Sister Evelyn Mattern had two goals in mind as she stood vigil recently with a Protestant colleague in a gas mask, singing, “This Air is My Air!” at the North Carolina statehouse.
Her short-term aim was to lend support to stricter regulations for the state’s coal-fired power plants. Yet she also had a loftier, long-range objective, one increasingly shared by a wide array of activists: to transform the way Americans think about energy in time to stave off global warming.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a mass movement anytime soon, but I don’t think it takes that many people to make a difference,” says the nun, who, at 61, recalls the prominent role played by faith groups during the civil rights struggles.
It might not be a mass movement quite yet, but what the emerging grassroots effort to combat climate change lacks in numbers and unity, it’s making up for in diversity, and, increasingly, respectability. Religious organizations form one part of that effort, and scores of municipal governments and college campuses have also taken up the mantle of climate activism. The net effect has been to make climat... Read more