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Thousands give up carbon for Lent

During Lent, the season of reflection, Christians around the world are focusing on being better stewards of creation.

By Catherine WoodiwissYES! Magazine / March 9, 2012

A man, wearing a mask to protect himself from the smog, walks along a street in central Moscow. Christians of many denominations around the world are participating in a 'carbon fast' during Lent in which they cut their CO2 emissions.

Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters/File

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Cross-posted from ClimateProgress.

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For many Christians, the 40-day period of fasting and reflection before Easter known as Lent is a chance to get in mental and spiritual shape.

People give up chocolate; quit drinking or smoking; avoid meat; start reading the Bible regularly; or even give up social media – “fasts” intended to discipline and re-direct one’s mind to the divine. For Catholics, liturgical Protestants, and, increasingly, non-denominational Christians around the country, Lent fasts can often feel like New Year’s Resolutions 2.0: a second attempt at giving up small indulgences for personal betterment.

But this year, thousands of Christians worldwide are making a bigger statement: giving up carbon to help save the planet. (Of course, it’s nearly impossible to “give up” all carbon. But devoted Christians are doing their best to reduce their carbon footprints during this time.)

Faith groups leading the charge have dubbed this practice a “Carbon Fast.” From taking on daily ecological-minded actions like walking to work, to engaging in national advocacy and carbon-reduction campaigns, these groups are determined to bring awareness of human involvement in climate change and promote stewardship of the earth throughout the 40 days of Lent.

First started by a bishop in Liverpool in 2007, Carbon Fast has been developed and promoted among individuals, Bible study groups, and churches by the UK-based Christian development organization Tearfund since 2008. Its simple message of carbon reduction as a path to environmental and spiritual renewal has taken hold, and this year communities in Canada, the Netherlands, India, Hong Kong, Australia, and Brazil are observing Carbon Fast as well.

“We have found it to be a great resource for introducing Christians to the issue of climate change and how we can respond,” says Tom Baker at Tearfund UK. “[It] provides people with ideas about how they can respond to the injustice of climate change. … It’s a great way for people to start.”

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