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Oct 012009

By Harriet Blake

For a fledgling environmental group, Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light has hit the ground running.

The two-week-old organization called on people of faith this week to phone their Arkansas congressmen – Democratic Senators Blanche Lincoln and Sen. Mark Pryor – to urge them to “protect Creation and public health by voting for the Clean Jobs and American Power Act.”

The act, which reached the Senate floor Wednesday, was introduced by U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The legislation aims to help develop clean energy jobs, reduce pollution and protect U.S. security by improving national energy production and fighting global climate change.

“This is a security bill that puts Americans back in charge of our energy future and makes it clear that we will combat global climate change with American ingenuity. It is our country’s defense against the harms of pollution and the security risks of global climate change,” Sen. Kerry said. “Our health, our security, our economy, our environment, all demand we reinvent the way America uses energy. Our addiction to foreign oil hurts our economy, helps our enemies and risks our security. By taking decisive action, we can and will stop climate change from becoming a ‘threat multiplier’ that makes an already dangerous world staggeringly more so.”

Scharmel Roussel, founding member of Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light, says the organization was established by individuals, like herself, who share a concern for the earth’s environment from a nonpartisan and theological perspective. Since starting in mid-September, the group has had 60 people sign on.

Members took part in a phone bank “party” on Wednesday, encouraging Arkansas residents to phone their senators regarding the Clean Jobs bill.

InterFaith Power and Light organizations are located in 29 states. The effort began in 1998 in San Francisco where a group of Episcopal churches joined forces to purchase renewable energy. By 2001, the group became California Interfaith Power and Light, which now helps people of faith organize and promote positive environmental change.

The national umbrella group that oversees the state-wide coalitions is the Regeneration Project, based in San Francisco. Later this month, the Regeneration Project’s founder and president, the Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, will participate in a climate change conference in New Orleans with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, head of the Orthodox Church.

Like the other Interfaith Power and Light groups, the Arkansas chapter, says Roussel, is not just “group therapy for folks from different houses of worship…It’s more than just awareness and education. It’s about outreach and advocacy.”

And they’re not wasting any time in getting out the message.

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