The Old and New Partnering for ‘Preserving Sacred Appalachia’ Conference April 20th & 21st

by Duane Nichols on April 3, 2015

Charleston, WV 5/20-21

WV Chapter of the Sierra Club and WV Interfaith Power & Light join forces for gathering the week of Earth Day (April 22, 2015)

From an Article by Michael Barrick, Appalachian Preservation Project, April 1, 2015

Charleston, WV – The West Virginia chapters of The Sierra club, one of the nation’s most renowned environmental preservation groups, and Interfaith Power & Light (IPL), a new entity in the Mountain State, have partnered to support a conference being held in Charleston on April 20th and 21st at the St. John’s XXIII Pastoral Center. The unprecedented interfaith and interdisciplinary gathering, “Preserving Sacred Appalachia: Gathering, Speaking and Acting in Unity,” is being held to educate Appalachian people and others about the many threats to the well-being of the people, ecology and wildlife of West Virginia and Appalachia.

The gathering will features about 20 speakers, including ministers, laity, environmental activists, educators and artists. The event is being sponsored by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church of Hickory, N.C. and coordinated by the Appalachian Preservation Project of Bridgeport, W.Va.

Founded by legendary preservationist John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than two million members and supporters. The Sierra Club exists to protect the wild places of the earth, to practice and promote responsible environmental stewardship, and to educate the public about how to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.

While the Sierra Club can trace its roots to the 19th century, Interfaith Power & Light was formed at the beginning of this century. It was established to draw together the religious community and spiritual people to provide a voice of conscience to address the dangers to people and the environment associated with climate change. The national organization began as a single state chapter; it now has not only a national outreach, but also 40 state chapters. A core group of West Virginia faith community leaders have joined to foster formation of the 41st state IPL chapter, West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light.

The West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club is working on energy efficiency and renewable energy and also has joined with other preservation groups to counter the public health and safety problems associated with fracking and mountaintop removal. Bill Price, the organizing representative of the West Virginia chapter said, “Members of the Sierra Club in West Virginia are excited to be working on the ‘Preserving Sacred Appalachia’ conference. For too many years, the health and well-being of people in West Virginia have been damaged by the extractive industries. For many years, the Sierra Club in West Virginia has worked to reduce those impacts and move to a brighter future. Partnering with people of faith is a key component of that ongoing work. I hope to see many old and new friends at the gathering.”

The Rev. Mel Hoover, a member of the steering committee of West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, offered, “This partnership demonstrates that we are at a crossroads in the Mountain State. We have always known that we must work together to address the many environmental issues impacting the people and ecology of West Virginia. This conference, by joining together people of faith with scientists, educators, artists and others, sends a clear message that cannot be ignored – we are united in purpose.” He continued, “Global warming is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today. The very existence of life – life that religious people are called to protect – is jeopardized by our continued dependency on fossil fuels for energy. Every major religion has a mandate to care for Creation. We were given natural resources to sustain us, but we were also given the responsibility to act as good stewards and preserve life for future generations.”

He added, “We are excited about forming the nation’s newest IPL chapter. The rapidly growing movement has more than a decade of success in shrinking carbon footprints and educating hundreds of thousands of people in the pews about the important role that we play in addressing the threats to public health and the environment.”

Hoover concluded, “As people of faith, our mission includes being advocates for vulnerable people and communities. It is poor people who are being hit first and worst by environmental degradation. We also aim to make sure that all people can participate in and benefit from the growing clean energy economy.”

The conference is open to the public, though advance registration is required. Folks can register by visiting the website of the Appalachian Preservation Project. They can also learn more about the agenda and view a brief video explaining the conference.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gazette Letter 4/5/15 April 6, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Charleston Gazette Letter by Michael M. Barrick, Sunday, April 5, 2015

Gas industry remarks demand response from faith community

The executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association said recently that it is not God’s will that West Virginians be farmers. Instead, he said, it is God’s will that the natural gas industry extract all it can out of the Marcellus shale.

Corky DeMarco shared his thoughts on March 24 at Bridgeport High School at the last of several public scoping meetings being held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to consider the environmental impact of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Citizens have until April 28 to send their comments to the commission regarding the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline.

DeMarco’s exact words were, “God didn’t want us to be farmers, or this place would look like Kansas. God put us here in these mountains that are 450 million years old with the best coal in the world and the most natural gas in the world. And we have a responsibility, and I think companies like Dominion and others have seized on the opportunities that these mountains have provided and will continue to do this.”

This is a commonly misappropriated reference to the “dominion” scripture in Genesis: “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” (1:28b, New American Bible)

DeMarco’s remarks are insulting to people of faith who take seriously the stewardship of creation. They also reveal a startling level of ignorance regarding farming; he clearly does not understand the true value of land.

DeMarco has sounded an alarm to all those who hold a proper perspective of creation care. The fossil fuel industry believes it has dominion over private property, and indeed the entire planet.

Those who share his view are dead wrong. Virtually every faith tradition on earth holds that the planet and its ecosystems which support life are sacred. The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church state, “All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.”

Also, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come.”

The faith community must respond to these views. We can, at the conference being held in Charleston on April 20 and 21 at the St. John’s XXIII Pastoral Center.


IPL: Earth Day Note (4/20/15) April 20, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Dear Friends — Date: April 20, 2015

Here is our IPL message for Earth Day.

When I was still a stay-at-home mom in San Francisco, a ruptured tank spilled 400,000 gallons of crude oil into the Suisun Bay, not far from my home. The news was filled with photos of blackened water and oil-covered birds. But I never heard anything about this from the pulpit, even though our baptismal vows called us to renounce any harm that came to Creation.

Sitting in the pews, I knew something was out of sync. If no one else was going to talk about environmental stewardship in the church, I would have to become the voice I wanted to hear.

This Earth Day, it’s more important than ever that people of faith not only talk about protecting Creation, but put their faith into action.

Through IPL’s Paris Pledge, 65 congregations and more than 11,000 individuals have pledged to do just that by becoming carbon neutral by 2050. But we still need to raise $10,000 by Earth Day – April 22 – in order to reach hundreds more congregations and thousands of individuals who will commit to preventing millions of pounds of carbon pollution. This will make a significant impact in our efforts to fight against global warming.

Forty-five years ago, 20 million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day and voiced a call to protect and preserve Creation. We had witnessed a flaming Cuyahoga River and birth defects in children and animals from exposure to toxic chemicals such as DDT. Sides of buildings and human lungs were blackened from soot that comes from coal and steel plants.

Carbon pollution is harder to see, but its consequences are just as deadly. In California, the same place I first felt the call to protect Creation, drought is causing crops to wither on the vine. Elsewhere in the world, floods destroy homes and threaten lives and livelihoods. The World Health Organization estimates that climate change causes 150,000 deaths each year.

But just as Earth Day activists turned the tide on toxic exposure, we can hold off the worst impacts of global warming. Our faith voices and our actions demonstrate that people can come together and care for Creation and its most vulnerable.

When we act together, we can inspire action and protect Creation from the ravages of global warming. Thank you for helping us to continue our shared work.

Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, President, Interfaith Power & Light


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: