Celebrating 35 Years: Interreligious Sustainability Project

35 Facts for CNT’s 35 Years: Each week we’ll expand on one fun fact. Enjoy!

#13 Interreligious Sustainability Project

OneCreation CoverSustainability is not just an economic, or political, or technical challenge. It is also moral and spiritual. It calls on people to make profound changes in the way they understand themselves and their place in nature. And many of those changes require effort, even sacrifice.

In 1996, CNT’s Steve Perkins convened the Interreligious Sustainability Project to “build a faith-based interreligious vision for a sustainable Chicago metropolitan region.” In 1998, the project published One Creation, One People, One Place that described the sustainability challenge in terms of Ecology (Acting as Responsible Citizens of Creation), Economy (Meeting Basic Needs Sustainably) and Community (Solving Problems Together).

Also initiated at that time was the idea of organizing “interreligious sustainability circles,” each made up of persons drawn from congregations of the various faiths present in particular places in Greater Chicago. There were seven interreligious sustainability circles: three in Chicago (in Austin on the West Side, Hyde Park on the South Side, and Humboldt Park on the Northwest Side), and four in suburban areas (Evanston in the north, Oak Park in the near-west, and LaGrange and Naperville in the west). The circles enabled people to learn about the environmental teachings of multiple faiths, conceive and undertake actions based on shared teachings, and engage congregations in those actions.

One Creation included a diagnosis of the challenges facing the region (including 24 maps and charts), and profiled exemplary projects restoring natural habitats, fighting for the value of work, congregations rebuilding housing, and urban gardening building community.

In 1999, the project launched the Evanston Interreligious Sustainability Project which continues today as a leader of Evanston’ climate change movement—a movement that has successfully reduced greenhouse gasses by 17 percent (from the 2005 base), and now is working to achieve a 25 percent reduction by 2016.

faithinplace logoA few years later, the project evolved into Faith in Place, an independent nonprofit that gives “religious people the tools to become good stewards of the earth.” Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Clare Buttterfield, Faith in Place is working in over 900 religious congregations throughout Illinois—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Baha’I, and Unitarian Universalist.  It is also part of the national Interfaith Power & Light campaign.

The Interreligious Sustainability Project is a perfect example of our ethos of inclusiveness in everything we do. Sustainable development is everyone’s issue. The cover of One Creation puts it, rather eloquently, like this: “We pray in different languages, and we express our deepest commitments in different religious terms. But we share a special place on this planet—the area at the southern-most tip of Lake Michigan, around the great human settlement called Chicago.”

We’re celebrating CNT’s 35 years of impact on sustainable urban development through 35 weeks of posts like this one. If you have a story or picture from our past, please share it with Anjuli@cnt.org. Thanks!

CNT’s work is made possible, in part, through generous support from individual donors. Please click here to make a gift in honor of our 35th anniversary.

Next week: #14 The U-Pass