“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above,” everyone in a circle sang Friedrich Schiller’s traditional hymn Ode to Joy to the strum of a guitar as the group gathered on the shore of Melton Hill Lake.
Various pastors shared scripture and reflections. Prayers were offered up. Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light hosted this Greater Knoxville Climate Vigil during gorgeous autumn weather in East Tennessee as a spiritual response to climate change.
No matter the denomination, people of faith were called together for the vigil as a show of common support, motivated by moral obligation, for coping with a complex global challenge. This motivation was about clean air, community health, helping neighbors, mindful economics and preserving the planet for future generations. Leading scientists have determined that climate change is now primarily caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, notably carbon dioxide.
The vigil drew participants to the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area from as far away as Chattanooga, home to Moms Clean Air Force state organizer Lindsay Pace. She shared educational information on various ways climate change is impacting families. MCAF shared that this includes everything from food insecurity to more bacterial diseases to asthma and allergies.
Dr. Mary Headrick also stressed that climate can have serious impacts on human health. Science facts at her booth included the statistic that more than 12 tons of carbon dioxide per person, per year, go into the atmosphere now, more than the oceans and trees are able to absorb.
Connecting with children and families at the climate vigil were well-known storytellers and musicians, the couple Sparky and Rhonda Rucker. They shared their folksongs for a multi-generational audience in a mini-concert along the waterfront.
Attendees sharing information included everything from nonprofits trying to bring jobs to the inner city to solar energy companies turning energy savings into big business.
This climate vigil came just weeks after the South’s Tennessee Valley Authority approved a long-term energy plan that included more energy efficiency, but not as much reliance on renewable energy sources as some would have preferred.
It also preceded the historic United Nations Climate Change Conference that showed global leaders are addressing climate as an eminent concern.
The Sunday afternoon gathering was part Sunday school, part family festival, and did include one Bob Dylan song, slightly revised for the occasion. The crowd sang, “How many droughts will it take ’till we know that too many species have died? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.”