Fletcher Harper on GreenFaith
Date: April 9th, 2012
With Earth Day coming up soon, Research on Religion steps outside to examine how religion can have an impact on the natural environment. We invite Rev. Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest and executive director of GreenFaith, to discuss what spiritual faith has to do with environmental stewardship. GreenFaith is one of the oldest religiously-based environmental organizations in the country, starting out as an all-volunteer group known as Partners for Environmental Quality in the early 1990s. Rev. Harper begins by revealing how his interest in both religion and the environment developed over his life’s history, and then how he became connected with GreenFaith, first as a volunteer and then as its director. We cover the history of this organization and how it has interacted with other religious communities, as well as the secular environmental movement. Fletcher notes that it was not all smooth sailing and details some of the skepticism this religious environmental movement faced from different sectors of society. He also shares with us the ecumenical nature of the organization and reveals which denominations and faith traditions tend to be more receptive to connecting with his organization’s mission. It is not surprising that the Islamic and Hindu communities have been slower at connecting with GreenFaith given that theses minority faiths have more immediate ethnic and cultural issues that they are addressing in American society. He also mentions that Catholic clergy have been somewhat reluctant to get involved in the environmental movement given the association that some green groups have with population control. Tony then asks what type of projects GreenFaith is involved in, what a typical day in the life of Rev. Harper is like, and where his organization gets its funding. As for the latter, most of the financing comes from private contributions along with a few fee-based ventures such as training programs or helping other organizations locate opportunities to improve energy efficiency. GreenFaith does work in partnership with local and regional governments on occassion, and gets some funding from grants, but their efforts are mainly privately-based. This brings up the issue of whether Christians abdicate their responsibility for social action by often panning off work onto the government, which leads to an interesting philosophical discussion. We finish off by examining GreenFaith’s view of “market-based environmentalism,” which seeks to alter economic incentives in ways that individuals find it beneficial to conserve the environment on their own, with less government regulation. Fletcher talks about what he learned from the Property & Environment Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman (MT), where he participated in a week long seminar on this approach to environmental issues. Recorded: March 22, 2012.
Rev. Fletcher Harper’s biography at GreenFaith.
Property & Environmental Research Center (PERC).
“Where Free Markets Meet Faith,” by Paul Schwennesen.
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