Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why You Should Be an Activist (of Faith)

Written by Karin Frank
Outreach Coordinator for WAIPL

1. Make big change
Switching out our old school light bulbs for CFLs, biking or busing instead of driving, and eating less meat – individual lifestyle changes – are critical. But they only go so far. When we work together to change the systems we live in - switching out our old school coal fired power plants for renewable energy sources, investing in equitable and sustainable transportation systems, and creating food systems that encourage local, green growing and eating – we vastly magnify our impacts. And like changing light bulbs, all that is needed is for each of us to make our own small effort.

2. Activism is easy
 It can take just a five minute phone call to the Washington State legislative hotline (1.800.562.6000), or look for the toll free number in your own state, to tell your legislator that renewable energy is important to you or that you are concerned about toxic chemicals in household products. You don’t need to be an expert. You don’t need to know who your legislators are; you only need to give the hotline your address. You don’t even need to speak about a specific piece of legislation, although it can be helpful. You can spend a day in your state capitol for a literature drop or an advocacy day (such as Interfaith Advocacy Day in Olympia) with an organization that can guide you through the process. Make sure you are on the Earth Ministry/WAIPL mailing list and we can keep you informed of when opportunities come up.

People of faith meet with Rep. Brady Walkinshaw
at Interfaith Advocacy Day 2014
3. Lawmakers want to hear from you
They want to hear from the real, regular people that make up their constituency. Legislators tell us this every time we are in Olympia. They tell us when they’ve been getting phone calls and emails about a specific issue. They love visitors. Lawmakers are real, regular people themselves, especially at the local level. They don’t care if you are an expert on the issues, and chances are they aren’t either. They want to hear your story. They want to know what you care about and why you care about it.

4. Politics is about values
In a political system where too often the focus is the bottom line, our faiths tell stories of a world where people matter more than profits. When we bring our faith language to political action we bring a moral framework that can inspire and motivate citizens and political leaders. Our faiths provide language for us to tell stories about the type of world we want to live in and leave for our children and the type of society we want to be.

5. Faith unites people
…from all over the political spectrum, from across economic divides, regional divides, and racial divides. People who might otherwise see themselves as having very different interests can come together around shared stories and values to work together on issues we all care about.

6. People of faith represent wider communities
People of faith can lift their voices louder by speaking as a community. When you speak as a person of faith, you can act as a spokesperson for a larger community of people who share your values.

7. Your faith tells you to
Our faiths call us to live out our values in the world. They teach us that it is our responsibility to speak out against injustice and for care for all of creation. Our faiths tell us how to live our lives, both as individuals but in particular as communities and societies. Because the political process is how we live in our communities and structure our societies, our faiths demand our engagement.

8. It works
People often bemoan the corruption and inefficiency of the political system that at times listens more to money than to people. However broken it may be, our government is still run and elected by us, and our voices affect real changes every day. Recently, a lawmaker told me that he introduced amendments to a piece of legislation because a single constituent called him with some good suggestions. 

Governor Gregoire signing Senate Bill 5769 in 2011 - 
Earth Ministry's LeeAnne Beres is on the far right!

In 2011 Earth Ministry/WAIPL, in partnership with the other members of the Power Past Coal campaign, succeeded in passing legislation to close the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Washington State, the TransAlta Centralia coal-fired power plant, by 2025.

Just this fall, thousands of citizens testified at hearings opposing the Longview coal export terminal, citing health, environmental, and climate concerns and submitted more than 215,000 comments. The Washington Department of Ecology listened and recently announced that they will be protecting the people of the northwest by taking into account all of the impacts of the coal export process, including the impacts of greenhouse gases and global warming and looking at the entire export process from rail transportation to the burning of the coal abroad. There are thousands of victories, small and large, happening around the world every day because regular people decide to get involved.

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