- Posted by EmpowerNonprofit
- On December 5, 2017
The past several years have been unkind to people who champion a clean environment and wise stewardship of natural resources. Many statehouses and the federal government are downright hostile to environmental issues. This past year presented an unprecedented low point when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement. Yet despite all the negative news, the recent Greening the Statehouse 2017 event, sponsored by Hoosier Environmental Council, offered ample evidence that many good things are happening here in Indiana and across the nation.
Environmentalists are often labeled as purveyors of gloom and doom, so it might be natural for them to get even gloomier in the face of current developments. But Greening the Statehouse 2017 took the opposite approach, celebrating the past year’s successes and focusing on opportunities for even more positive change in 2018. A couple of messages really stood out for me.
First, it’s becoming clear that the environment—despite being linked primarily to the Democratic Party—is truly a nonpartisan issue. Greening the Statehouse keynote speaker Mitch Hescox made a strong case for this fact. Hescox, believe it or not, is a conservative, Republican, evangelical Christian…environmentalist. As president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, Hescox crisscrosses the country convincing evangelicals that being pro-life means fighting to maintain quality of life from conception to natural death. He urges Christians to be worried about pollution, climate change and preserving our natural environment. He’s winning over a lot of people who normally wouldn’t be classified as environmentalists.
Hescox also directs his message to non-evangelicals. He warns that building bridges and focusing on common interests is a lot more productive than worrying about issues that separate people. Hescox points out that younger evangelicals aren’t nearly as conservative politically as their parents and grandparents. Their Christian faith and pro-life mindset keep them rooted in the evangelical camp, but these Millennials are just as likely focused on the social justice, poverty alleviation and environmental quality issues as their non-evangelical peers. In other words, differing religious viewpoints shouldn’t be a barrier to cooperation between people who often agree on just about everything else.
And speaking of young environmentalists, Greening the Statehouse gave aging activists reason to be hopeful for the future of our planet. Some of the most important work on climate change—including right here in Indiana—is being done by schoolchildren. Recognizing this fact, Hoosier Environmental Council gave its 2017 Climate Advocacy Award to Youth Power Indiana. Kids from this grassroots organization take their message directly to civic leaders in their communities. Their efforts are paying dividends. Councils in several Indiana cities have passed climate recovery resolutions, which commits municipalities to taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental sustainability.
Yes, these feel like tough times if you care about the environment. But I left Greening the Statehouse 2017 feeling empowered by what I’d heard. There are caring, action-oriented people—of all ages, races and religions—around us. We just have to reach out and build positive bonds. Working together, we can build resilient communities and a healthier country, regardless of what’s happening in Washington, D.C.