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Between the launch of the Loka Initiative and the launch of this newsletter, two new findings on climate change grabbed the headlines this summer. We now know that globally, the month of July was the hottest month on record and we learned that on average, our global landmass has already warmed to 1.5 degrees centigrade (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Our work is more important now than ever. Faith-led environmental and climate action emphasizes the interconnectedness between personal, community and planetary well-being. It provides a moral and ethical framework to care for all of life on earth as if it were our own. And, it brings inspiration, solace and healing to those who are struggling with their anxiety and concern about what the future brings. 

This is the first of a Loka newsletter series to gather and reconnect with our community, to celebrate your work, and share opportunities to support each other. We will highlight case studies that showcase courage and resilience from faith and indigenous leaders who are working to protect the earth, to restore balance between humans and nature, and to protect communities of color and the poor from ecological and climate impacts. If you are inspired by their work or feel their projects are meaningful and necessary for the benefit of the world, please consider supporting them. 

I will leave you with one last thought. Most of us humans spend less than 7% of our entire lives outdoors, with the bulk of our time spent inside buildings or in automobiles. And yet, more and more studies show that spending time outdoors improves mental and physical health and even five minutes of walking outside improves self-esteem and mood. For that reason, please take the time to be outside, to go for a walk, or to marvel at trees or the sky whenever the headlines are too much and your heart is too full. The earth is cradling us, even now. All we have to do is acknowledge it and reciprocate with gratitude.

Warm regards,

Dekila Chungyalpa
Loka Initiative
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Faith In Action:

Green the Church Blends Environmental Justice and Social Well-Being

Rev. Dr. Ambrose F. Carroll is founder of Green the Church; an organization striving to be the largest repository and catalyst for environmental and sustainability practices for the Black Church World Wide. In addition to participating in the recently launched Loka Initiative, he serves as senior pastor at the Church by the Side of the Road in Berkeley, California.
What project or initiative are you working on that excites you?
Rev. Carroll: Green the Church is an initiative and repository for the African American Church centered around environmentalism and sustainability. We have three pillars: amplify green theology, promote sustainable practices and build power for economic and social change.
When it comes to amplifying green theology, we use the lens of the African American Church context, Bible and our history as indigenous people on this planet and philosophy of diaspora as it differs from majority culture. We talk about experiencing spirituality in nature and look at how these things show up through spoken word and in religious curricula, arts, dance and movement, and architecture.
In addition, our buildings owned by African American constituents are as efficient as possible. We make sure that energy bills are low, that we practice conservation and have clean air and water in our buildings. We also have conversations about landscaping and irrigation and how to use church-owned land for community gardens and farming. These conversations about sustainable practices push us into conversations around our physical health and how we can get back to our roots as people who know how to grow food and understand cosmic systems that work and allow us to live with everything on the planet. This also leads to conversations around mental health – about trauma that we experience as a community, including how we talk about that trauma and how we can live more sustainable lives when we’re honest about how worship and religious practices help us cope with the trauma in our lives.
And lastly, we focus on building power for political and economic change. There are social and political decisions made about our communities – with redlining, political districting and bank exiting – that have not allowed black wealth and participation over the years. There are decisions made about the value of people that continue to be inhumane and keep us off-balance. And when some of us are hurting, we want to learn that all of us are hurting. We aggregate our people and congregations that ensure there are policies in place that protect and empower communities. We’re dealing with things like new energy economies that are growing, and want to be part of these innovations and on the receiving end of power and good things.
Tell us more about your upcoming summit and how to get involved.
Green the Church has an Annual Summit that’s in its sixth year that will take place this fall in St. Louis. This year’s theme centers around water. We’re going to look at toxic water and the very positive things about water and the challenges we have. We’ll also be focusing our large panel on the Green New Deal and environmental justice, which undergirds everything we do. We think that environmental justice is the African American Church’s response to climate change such that as we look at changes that need to be made, we don’t move from a dirty energy economy to a clean energy economy and still have supremacy as part of the matrix. We shift our thinking as we move into these new economies in a way that sees all of humanity as necessary, needed, and deserving of good things.
We are looking for sponsorships for our event. Because our summits are located in urban centers, we want participation to be priced in a way that local pastors and congregants can fully attend. We ask our friends, private organizations, corporations and green organizations who are interested in equity, diversity and the movement to come in and help us.
How does your background influence your work?
I’m a third-generation African American pastor. My great uncle was lynched during the early portion of the Civil Rights era. I graduated from Morehouse School of Religion – like my father before me and my two older brothers, and I’ve wondered what the large umbrella issue our generation would face. I read Van Jones’ book “The Green Collar Economy.” I had known him from the Bay Area, and for the first time I heard what I thought is the large umbrella issue of our day articulated. It’s one that deals with environmentalism, climate change and being on this planet. I saw that as the African American community, we’re not fully engaged and the reality of what has happened to our communities has kept us from the table. I want to ensure that people know there’s a safe space to have real community conversations. We can’t talk about environmental justice without talking about social justice.
Our work is unashamedly Afrocentric and talks positively about Africanness. In some realms, the dialogue goes against the Western embrace. Yet everything we have, and as it has always been, is for the human family, and everyone is welcome, no matter your walk, your experience, your expression, your political leanings. People can feel free to reach out to myself and Green the Church as we continue to move forward with this work.
If you had a megaphone that could reach everyone on Earth, what would be your message and why?
My message to the world is that there’s enough. We need every body, and we need every thing. And there is enough. We battle on the slope of supremacy and things of that nature out of fear of the other. I think that’s part of the reality, is that there is enough. This world is purposed, and if you allow it to, it runs on automatic. If we live in harmony with everyone and everything, scarcity and fear that move us against one another could subside.

Religion and Ecology in the News

An Entire Lutheran Denomination has Declared Itself a ‘Sanctuary Church Body,’ Signaling Support for Immigrants
Read the Article

Fearing Oil Spills, Tribe Sues to Get a Major Pipeline Removed from Its Land
Read the Article



Climate Fast Forward Conference

The Wisconsin Academy and partners are bringing together the state's best strategic thinkers on climate change for a working conference designed to "fast forward" solutions for a more sustainable Wisconsin and world. Climate Fast Forward is a different kind of conference, one that leverages collaboration and crowdsourcing in the pursuit of ready-to-go solutions for carbon reduction and climate resilience.

November 8 in Madison, WI, learn more >
Restoring Resilience: In Nature, Community and Ourselves – Upaya Institue

Join Dekila Chungyalpa, the Loka Initiative Director, for an evening talk at the Upaya Institue. This evening talk will be followed by a full-day workshop.

Was August 14 & 15 in Santa Fe, NM, listen to recording >

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