While I would love to sip hot tea a few days longer and reflect on the great things accomplished last year, there is a sense of urgency that I just can’t shake. Do you feel it, too? It stems from knowing that the Chesapeake Bay's water quality is going to fall short of EPA-mandated goals, and that climate change isn’t waiting for us to get our-ducks-in-a-row. However, my sense of urgency also stems from excitement for all the opportunities before us this year.
A future caretaker marvels at the glory of a tree at the Eastern Shore solstice walk in December.
(Photo Credit: Susan Parker)
Let’s start off with what’s falling short. A board member, Ray Heil, and I jointly published this Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun last month, “A Moral Obligation to Clean Up the Chesapeake Bay“ (Baltimore Sun, December 23, 2022) (or, click here if you do not have a subscription to the Sun) that highlighted the disappointing news that the EPA may bend on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup deadline. Our commentary recognizes that without the political will of leadership to drive results, it is up to each of us as individuals to do our part to reduce our pollution. Please take a moment to read it, for we all must do something to contribute to the solution. All of our properties -- including including our homes and the places where we worship -- contribute pollution that threatens the health of the streams and the Bay itself. Remarkably, the Washington Post Editorial Board opined on the same exact day that a bill put forth by federal legislators to increase access to the Bay could result in increased individual commitment to its restoration. IPC’s programming to increase watershed literacy and reconnect them to nature (such as our Solstice and Equinox walks), help plant these seeds of commitment to restoring the watershed.
"The question that must be addressed is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet's millions of humans and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land...”
- Wendell Berry, "The Futility of Global Thinking," 1989
The numerous projects you undertake to plant trees and native landscaping, convert turf grass to meadows, and mitigate parking lot imperviousness with rainscaping projects is all part of the solution. And you did a lot this year! This progress is huge, but we still have so much to do; so many congregations we have not yet reached; so many projects just waiting to happen. Many congregations cannot afford to install these projects on their own, so we work to help bridge that gap in a variety of ways. However to address the funding gap at-scale requires a massive amount of resources. Cue in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
This is where the excitement comes in. The IRA promises to unlock billions of dollars for projects and solutions. I came across a grant opportunity spurred by the IRA, and the smallest amount that could be requested was $250,000. IPC will be working this year to capitalize on these opportunities, as we can, so that we can help direct these funds into the hands of green teams who can lead projects in their communities. (If you have an interest in volunteering to track and apply for IRA grants on behalf of the entire IPC network, please email me.) In Maryland, the state is mandated to fund the planting of 5 million trees before 2030. Opportunities are starting to pour in, and we are gulping air to keep up with it all!
Rain garden maintenance activities at Bright Side Baptist Church,
I was also honored to be part of a small group of leaders who prepared a letter for Maryland Governor-Elect, Wes Moore, regarding environmental priorities for the state. The letter is long, underscoring the work ahead of us. What an exciting opportunity to put IPC’s fingerprints on the direction the state will be taking to address environmental concerns. However, that is just one state -- in a watershed of 6 states plus DC. As Maryland kicks off its 2023 Legislative Session, there are bills we will be tracking to give you opportunities to make your voice heard. Check our our upcoming Legislative Briefing on January 29th to learn more.
So, the work ahead is daunting, yet IPC promises to continue to do our part -- changing hearts and minds from the ground up. This upcoming year, we will help more congregations plant trees and address stormwater on their properties. We will reach thousands of people to increase their watershed literacy and kindle in them a recommitment to watershed stewardship. We will train more green teams, and go further to celebrate our unified movement with a gathering of green teams to re-energize us all for continued action in our communities. And, as always, we will be working in Maryland’s capital to pass state laws that fight for clean water and a stable climate for all! Together we can be faithfully green.
Join us in this work! Stay tuned for opportunities to volunteer, donate, and get involved. We stand ready to do our part.
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