On 20th November, 80 people from different Birmingham faith communities and local groups came together at Birmingham Central Mosque to explore practical steps for a low carbon future.
Save the date: Tread Lightly Part 2, Sunday 19th November 2017
We heard from local places of worship, young people and NGOs about actions that have been successfully taken in Birmingham. Lively table discussions took place and the afternoon concluded by identifying action and making pledges. The event ‘Tread Lightly on this Earth’ was organised by Footsteps as part of National Interfaith Week. Footsteps is guided by the way in which all faith communities are called by the Lambeth Declaration on climate change to put our faith into action.
Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, of Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, commented “I was glad to be part of a very full afternoon which opened up new ways of thinking about how we, as a faith community, could engage with environmental issues and play a part in addressing climate change and sustainability.”
Birmingham is the UK’s most ethnically diverse city, outside of London, and the region has the county’s highest concentration of manufacturers: so it is the perfect place for faiths and sustainable development to come together. Anna Bright (CEO of Sustainability West Midlands) highlighted the importance of faith groups, because of our ability to engage and motivate large numbers of people.
Dr Becky Ince, from at Northfield Ecocentre described how faith groups are helping protect the environment by looking at their buildings. Conducting an energy audit can give places of worship the information, tools and confidence to take their next steps towards a low carbon future.
Hugh Rayner of Streetly Methodist Church, described how reviewing the church’s energy use has meant more than just replacing the boiler: “Two winters ago Streetly Methodist Church, was in a difficult place. Its boiler and heating system kept breaking down and the rooms were cold. But the heating problems were more than this; they were a metaphor for the health of our church. The warmth between members seemed to be dissipating. Replacing the old heating system with a biomass boiler (fuelled using wood pellets) gave church members an opportunity to come together in shared tasks such as painting, decorating and cleaning out cupboards. Working together helped to strengthen relationships and created a shared sense of achievement.”
The organisers of Small Footsteps described their work with 8-14 year olds from different faith backgrounds, which aims to inspire children and develop young ambassadors. Young peoples’ comments on Small Footsteps summer workshops included “I didn’t realise that our religions taught us so much about protecting our planet and all the creatures on it” and “We had a great time, made lots of friends and learnt so much about the environment”. A video is available of 12 year old Isah talking about her experience at Small Footsteps.
Ali Fazel, a sixth form student at the University of Birmingham School described the Enrichment Programme he has taken part in. Through activities (including taking action for the local environment) young people are able to give back to the community, and develop new skills and passions.
Friends of the Earth and the Divest West Midlands Pension Fund campaign explored how we should campaign and engage with community leaders, councillors and politicians. The Divest campaign is based on the knowledge that 80% of current fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to prevent runaway climate change. By asking the West Midlands Pension Fund (and other investors) to divest from fossil fuel companies, a message is sent that our public money must be invested in building the future, not in the destructive industry of the past.
Throughout the afternoon lively table discussions helped us get to know each other and reflect on what we had heard. At the final discussion everyone made individual pledges of actions to take back to their faith groups. Pledges ranged from changes in individual behaviour and supporting local community initiatives to encouraging change in faith communities and political engagement.
Those present were also very enthusiastic about the Small Footsteps programmes and suggested ways in which it could be continued.
Specific pledges included:
- Doors! Keep them shut, don’t prop them open.
- Get myself a water butt
- Make bird feeders from plastic bottles
- Make a big effort not to waste any food
- Divest – move my money & get rid of my diesel ‘naughty polluter’ car
- Lobbying of the C o E in Birmingham to make care for the environment a central goal
- Arrange an energy audit for the local church building
- Contact candidates and arrange hustings for upcoming elections e.g. Metro Mayor in 2017 and Birmingham City Council in 2018.
Overall, the event was a great success. One participant commented: “we should all act as guardians of the Earth, whether we do so from a viewpoint of faith or otherwise. If large numbers of people take small actions to save energy, and live more sustainably, we can tackle climate change between us. Joining this group made me feel I am not struggling on my own.”
Photos: Pat Nimmo.