As a man of faith, fighting climate change is not only my job—it is my moral obligation. One of the first charges God gave man as documented in the second chapter of the book of Genesis was to tend and care for the Earth He created. Stewardship of our land and natural resources is of vital importance, both from a religious perspective and a practical one. Whether or not you are a person of faith, many of us have had a personal moment where we have stopped to appreciate the incredible beauty that is our natural environment. And many of us have had pause when reflecting on how mankind is beginning to destroy it.
The Amazon rainforest is on fire. Hurricane Dorian became the fifth Atlantic Category 5 hurricane in the last four years. The full story of Dorian’s wrath won’t be known for weeks. Several locations on Earth already have warmed by more than two degrees Celsius in the last century, the tipping point climate scientists warn the planet must not reach if it is to avoid dangerous, irreversible climate impacts. The survivability of our planet depends on us having all hands on deck to solve the climate crisis.
It all starts with a conversation, and if you live in Virginia or the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region you can be a part of it. On Tuesday, September 17th, Karenna Gore and William Barber, III will co-moderate a forum with faith leaders and community members to discuss how we can help repair our damaged climate, and how we must ensure that frontline communities are part of every solution. My fellow panelists and I are aligned in our shared passion for environmental justice and the need for different communities to band together to change systems that lead to environmental degradation.
The Commonwealth of Virginia itself has a long way to go to be a part of the solution rather than a contributor to the problem. The environmental injustices associated with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the siting of a compressor station in Union Hill is well-documented. The fight in Union Hill is a stark reminder of the need to rid ourselves of dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure and take advantage of smarter alternatives like increasing energy efficiency resources. But even on this front, far too often minorities in Virginia end up paying higher energy bills because of the lack of energy efficiency resources available to them. In short, minorities bear far too much of the environmental burdens while receiving too few clean energy solutions.
We need the moral compass provided by our friends in the faith community who remind us to focus on the people most in need. I’m excited about our efforts at NRDC to engage with partners on events such as this upcoming forum. People of good will are our nation’s best defense from environmental injustices. We can—and we must—do the right thing for the planet and leave behind a more just environment for all of God’s children.