Last Thursday afternoon, a group of about 20 people arranged trees, shrubs, and herb plants on Main Street outside U.S. senator Lamar Alexander's Memphis office. Besides making Main Street look a little more green, the group — headed by Jarad Bingham, pastor of Shady Grove Presbyterian Church and co-president of the Memphis Ministers Association — hoped to bring attention to climate change and possible national legislation to address the problem. — by Shara Clark
Flyer: Why did you hold a rally on climate change?
Jarad Bingham: We want to encourage our legislators to find renewed energy and creativity in passing new legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. We want to show our support for our senators and the introduction of the Lieberman/Warner bill, the first climate bill that has ever made it to the floor of the Senate.
I feel that the culture has evolved and almost everybody is concerned with the planet and its current state. If people pay attention to the problem, and the government pays attention to the people, then we will be able to come up with solutions.
Why do you support the Lieberman/Warner bill?
The bill is set to require more than a 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2020. It also includes a plan to offer tax relief to people who will be disproportionately affected by the projected increase in utility costs to generate green energy.
What inspired you to organize the rally?
I agreed to join Rabbi Meir Feldman as the co-president of the Memphis Ministers Association, and we decided our main focus for the year would be environmental issues. The National Council of Churches asked me to come to Washington to lobby for climate-change legislation last fall and then asked me to organize the rally in conjunction with a dozen others across the country on March 27th.
We wanted to applaud legislative efforts and encourage senators to keep trying to strengthen certain components of the bill.
Do you think the rally was effective?
Yes. Josh Thomas, a representative for Senator Lamar Alexander, attended the event and answered questions and shared the senator's hopes for moving toward solutions. I feel that good government occurs when the will of the people and the energies of the representatives are joined. It is amazing that our senator staffs an office in Memphis and invites us to openly converse about what we see and what might be done.
I'm trying for a new model of supportive conversation. The model of taking to the streets in protest is failing us. When we collaborate with officials in supportive roles, we feel a sense of belonging. We feel like part of a greater solution that extends beyond changing light bulbs and driving fuel-efficient cars. We get in trouble when we stop doing our part and don't realize the difference we can make as part of the whole.