Faith, business & climate come together at Alabama event
By Diego Garrison
On February 8, 2020, the Birmingham, Alabama, chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter held “Climate Solutions for the Common Good,” an event to bring the faith and business communities together to discuss climate change. Held in the McWane Science Center, the event included two panels with local business and religious leaders, presentations from climate scientists, and group discussions.
Joyce Lanning and John Northrop of CCL’s Birmingham chapter planned the event. Their goal was to grow the conversation of climate change within the community and to inspire action. “We wanted to have an event that expanded the circle,” John said. “If people are concerned and they want to do something about climate change, they can bring that with them” into the event, he said.
In their initial stages of planning, Joyce and John planned to focus specifically on religious communities. “We felt that if we could turn the faith community on to a ‘stewardship, global responsibility’ type of attitude, then maybe we could move Alabama,” John explained. This shifted a bit after a meeting with Senator Doug Jones, who told them, “You need to have the business community involved if you really want to move policy.” Following his advice, they decided the event would try to bring the religious and business community together to start an open dialogue concerning climate change.
With that concept in place, John and Joyce got to work planning and promoting the event. They gathered a diverse planning team with lots of connections in the community, in both faith and business circles, and they chose a date, made a timeline, identified a good location, targeted prospective attendees, and worked out the specific programming for the event. Joyce said, “In that planning process, things don’t turn out as you think they should or shouldn’t. They turn out as they do. And for us, some of what it did turn out was even bigger and better than we had envisioned.” And sure enough, 248 people attended the event!
The event included presentations from Dr. James McClintock of the University of Alabama and Dr. Katharine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University. They discussed the dangers of climate change, the meaning and importance of being an environmentalist, and how to talk about climate change. Their presentations led to great conversations between community members at each table. People spoke of skepticism and concerns, but had honest and open conversations about solutions to fighting climate change. It was clear that many people were silently concerned but wanted to see solutions.
The conversations continued after the event and sparked action within the community. Faith groups asked the CCL chapter to partner with them on environmental events. One local business decided to donate roughly 40 trees to be planted. A member of the city council attended the event and a week after, the city council voted on a resolution to support H.R. 763.
John really emphasized the community focus of an event like this. “If you involve the right people along the way, it will be something rooted in your community,” he said. “You’ve just got to be tuned in to what’s going on in your setting, and try to plug into that.”
Planning and running the event was definitely a learning experience, John said. “I’ll tell you this—it was a voyage of discovery, to put it mildly,” he said. He encourages others to try it. “Just hop on that horse and ride!”
Diego Garrison is a legislative fellow in CCL’s D.C. office and is graduating from the University of Maryland in May with a B.S. degree in Environmental Science and Policy concentrating in Global Environmental Change.