Aaron Perry

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Episode 04 – Interview with Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith.

Featured on the Y on Earth Community Podcast – Stewardship & Sustainability Series.

Transcript

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Hi friends, welcome to the YonEarth Community Stewardship and Sustainability Discussion

Series.

I'm very excited today that we have the opportunity to talk with Rev.Fletcher Harper from

Green Faith and Rev. Fletcher, thank you so much for being with us today.

Thanks for the opportunity to talk, it's great to be with you.

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this opportunity and of course you and I we have crossed paths

a couple of few times in the last year or two, doing work in the realm of stewardship,

sustainability, social justice, particularly in some of these interfaith nexus points

and meetings, conferences that have been occurring and it's so heartening to see folks

from a variety of spiritual and religious backgrounds getting together to help heal our world

and relationships.

And I'm hoping you could kick us off here today by telling us why do you think a religious

or spiritual approach to environmental concerns is an important part of the dialogue and what's

going on these days?

Well, I think that, you know, it's in our society in the U.S. it and this is true in a lot

of places globally, it doesn't take long before concerns around the environment and climate

change become politicized and become viewed primarily through a political lens.

And when that happens, given that a lot of societies are relatively evenly split politically,

you start to lose the ability to address the fact that all people in our experience share

a certain level of moral and spiritual concern about having a safe and healthy planet to

live on.

They may view the avenue to getting to that end differently, but there's a shared concern

there.

And so I think one of the things that religion can do is to speak to that deeper level on

which we all come together around the fact that the Earth is a gift, it's our responsibility

to take care of that gift that things are in certain ways out of balance and that it's

really vitally important that we wake up to the challenge and find ways to meet it in

a way that creates a healthy environment for everybody that fosters a prosperous future

for the human family and for the Earth on which humanity depends.

So I think that there's a real critical importance in a polarized era for religion and spirituality

and voices representing those stepping forward and making the case that we're all in this

together.

Absolutely.

It has struck me as so profound and heartening, again, very heartening that these last

few years in particular, it seems that many of us from all sorts of different faith backgrounds

are transcending the divisions and the barriers in many respects and coming together more so

as a human family around some of these very large scale, very challenging situations that

we face now on the planet.

And although certainly we live in times that are fraught with sadness and incredible destruction

at the same time, there seems to be some light coming through in how it is really bringing

people together in ways that we maybe weren't just a few years ago.

Well, I think we've got, what we see in our work is that there are signs of hope, religious

and spiritual communities are without question.

A lot more awakened around these issues than they ever have been.

And there's more and more work that's getting done, which is good.

I think at the same time, we look at the really considerable challenges that we face and

there's a long, long way to go.

And there's a sort of acceleration that's needed.

And so we live sort of a, there are signs of hope and there are challenging signs also.

And I think it, you know, what motivates and drives us is the sense that there's a great

deal more that's possible and that we need to move in that direction.

Yes, absolutely.

So would you give us a quick overview of the work you're doing at Greenface?

And I know that you all are really one of the leaders out at the fore for many faith

communities, at least all around the United States.

And I'd get the sense even internationally and if you wouldn't mind just kind of walking

through what you guys are working on, it would, I think, be great for us to hear more about

that.

Sure.

We do work in three areas.

Basically, we do, we do quite a bit of work in the training and capacity building area,

which means we train religious leaders and people of different faiths around how to

approach environmental concerns in their own context.

We do quite a bit of campaigning work.

We've been very involved as an example in the fossil fuel divestment movement, mobilizing

faith-based groups to take part in that.

We're quite active in terms of mobilizing faith voices and faith presence around important

negotiation moments in terms of the global climate negotiations.

And we are, you know, so then, and so it's, you know, we do quite a bit of that organizing

and mobilizing work we've been involved in mobilizing religious and spiritual communities

for the various people's climate marches that have, that have happened.

And then the most recently, the newest facet of our work is a local organizing model where

supporting local faith community is getting involved in, you know, organizing themselves,

getting five or 10 congregations together in a given area, and doing organizing work,

addressing substantive issues and participating in national and global campaigns from that

local perspective.

So, you know, that this sort of training capacity work, the campaigning and mobilizing

work and the local organizing work all are a part of what we do and make up the mission

that we've got.

That's so beautiful.

And how can folks, if they're in a community wanting to get their own congregation potentially

more connected with green faith, what's the best way to go about making that connection?

You know, I would say that folks can, can visit our website, which is green faith, green

like the color green faith, like faith in God.org.

We also are, we do a lot of sort of consultation with groups so people can send us an email at

info, I-N-F-O, at greenfaith.org.

And we can get back to them with some ideas about how to get started.

There's a getting started kit that's available for faith and spiritual communities that's

on our website.

You know, and then we offer periodic webinars and campaign involvement opportunities through

which folks can become involved.

So it's a, you know, there are a number of ways for people to connect up and we always

enjoy connecting with folks.

Beautiful.

Beautiful, thank you.

You know, I have been struck, many of my friends and family identify as religious and you

know, are very comfortable with concepts like prayer and that's a part of life for

those folks.

I also have friends in the secular environmental community for whom concepts like prayer

are perhaps uncomfortable.

And meanwhile, understanding we live in a time when climate, the climate is changing at

the hands of human activity and have also friends and family in the arena I would call

maybe in the social political science kind of realm of approaching life and understanding,

you know, what's going on for us humans and and again with that group often something

like prayer might be uncomfortable and even considering the plate of our brothers and

sisters on the planet who truly are suffering from extreme poverty and also the most at

risk and susceptible to these environmental catastrophes and upheavals that we are now

seeing more and more.

And I just wonder in your work, knowing that you really are a bridge builder and you're

really reaching across different boundaries, what might you share with folks maybe identifying

with with one or a couple of those camps that I just kind of outlined, what do you see

as an opportunity to continue bringing us further and further together to the to the

extent that that might be possible?

Well, I think that it's really important, one of the things that we've seen over the

last several years has been and this is relatively new that more and more relief and development

agencies including religious relief and development agencies, which traditionally have dealt

with different kinds of natural disasters or grassroots or community development work

in developing countries are all starting to talk now about climate change as an example

layer.

They're realizing the world is changing, climate change is creating more disasters, which

I mean we used to call them natural disasters, but there's a clear sort of human fingerprint

to some degree on these things now.

And people at work in terms of helping small farmers develop and stay viable are recognizing

that the weather related and the climate related challenges.

So I think that that's one thing that is that that does bring people together as a recognition

that there is just plain and simple that the people who are innocent of any meaningful

wrongdoing on this front are suffering the impacts of a changing world and that that's

not right and that that evokes a sense of compassion from people.

So I think that's one piece of the picture.

I think another piece of the picture that is really hopeful with this is that there's

very substantial opportunity for when it comes to the development of new forms of renewable

energy, new green infrastructure.

You know one of the great I think social challenges that we have in the United States is this

growing gap between the very wealthy and the rest of society and part of what a really

strong green infrastructure program does is it creates significant numbers of skilled

trade jobs that can't be outsourced and that that are part of having a strong society

and a cohesive society.

So I think there are you look at both the humanitarian side of things but then also a sense

of the pride in building a strong and resilient society.

I think both of those are themes that can help bring people together from a lot of different

camps.

Yeah, beautiful, absolutely.

So as a preacher I'm curious if you have a favorite passage or two from the scriptures

that helps orient some of the work you are doing as it relates to stewardship of our

world, this planet as well as care for one another.

Is there anything that jumps out to you there?

There are two that I like one from the Hebrew scriptures from the book of Genesis when

God is over and over again calling everything that God creates good during the first creation

story and then gets to the end of the week and looks at everything and calls it very

good.

I love that and I think there's a very fundamental assertion there that that is about

a gift that is given not just to us but to all of the created order.

And then literally right at the other end of the Bible there's a wonderful passage in

the book of Revelation which is a challenging book for many of us where the new Jerusalem

of heaven, paradise is being described.

And it's a fascinating image because it's an image of a city, the New Jerusalem, but

it's a city that has a river flowing right down, it's main street.

And on either side of the street there are these beautiful life giving trees and there's

a passage in the book of Revelation that says the leaves of the trees are for the healing

of the nations.

And that's always been a very, I find that very moving because I think that it says that

ultimately we all depend on nature's healing and restorative and supportive power for

our very lives.

And I think that that's true.

And I think that passage puts it really beautifully in a very poetic way.

That is absolutely beautiful.

Wow.

Thank you for sharing that with us.

I just want to take a moment mentioning trees made me think of this to give a quick shout

out for those of our friends who are tuning in through the podcast.

If you would like, you can use the code podcast, the word podcast at yhonors.org slash market

to get some special deals on audio books and some of the other listening products that

we have there.

I also want to encourage folks to check out yhonors.org slash community where we're posting

more and more of these sorts of sharing with different thought leaders and community leaders

from all over doing all kinds of amazing work.

And Reverend Fletcher, I want to mention one of the big things that we're really excited

about now is activating in communities all over working with some very special biodynamic

soil preps to help activate the soil ecology.

And I'm struck in genesis, this connection with soil that also occurs at the time of creation.

And it seems among a lot of the things we can do and I love the starter kit and eco tips

you all offer.

Notice the categories, energy, toxins, food, transportation, waste production, water.

And we noted it within the food segment that you all identify that 40% of the energy consumption

in the production of food, 40% actually is the manufacturing use of chemical fertilizers

and pesticides.

And it turns out one of the things, a lot of those synthetic and man-made chemicals are

doing is literally killing off the incredible miraculous soil biota that the more I learn

about it, the more I marvel at the incredible complexity that exists in that soil ecology.

And it seems to me with this image of the leaves of the trees for the healing of the nations,

one of the ways we might engage with that in our own homes and our own neighborhoods

and our own communities is through soil and helping to heal and in live in soil with trees

as well and other plants.

And just curious if perhaps as time goes on, some of your community outreach and mobilizing

work might also include some of these soil things.

It's not to put you on the spot necessarily, but from my perspective, it seems like

it could be an incredibly powerful piece and layer to the work that you guys are already

doing in so many communities.

I think that one of the things that's nice about that opportunity is that so many religious

institutions own some property and can use the soil work that you're talking about which

is really important.

It's part of the way that they treat the soil in their own place.

We're big believers in the importance of religious groups finding ways to model what

it means to be an environmental leader in their community.

And so I think it would be, I know that in the UK a decade or so ago there was a wonderful

initiative that was called I think the Living Churchyard that was about recognizing that

there were a lot of old cemeteries and that if they were left somewhat uncut they could

become a place that could support some biodiversity of plants that would grow naturally there

but that were becoming increasingly rare across the UK countryside.

And so I think this idea of using religious properties as a way of modeling really exemplary

behaviors and then using those properties also to teach and to train their members and

members of the community about how to take those practices home is a great opportunity.

Absolutely.

As you're describing that project in the UK, something came to mind to me where our

churches, our houses of worship have for such a very long time been a place of sanctuary

for our hearts, our minds, our spirits and my gosh, I was getting this image of these

places becoming increasingly sanctuaries for so many other of God's creation, the birds

and pollinators and soil microbes and all kinds of others.

And my gosh, what a beautiful day that will be when most many of our places of worship

are also ecological sanctuaries in a very literal sense.

Yep.

I think there are more and more congregations that are on that pathway and I think there's

lots of room for growth and development in that area and I'm sure that with the proper

kind of effort there would be congregations that would want to become leaders in that

soil area.

Yes.

Beautiful.

Well, Reverend Fletcher, I know we've got just a couple minutes left and I want to make

sure to ask a two part question.

What are some of the concrete ways in which green faith has and is making a difference

that you want to highlight that you haven't already and second, what are your top priorities

now and going forward that you want to make sure that we highlight for folks?

I know you've already hit on some of this.

I would say in terms of making a difference, we really believe that it's very important

and that it makes a real difference when people of diverse spiritualities and faiths and

their spiritual leaders step out publicly to raise their voices in the public sphere about

the urgent importance of caring for the earth.

And so this September, there's a mobilization coming up around the global climate summit

that's happening in San Francisco.

The mobilization will be on the 8th of September and as I said previous that we've taken

part in in past climate marches and we're inviting people to take part in in that mobilization

because we think it's a really important time to continue to show leaders that people

of faith care deeply about this stuff.

And I think in terms of a call to action, very much in keeping with that, we believe

as people of faith that we need to lead by example.

And part of what that means is advocating for good policies and part of what it means

is making sure that our own lifestyles are reflecting a level of responsibility and good

stewardship in terms of the climate.

And so we've got a new, we're working with a number of partners on a multi-faith international

campaign called Living the Change, which is about equipping people and inviting people

to adopt more sustainable lifestyles, with a particular focus on three areas that really

make a big difference.

Home energy use, diet, moving towards a plant-based diet and transport, less air travel, less

car travel, and there's a website for that at LivingTheChange.net and the call to action

is that we're inviting folks to make commitments and you'll be able to do that, make a commitment

on that website within the next month or so and we'll be gathering those commitments

and taking them to that global climate summit this September in San Francisco.

So I'd love to invite people to join us at LivingTheChange.net to find out more.

Beautiful.

We'll be sure to share that with folks.

And my goodness, Reverend Fletcher, this has been such a joy and thank you so much for

joining us today, taking some time out of your busy schedule.

And before we sign off, I just want to mention one more time, greenfaith.org, is where

folks can find out more about the work you and your colleagues are doing at GreenFaith.

Of course, yhonourth.org is a great place for folks to connect in further with the Yhonourth

community.

And Reverend Fletcher, would you join us?

Speak with you again.

Thanks so much for being with us.

Well, thanks for the invitation very much, Aaron, and thanks for your leadership and

I appreciate the chance to be with you.

Wonderful.

We'll take care.

You too.

Bye-bye now.

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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 04 - Rev. Fletcher Harper - Green Faith Movement
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