‘Earth Day on the Hill’ Draws Diverse Body of Support

WASHINGTON – Some of the nation's top environmental activists gathered to launch the "Earth Day on the Hill" on Tuesday.

From clergy to citizen activists to a congresswoman, Americans with a deep sense of concern for environmental issues met in the nation's capital to kick off a day where diverse voices and perspectives could be brought to Capitol Hill to press Congress to take immediate action on the climate change problem.

People such as the Rev. Peter Moore-Kochlacs of the Religious Coalition on Creation Care spoke about the responsibility of Christians to be good stewards of God's creation.

"We are responsible to the integrity of God's creation," said Moore-Koclacs.

"The call to love God and to love your neighbor is more expansive than just your neighbor next door," said the United Methodist pastor who has worked on the climate change issue since the 1990s. "Your neighbor is your neighborhood. It is your habitat region. It is the entire biosphere. So if you do not protect it, if you do not serve your neighborhood, you are not serving your neighbor."

Several Hispanic speakers also shared how their community and neighborhoods are helping to address the climate change issue, although the form of their efforts might be different than the conventional method.

"Many think that Latinos don't care about the environment," said Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-Calif.). "I can give you some oral history of what took place in my family – a family of seven children. All we knew was recycling and reuse. Recycling and reuse because of socio-economic indicators."

The congresswoman said environmentalists can use the Hispanic community's already in-place tendency to preserve things to explain how they can help preserve where they live and recreate. Solis also supports government-granted tax breaks for small business owners that want to acquire equipments and facilities that are environmentally friendly.

Irma Munoz, president of La Mujeres de la Tierra, explains that although Hispanic women are not using the term global warming or climate change, they are talking in their own "language" about the same issues through questions about the health of their children and their community.

"We don't use the word environment but we use the word health," said Munoz. "We use 'how come we are planting our gardens but nothing is coming up?' 'how come we continue to have oil wells increase in our neighborhoods?'"

She reported that these questions are being discussed at the dinner table in Hispanic communities and assured that people will take ownership and responsibility for these problems now that families are openly talking about the issues.

Bill McKibben, organizer of last weekend's Step it Up campaign, was also briefly present and reported that on Saturday there were more than 1,400 events in 50 states calling on Congress to "Step It Up" on Global Warming and to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent before 2050.

The Earth Day Network will conclude its weeklong events this Sunday on Earth Day 2007 by partnering with Washington National Cathedral to create a special Earth Day service featuring Grammy winning singer Sheryl Crow and the National Association of Evangelicals' vice president of governmental affairs Richard Cizik. The service will be one of hundreds of observances by religious and faith communities nationwide urging greater actions on global warming.