Student Engagement in Climate Justice

Community Organizing Project: Protagonists of Transformation

August 30, 2022

When Pope Francis charged young adults in the Catholic Church to “be protagonists of transformation”, Anna Robertson took note. Until July of 2022, Anna served as the first Director of Youth and Young Adult Mobilization at Catholic Climate Covenant and recently completed the Community Organizing for Climate Justice as Love in Action training. For her final project, Anna designed the Common Home Corps, a cohort-based mentorship program to build a youth movement for climate justice within the Catholic Church. The goal of this program is to “equip and inspire young people across the U.S. Catholic sphere to be protagonists of transformation toward a society shaped by integral ecology”.

Throughout her time at the Covenant, Anna heard from both young adults in the U.S. Catholic community and those who accompany them in ministry that climate change is a concern, and climate justice a priority. These insights are consistent with findings from a study from Springtide Research Institute which found that 75% of young Catholics (ages 13-25) are concerned about the environment. Anna used the mentored 12-week practice phase of the community organizing training as an opportunity to explore what kinds of programs could equip both Catholic young adults with the tools to constructively engage in climate justice work and those engaged in young adult ministry with the practical and pastoral tools to accompany young adults in moving through climate anxiety toward meaningful action rooted in faith. What emerged from the series of one-to-one meetings Anna conducted for the course in conversation with Kelly Marciales, her assigned mentor for the course, was Common Home Corps, a project plan for engaging small, local cohorts of Catholic young adults in faith-based community organizing training focused on bringing about climate justice in the Church and world.

With 17,000 parishes, billions of USD in endowments, and millions of acres of land, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has the potential to make an incredible impact for climate justice. Anna believes that the youth and young adults in the Catholic Church have the power to push the Church into action and has found that leaders in the Catholic Church agree.

“Bishops are not normally young people, but we are like Grandfathers, and grandfathers normally listen to their granddaughters and grandsons. They have very close relationships to their granddaughters and grandsons. So please, the young people: Tell your Grandfather Bishop about [fossil fuel] divestment”, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich.

Sacred Action Project: Climate Conversations in Maryland

July 12, 2022

For his Sacred Action Project for the Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith, Larry Ryan set out to help congregations throughout his synod start conversations around climate justice. As a member of the ELCA Maryland-Delaware Synod’s Creation Care Team, Larry was interested in hearing from synod members about their thoughts on creation care. To gather their input, Larry led small group conversations with four congregations via zoom where 26 participants discussed the church’s role in creation care, shared their visions for how the church could be more engaged, and voiced their concerns about the future.

These fruitful conversations provided a space for congregants to begin these conversations about a topic not normally discussed at church: climate change.

“The 26 people who participated in these four Zoom meetings on creation care witnessed to the glories of God from the gifts we have been given in creation. They not only witnessed to me, but to the others who participated. All of us came away with new appreciation for creation and a hopefulness that we will be able to be the good stewards God is calling us to be,” Larry said.

Larry is hopeful that these conversations will help inform the work of the synod’s Creation Care Team and build a movement for climate justice throughout the synod.

Shut Down Red Hill in Hawai'i

clipping of statement from newspaperJune 3, 2022

During World War II, the U.S. Navy built a fuel storage facility into a hill in the Kapūkakī (Red Hill) area on Oʻahu, near Pearl Harbor, in order to save these fuel reserves from aerial attack. Nearly 80 years later, fifteen of these tanks are still in operation directly above one of O’ahu’s main freshwater aquifers.

Since 2014, more than 55,000 gallons of fuel from these tanks have leaked into the surrounding ground and groundwater. After the most recent leak in November 2021, petroleum was detected in the water at the Red Hill Elementary school and the Pearl Harbor/Hickam military base even after repeated communication from the U.S. Navy insisting the water was safe to drink. In the first days of December, it was confirmed that the Red Hill well was contaminated. About 4,000 military families who relied on this well were displaced for months. Some were sickened and hospitalized.

Rev. Brianna Lloyd, Associate Pastor at Lutheran Church of Honolulu, participated in the Center for Climate Justice and Faith’s Community Organizing for Climate Justice as Love in Action training. For her final project, Shut Down Red Hill, Brianna is building an interfaith movement to advocate for the full closure and removal of the Red Hill Storage Facility. As part of this project, Brianna worked with faith leaders to publish a full-page statement in Hawaii’s biggest newspaper the Star Advertiser calling for the closure of the facilityThis statement was signed by 150 faith leaders from around the islands and served as a launching point for the larger campaign which Brianna is continuing to lead.

Sacred Action Project: Speech into Action in Zimbabwe

May 26, 2022

Everywhere you look in Zimbabwe, you are reminded of the climate crisis. From shrinking lakes to parched farms to electricity shortages caused by low water flow, everyone is impacted by a devastating, climate change-induced drought. In a nation where an estimated 40% of the population lives below the poverty line (less than $1.90 per person per day), these impacts are especially hard hitting.

Arthurage Abureni is a youth member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe and a recent graduate in the Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith. When asked why he applied for the certificate, he said, “The quest to act from a position of knowledge made me apply… My passion for climate justice rests on the desire to live today with tomorrow in mind; this way, we can inherit a sustainable future for those who will come after us.”

For his capstone “Sacred Action Project”, Arthurage wanted to educate and mobilized young adults to get involved in climate action and “become the change they want to see”. The response was overwhelming. On April 18th – Easter Monday and Zimbabwe’s Independence Day – more than 113 young adults (they had hoped for 60) attended a workshop Arthurage organized on independence and climate justice. The event explored the intersection of Easter and Independence and asked the question, “Is our environment free from human-inflicted pollution and degradation?”.

As a result of this event and a Palm Sunday sermon Arthurage gave, the congregation decided to plant palm trees during the Dean of their Diocese’s visit in May. Their goal was to demonstrate their commitment to climate justice to the larger church and hopefully inspire action in other parts of the diocese.

Arthurage sees many opportunities to continue engaging the young people in his community and find ways to help their community adapt to the drought. These opportunities include food security solutions such as bee-keeping, market gardening, and hydroponic farming; Waste management and recycling solutions to reduce pollution; and increased renewable energy to provide livelihoods, reduce pollution, and improve access to electricity.

Sacred Action Project: Love for Creation in Nigeria

Sabi Elizabeth with colleaguesSabiElizabethwithstudents

May 19, 2022

Sabi Elizabeth Aitiya began her Sacred Action Project for the Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith by bringing together frontline congregations and faith-based organizations in her community in Yola, Nigeria to mobilize for education, reflection, action, and advocacy for climate justice. So far, her initiative, Love for Creation, has brought together more than five congregations.

“Through this collaboration we, as people of faith, hope to make a meaningful contribution in the next decade towards a sustainable future for all life on the planet”, she said, “Our contribution seeks to address the root causes of the climate emergency while also supporting those who are most impacted by it. Our contribution will also respond to feelings of ecological grief and eco-anxiety through pastoral care and ceremony, building community resilience, and by taking collective action for climate justice.”

In addition to her outreach to congregations, Sabi has organized “Climate teach-ins” in schools and youth organizations in her community bringing information about the causes, impacts, and solutions to climate change to dozens of students.

“This course really gave me more insight and better understanding of what it means to love what God has created and has given us the authority to care, protect and preserve.”

Thanksgiving for Baptism

PLTS students created to the opening Call to Worship – a land acknowledgment and thanksgiving for water – for the worship service at the inauguration of Lori Varlotta, California Lutheran University’s first woman president.

PLTS Students at the U.N. Global Climate Summit (COP26) in Glasgow

Two students from the Climate Justice and Faith Concentration, Kelly Miller-Sanchez and Julie Gerrish, were official members of the ELCA delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference known as COP 26 (the Paris Climate Summit was COP 20) in Glasgow, Scotland October 31 – November 12, 2021.

Thousands of delegates representing NGOs (non-governmental organizations, what we in the U.S. call non-profits) from around the globe were present to influence negotiations. Julie and Kelly were among these NGO representatives pressuring governmental representatives to make bold commitments to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions AND support policies that prioritize the well-being of climate vulnerable people, particularly Indigenous communities.

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IMAGE: Julie Gerrish, PLTS student in the Concentration in Climate Justice and Faith (right) participates in an action at COP26 calling for a “Loss and Damages” fund to help vulnerable nations recover from climate disasters. Photo: Simon Chambers/ACT

Hein-Fry Book of Faith Challenge

Kaylie H. Ines, the first graduate from the PLTS Concentration in Climate Justice and Faith was selected to present her internship project for the Hein-Fry Book of Faith Challenge.  Her project – begun as a directed study for the Concentration – is entitled: “Hope Remains: A Creation Care Faith Study”.

PLTS students in Climate Justice and Faith concentration speak at Faiths 4 Climate Justice


In Fall 2021, PLTS students Julie Gerrish, Rayjenee Roberts, and Tori Valcarcel spoke about a Lutheran perspective on climate justice at a Faiths 4 Climate Justice interfaith event overlooking oil refineries in Contra Costa County, CA.

See more images

PLTS students join ‘Rise for Climate’ march in San Francisco


PLTS students joined thousands of Bay Area residents in marching through the streets of San Francisco demanding climate action.

Climate Change, Gender Justice, and the Power of Art series


PLTS student in the Concentration in Climate Justice and Faith, Julie Gerrish, worked with the Women’s Studies in Religion project at the Graduate Theological Union and the Center for Arts & Religion to organize an online event series, “Climate Change, Gender Justice, and the Power of Art” in Spring 2021. Click here to view the inaugural event.

Climate Change, Gender Justice and the Power of Art: Poetry

Climate Change, Gender Justice, and the Power of Art: Dance

Lutheran Wave of Prayer for Climate Justice


As part of the GreenFaith Sacred People, Sacred Earth Day of Action, The Center for Climate Justice and Faith joined alongside people of all faith backgrounds to pray for climate justice. In Partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Lutherans Restoring Creation, and the Lutheran World Federation, PLTS student in the Concentration in Climate Justice and Faith student, Tori Valcarcel, organized the Lutheran community to join together in prayer.

Download the flyer and prayer here

It’s Not Easy Being Green


PLTS student in the Concentration in Climate Justice and Faith, Julie Gerrish, shares her musical talents and passion for climate justice at PLTS Adventfest 2019.

Description

This certificate program offers a cohort-based, contextually-rooted online curriculum for Spanish-speaking people in Latin American, the Caribbean, and North America. The curriculum equips participants with moral, spiritual, and practical power for leadership in the work of climate justice in communities of faith and in collaboration with others. Topics covered include theology, ethics, and spirituality related to climate justice; climate change knowledge; and social change practices that connect ecological well-being with racial, economic, and gender justice.

Completing this program earns participants six Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits. Participants will spend 2-3 hours per week in the program including implementing a practical project aimed at climate justice. Long-term collaboration and networking are expected to endure well beyond certificate completion.

The inaugural Spanish-language Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith will launch in February/March 2023.

Partner Organizations

  • Seminario Luterano Augsburgo (SEMLA) in Mexico
  • Universidad Luterana Salvadorena in El Salvador
  • Instituto para la Pastoral Contextual of the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Unida of Argentina and Uruguay
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Tuition

  • $600 for the entire program (optional resources from outside organizations may request contributions).
  • Scholarships of up to $550 are available based on need.

Interested?

Click here to register your interest and receive applications materials when they are available.

Questions?

For more information please contact:

 

Lee en Español

Working Group (Planning and Advisory):

Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo, Coordinator of the Spanish-language Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith at PLTS

Rev. Dr. Mercedes Garcia Bachmann, Director and Professor of Old Testament at the Instituto para la Pastoral Contextual of the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Unida of Argentina and Uruguay

Elena Cedillo, Program Executive for Climate Justice, Department for Theology, Mission, and Justice, Lutheran World Federation

Rev. Dr. Francisco Javier Goitía Padilla, Director of Theological Formation for Seminaries and Schools of the ELCA

Phoebe Morad, Executive Director for Lutherans Restoring Creation and PLTS Coordinator of Certificates in Climate Justice and Faith

Lic. Fidel Nieto Laínez, Rector of the Universidad Luterana Salvadorena

Rev. Dr. Carmelo Santos, Director for Theological Diversity and Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA

Rev. Dr. Anjela Trejo Haager, Coordinadora of the Seminario Luterano Augsburgo (SEMLA) in Mexico