Global Climate Action Summit

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by abby mohaupt, co-director of Green Seminary Initiative

My time at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco was mostly spent at faith-based affiliated events. I want to highlight a few of those event here, with gratitude for the whole experience.

On Saturday, September 8, I marched with about 3000 people of faith (and 30,000 people in total) in interfaith contingent in the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice. We were led by indigenous peoples and frontline communities, and the demands of the march were comprehensive: • to stop new fossil fuel projects, • to work for a just transition for works, and • to ask the GCAS gathering to really respond to climate change.

It was exhilarating to walk with my colleagues from Green Faith, students from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS)—one of the schools in our certification program, and with friends from the Bay Area. The march ended at the Civic Center with dozens of street murals in process and a resource fair. It was a joyful and prophetic time, and I was grateful to represent Green Seminary Initiative at that place and time.

On Tuesday, I went to hear my colleague Bill McKibben speak on a panel about finance and divestment. Bill joined Catherine Howarth from Share Action and Ellen Dorsey from Wallace Global Fund; all three celebrated how $6.2 trillion has been divested from fossil fuels as a moral and financial witness to how the business model of the fossil fuel industry has been genesis of the destruction of the planet by climate change. Green Seminary Initiative supports divestment from fossil fuels in our certification program (as well as Green Revolving Funds) and the movement to align our investments with our curricular and moral beliefs in any possible way.

On Wednesday I went to conversations Just Transition and Loss & Damage in the face of climate change, held in the style of Talanoa Diaglogues. Hosted by PLTS (along with many others) we worked through a variety of conversations and storytelling about our experiences of climate change and our hopes for the future. This method of discussion makes space for each person in the circle to speak. The voices I heard on Wednesday were clear that as we respond to climate change, we must position the voices and experiences of people who are on the frontlines of climate change at the center and at the front. This centering of the experience is one of the values of GreenFaith (one of GSI’s parent organizations), and what we see so many of our seminaries focusing in on as they seek to develop faith leaders at the intersection of religion and ecology.

In these conversations, I also listened as a facility manager talked about how he’d incorporated edible and drought-resistant plants into the Buddhist center where he works so that the facility itself is upholding the Buddhist values to be in harmony with nature. His work is an example of why we ask schools in our certification program to pay attention to their facilities and make policies and decisions that align the place of theological education with the ethos of environmental justice. While it is a process that takes time, it’s an entirely doable and rewarding process.

The response of religious communities to climate change will require all of us to use our unique gifts and resources together. May our collective work in Green Seminary Initiative be renewed each and every day.