Austin American-Statesman - - LOCALBRIEFING -

Maybe if more peo­ple could see the fish­er­men who have lost their vo­ca­tions for­ever in the Gulf Coast, or see the Catholic Char­i­ties lines filled with men and women who used to be self-suf­fi­cient, they would think dif­fer­ently about their con­nec­tion to the oil spill.

The 420 birds harmed by oil found on the coasts of Mis­sis­sippi, Alabama and Florida and the 190 found dead give some in­di­ca­tion of the fall­out for wildlife. But un­til peo­ple can make a heart con­nec­tion, un­til they can re­late to the hu­mans who are af­fected by the spill in a deeper way, those of us who are fur­ther re­moved will con­tinue to be part of the prob­lem and not the so­lu­tion, faith lead­ers who toured part of the Gulf along the Louisiana coast said Wed­nes­day.

“When­ever there’s a cri­sis, we have to look within that cri­sis for change,” the Rev. Canon Sally Bing­ham, the founder of In­ter­faith Power and Light, said dur­ing a tele­con­fer­ence. “This is the time for us to start putting more ef­fort into find­ing clean and re­new­able en­ergy. We just need the po­lit­i­cal will and the moral in­tegrity to make that switch. That’s the change that needs to hap­pen in Amer­ica, and it needs to hap­pen now.”

Any­one who has been pay­ing at­ten­tion to news about BP’s re­sponse, cleanup ef­forts and the eco­nomic dam­age to the re­gion has to feel like it is in some ways way be­yond the scope of what one per­son can change. Even Bing­ham said that while the Sierra Club-or­ga­nized tour of­fered her more tan­gi­ble in­sight into the scope of the spill, she said she felt like they had been spared see­ing “what was more im­por­tant,” like the oil be­neath the high wa­ter. “Some habi­tats will never re­cover; many fish­er­men have lost their vo­ca­tions for­ever. It’s an in­sult to God and a sin against cre­ation. Our coun­try needs to get off its ad­dic­tion to oil.”

Re­li­gious lead­ers are hop­ing that the oil spill will add more peo­ple to the ranks of what is be­ing called the green re­li­gion move­ment or the push to pro­mote en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship as an ex­ten­sion of be­lief in God and God’s Cre­ation.

“For me, the jury is still out on what real rec­om­men­da­tions we’ll make about change. It’ll be how we take what we saw to a spirit level,” said the Rev. Brenda Gir­tonMitchell with the Pro­gres­sive Na­tional Bap­tist Con­ven­tion. “Some may al­ready un­der­stand the sys­temic na­ture of what we’re see­ing. When we can go home and put a face again on this and help in­ter­pret this in terms of in­di­vid­ual fam­i­lies … when we can help peo­ple who be­lieve in God un­der­stand that other hu­mans are suf­fer­ing as a part of this,” that’s when in­di­vid­u­als will be “able to get to a heart place to have it trans­lated for them and hit home,” she said.

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