What do Methodists, Mormons, Mennonites, Jews, Buddhists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Bahá’ís, Muslims, Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers and Unitarians have in common? All these faith communities care for creation and work to address climate change through New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light (NMIPL). Established as a nonprofit in 2006, NMIPL is one of 40 state affiliates of the national organization Interfaith Power and Light (IPL). Episcopal priest Sally Bingham conceived the idea of IPL 13 years ago when she realized faith communities have an incredible role to play in addressing the spiritual and ethical implications of climate change by motivating their congregants to actions of love and compassion.
NMIPL engages faith communities in an active response to creation care and climate change through:
• education and inspiration
• energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, and local food
• public policy advocacy at local, state and federal levels
Buddhist teacher and board member Kathryn Turnipseed became involved because, “Today’s ecological crises—including climate change—are, at root, a spiritual or ethical problem stemming from the institutionalization of greed, ill will and delusion. Advocacy and litigation will help stem the tide, but we can only restore balance to the Earth with a transformation in consciousness. People of all faiths have a critical role to play in the care and protection of all living beings.”
There are about 70 NMIPL member faith communities and more than 250 partner communities around the state, as well as hundreds of individuals. Faith communities and individuals are invited to help grow a movement of conscience and faith to address climate change and sustainable living rooted in spiritual and ethical values within in each unique tradition. Each year, NMIPL sponsors and offers resources to people of faith to engage them in educational and inspirational experiences through presentations, films and an annual Climate Change Preach-In, beginning Valentine’s Day weekend through Earth Day. This year, some 40 faith communities are offering programs, sermons and postcard signing in support of proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulings to lower carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants.
Reducing energy consumption and carbon footprints through energy upgrades, installation of solar panels, water conservation and growing food is a second area that NMIPL promotes. Increasingly, congregations are replacing lighting and old furnaces and appliances, as well as installing solar panels as ways to care for creation and the future while increasing revenues for ministry. Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Albuquerque, for example, installed 234 solar panels with a projected energy savings of $18,000 each year and payback within 10 years. Payback is without tax-rebate incentives received by businesses and individuals because houses of worship are nonprofits. St. Theresa Catholic School is the most recent “solar witness,” completing its panel installations in April.
First Unitarian Church, Albuquerque, is another of many examples of faith in action, with the recent dedication of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified sanctuary. Several years ago, the church installed solar panels and, in 2012, was the winner of the national IPL sustainability award for its educational and energy work. Its Earth Web green team gratefully accepted the $1,000 in prize money to advance the church’s work. Tom Stark, a member of First Unitarian and president-elect of NMIPL, says he is part of this work because, “I believe climate change is the most important moral issues we face today. By educating people of all faiths across New Mexico on this issue, NMIPL provides an avenue for faith communities to become part of the solution, to become better stewards of our Earth, and to leave a more sustainable life for future generations.”
Public policy advocacy at the state, local and national levels is the third element of NMIPL’s ministry. NMIPL currently works with people of faith to address carbon emissions through coal-fired power plants, water use and pollution through extractive industries and the call for climate-change adaptation. Water As Sacred Trust is an educational program in support of policy advocacy related to climate-change and water issues in the state. Albuquerque Mennonite Church adds to this work with a Watershed Discipleship program April 3–4. First Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe, is sponsoring a series on water and climate this spring, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Santa Fe is also planning educational programs leading to action around water and climate.
People of faith are making plans to be part of the Great Climate March in New Mexico in May and are sponsoring numerous programs by Michael Dowd and scientist Connie Barlow, who will be raising awareness prior to the march. For information about these efforts, educational programs, energy and policy work and more, contact email@example.com or visit www.nm-ipl.org
Joan Brown, OSF, is executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light and a Franciscan Sister.