Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Environmental Stewardship and an Unprecedented Opportunity in Illinois

Faith in Place is a wonderful example how people of faith and people of compassion have come together to make a difference in protecting the environment and helping people learn how we can live more sustainably. At the heart of Faith in Place has been real conversations between and among people, often of diverse faiths. They have developed great tools for congregations and individuals to use. And they have become a critical part of environmental advocacy in Illinois. All because people wanted to grapple together with how we human beings can more faithfully steward the resources of creation. 

My friend and colleague Rev. Clare Butterfield founded Faith in Place sixteen years ago in Chicago. Clare galvanized interest and commitment through intentional conversations. I first encountered Faith in Place twelve years ago when I first moved to Illinois.  At that time, Faith in Place was inviting congregations and individuals to buy into wind power when wind power was hardly known as a source of clean energy. And congregations and individuals did so as a moral act on behalf of the environment--first just a dozen and then that grew and grew. People of faith helped make wind power a viable clean energy source--and not just a fringe alternative, and over the last few years, wind power has been embraced by state and federal government. 

Faith in Place is Hiring in Southeastern IL! ThumbnailFaith in Place has continued to grow and engage people of faith and people of compassion. Every year they affiliated with more congregations through the state, now over 900 congregations. Five years ago they opened a Springfield office, and suddenly they became a significant presence in the environmental advocacy movement. The former head of that office is now the new Faith in Place executive director--and Brian Sauder really knows the best of advocacy work!

I love the vision and mission of Faith in Place. Their vision: Faithful people caring for the earth. Their mission: Faith in Place inspires religious people of diverse faiths to care for the Earth through connection, advocacy, and connection. 

A few years ago, they set their sights on limiting the environmental degradation by hydraulic fracturing--better known as fracking. They were a part of a coalition of environmental organizations that sat down with leaders of industry to address current concerns about fracking. A compromise bill for responsible fracking was developed. It didn’t ban hydraulic fracturing, but it also didn’t allow unlimited fracking. It was a meaningful first step, especially to get the costs of fracking into people’s awareness. And so the environmental coalition gathered people together to talk to state legislators in Springfield about the importance of responsible fracking. Faith in Place turned out the largest number of any of the groups. I was among them. The collective efforts of many thoughtful people brought this responsible fracking bill to pass. And it is now the law of Illinois.

Some environmental activists were upset with me and Faith in Place for supporting “responsible fracking” rather than a full moratorium. We were, according to them, “selling out.” No, we were taking the opportunity to make a real and meaningful step to limit fracking. Social change doesn’t mean getting everything you want, but instead finding meaningful, achievable steps. And the work is always one step at a time. For if all environmentalists had outright opposed any kind of fracking, there would have been no bill whatsoever. Fortunately, we now have guidelines for all current fracking efforts. It is a good first step.

Just this week, significant new legislation has been introduced by Senator Don Harmon (Illinois’s Senator Pro Tem who happens to be my Senator) to reduce energy use by 20% by 2025, increase the amount of renewable energy that our society uses by 35% by 2030, and create an estimated 32,000 new jobs annually in the emerging clean energy sector, once these policies are in place.  If this legislation passes, it will be the largest piece of renewable energy ever passed in Illinois--and it will dramatically transform Illinois’ energy landscape. The Senate Bill 1485 and House Bill 2607 that calls for this dramatic reinvestment into clean and renewable energy is a fabulous and unprecedented opportunity.

There’s only one thing that is required for this bill to become law: grassroots support. What can you do? First, go to and sign the petition and then ask your state representative and senator to support this legislation. 

Now, how did I learn about this bill? Because I read what Faith in Place sends to me! So, another great way to get involved in climate justice work is to learn more about the fabulous work of Faith in Place at People of faith and people of compassion are joining together to share ways we can move to a sustainable way of living. Faith in Place is one of the great hubs of such great people.

Take a look at this great video:

And, if stewardship of the environment is where love is beckoning you, find great people to join with at Faith Place!

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