Advocacy: an antidote to worry
When the national political climate is as depressing as it is today, and each day brings news of another environmental regulation being rolled back…
When it seems improbable for us to convince our state representatives to pass laws that will protect Illinois residents and grow our economy…
It can be easy to wonder why we even advocate for more just environmental policies.
Why do we go to our state legislators year after year on Advocacy Day?
Are we even making a difference?
YES, yes, we are.
Founder, Rev. Clare Butterfield, and former staffer, Sara Spoonheim, pictured with faithful advocates at Faith in Place’s first Advocacy Day in March 2007.
Growing communal advocacy over 10 years
Since 2009, Faith in Place has been connecting Illinois residents to their State Senators and State Representatives through its annual advocacy days.
What started out as a small group of faithful people traveling in founder Rev. Clare Butterfield’s car has become a ten-bus Advocacy Day!
Watch Veronica Kyle talk about how much Advocacy Day has changed in the past 11 years.
This growth is important for several reasons. It reflects the increasing concern people have about climate change nationally. Yale Program on Climate Change Communication reports in Global Warming’s Six Americas, “Nearly six in ten (58%) Americans are now either ‘Alarmed’ or ‘Concerned’ about global warming. From 2014 to 2019, the proportion of ‘Alarmed’ nearly tripled.”
It also highlights the importance of living in community with our neighbors near and far. Faith in Place’s strength is rooted in our identity as an engaged community of people who share a diversity of faith traditions, each of which lends itself to a compassionate frame of living.
Advocacy: An Expression of Compassion
Guided by compassion, Faithful Citizens like us have the unique ability to humanize the scary realities of climate change with our state legislators. We are able to emphasize how each of our spiritual traditions offer different ways to be in right relationship with the world. Dr. Katherine Hayhoe – a renowned climate scientist and evangelical Christian – wrote a New York Times op-ed in October 2009 titled, "I'm a Climate Scientist Who Believes in God. Hear Me Out." Her faith clearly motivates her professional career. “I chose what to study precisely because of my faith, because climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable, those already most at risk today. To me, caring about and acting on climate was a way to live out my calling to love others as we’ve been loved ourselves by God.”
"To me, caring about and acting on climate was a way to live out my calling to love others as we’ve been loved ourselves by God.”
She relies on her faith tradition to advocate for environmental justice. She also doesn’t let fear or despair get her down. This is a vital strategy for staying engaged in the environmental movement. Yale Climate Connections interviewed John Fraser, a conservation psychologist who says hope is a powerful motivator. Hope increases when people can process their feelings in community and then shift focus to implement solutions. We too can lean into hope to build on our community bonds and to act together for climate justice.
We invite you to join us in this work on our March 4th Advocacy Day – and every day. To lift up the voices of our neighbors who live in environmental justice communities, such as Waukegan and East St. Louis, is a powerful way to be in a mutual relationship with the world. EJ communities know what they want and need for their communities to thrive. We are called to listen to their visions and amplify their voices.
Peggy Jones, an ecoadvocate from Waukegan (which has a coal-fired power plant), wants her community to breathe clean air.
This is why showing up matters. Being a visual reminder to our legislators that we care about our neighbors and the environment we share, that we care about equitable economic growth, matters.
Why Relationships Matter: Strategic Advocacy
We also know taking a full day to visit our Statehouse in Springfield is a privilege that not everyone in our community is able to make for many reasons – all of which are valid. That’s why advocacy isn’t just about one day each spring. Rather, advocacy is about cultivating relationships.
Relationships make or break our ability to achieve our goals. They determine whether our policy visions become law. What kind of relationships do we need to build such power?
This looks like Faith in Place collaborating with our coalition partners at the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, including Illinois Environmental Council and Sierra Club to make Advocacy Day possible. The goal is to create space for personal relationships to form between each citizen and their state legislators. When legislators know you, their constituents, are concerned about taking care of our common home, they are more likely to make decisions that value equity.
These relationships need nurturing. It’s why we keep showing up, year after year. That is how we can make real policy change. When we do have a win, such as passing FEJA in December 2016, let’s can celebrate the progress we have made and keep striving for the just world we envision.
This is why advocacy is so important. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Our presence matters. Showing up for Advocacy Day is doing our part as concerned, Faithful Citizens walking with our neighbors for a more just tomorrow.
Don’t delay! Register for the bus nearest you today.