Climate Change Advocacy at the Community Level

With the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, a future of increasingly extreme weather appears to be a reality. And it is in communities that can least afford mitigation where the burden of climate change will fall the heaviest. That’s why Christians in North America need to hear the story of Hunting Park.

The Hunting Park community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is an example of a community being impacted by the climate crisis and working diligently to mitigate the effects, adapt to changes, and advocate for large scale challenges. This neighborhood is facing multiple challenges caused by climate change and environmental injustice, including extreme summer heat, low levels of tree canopy cover and hazardous health conditions. Yet in the midst of this community’s struggles, people of faith have stepped forward to take hopeful action.

Because the neighborhood is in an economically distressed area, residents have struggled with home repair. As houses fall into disrepair, they then become less energy efficient and costs of heating and cooling rise. One of the ways people of faith are responding is through investing in ways to make the finances work! For residents that can’t afford weatherization, community groups are coming together to provide needed home repair and access to solar panels so they can save money in both the short and long term.

Another initiative, led by people of faith, is providing solar installation job training to low/moderate income (LMI) residents who live in the community. This “Solar Classroom” project is an important facet in investing in justice, so that everyone can benefit from the transition to clean energy. This training project is a way to open the door for good employment in the solar installation industry.

With summer heat wave temperatures averaging 22°F hotter than other parts of Philadelphia, churches in Hunting Park are providing cooling stations for neighbors, and actively working on reforestation and community garden initiatives to provide long-term heat mitigation.

If our world’s temperatures continue to rise, communities like Hunting Park will face even more extreme heat. That’s why legislative advocacy is also such an important part of the work being done in this community. Through our Faith in Action training program, Hunting Park residents have increased opportunity to advocate effectively with their elected officials. One group, led by our regional organizer Allen Drew, met with both of Pennsylvania’s US Senators this summer to encourage them to make climate change legislation a priority.

The practical activism being done in Hunting Park provides a framework for churches and nonprofits around the United States to address environmental injustice in their own communities. That’s why the Climate Witness Project is producing a storytelling series about the work being done in this Philadelphia neighborhood.

Just as we’ve shown the impact of climate change in Kenya and Bangladesh, and what it looks to advocate for vulnerable communities, this storytelling series will be focused on how in North American contexts, churches and believers can respond with both compassion and practical activism.

We’re excited about telling this story. Stay tuned as documentary production begins, and we share a practical vision of how Christians CAN make a difference for environmental justice in their communities.

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