The Old and New Partnering for ‘Preserving Sacred Appalachia’ Conference

West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club and West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light join forces for gathering the week of Earth Day

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia chapters of The Sierra club, one of the nation’s most renowned environmental preservation groups, and Interfaith Power & Light (IPL), a new entity in the Mountain State, have partnered to support a conference being held in Charleston on April 20th and 21st at the St. John’s XXIII Pastoral Center. The unprecedented interfaith and interdisciplinary gathering, “Preserving Sacred Appalachia: Gathering, Speaking and Acting in Unity,” is being held to educate Appalachian people and others about the many threats to the well-being of the people, ecology and wildlife of West Virginia and Appalachia.WV IPL Logo - 2015

The gathering will features about 20 speakers, including ministers, laity, environmental activists, educators and artists. The event is being sponsored by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church of Hickory, N.C. and coordinated by the Appalachian Preservation Project of Bridgeport, W.Va.

WV Sierra clubFounded by legendary preservationist John Muir in 1892, the Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than two million members and supporters. The Sierra Club exists to protect the wild places of the earth, to practice and promote responsible environmental stewardship, and to educate the public about how to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.

While the Sierra Club can trace its roots to the 19th century, Interfaith Power & Light was formed at the beginning of this century. It was established to draw together the religious community and spiritual people to provide a voice of conscience to address the dangers to people and the environment associated with climate change. The national organization began as a single state chapter; it now has not only a national outreach, but also 40 state chapters. A core group of West Virginia faith community leaders have joined to foster formation of the 41st state IPL chapter, West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light.

The West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club is working on energy efficiency and renewable energy and also has joined with other preservation groups to counter the public health and safety problems associated with fracking and mountaintop removal. Bill Price, the organizing representative of the West Virginia chapter said, “Members of the Sierra Club in West Virginia are excited to be working on the ‘Preserving Sacred Appalachia’ conference. For too many years, the health and well-being of people in West Virginia have been damaged by the extractive industries. For many years, the Sierra Club in West Virginia has worked to reduce those impacts and move to a brighter future. Partnering with people of faith is a key component of that ongoing work. I hope to see many old and new friends at the gathering.”

The Rev. Mel Hoover, a member of the steering committee of West Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, offered, “This partnership demonstrates that we are at a crossroads in the Mountain State. We have always known that we must work together to address the many environmental issues impacting the people and ecology of West Virginia. This conference, by joining together people of faith with scientists, educators, artists and others, sends a clear message that cannot be ignored – we are united in purpose.” He continued, “Global warming is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today. The very existence of life – life that religious people are called to protect – is jeopardized by our continued dependency on fossil fuels for energy. Every major religion has a mandate to care for Creation. We were given natural resources to sustain us, but we were also given the responsibility to act as good stewards and preserve life for future generations.”

He added, “We are excited about forming the nation’s newest IPL chapter. The rapidly growing movement has more than a decade of success in shrinking carbon footprints and educating hundreds of thousands of people in the pews about the important role that we play in addressing the threats to public health and the environment.”

Hoover concluded, “As people of faith, our mission includes being advocates for vulnerable people and communities. It is poor people who are being hit first and worst by environmental degradation. We also aim to make sure that all people can participate in and benefit from the growing clean energy economy.”

The conference is open to the public, though advance registration is required. Folks can register by visiting the website of the Appalachian Preservation Project. They can also learn more about the agenda and view a brief video explaining the conference.

© Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015.

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