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Climate Forum Comes to Strafford

Strafford — The United Church of Strafford will stage an Aug. 16-17 conference on what organizer Jeff Wolfe calls “the connection of increasing social injustice caused by climate disruption that’s being foisted upon our children.”

The symposium is intended for people of faith and/or spirituality and will be staged at the Strafford Town House. Wolfe predicts attendance of at least 125 and is hoping for a capacity gathering of 150, with a registration charge of $75 per person.

The event, to be held on a Friday and Saturday, has a schedule of more than 15 speakers, including Bill McKibben, an author who has written widely on global warming’s impact. He has been described by the Boston Globe as “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” and as “the world’s best green journalist” by Time Magazine.

“We’ve got Baptists and Muslims and Catholics and shamans and all sorts of other people whose fundamental principle is fighting against social injustice and caring for their children,” said Wolfe, the former CEO of groSolar. “Pretty much all social movements in history have been spearheaded by people of faith and spirituality.

“When you talk to the public, you find they haven’t made a connection between climate disruption and social justice. It’s been politicized.”

Wolfe, who dislikes the term “global warming” for that reason, said people should look beyond the concepts of warmer summers or an increasing number of storms when they think about climate change.

When a hurricane strikes, he said, the loss of housing dramatically affects the lives of those on the economic margins. Vulnerable populations worldwide are impacted as the changing climate wreaks havoc on crops and therefore food prices.

“As the disruption increases, the impact is felt unequally,” Wolfe said. “Those impacts are increasing, but the inheritance we’re giving our children is far worse than anything we’re seeing right now.”

The conference features a unique schedule, with a speaker presenting his or her thoughts for roughly 50 minutes, followed by a musical interlude. After three or four speakers have talked on a general point, they will then form a panel that will lead the audience in discussion.

The first set of speakers, on Friday morning, will focus on how climate change is causing social injustice. That’s when McKibben is scheduled to step to the podium. Wolfe said he and his pastor, Byron Breese of the United Church, were having lunch one day in February when they came up with the idea for the conference.

“It’s been a fast ride,” said Wolfe, who worked with a United Church steering committee to contact potential speakers, who are not being paid appearance fees. “This is a new way for churches to create the relevance they feel they’ve been lacking in the last decade.”

Wolfe said he doesn’t have a concrete next step in mind, such as making the conference an annual affair. He’s waiting to see how the upcoming event is received before he looks in that direction. He urged potential attendees to register in advance at the conference’s website, www.faithclimateconference.org, but said if tickets remain, they will be sold at the door the morning of Aug. 16.

“We’ve invited folks from many different faiths and we’re not seeking to create a unified statement from all of them about climate disruption,” Wolfe said. “We’ll be leading participants to create their own individual statements. We think this message transcends many different faiths, so create your own statement and bring it back to your own faith groups.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.

CORRECTION

This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The website for an upcoming conference in Strafford on climate change is www.faithclimateconference.org. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect link.