Climate Futures Fellow Update: Clara Weybright

Climate Futures Fellow Update - Clara Weybright

Two months into my fellowship, I’ve been struck by how increasingly relevant this project feels. As we watch hurricane after hurricane sweep through the East Coast and wonder when the wildfires in California and Oregon will end, we are also becoming increasingly aware of the ways in which these climate crises intersect with deep racial injustices. Faith communities,  including CSCS’s constituents, are feeling an increasing need to act.

Most recently, I’ve been home with my family in Pennsylvania. Workdays have looked like this: lots of Excel sheets amongst the late fall flowers. Soon, I’ll be heading back to D.C., where I’m living and working this year.

For those of you who missed the CSCS post introducing the Climate Futures Fellows for this year, I’ll provide a brief overview of my project.

Throughout the course of the year, I’ll be working with congregations across the United States to develop plans for faithful advocacy for climate change solutions. I’m doing this work under the advisement of Tammy Alexander, in Mennonite Central Committee’s Washington Office. Right now, my work includes researching grassroots and constituent advocacy strategies; I’m also coming to the end of conducting a survey of congregations across the U.S. The purpose of the survey is to gain a better understanding of congregations’ current relationships with advocacy. I’m so grateful for the thoughtful responses that folks from Nebraska to New York have shared with me.

In the face of these obstacles, maybe you’re wondering, “What’s the point of taking on a project like this?”

My answer: climate change advocacy is a deeply necessary part of the work of healing our planet and its people.

Popular sentiments to the contrary, it’s also effective. The Congressional Management Foundation’s survey of congressional staff and legislators notes that elected officials see constituent engagement (i.e. advocacy) as central to helping them make decisions. In recent years, we’ve watched even the most skeptical elected officials begin to talk more about climate change as a result of significant activism and advocacy efforts.

People of faith from around the United States have been sharing some of their advocating experiences with me. They say that they felt a deep connection to their faith, their convictions, and their communities when they advocated for a greater response to climate change.

If the research, and our personal convictions, indicate that advocacy is important, what’s missing? I would argue that people of faith are sometimes missing the structural support and resources necessary to do this work well. Brainstorming the ways that advocacy can work for a wide range of people is part of what my work this year entails.

Advocacy isn’t one single action, and any group of people can use their unique gifts to advocate for the issues that they care about. Some congregations are more primed to do work like attending protests or vigils. Others might be interested in grassroots organizing or letter writing.

Climate change is affecting all of us in increasingly frightening ways. It’s our job to make sure that our elected officials work with us to address the climate crisis using the most powerful tool they have: policy change.

If you, or a group from your congregation has been wondering what more you can do to faithfully address climate change, please email me! I’d love to talk about ways that you can get engaged.

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