Religious climate activists energized by pope’s environment encyclical

Al Jazeera America, June 17, 2015, By Sarah Posner

"Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment and climate change is being met with enthusiasm among religious environmental activists, who say it could represent a transformational moment to spur increased faith-based activism and, they hope, break the political gridlock on addressing the climate crisis.

'Given his large platform and the number of people, not just Catholics, he’s speaking to and for, we think it can be one of the most important, game-changing events in the whole discussion of climate change,' said Rabbi Moti Rieber, a coordinator at Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, part of a national movement aimed at mobilizing religious activists to combat climate change.

On Monday a leaked draft revealed the pope’s affirmation of a scientific consensus about 'the presence of an alarming warming of the climatic system.' The final version will be released on Thursday.

For state and local activists like Rieber, Francis’ upcoming visit to the United States in September, during which he will address the United Nations and Congress, will 'make this a visible issue, with the full strength of his office.' Rieber hopes that the pope’s discussion of climate change 'will reach into areas that have not really been reached with climate change messaging — like Kansas.'

Although care for the environment has long been a central tenet not just of Catholicism but also of Judaism, Islam and other faiths, the environmental movement has long been animated largely by secular activism. Religious activists working on climate issues at the grass-roots level are delighted that Francis’ encyclical is expected to support the scientific consensus on climate change, declare a moral imperative to address an urgent crisis and focus on the disproportionate impact of climate change on the world’s poor. ..."

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