SHELBURNE Environmental activist and author Bill McKibben challenged an audience of more than 400 at the annual Choral Celebration sponsored by All Souls Interfaith Gathering on Sunday, to take personal responsibility for fighting global warming and environmental threats.
The Choral Celebration, held in Shelburne Farms historic Breeding Barn, included a program of choral music by the All Souls choir directed by Rufus Patrick and the Essex Childrens Choir directed by Constance Price.
McKibben recalled other occasions held in the Breeding Barn that brought together the spiritual, the environmental and the political. In 2001, just two days before 9/11, hundreds of people gathered to send off the Earth Charter, a pledge of commitment to protecting the environment directed to the United Nations.
Last year the five-day march from Ripton to Burlington to demand political action on environmental issues stopped at the Breeding Barn on the final night of its trek.
This is a good place to think about important questions, he said. This is a spiritual occasion, but the difference between spiritual and political is becoming smaller.
The good news is that people of many faiths are taking up the cause, he said.
Members of the evangelical churches have made environmental issues a priority, he said, and Pope Benedict has declared that global warming is a serious concern.
Speaking of hurricanes, and the melting of the ice caps and people dying of malaria as mosquitos move higher up tropical mountains, McKibben said, We used to talk of Acts of God, and more and more its an Act of Us.
The good news, he said, is that God gives us all we need to take action.
He said there is no lack of brains to find innovative solutions, hearts to ache for the damage already done, souls to reach out to one other to build community, senses to hear the music and feel the message.
It is an unbelievable privilege to be the generation that tries to protect what we have.
A scholar in residence at Middlebury College, and resident of Ripton, McKibben has been a leading thinker and writer since his first book The End of Nature, was published in 1989, the first book for a general audience about climate change.
Since then he has addressed subjects ranging from living lightly on the earth, human population issues, genetic engineering and most recently the importance of a local-scale economy.
McKibben congratulated the All Souls Interfaith Gathering on its growth and its commitment to environmental issues. All Souls, which was founded by Pastor Mary Abele seven years ago, will dedicate its new Sanctuary on Sunday, Oct. 7. Evensong services and Childrens Spiritual Education classes begin at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14.