H-IPL Statement on Covid-19 and Systemic Racism:
Our purpose at Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light has always been to address climate change. What this looks like shifts as we learn more and grow as a community and as we work from a place of faith and ethics. This has meant helping congregations go solar and making our congregations and our homes more energy-efficient. It has also meant standing up against utility ratepayer increases to protect the most vulnerable among us. Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light is learning and growing in our anti-racist activism and continuing to learn about how to be partners as we stand in solidarity with our friends, family, and neighbors. We have a lot more to learn. What we do know is that environmental justice is imperative to climate change action — that what we are seeing with COVID death disparities in the black and brown communities is not alright. What we do know is that systemic racism and violence needs to be addressed by those of us with privilege. We know that living into a right relationship with one another has positive impacts for the earth. We know that living into a right relationship with the earth has positive impacts for our neighbor. We hope that the pain we feel now, can lead to continued actions to change our systems for the better so that the world we are creating is not just “green” but brown, black, white, tan, and all the colors of the rainbow. With hope, the HIPL Staff and Leadership Team
Below is a letter written by Julia Nerbonne, Executive Director from Minnesota IPL, reprinted here with her permission, that addresses the murder of George Floyd and the community’s response:
“I write to you with profound anger and sadness following the horrific murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police. Mr. Floyd was a beloved father, brother, neighbor, and guard for a local homeless shelter. In the words of his sister, “He was grounded, he was spiritual, he was an athlete, he was an organizer, he was a comforter, he was an encourager.” He should still be with us today.
For nine minutes, MPD officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck, ignoring his pleas of “I can’t breathe,” while other officers stood by. Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light condemns the Minneapolis Police Department’s actions in the strongest possible terms and we demand that the officers involved be criminally prosecuted.
At MNIPL, we are committed to building a world in which care for the earth and care for one another are intertwined. We work towards climate justice because we believe all beings deserve a thriving, life-giving environment, and because we strive to preserve our planet for generations to come. The violence of white supremacy strikes at the core of our hopes and dreams, and it withers our work towards a healthy and sustainable planet. None of us can flourish when our neighbors are being murdered by police and harmed by the racist systems that surround us.
Let us be clear – the pain we are experiencing right now in Minneapolis is born from the violence of white supremacy, and from hundreds of years in which Indigenous, Black, Brown and POC communities have suffered under an unbearable system. We condemn the Minneapolis Police Department’s escalation of violence, and we hold those in the center of the conflict in our hearts. Across the street from the 3rd precinct, we are relieved that while Gandhi Mahal Restaurant and our Climate Movement Annex sustained some damage, the building was spared from fire and still stands.
George Floyd’s life mattered. We believe that right now, the best way to honor his life is to take meaningful and peaceful action. We encourage you to join us, and we call on communities of faith and spiritual practice across Minnesota to join the movement for justice for Mr. Floyd.
Here are a few concrete suggestions:
- Phone a friend. Take ten minutes and have a conversation with someone you know about police violence and George Floyd’s murder. Ask what the other person thinks, listen to their responses, and share your own perspective.
- Phone a decision-maker. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will decide whether or not the officers who killed George Floyd are charged with a crime. Call Attorney Freeman at 612-348-5550 and demand that he press charges against all officers involved with the incident.
- Donate to the George Floyd Memorial Fund.
- Support front-line organizations who are leading work on the ground: Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block, Minnesota Freedom Fund, CTUL, COPAL, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, NAACP Minneapolis, Voices for Racial Justice
- Read and educate yourself. MPD150 has released a thorough and insightful report asking us to imagine a different relationship to policing as a society. Join in the discussion.
Thank you for meeting this moment with significance and care. We are so grateful to be connected together in community and in our shared movement for climate justice.”
A Message From HIPL Board Member Reverend Daryl Emowry:
As people of faith seeking to respond to the issue of human-caused pollution and the damages that this has had on the planet in the form of climate change, we recognize that not all pollution is visible. Yes, this includes small particulates in the air that poison our lungs, but also the ways in which the earth itself is harmed through our improper care of one another. In some of our faith traditions, we have understood that the earth was not first polluted when we burned fossil fuels, or even wood. The first time the earth was polluted was when blood was shed upon it, and the earth cried out to God against this horrific act (Genesis 4:10). We have known that the land itself is defiled and harmed when we are not in the right relationship with God and our neighbor (Leviticus 18:24-25). It is this pollution of brokenness and injustice that continues to harm our neighbor and this created place we have been called to till and keep (Genesis 2:15). As people of faith, we know these issues have always been connected. We know that our land is further polluted and defiled by these acts of injustice perpetrated against our brothers and sisters of color. We know that the mountains and hills, the very foundations of the earth, continue to bear witness against us for the ways in which we harm the earth and the ways in which we harm our neighbor (Micah 6:1-2). Blood still cries out from the ground as we harm the innocent. We know that living into a right relationship with one another has positive impacts for the earth. We know that living into a right relationship with the earth has positive impacts for our neighbor. For too long we have been led by a false narrative that says our economy will not survive if we implement the changes we propose, but the truth of the matter is that humanity itself cannot survive both as a collective or physically in the current model. We must change our environment to be one of life, not of death.
The current unrest and struggle we see in our society is not surprising to those who understand that you can only reap what you sow. For too long, we have sowed our fields with anger, bitterness, injustice, racial disparity, and a wanton disregard of the earth entrusted to our care. We have sowed seeds of division and polarization, and thus we reap unrest, distrust, and suspicion. It is no wonder that the fruit we see around us is so bitter when we have so often failed to tend to the earth and our neighbor in life-giving ways. Indeed, we know that the seeds of racial inequality and fear/distrust/hate of our fellow humans lead to the production of horrific fruit, of strange fruit. We must sow different seeds if we expect different fruit. We must till the ground for these seeds to take root as it has been heavily compacted over years of complacency and inaction, with the heavy weight of injustice pressed upon it. This churning process may be painful, yet it is necessary for the fruit we desire to grow to take hold. We must sow this earth and our society with seeds of care, compassion, trust, love, justice, and unity if we want the fruit of good community, safety, wellness, and justice for all. As we know, gardening takes time, perseverance, and constant attention to maintaining proper balances of good soil, enough water, and enough sun. This work of growing the society we want will take time, dedication, and hard work. As any gardener knows, the fruits of such labor are so sweet, and even sweeter when we can share them with others. These are the labors H-IPL seeks to enter into, these are the commitments we continue to make to help foster and grow the type of environment and society we want to have ourselves and we want to share with our children and grandchildren.
Those who work with our environment consistently see the interconnections amongst that which lives, the ways in which ecosystems are balanced to support life for all that lives within them. We know how quickly biomass and biodiversity are destroyed when these systems are disrupted. We know that a damage in part is a damage to the whole. This is no less true in the social systems we have created as humans. We are connected to one another, all sharing this same common home we call Earth, and as one member of humanity, as one member of all that is created, suffers, we all suffer together. It is because we recognize these things as interconnected that we who would use our faith to speak up for the environment and how we care for creation must also lift our voices on behalf of our brothers and sisters of color who have consistently been harmed through systems that have, both willingly and unconsciously, been designed to oppress them. This is no less true when it comes to issues of the environment as often people of color have to suffer the bulk of the pollution we have created, they disproportionately live closer to landfills, to coal fire plants, to sites with poor water (Flint, MI), to sites with lead poisoning (East Chicago, IN), and the list goes on. We know that any work to heal and restore our planet necessarily means work to fight against the injustices perpetrated against people of color. This is why a core part of H-IPL is to address environmental injustice and work for equity for all, both in bearing the costs and in receiving the benefits from the actions we take related to our environment.
Currently, we stand at a unique moment in our history. We have seen how rapidly we can shift our behaviors when the need is communicated and we know what is at stake. If we are willing to drastically change our patterns of behavior for those high-risk members of society when it comes to COVID-19, can we not also be willing to drastically change our patterns of behavior for all of our children and their children who are high-risk members when it comes to climate change?
We have stepped back from the economic engine on which we were always told we needed to depend on to live. Now, as we begin the process of reopening, we can be intentional about what sort of systems we want to create. We can work on building resilient and sustainable communities. We can develop economies that are equitable, seeking to incorporate the vulnerable and the disenfranchised. We can recognize that sustainability, resiliency, and economy are not mutually exclusive goals, but can function together in ways that are life-giving to all. And we know that in this new reality, we must be intentional about the ways in which we are incorporating all in our community to participate in what we are doing. We cannot continue to ignore the plight of our neighbors who have borne the brunt of the damage we have done to the earth while simultaneously being denied the resources needed to adequately mitigate that damage. This is why H-IPL will continue to champion a future that is rooted in equity and sustainability.