from Executive Director, Rev. Dawn Cooley
My first day going into work as the minister of First Unitarian Church in Louisville was on August 4, 2009. I remember the day clearly, as I was completely unable to get to the church due to a flash flood that made roads impassable. That flood was devastating to people who lived along the Ohio river, as well as people who lived in low-lying areas of town. One doesn’t usually think of Kentucky in general and Louisville specifically as being prone to natural disasters, but this flood was the third major disaster to strike the region in less than one year.
Just a few weeks later, Tim Darst, founder and former ED of Kentucky Interfaith Power & LIght, came to speak to the congregation. His sermon was the final nudge needed to motivate members of First Unitarian to mobilize towards installing solar panels on their roof.
When the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly came to Louisville in 2013, it was exciting for me to partner with KIPL and other local organizations to coordinate the "Energy For Change" public witness rally, which became the largest environmentally focused rally in Kentucky state history.
I have seen the excellent work that Kentucky IPL has done in our community under Tim’s leadership, and I am so excited to bring my ministry and nonprofit training to be a part of creating the next era by expanding on successful programs, growing our reach in the state, and bringing in new voices.
The very existence of life – life that religious people are called to protect – is jeopardized if we continue in the path that we are on. As people of faith, our mission includes being advocates for vulnerable people and communities that are the most heavily impacted by disasters caused by climate change, like the 2009 Louisville flood. From air pollution to droughts to rising seas, it is poor people who are being hit first and worst. Here in Kentucky, it will get warmer and the weather will become more unpredictable, bringing more frequent droughts and storms which will impact urban and rural areas alike. In addition, the move away from fossil fuels impacts the livelihoods of coal communities, requiring economic solutions that support these communities during the transition to cleaner energy sources. Climate change is a wicked challenge which needs to be addressed in many different ways and arenas.
This is an issue that unites people across the faith spectrum. Every major religion has a mandate to care for our planet and the life on it and expresses the responsibility for humankind to act as good stewards and preserve life for future generations. This means practicing energy stewardship (particularly in our religious facilities) as well as bringing the voice of the faith community into the policy-making arena. We know that our actions alone cannot stem the tide of climate change – we need to enact public policies to advance clean energy and to limit carbon pollution.
Join Kentucky IPL to be a part of this exciting movement.