“An Ecology of Wonder”: Our Earth Day Interview with Rev. Kate Mosley of GIPL

April 22, 2019

One of the best parts of our line of work at Sol is that we meet so many incredible leaders. One of these leaders is Reverend Kate Mosley of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light. As executive director of GIPL, Reverend Mosley brings her passion for caring for the Earth to people of all faiths. Her uplifting thoughts on Earth Day remind us that truly, every day is an opportunity to celebrate our shared planet.

Tell us a bit about your work with GIPL.

GIPL seeks to equip the 15,000 houses of worship in Georgia to practice their stewardship every day as they operate their sanctuaries. These houses of worship include temples, mosques, religious schools, churches – everything. We do this by helping faith leaders learn more about their organizations’ footprint and how their campuses and facilities use energy and water. Energy is particularly important, as we can help reduce energy consumption. We also find efficient upgrades so that our partners can have some financial support for their improvements. More importantly, we try to raise awareness that climate change and environmental protection are moral issues. Since what we teach includes stewardship and taking care of the earth, we want to return people’s attentions to those basic tenants.

What does Earth Day mean to you?

Earth Day is every day. The Earth is a life force, and that’s the same 24/7.  I am grateful for those who first organized Earth Day in 1970 as a way to help the general population pause for a moment and remember that the Earth is finite. It requires work to maintain a healthy relationship with the Earth in order for our species to survive. Even more importantly, it requires work for us to truly thrive in community.

GIPL often talks about environmental stewardship. Can you tell us more about that idea?

All of the world’s major religions have something to say about how we take care of the planet. We are to be stewards. The Jewish and Christian communities are told this in Genesis 2:15: The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Environmental stewardship is the work of caring for the Earth, of finding a particular way in which you as an individual and in the community can protect the environment.

You spoke at an interfaith meeting in Atlanta with the Climate Reality Project. Can you tell us about that experience?

It was fantastic to be part of such a distinguished fellowship at such a powerful historic place like the Ebenezer Baptist Church. It was a packed house, with over 700 people in attendance. Most impactful for me, though, was listening to the other speakers: Vice President Al Gore, Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock and Bishop William Barber, who organizes the wonderful Moral Mondays in the Southeast.

Even more importantly, what was phenomenal was that there truly was a cross-section of faith leaders present in that space for those two hours. We were joined by leaders of the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish faiths. Two women from indigenous communities spoke. I’m always so inspired and encouraged when I’m able to listen to leaders from other faith communities, especially in a mass setting where dialogue can occur. It becomes a very intimate experience, despite the massive audience.

What inspired your passion for environmental protection?

When I was a little girl, I was lucky enough to have an Uncle Bill. He was this amazing, gentle soul who deeply cared about the environment. Honestly, until I was a young adult, I thought everybody had an Uncle Bill in their family! He taught our family how to camp, how to conserve water, how to exist within and alongside nature. He was an amateur wildlife photographer, and I watched him capture images of nature, these small flowers and birds. He loved them all so much. He never lectured me about environmental stewardship or activism, but he inspired me all the same. It was in the ways in which he related to the Earth and to the natural world.

When I was called to the seminary and to joining the ministry, I never thought the work in environmental activism would be a path for me. I didn’t know that existed. Instead, I thought, “Oh, I have this personal environmental ethic, and I love God.” They weren’t the same thing. Then I met another Bill, actually. A man named Bill Brown, who is a scholar of the Hebrew canon, the Old Testament. All of his scholarship is rooted in what the Old Testament can teach us about how God created the Earth, and how understanding that biblical teaching can lead us to being better stewards of this Earth. He calls it an Ecology of Wonder, how God is revealed to us in nature. When we return to those principles of wonder, of gratitude, we will become better stewards of the Earth.

I was pretty fortunate to have these Bills in my life. They shaped me so much, both personally and vocationally. I hope everyone has some good Bills in their lives. When I falter, or stumble, I think of my Uncle Bill. He reminds me that I have to keep at it, no matter what.

What amazes you most about our Earth?

Oh, everything. The Earth is a truly regenerative force. We humans need to work more in-step with that. I am continually amazed by how powerfully science continues to reveal the wonders of God’s creation. The recent equations that led to the images of the black hole—those are incredible!

What would you like to share with others this Earth Day?

Many people choose not to engage with environmental protection or conservation because they think the issues are too big. They believe their impact will not be sufficient to address the environmental challenges that we, as an entire planet, face. I want to push back on that. There is a lot we can do individually. Ultimately, really addressing climate change and reversing the impact of environmental degradation does take collective action and political will—meaning policy, not just politics. And yet, each of us can do something that makes us more aware of our impact on the environment and the Earth system. We can reduce some of that impact and take positive action. We talk about reducing our environmental footprint, but I like to also talk about increasing our environmental handprint, which I see as positive actions taken in the world.

Right now, we are facing a pretty straightforward crisis about how we handle waste in this country. I hear a lot about how recycling is becoming a challenge. Many of us don’t recycle well. Many of us don’t truly support a recycling economy. There are so many opportunities to do so! There is a lot more than recycling, and some people ignore it because they see recycling as a “low-hanging fruit” opportunity, but low-hanging fruit is easy to reach and it can be very sweet!

My hope is that everyone can find and commit to one thing they can do that increases their environmental handprint upon the Earth.

Thank you, Reverend Mosley!


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