “are supported by every faith tradition in the world.”

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