New moral-based social movement to tackle environment, climate change issues

By on November 1, 2010

With little fanfare and scant media attention, a new social movement appears to be evolving in Canada to address issues of environmental decline and climate change from a moral, ethical and justice perspective.Headed by an Anglican priest, the Rev. Dr. Mishka Lysack, the first “retreat” was held in Calgary last October and video-linked to Edmonton. Since then, a series of events have taken place in Toronto and Ottawa, the latest being an evening panel session at Saint Paul University on Oct. 1 followed by a workshop aimed at building leadership. More events are planned for this month based on program themes such as food, the economy and health, as well as the environment. “What we’re developing is a moral-based social movement which involves different religious and faith-based communities and very deliberately including those that are not just Christian but of other faith traditions,” Lysack told the Anglican Journal at the leadership retreat.Several short-term goals are being developed as partnerships are built with other groups, including secular non-government organizations. However, said Lysack, who is an assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s faculty of social work, “What we’re looking at is engaging and building a very sustainable moral movement that is going to have a longevity that is going to be multigenerational.”The movement is unique in what it has to offer because all the issues have a moral framework, he said. “What does it mean to live a good life? What does it mean to be compassionate? What does it mean to care for the earth, to worship God in ways that are faithful, respectful of each other and respectful of creation that God has shared with us?”Solutions need to be found quickly to combat environmental decline and climate change, and Lysack said this means the movement has to pick priorities carefully. While greening church buildings will help, it won’t solve the problems we now face. What’s needed, he said, is a movement “that’s going to have deeper changes rather than more symptomatic shifts and changes.” Those involved in the leadership building retreat at Saint Paul University included members of Christian, Muslim and Baha’i groups in the national capital as well as leaders of humanitarian and environmental groups. More than a dozen people made presentations covering areas such as politics, advocacy and effective engagement, and ideas were discussed in smaller groups and then reported to the entire group. Common threads included the need for more education, networking and recognition of global issues.Mark Fried, senior policy analyst for Oxfam Canada, told the gathering the Canadian government spends billions of dollars a year subsidizing the oil industry. “That offends my sensibilities,” he said. To move in a direction that protects the environment, “the least we can do is stop subsidizing the opposite direction.” United Church minister the Rev. David MacDonald, a former federal cabinet minister and a member of the World Council of Churches delegation, said the climate change bill now before the Senate offers an opportunity for education. “If we were to get mobilized, if we were to have groups bombarding the Senate (with information), that could be a very practical way of educating,” he said. “We’ve got a very unique group in this room, representatives of people who don’t usually come together.””Religion is beleaguered in Canada,” said Janet Epp-Buckingham, director of the Laurentian Leadership Centre. “But religion has a lot to offer.” The power of prayer, she said, “is an incredible resource.”Other speakers included Don Hutchinson, vice president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and director of the Centre for Faith and Public Life; Claire Demerse, associate director of the Climate Change Unit at the Pembina Institute; Graham Saul, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada; and Carol Thiessen, public policy advisor for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.Joe Gunn, director of Citizens for Public Justice, and Robin Bright, the co-ordinator of Micah Challenge with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, are co-chairs of the series, which is being sponsored by the University of Calgary. ΩArt Babych is editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper for the diocese of Ottawa.

Author

  • Art Babych

    Art is the former editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.

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