AdvocacyEnvironmental Human Rights

Faith Community Advocates Make a Difference

“Let us be those creative dissenters who will call our beloved nation to a higher destiny. To a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness.”

— Martin Luther King Jr. 

Brooke Harper acknowledged the important role of faith communities in her climate work

Brooke Harper, Regional Campaign Strategist with 350.org and formerly with CCAN said ” we wouldn’t have a fracking ban in Maryland without the faith community” during her talk to an inter-faith audience on Thursday, November 5. Brooke’s talk for the Environmental Justice Training Program (sponsored by the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights, GreenGrace Maryland Episcopal Environmental Partners, Creation Care Ministry of the Delaware/Maryland ELCA Lutheran Synod and the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council) covered advocacy tools and a review of upcoming climate legislation but she first acknowledged the key support she received from the faith community in her advocacy work on the fracking ban and other climate justice issues. For those who are reading this and were involved, thank you. Passing the fracking ban in Maryland took a broad coalition of support.    

You can be an advocate in your faith community 

Brooke shared specific activities that advocates could use within their faith community and cited a number of examples, including Interfaith Power & Light’s program “Climate in the Pulpit” to bring the conversation about climate change into communities of faith. Brooke advised that to engage people in your faith community, you need to meet them where they are. Perhaps the first step is making space for teach-ins to educate about a particular issue or hosting movie nights to begin a dialogue. Getting people engaged in a conversation is the first step. 

Advocacy with legislators in the time of Covid-19 pandemic

People of faith are also advocating in the public sphere about issues and legislation that matters to them. Brooke urged participation in advocacy events sponsored by various faith communities but also acknowledged that the pandemic is impacting how and when we can engage in the legislative process. We can still write and call our legislators even if it may be harder to meet with them in person. Brooke also emphasized the increased focus on tactics that don’t require personal interaction, like social media and visual impact tactics, such as light projection murals and banner drops to show support for an issue. There are a number of ways to engage in the legislative process. It doesn’t matter which advocacy activity you choose. If you care about an issue, make your voice heard.  

Personal stories about issues resonate with legislators 

Legislators depend on their constituents to be vocal about what issues are important in their district. Personal stories are often more memorable than a list of statistics and allow the legislator to connect personally to the issue at hand. Brooke shared a story about a woman who had effectively advocated for climate change legislation by letting the legislator know why the issue was personally important to her and reinforcing that point with a picture of her grandchild. Of the many legislative meetings that Brooke has led, this stood out. There is a reason for that. Getting personal matters and puts a human face on the consequences of not taking action. As a person of faith, you can also speak about how your values and beliefs align with a particular issue.

Get engaged

This has been a year unlike any other with the pandemic exposing inequities and systemic racism in our institutions. It is hard to unsee what we have all seen this year. Now is the time to decide where you will decide to lend your voice and talents. If you care about the right to a healthy environment, join the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights. Sign up for email updates here and to volunteer here.

The Faith-Based Environmental Justice Training Program is a 5-week virtual training program to bring together communities of faith to learn about environmental justice, climate justice, and how to apply this learning in advocating for change at a local and state level in Maryland. This program is a collaboration of the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights (MDEHR), the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council, and its members including GreenGrace Maryland Episcopal Environmental Partners and the DE-MD (ELCA) Lutheran Synod. A recording of Brooke’s talk and Q&A session is available here. You can watch the two previously recorded presentations by Tamara Toles O’Laughlin (October 15) and Rebecca Rehr (October 22) at www.mdehr.org/ej-training-program or on the MDEHR YouTube channel here.