The WIP&L mission statement declares that we seek “just, sufficient and sustainable energy for all.” All means all. But this moment, in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and so many others, forcibly reminds us that if we are to hope to begin to live up to our aspirations, we need to be more specific.
In our nation, it is people of African descent who have consistently suffered the most from inequities in energy production and use, exposure to the impacts of climate change, and environmental injustices of all kinds, including air pollution, lead-contaminated drinking water, and living near toxic waste sites.
Behind these specific connections between the struggle against racial inequities and the struggle for a stable climate, there are common root causes. The mentality that sees “dominating nature” as the path to prosperity (for some) is the same mentality that sees “dominating the battle space” as the means to peace and security (for some). The political, economic, and social structures that degrade the environment and those that violate Black bodies and humiliate Black persons are deeply intertwined, if not one and the same.
But most fundamentally, Black lives must matter for those of us in the interfaith climate movement because justice for those who have been oppressed by the dominant white majority in this country for 400 years is a moral imperative, period. We cannot be satisfied with sustaining a planet where systemic injustice and white supremacy remain intact.
Too many of us in the environmental movement have not adequately recognized our privilege, which has allowed us to ignore or marginalize issues of systemic racism. Too often we have failed to be truly inclusive and bypassed the concerns of communities of color. That has begun to change, as attention to equity and inclusion in the climate movement has grown, but there is much more to be done.
As the current Board and Staff of Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light, we are all white persons. We confess that we have not done enough to be equitable and inclusive in this regard, and we will strive to do better.
Following the lead of our sibling IPL affiliate, Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light, we commit ourselves to “Listen, Learn, and Love” and invite others to undertake this journey as well:
WIP&L Board Members:
The Rev. John Helt
Sister Rose Jochmann
The Rev. Nick Utphall
The Rev. Jeff Wild
Dr. Jerry Zabronsky
The Rev. Dr. Susan Zencka,
Dr. Peter Bakken, Coordinator
Daniel Phillips Garlock, Intern