2018 has been called The Year of the Climate Voter as environmentalists, labor unions, social justice advocates, and some religious groups have joined together to demand U.S. action on climate change. This Saturday, September 8th, thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in cities around the world as part of the People’s Climate Movement.
On the latest episode of our podcast, Trump on Earth, we spoke with Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest and the executive director of GreenFaith, a member organization of the People’s Climate Movement. Harper is a part of the leadership team within PCM.
According to Harper, the People’s Climate Movement hopes to rise awareness for “climate, jobs and justice.”
“We need our leaders to create policies that are going to get us to a sustainable future that we need,” he said. “In a way that creates good jobs that that rebuild the middle class, that lift people out of poverty and that create cleaner air and safer communities.”
After President Trump announced that the U.S. was going to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, many religious leaders stepped up and responded swiftly, but evangelicals–a large voting bloc and part of Trump’s base–largely remained silent. We asked Harper why evangelicals in particular are so skeptical of climate change.
“There are numerous evangelicals really working hard within their communities to raise awareness about the climate crisis to frame it, as it is as a moral issue that affects the most vulnerable among us,” he said. “I think of the Evangelical Environmental Network, the World Evangelical Alliance and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.”
Harper continued by saying: “There are ways to frame the conversation about climate change in a way that works for evangelicals, that focuses on the issue of protecting life out of respect to God the creator of life, and God the creator of the planet. That it is our stewardship responsibility to be keepers of the dominion that God has given us.”
When asked if he thinks climate change will become a major voting issue and whether environmental voters could constitute a large voting bloc in midterms and the 2020 election, Harper said, “We’ll see more for the very simple reason that the impacts are becoming more and more real…When you see these kinds of impacts, it becomes more and more impossible to ignore them.”
In addition to the People’s Climate Movement’s higher profile mass mobilizations across the country in places like Miami and San Francisco, Harper is encouraged by what many people don’t see. Namely, the hours of conversations and meetings between leaders of different constituencies, who represent different perspectives, getting to know and understand each others’ concerns and priorities.
“I’m a preacher so I guess I inevitably see things this way, but it is good,” he emphatically stated. “It is good that these groups are coming together to work on these issues together. It is good that we’re understanding the links between the protection of our common home, the Earth, and fair and just wages for people. It is good that we’re saying that everybody regardless of the color of their skin or their income level needs clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. These are good things and it’s part of the whole sort of movement to recapture the promise of our society that I think everybody is deeply worried about right now.”
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The Pittsburgh march begins at 11:00am at the Rachel Carson Bridge. More information is here.