When I retired from active ministry in 2010, I had served as a United Methodist pastor for 41 years in congregations in West Virginia and northeastern New York and two
churches in Chittenden County. In each of those places, I shared with congregants a great joy in the beauty of our surroundings and the gifts of creation we were able to enjoy. As a spiritual leader, I often found myself reminding those people of faith of our responsibility as stewards of the Earth and its resources.
In my retirement, I have been active on the board for Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, an organization devoted to raising awareness of climate change and empowering people of the various faiths throughout our state to address this global problem.
Last year, I was invited by the National Council of Churches to be Vermont’s representative at an event called 50 States United for Clean Air, in Washington, D.C., where we lobbied for stronger standards and support for the work of protecting our environment.
Clean air is an essential part of our environment, and the quality of the air we breathe also affects the overall climate in which we live. If, as my faith tradition declares, all who breathe are called to praise their God, we have a faith and moral obligation to protect and care for the air we breathe, both for ourselves and for future generations.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued new proposed emission standards for power plants across our country. The EPA held hearings around the country on those standards. Many faith leaders are advocating for these EPA standards, because power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution (40 percent of all such pollution in the United States). This has a direct connection to climate change, which is adversely impacting people and other beings worldwide. Children and future generations are especially at risk.
While we already limit arsenic, soot and other dangerous pollutants, it is time to address the dangerous effects of carbon pollution. If we act soon with creativity and innovation, we will have healthier communities and a healthier economy.
Many in the faith community also believe it is essential to invest in alternative forms of energy, while reducing the burning of fossil fuels to protect the health of our people and our world. These alternative forms, such as solar and wind, will cut down on the pollution of our air, improve the health of humans and other living beings, and work to control the carbon in the air that is causing climate change. Individuals of faith and faith communities across Vermont have already begun to make changes in the forms of energy we use and are seeing the benefits such changes can bring.
While discussions around climate change and environmental issues will continue, I urge all people of faith to address this urgent problem and to exercise our deep moral responsibility to tend to the Earth and its life. We should all agree that cleaning up the air that is essential for life to exist is a good, healthy and hopeful start. I encourage all people to submit a comment to the EPA in support of the proposed emission standards for power plants.
The Rev. Richard Hibbert is a retired United Methodist minister living in Burlington. He is a member of the board and serves as secretary for Vermont Interfaith Power and Light.
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