On Monday, more than 110 people of faith from New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maryland stood silently as Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Ethical Culture Society leaders took turns offering reflections, readings from sacred writings and blessings during a ceremony at the Block Island Wind Farm.
The ceremony was part of Trek to the Turbines, an educational ferry tour of the U.S.’ first offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Block Island, R.I., and developed by Deepwater Wind. The event was organized by interfaith environmental organization GreenFaith and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), along with support from Jersey Renews.
A number of the religious leaders on the tour spoke about the urgent need for offshore wind development as a response to climate change and to dangerous levels of air pollution:
“Our children have high rates of asthma; too many of our elders suffer from respiratory diseases,” said Pastor Bryant R. Ali, chair of the Baptist Ministers Council of Newark and Vicinity in New Jersey. “We literally need renewable energy so that our communities can live.”
As the ferry prepared to leave its mooring in North Kingstown, NWF and Ironworkers Local 37 spoke about the environmental and job-creation benefits of the project. Catherine Bowes, offshore wind program director with NWF, described other plans for offshore wind development in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia:
“But there’s a difference between numbers on a page and actual completed offshore wind projects,” she noted. “That’s where faith communities can help keep the pressure on state governments to meet their offshore wind goals with responsibly developed projects.”
Following the tour, GreenFaith released a statement entitled “Majestic: A Multi-Faith, Moral Call for Environmentally Responsible, Pro-Worker Offshore Wind Development.” Calling for offshore wind development that is environmentally responsible and strongly supportive of local workforce development, the statement emphasizes the urgent need for ambitious state offshore wind policies: “We call on the governors and state legislatures of coastal states … to provide leadership with the speed and urgency that the climate crisis requires,” it reads. “The stakes are incredibly high … Our leaders must succeed.”
At the event, a wind instrument quintet played sacred music interspersed with wind-themed musical arrangements – including Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” – and religious leaders took turns quoting wind-related passages from the Bible. Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom in New Jersey explained that the Hebrew word “ruach” can be translated as both “wind” and “spirit.”
“There’s power, physically and spiritually, in the wind,” he said. “God made it. It’s up to us to use it wisely.”