Love at a Crossroads: Conference Marries Climate and Social Justice

by Georgia S. McDade

On Saturday, October 28, Mount Zion Baptist Church played host to the 2nd Annual Faith and Action Climate Team (FACT) Conference.  Using the theme “Love at the Crossroads: Climate and Social Justice” thirty-two persons spent five months leading up to the creating a program of twenty-one workshops covering a vast number of subjects on people, climate, animals, corporations, healthcare, consumerism, economics, energy, food, trade, science, policy, corporations, labor, and the environment. (The names and presenters of each workshop can be viewed here.)

The Conference began with team leader Lynn Fitz-Hugh and Rev. Dr. Patricia Hunter welcoming attendees. Then Native American Ken Workman followed suit by informing and reminding us that we were in land belonging to several tribes indigenous to this area, land of his ancestors.

We then heard an interfaith panel led by Deidre Gabbay of the Jewish faith, Michele Gomes of the Buddhist faith, Michelle Tirhi of the Islamic faith, Abby Brockway of the Christian faith, and Workman speaking about his tribal faith.  Each was charged with explaining what their faith says about the earth. Not surprisingly, all the religions represented on the panel admonished us to take care of the earth. 

Workman presented a view unfamiliar to many:  “The DNA of the dead is in the earth, so we the living are forever connected with the dead.  One of the many terrible aspects of forcing Native Americans to reservations miles away from their homes was separating them from the DNA of their ancestors.”

Gabbay quoted Cornell West during her talk: “Justice is what love looks like in public” and added her corollary, “Exploitation is what happens when love is forgotten.” 

She later referenced the Old Testament story of Pharaoh and the Egyptians who experienced seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine as an analogy for the state of our planet. The extraction of fossil fuels by giant corporations represent the “years of plenty” while the selling of those same fossil fuels back to us represents the “years of famine.”

Conversation soon turned to those disproportinately suffering from the ill effects of climate change – the poor, whom are mostly black and brown people. With that in mind, Michelle Tirhi introduced us to The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, a document composed by an international group of eighty persons from various backgrounds.  It stated that the world community—the people—must take care of earth and prepare for the effects of climate warming.

It was then time for the first workshop. 

Unfortunately, I could only attend three workshops. “Climate and Racism,” facilitated by Jonathan Fikru and Aliah Davis, was a good choice for me.  Most attendees answered affirmatively when asked if we had been affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Irma, and Harvey, wildfires, or the pipelines. 

Several of us either were or knew persons impacted.  In a good eye-opening exercise, facilitators asked for ten volunteers. Each of us briefly sat in a chair, but then the condition was added that three of us would act as the wealthy few who controlled 70 percent of the goods. That meant three people could have 7 chairs, while the remaining seven people had to share 3 chairs. The picture was not the least bit pretty.  

The second workshop I sat in was “Electricity, Solar Power & Climate Equity.” The presenter, Jeremy Smithson, informed us that the public has not been given the full truth about electricity or solar power. When properly utilized, solar energy has proven to be a safe and clean use of power.

The third workshop, “Corporations, Money in Politics, Effects on Climate,” was packed with information that many attendees already knew.  Once again the public has been duped on many fronts.  Fix America representatives Cindy Black and Nancy Hansen reported some consequences of being deceived by corporations and influenced by money and presented some solutions.

Practicing what was being preached at the Conference, we were asked to bring our own mugs for coffee.  Lunch was “climate friendly—vegan, organic, and locally sourced, with minimal food waste.” We dined on tofu salad with cashews, Methow Valley salad, hummus, and more. 

The keynote speaker was Native American Deborah Parker of the Tulalip Tribe.  Whether addressing us or answering questions she oozed calm. She said she spent most of her time “healing, not hurting” and encouraged us to do the same.  She used the word “protect” often in her address. 

The environment must be protected, she said. “The pipelines Kinder Morgan and Keystone must be stopped; too often the land and the women are raped. Education must be better for all students. Domestic abuse and trafficking must end. Women, girls, and young boys must be protected. The salmon, the cedar, the land needs to be protected.”

She added that her twenty-year-old son is doing “God’s work, the work of the ancestors” as he too fights for the environment.  Each of us must “warrior up” and fight for the land and “honor our spirit.” More persons than ever before are awake, more conscious. “What belongs to us is a healthy spirit, a beautiful connection to this earth….”

The Conference ended with me reading prayers written by each of the panelists followed by Ken Workman who spoke in his native language and then translated his comments.  We were again reminded that the Creator expects us to share our gifts and care for each other and for the earth.       

Records show approximately 200 persons participated in either some or all of the day’s activities. More important, many of these persons took away knowledge they will use to take better care of the earth—it is the only one we have.  If you would like to get at least one climate change alert per week, e-mail Lynn Fitz-Hugh at

The Faith and Climate Action Team is led by Lynn Fitz-Hugh who is ably assisted by at    least thirty-two persons who take climate change seriously and generously devote time to spreading the word.

Videos of Deborah Parker’s keynote address; Randy Mandell’s workshop “Economics and Funding the Green Transition”; Richard Gammon’s workshop “Updating Climate Science after the Paris Accords”; Richard Feely and Brad Warren’s workshop “Ocean Acidification” will be shown on Pirate television. 

Author’s Note:  From what I could tell, only one African and five African Americans were at the Conference, two of whom were presenters and two on the program.  This is one more battle that begs our participation.

Georgia S. McDade, a fifty-year resident of Seattle, participates in and sponsors a number of activities she believes may help people cope in a positive manner.  She hopes if persons think about the possible consequences of their actions, they may act positively.  With this thought in mind, she finished the essay she began about two years ago when she met a young, clean-cut, intelligent, courteous man who is in prison for life.