It’s time for an ecology theology.
That’s the message of several influential African American church leaders who’ve joined environmental and civil rights activist Van Jones to preach the “green” gospel. Believing that fighting for climate change and protecting the environment is simply a part of good, Christian stewardship over the earth, these men and women of the cloth are looking to reach more than a thousand black churches through their “Green the Church” campaign.
During a press call on Wednesday, they discussed how African Americans are often left out on the discussion of the environment, yet Blacks are deeply affected – both in health and wealth – when it comes to our environment.
“We need equal protection from the worst of the pollution-based economy,” Jones said.
Jones, one of the founders of nonprofit Green For All and the former White House Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, said blacks are “hit first and worst by everything” when it comes to the effects of climate change and pollution – from devastating super storms like Hurricane Katrina to being more susceptible of dying from heat stroke in smog-filled cities like Los Angeles. He also said 68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles downwind of a coal plant.
“That might be why 1-in-6 African American kids have asthma,” he said.
But it’s not just pollution that’s Jones and the pastors from “Green the Church” want to address. They also want more access to “green” jobs for African Americans, citing that green jobs in the energy sector – even those that don’t require a college education – pay 13 percent better than what’s typically available.
“A green economy can get us more work, better wealth and better health,” Jones said.
The ministers involved with Green the Church come from across denominations. Their goal, according to a release put out by the group, is to “bring the benefits of sustainability directly to Black communities by partnering with the U.S. Green Building Council on clean energy and energy savings.” Organizers want to “tap” into the prophetic power of the African American church and its historical role as being a “moral leader” and “a force for social change.”
“No major movement in this nation has been successful without the power and the leadership of the Black church,” said Green the Church founder Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll. “The Black church has always joined hands with other faith traditions and stood on the front lines, as they did in Selma.”
Rev. Carroll said we must do the same now with climate change.
“According to the book of Genesis we are stewards of the earth,” she said. “Today, let’s join in together and let’s green the Black Church.”