West Hartford rabbi writes about climate change

Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener recenly relased a book on spirituality and climate change/ContributedWEST HARTFORD – Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener knows this planet is in trouble, and she’s hoping that page-by-page, she can make a difference.

Her new book, “Claiming Earth As Common Ground: The Ecological Crisis through the Lens of Faith,” challenges people of all faiths to come together to nurse the planet back to health.

“I want to nurture this earth the way it nurtures me,” she said, adding that once people realize they were designated by God to be stewards of the earth, they can begin to feel his presence in a distinctive way.

She said, for example, that Jews and Christians often read the scriptures, but don’t take to heart verses like Isaiah 55:12, which reads, “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

“What’s that about the trees clapping?,” she asked. “Those little one-liners are like going over a speed bump … but isn’t the God in the pews the God of the cosmos?”

Cohen-Kiener, who leads a monthly Jewish Renewal fellowship, calls it “shelf-theology” and said once people begin to realize that environmental issues aren’t to be taken lightly, verses about the earth will hit them in the gut.

Cohen-Kiener, director of the Interreligious Eco-Justice League, said the book is targeted toward people of all faiths and includes chapters from contributing authors, like Rev. Woody Bartlett, founder of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light.

His chapter is about what he calls the Great Light Bulb Swap of ’06, where his organization changed out 3,500 light bulbs at an Atlanta church for energy-efficient bulbs.

The bulb swap, Bartlett said, inspired other churches to make similar changes.

“We are convinced that this is primarily a faith issue,” he said. “Here in Georgia, the statistics are that 45 percent of the population goes to a worship experience every week. That’s an incredible portal into the population.”

He said he hopes anyone who reads the book will confront their spiritual leader and urge them to help shift the church to a more energy efficient path.

The Rev. Donna Schaper, senior minister, Judson Memorial Church in New York City, also contributed to “Claiming Earth as a Common Ground.”

“I just became a grandmother … and all I can think about is what kind of world I’m leaving for my grandson. Will he have the chance I’ve had to enjoy nature?,” she said.

She said climate change and the call to people of faith to take action, isn’t easy to digest. The book, which was released in August, includes a study guide for further examination of the issue.

“I hope people will read it,” Schaper said, “but I think people are changed by a beautiful walk in the woods on a gorgeous fall day. I think that (world preservation) is our common ground.”

For information on the new publication, visit Skylight Paths Publishing at www.skylightpaths.com.

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