Pagans working in interfaith ecology group in Marin County

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MARIN COUNTY, Calif. — Pagans have participated in, and provided leadership for, Marin Interfaith Climate Action since it began in March, 2017. Marin Interfaith Climate Action is composed of Bahá’ís, Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Progressive Protestants, Unitarians, and members of the Unity Church. Aline “Macha” O’Brien of the Covenant of the Goddess has provided the Pagan presence in this group.

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, congressman Jared Huffman of California spoke at a town hall meeting, urging the roughly 800 people attendees to build local leadership on the issue of climate change. This town hall inspired Pat Carlone, a Jewish activist, to approach Rev. Scott Quinn, director of the Marin Interfaith Council. Quinn provided Carlone with a list of people who might be interested in building that local leadership. The first meeting of the Marin Interfaith Climate Action was held in March, 2017.

Carlone described the group’s purpose as providing a way for people to connect with the existential threat of global warming. He said that people could do so “by making changes in how we each conduct our daily lives.” These changes would involve households and churches replacing their home’s and their building’s source of electricity from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. He likened this to the spiritual tradition of bearing witness to fight climate change. He said, “I am called upon myself, to make necessary changes in my own habits, how I live my daily life.”

Environmental activism

MICA members have marched, lobbied, and held forums among other activities. One goal set for the group as of Earth Day, April 22, 2018, is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Marin County by 100,000 pounds. The plan is to convince people and institutional leaders to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy as the source of their electricity.

Aline “Macha” O’Brien and Pat Carlone [courtesy].

Marin County has an initiative, Marin Clean Energy, intended to assist home- and business owners to replace fossil fuels with a renewable source of energy, as well as a program for multi-family properties and renters. The initiative also benefits residents of Napa County, as well as the cities of North Bay and East Bay.

Through MICA, three options to replace the source of a building’s electricity from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy are offered. Under the “light green” option, a building would obtain 50 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources of energy. Under the “deep green” option, a building would obtain all of its energy needs from a mixture of solar and wind power. Under the “local sol” option, a building would obtain all of its energy needs from locally-produced solar power.

O’Brien said, “Every municipal government in the county has gone deep green,” as well as all Marin County facilities. Efforts by MICA members have targeted affiliated churches, synagogues, and mosques to replace dependence on fossil fuels with dependence on renewable energy sources. It has also targeted households from the congregations of those churches, synagogues, and mosques to make the same replacement. The organizational goals were to have 20 member congregations, and 20 households within each member congregation, “go deep green.”

Training to MICA members has been offered through Marin Clean Energy. They can use that training to produce educational materials and prepare presentations.

MICA is organized around the principle of “think globally, act locally.” While Carlone said that group plans focus on Marin County, that local emphasis does not exclude a larger perspective. O’Brien added, “Working on behalf of Mother Earth is universal.” She said that MICA members would collaborate, support, and publicize international climate change activism.

Pagans working in an interfaith environment

O’Brien occupies a position of leadership within MICA, chairing its monthly meetings and serving on the steering committee. She introduced the consensus process model of decision-making to the group, and has worked to create their banner, brochure, website, and logo.

O’Brien has found no emphasis on spiritual differences in MICA. She said that each member has absolute respect for the traditions of every other member, and that she has only encountered one example of anti-Pagan bias. It was largely a matter of ignorance, based on popular stereotypes. The non-Pagans in MICA educated the person in question, resolving the question.

She has found her ecumenical work to be highly rewarding and a source of “gratitude and joy.” Carlone said that he found it delightful to have a Witch in the group.

This past Earth Day, MICA leaders announced that they had exceeded their goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions achieving a total reduction of 123,096 pounds, or 55,835 kilograms.