Pennsylvania Legacies #161: Do Unto Those Downstream

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Many religious traditions acknowledge the importance of environmental stewardship in their teachings — shared values that make religious organizations natural partners in watershed work. Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake operates on this principle, working with faith communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We discuss with Jodi Rose, IPC’s Executive Director.

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake works with dozens of congregations throughout the Chesapeake Bay area to build Green Stormwater Infrastructure.

Stormwater management is one of the big infrastructural challenges facing Philadelphia and many urban areas. Too much rain in the wrong place can lead to flooding, sewer overflows, and other environmental and safety hazards downstream. Green stormwater infrastructure can help ease the impact by letting rain gradually infiltrate into the ground where it falls, rather than rushing into nearby streams. Properly placed rain gardens or bioswales, for example, can have a big impact. That’s why PEC and our partners in the Delaware River Watershed Initiative work closely with landowners to install these kinds of features. 

Many such properties are residential — and no backyard is too small to make a difference, if it’s in the right spot. But from an efficiency standpoint, large properties deliver the most bang for your buck. Typically these are corporate, institutional, or government-owned properties. In suburban areas — like those through which the Delaware’s local tributaries flow on their way to Philadelphia — some of the largest chunks of land are owned by religious organizations.

Churches, mosques, synagogues, and houses of worship can be wonderful partners in watershed work — not just by virtue of the acres they control, but because environmental stewardship aligns with their spiritual mission and values.

“The moral connection to what we believe as spiritual people, and what we feel we are put on this earth to do, and why we do what we do in terms of caring for the earth, because it is a manifestation of love for one another. And that I think resonates with even non-religious people,” said Jodi Rose, Executive Director of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC).   

We have this opportunity to invest in a single property and yet raise awareness and change peoples’ thinking and behaviors a hundred-fold.

IPC works with faith communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

“The other thing about water that transcends beyond people who consider themselves to be non-religious, is it connects us all to each other,” said Rose.

Places of worship are full of potential for green infrastructure projects. Their properties often include large parking lots and roofs, which contribute to stormwater runoff. 

“We have this opportunity to invest in a single property and yet raise awareness and change peoples’ thinking and behaviors a hundred-fold, because even the smallest church has a hundred or two hundred people worshiping there,” said Rose.

IPC has supported congregations in executing projects of all sizes. Their success stories include stream daylighting and multi-acre urban reforestation projects, as well as smaller-scale projects like building pocket parks and expanding native habitat on congregation properties. They also provide training to congregation members to help them lead successful projects and become better environmental stewards. Last fall, IPC and PEC participated in a webinar about how faith communities can help protect their local watersheds. You can watch the recording above.

 

Links: 

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake

Faithful Green Leaders Training program