Chlorine Free Products Association Summit 2006
"Environmental Responsibility Equals Market Opportunity?"
February 2, 2006
Rev. James Pat Watkins
Presentation on Environmental Justice Work from a Faith Perspective
To an audience of business and government leaders and environmentalists
The keynote speaker of this conference was the Honorable Tom Torti, Secretary of Natural Resources of the State of Vermont. He discussed Land Use, Energy, Purchasing Policy, and Trade Policy as the four major environmental concerns that would confront us in the future.
Here is my presentation:
I'm here this afternoon representing the Green Team of the Women's Division of the United Methodist Church. I realize I am a man, but I'm proud to be a part of the Women's Division Green Team. It is so good of them not only to have me, but to support me in this ministry to God's Creation. So it's great to be here.
What I want to try to get across to you in these brief remarks is why the United Methodist Women is concerned about chlorine; in other words, I want to try to make a connection for you between faith and caring for the environment, or God's Creation, in theological language. If I can help make that connection for you, then you will understand the connection between the Women's Division and you.
I've discovered that there are a lot of people of faith out there who are also environmentalists, but I think it is, for the most part, a coincidence. And there are a lot of environmentalists out there who also just happen to be people of faith, but again I think it is only coincidental. My passion involves connecting the two, providing a Biblical/theological grounding for caring for God's Creation.
So let's get started, but I have to begin with a Bible study if that's okay. It will be very short and very non-threatening and we'll have a good time with it. We're going to discuss a story in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, as Christians refer to it. If you are of another faith, please forgive me, but I think there may be some wisdom here for all of us.
Most environmental theologians begin with Genesis 1 but we're going to look at Genesis 2-3.
Who are the main characters in the story and what was the setting? They are God, Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden (or simply the earth). There are three relationships here: between God and Adam and Eve (humanity), between Adam and Eve (people and people), and between Adam and Eve and the Earth.
The church has focused primarily on the relationship between God and humanity, and secondarily on the relationship between people and people. Because of our relationship with God, for example, we feel compelled to take care of other people around the world. That's why there are so many church groups going to the Gulf Coast right now to help the victims of Katrina.
But the church has not focused very much at all on the relationship between humanity and the earth, that is, up until now. United Methodist Women has historically been concerned about the health and welfare of women and children around the world because of their relationship to God. But what they've come to realize in recent years is that there are environmental issues out there that have been adversely affecting women and children for some time. In other words United Methodist Women has discovered that a relationship of care for humanity compels us to be involved in a relationship of care for the earth because those two relationships are so very interconnected.
So because United Methodist Women has a relationship with God, we care for people, and because environmental issues adversely affect people, we care for the earth as well. As a result the United Methodist Women's Division created a Green Team about a year ago to begin to incorporate issues surrounding this relationship between humanity and the earth as ministry priorities for the Church. The Chlorine issue was an obvious one as dioxin affects the health of women and children.
But this relationship between us as people of faith, and the earth, is pretty new for the church, and we're still trying to figure out how to do it. I like the imagery of a dance. We're trying to figure out how to dance with Archie Beaton and with all of you. This is new territory for the church. We don't normally have relationships with marketing/business groups, so it may take a while to figure out how that relationship can best be lived out, but what we are convinced of, anyway, is that such a relationship is very vital to the future of God's Creation.
I believe as a faith community we can be advocates along side of you for an increased presence of Chlorine Free Products in the market place. And we can be a market for you. There are 1 million United Methodist Women in the United States and over 8 million members of the United Methodist Church, and we are but 1 protestant denomination among many, not to mention Catholics and people of other faiths. The faith community can be a very powerful tool for change if it can be harnessed. It is very hard to change the direction of the church, but it can be done. History has proven that.
You can offer us some of your marketing tools as we seek to raise the awareness of United Methodists to the issue of Chlorine. We need ways to educate our people and ourselves to the dangers of dioxin. We will come at it from a faith perspective, but you can help us understand the science, the manufacturing, the alternatives to Chlorine bleaching, and the effects on human health.
I thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure and an honor to be able to present to you.