Have Some Faith: Action Coalition Founded in New Paltz

Photo by Monique Tranchina.

The Interfaith Earth Action Coalition is making progress within the local community to raise awareness about environmental concerns.

So far, about half of the religious groups are active within the organization, meaning they attend meetings and offer ideas on how to conserve energy. Jim O’Dowd, leader of the organization, can attest to this early success, as there are about a dozen different religious groups that belong to the Coalition, since its formation in last November.

Coming together to help stall our effects on the environment is crucial, despite our backgrounds in spiritual practice.

“Ultimately the fate of creation boils down to moral, ethical and religious questions and choices,” O’Dowd said. “Pope Francis highlights this in his encyclical, Laudato Si’ and major religious leaders of multiple faiths have been saying similar things for decades.”

This organization could grow to spread influence beyond New Paltz and surrounding areas; awareness can reach a more national level.

“Every little bit of change by every individual helps,” O’Dowd said. “If you multiply those changes by an entire congregation and then by multiple congregations in a community like New Paltz you’ve already made a difference.”

But suppose New Paltz sets an example for other communities or if say the Lutheran Church in New Paltz sets an example for other Lutheran Churches and the same happens for other congregations, then you’re talking about some major shifts in consciousness and actions.”

Seth McKee, a member of the Coalition, also wishes their impact will go beyond our small town. He says New Paltz has had an impact on a national level for other topics, so he hopes this could gain momentum with a larger population.

“I hope by our example we can inspire other communities to act similarly,” McKee said. “We are going to light a candle and help.”

For starters, McKee wants to reach more people across New Paltz, “we as a society should take to address climate issues.” McKee also explains on a practical level, within each religious group, they can recognize their carbon footprint and take steps to eliminate them. This will bridge differences between religious practices.

Students on campus are also taking measures to work on similar goals. Will Halstead, undeclared, said, “I do recycle and refill plastic water bottles as often as I can.”

Mykael Fields, a psychology major, also ensures lights are turned off when no one is in a room. And Francesca Arecy is involved in a team effort with her hall: her dorm mates take part in competitions to see who is most sustainable.

“We all live on the planet; we’re all affected by it. Events are great, but [energy conservation] should be done everyday,” Halstead said.

Efforts beginning in New Paltz include a variety of small but effective practices: O’Dowd also foresees small changes creating a larger impact globally. And the Coalition plans on making eco-friendly waves during the Earth Day Fair, on Saturday, April 16, on the grounds of the New Paltz Reformed Church.

Both O’Dowd and McKee have stressed the importance of the Earth Day event as being a gateway to educating the public about sustainable habits. Other events will occur as the group continues to build their foundation.

“Beyond the Earth Day event, we hope that the Interfaith Earth Action group can sponsor events that encourage people to insulate their homes, purchase wind and solar electricity from green ESCOs, eat less meat, eat lower on the food chain in general and go organic,” O’Dowd said. “Also, encourage people to go local to the degree possible, conserve energy, vote and encourage leaders of both major parties to support renewable energy and green initiatives.”

Coming together to work on climate issues and conservation actions will require mutual efforts and patience, as we have neglected and abused our environment for years. And political leaders must take responsibility toward creating regulations to protect and serve our environment.

“The religious and spiritual communities are the institutions that need to make the connection between the degradation of the planet and the greed corruption, indifference and selfishness that have brought us to this perilous place,” O’Dowd said. “The scientists have spoken, the religious and spiritual communities are speaking; the question is will the business and political leaders listen?

For more information, contact Jim O’Dowd at (845) 255-4170, or at jimmyodowd@yahoo.com.