Friday 01 July 2016 at 20:03Finding Climate Hope in New Orleans
by Emily Wirzba, as originally appeared on Friends Committee on National Legislation blog,
As we stood in a circle outside of Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s office, the voices of Hindus, Buddhists, Quakers, Jews, Seekers, Christians, Baha’is, Indigenous peoples, and Muslims collectively sang:
“People gonna rise like the waters, gonna calm this crisis down. I hear the voice of my great-granddaughter, crying climate justice now.”
Prayers were offered up in Arabic, Hebrew, and Sanskrit. The bright greens, pinks, and yellows of religious stoles, hijabs, and traditional garb served as a visual reminder of the beauty of our collective voices coming together.
We were 60+ young leaders from across the United States and Canada, gathered by GreenFaith for a multi-religious climate convergence in New Orleans. Our purpose was to exchange stories and learn that despite our religious differences, we are united in our desire to protect our earth and common home. I had the privilege of serving as a facilitator for this convergence.
Mid-way through the week, we spent a day visiting Louisiana communities that are directly impacted by climate change.
We were honored to spend time on the Isle de Jean Charles, home to our nation’s first climate refugees. This is a place where the indigenous Biloxi-Chitamacha-Choctaw tribe is seeing their home rapidly disappear due to coastal erosion and sea-level rise.
As you drive towards Isle de Jean Charles, the road is mere inches above the water. Once you arrive, you see a sign that reads “We are not moving off this island… they say the island is fading away, soon we will not have a island left. If the island is not good, stay away. May God bless the island.”
David Gauthe (right) of Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO) speaking with an Isle de Jean Charles community member; Alex Price / GreenFaith
The people here do not want to leave, so have raised their houses 14+ feet into the air to weather storms. However, many will soon leave the island completely, due to a $48 million relocation grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.We spoke with Father Roch Naquin, who has lived on the island for 83 years, about the changes in the landscape he had witnessed. As a child, he could barely see the ocean from his balcony, and now, the water is a stone’s throw away.
Father Roch’s story was a powerful reminder of why we at FCNL are seeking bipartisan congressional action on climate change.
Climate change is already affecting real people and places, and as our elected representatives, Congress has a moral obligation to take action.
This was the message that the convergence participants brought on our last full day to Rep. Scalise’s office. We had come to respectfully urge him to reflect on his own Catholic faith, and use his leadership role for climate action in Congress.
Seeing the participants approach Rep. Scalise’s office with such a hopeful, uplifting message was truly inspiring for me to witness. The week before we were there, Rep. Scalise had led an effort in the House of Representatives to denounce a carbon tax, widely believed to be one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the anger and frustration that could have been voiced, the participants chose to approach the office with a posture of prayer and love.
This is the unique voice that the religious community can bring to the climate advocacy network, one of respect and a hand extended.
Credit: Rick MooreAt the close of the ceremony, each individual left Rep. Scalise’s office a token or reminder of their climate hopes. Some brought photographs of their children, or lines from sacred texts. Others chose to leave him with a prayer. The below blessing, written by participant Stephanie Thomas for Rep. Scalise, beautifully encapsulates the sentiment of our gathering. I leave you with her words:
A Blessing for Rep. ScaliseHeader Image: Rick Moore via Flickr
May your children be safe, free from harm, as the seas rise and as the temperatures rise. May all children be free from the risks and dangers of climate change. May life in the bayous and the seas prosper, continuing to feed the bellies of the people of Louisiana for generations to come. May all politicians find the courage to act with dignity and love and respect for the people they serve, to make decisions, policies, and legislation that protect the people of Louisiana, all of us along the Gulf, and all people everywhere. May your heart be transformed with wisdom and compassion.