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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.

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In the United States, several faith-based groups have created their own Carbon Fast materials. Interfaith Power & Light circulated a calendar of daily actions and alterations, ranging from the straightforward (“Turn down your thermostat by one degree”; “Remember to bring reusable bags to the store”) to the deeply symbolic (“Remember your baptism today, and the power of water. Try to conserve: Leave a bucket in the shower or kitchen sink, and collect ‘grey water’ to water the plants.”)

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The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington’s Environmental Outreach Committee produced a similar calendar. And the United Church of Christ’s Ecumenical Carbon Fast, in which over 6,000 people took part in 2011, mails daily suggestions to reduce carbon and pairs it with a weekly focus for the church.

A major focus of the fast is on poverty and the environmental injustice of climate change, a concept that is appearing more frequently in concerns from both secular and religious green groups. The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), a Carbon Fast partner with Tearfund, has designed weekly devotionals around the idea of relationships and putting things to right, from God and others to Creation.

“We are charged to ‘do no harm’ and climate change is a part of that,” says Alexei Laushkin at EEN. “We have to reconnect with our context. Changes in our consumption points to changes in policies that lead to cleaner sources of energy. This effort personalizes it and makes it real.”

Indeed, though the daily actions are limited to personal or family habit, the fast is geared toward community impact and campaigning action to demonstrate public support for climate change.

“We’re keen to emphasize that personal lifestyle actions alone won’t be the solution to global warming,” says Mr. Baker. “We need international action.” And though the fast’s full influence is difficult to measure, Tearfund UK estimates that the actions, if taken throughout an entire year, would save over 7 tons of CO2.

It would be easy to dismiss climate awareness actions like the Carbon Fast as “silly religion stuff,” says Mr. Laushkin. “But spirituality at large is increasingly grappling with this. A large spectrum of folks are grappling with this question. For Christians, this relates to our faith. We develop a keen awareness for how [climate stewardship and faithfulness], that are separate in our mind, are connected in God’s mind.”

Catherine Woodiwiss is a special assistant with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress.

This article is reposted from YES! Magazine.

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