Rev. Peter Galbraith shares how feeling the urgency of climate change led to his involvement with Ohioans for Sustainable Change, formerly Ohio Interfaith Power and Light:
One evening several years ago, I was commuting in my car and had the urge to call up a pastor colleague of mine. “Karen,” I said, “I know this question is out of the blue, but…how concerned are you about climate change?” Very, very concerned, was her response. She found herself sometimes being kept awake at night by the issue. What then ensued was a good conversation about the existential threats we perceived and how these threats were shaping our whole outlook on ministry and vocation.
Her concerns confirmed the own anxiety I was feeling, and I was determined to find a way to be involved in a substantive way with combating climate change. I felt I could best do that in my capacity as a minister working with our governing body of churches, the presbytery. I started organizing conversations with an intent to begin acting collectively. It was in that setting that I connected with Sara Ward, former director of then Ohio Interfaith Power and Light (OhIPL), who helped guide us in the practical ways in which congregations can focus on responsible stewardship of the planet. It was a small step, but it felt good to host conversations with other concerned members of the church. Perhaps together we could make change happen.
I joined as a Board member of OhIPL to stay connected with climate issues state-wide. Throughout my tenure as a Board member, it probably was (and in many ways, still is) my biggest concern: What are we doing about climate change?
My journey on the Board entered another iteration as we hired a new director, Bishop Marcia Dinkins, to lead us in this important question. Simultaneously, though, I was beginning to learn more about issues of racial equity in our country, and heard with fresh ears of the environmental inequities endured by communities of color in particular. I began to see the close connections between racial inequity and the scourges of water pollution, toxic levels of lead, food insecurity, lack of green space, and other injustices.
Thanks to more education, and working closely with my fellow committed board members, I am discovering just how important this work is. It’s important to raise connections between racial equity, environmental justice, ecofeminism, and other movements for change. Our work for healthy, sustainable, and inclusive communities is at stake.
The new name of our organization, Ohioans for Sustainable Change, is in my mind a powerful statement of the many areas that need changing in order for us to live in beloved community. Indeed, can we effectively address the climate crisis without also addressing other ills that perpetuate dominance and hinder dignity and inclusion? Ohioans For Sustainable Change seeks to bring a collective, faith-full response to not only human-induced climate injustice, but other tyrannies as well.