(RICHMOND, VA)—Participants at an interfaith "Living Waters" summit of faith, conservation, science, and policy leaders in Richmond last November identified eight areas of potential collaboration to preserve and protect streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay, according to a recent report of summit proceedings.
"The hope is that the summit will lead to collaborative action at the local level to protect and restore waters, bringing communities of faith and conservation together in the years ahead for common cause," the report said. "An ongoing steering committee will shepherd the outcomes of the Summit forward."
The summit report, prepared for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) by the University of Virginia's Institute for Environmental Negotiation, captured the thoughts of the more than 130 summit attendees and distilled them to eight desired actions going forward:
- Mobilize leaders and individuals—call on recognized leaders from the faith and scientific communities to provide guidance.
- Begin with your sphere of influence—put "feet on faith" by engaging strategically in the political process and initiating creative partnerships, such as creating a "faith caucus" to lobby during the Virginia General Assembly and in Congress.
- Find common ground through compassion and openness—exercise empathy to build understanding and help activists connect human rights and environmental justice issues with environmental issues.
- Encourage experiential and active involvement—build understanding of the importance and challenges associated with protecting our waters and create opportunities to experience the wonder of water firsthand. "You protect what you love. You love what you know."
- Develop and share best practices in youth environmental education—foster more outdoor activities with youth and intergenerational groups to "light a fire in our young people."
- Think outside the box and make cross-faith connections—help the faithful make the mental shift from a "domination" mindset to one of "stewardship" through stories, alliances, and activities.
- Find creative and sustainable funding for green initiatives—use traditional opportunities and develop new partnerships to foster sustainable funding.
- Address the nuts and bolts—be systematic in gathering and creating the resources needed to support ground-level actions.
The November "Living Waters" summit drew attendees from across Virginia to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond to consider and discuss water quality through the lens of faith. Participants included faith leaders, eco-theology advocates, conservationists, scientists, state policy leaders, and those interested in cultivating environmental stewardship within their own churches, mosques, ekojis, and temples.
A key aim of the summit was to leverage the collective power of faith communities to provide new leadership on environmental conservation issues, in particular the preservation of the Chesapeake Bay and its watersheds.
Partnering with CBF to host the Living Waters Summit were the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Conservation Network, Caretakers of God's Creation, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, the Office of Justice + Peace, and Virginia Interfaith Power & Light.
For more information about the "Living Waters" summit and to read the full report, go to www.cbf.org/livingwaters. For more information about the steering committee now planning future activities, contact Aimee Bushman at 804-780-1392 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITORS NOTE: Summit organizers Ann Jurczyk and Aimee Bushman are available for interviews by calling 804-780-1392. Photos from the summit also are available upon request.