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2/5/2014 2:23:00 PM
Faith groups, environmentalists teaming up
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
The Rev. David Eppelsheimer of Community of ChristChurch in Hillsboro looks over earth-friendly door prizes at Earth Care Summit.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
The Rev. David Eppelsheimer of Community of ChristChurch in Hillsboro looks over earth-friendly door prizes at Earth Care Summit.
Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

Clean air and a stable climate were considered in the context of faith and spiritual practice Jan. 27 as 300 people gathered at First Christian Church in Portland for the annual Earth Care Summit.

The evening of talks and workshops convened what once would have been an unusual mix — church leaders, business owners and environmental activists.

"We are movement builders, are we not?" asked David Leslie, executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. Leslie says people of faith and environmentalists have become allies. He announced a concrete sign: The Ecumenical Ministries board has divested from fossil fuel companies.

The summit was organized by Ecumenical Ministries' environmental arms: Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns and Oregon Interfaith Power & Light. On the list of co-sponsors was the Office of Life, Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Portland, St. Juan Diego Parish and Neil Kelly Company, a building renovator.  

The annual gathering had record attendance, including Jews, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.

"We pray for the healing of the earth," said the Rev. Amy Piatt, senior minister at First Christian. "We confess that we often put our own interests first."

Bob Doppelt, coordinator of the Climate Ethics Campaign and executive director of Resource Innovation Group, told the crowd that humans already have the know-how to manage global warming, but for some reason have not acted sufficiently. "Climate change is the greatest failure of thought, perception and imagination in human history," Doppelt concluded.

"We agree the earth has a fever and we have caused the fever," said Tom Rinehart, chief of staff in the Oregon Treasurer's office. Rinehart, a Catholic, said the state is using its investment clout to try to build a clean energy economy. Before Oregon will invest in a company, it wants the firm to disclose how it hurts or helps climate risk.

Rinehart announced that Oregon will join the Clean Trillion Campaign, a coalition of investors who push for a reduction of fossil fuel use.

The crowd cheered.

Valerie Chapman, pastoral administrator of St. Francis Parish in Portland and a member of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, told a workshop group that Catholics aim to make sure the climate change debate takes into account people who are poor. The wealthy can move to avoid climate change problems; the poor cannot, Chapman said, citing both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, who have called for action on the pending catastrophe.

Jon Ostar, a transit activist, told listeners that it's a simple equation: the more money a city spends on public transit, the fewer the greenhouse gases. In Oregon, 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicles.

"There is no climate solution without a transportation solution," Ostar said.

His organization, OPAL, also advocates for better bus service and lower fares because low-income Portlanders have trouble getting to and from work, especially if they work late. An OPAL bus-riders' project has received funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  

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