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Faith to help spread Sierra Club's word

Arizona Daily Star
November 5, 2005

The Sierra Club is turning to faith to advance environmental protection.

Tapping into the Bible's message of caring for creation, Sierra Club organizer Clayton Daughenbaugh is traveling around the country appealing to people of faith to help preserve America's public lands. Of immediate concern, he's trying to raise awareness about an upcoming congressional vote on drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"We've observed an increased interest from faith communities in environmental issues, and we're out providing information to folks and holding discussions from a faith perspective," said Daughenbaugh, who will be at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson on Sunday evening to give a presentation titled "Public Lands at Risk."

Clayton - Asbury United Methodist Church
Clayton speeking during worship at Asbury United Methodist Church in Phoenix on Nov. 13, 2005.
The presentation will feature photos of scenic places under threat from oil and gas developments, as well as damage that already has occurred.

Daughenbaugh, the son of a United Methodist minister, also gives secular presentations in an effort to spread his two main messages:
  • There's been a dramatic increase in the extraction of energy resources, mainly oil and gas, from public lands
  • The U.S. Department of Interior's proposed new policies governing protection of the country's national parks will weaken the public's power to control what happens on National Park Service land.
During the last year, Daughenbaugh has visited eight states and churches of various denominations. He stresses the Sierra Club is not a religious group, but that its message is resonating with people of faith.

"Americans are blessed with the opportunity to be effective stewards of creation," he said.

Southside Presbyterian Church member Greg Lewis said Daughenbaugh's talk will kick off a three-week education class at the church based on the 1992 book "Baptized into Wilderness: A Christian Perspective on John Muir," a book about the Sierra Club founder. The classes will be held for three consecutive Sunday mornings starting Nov. 13.

"Christ always stood with victims, and that extends beyond the human circle," Lewis said.

Lewis and other members of Southside already have been involved in opposing fee programs at Sabino Canyon and Mount Lemmon, which are part of the Coronado National Forest.

Daughenbaugh has been to Catholic and mainline Protestant churches, but says people of all faiths are stepping up to protect the environment. One recent example is the formation of the Noah Alliance, a partnership of evangelical Christians, Jews and scientists that formed in September with a mission of preventing Congress from weakening the Endangered Species Act. The alliance has launched a national advertising campaign supporting the act, titled "What Would Noah Do?"

One of the alliance members is the national Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, which has a Southern Arizona chapter led by Tucson resident Susan Kaplan. Kaplan's group has completed projects ranging from cleanup after the 2003 Mount Lemmon fire to hosting public discussions about how planes can coexist with birds.

"We go by the same Scripture as Christians as written in Genesis, that humankind was put on the Earth to till and to tend and to be stewards," Kaplan said. "It's a sacred responsibility to protect the environment from the oceans to the sky."


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