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Soul Train

Texas Impact's Bee Moorhead keeps the faith

By Nora Ankrum, Fri., April 18, 2008

Soul Train
Photo by John Anderson

Bee Moorhead's career began at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where, she admits, the environment ranked low on her list of policy priorities. Yet when she went to work for faith-based advocacy group Texas Impact (www.texasimpact.org) in 2000, the environment was precisely the issue she found in her lap. With one G.W. fresh in the Oval Office and the other – global warming – fresh in constituents' minds, Texas Impact hoped to make some headway on the subject.

Back in school, Moorhead had felt the issue was too overwhelming to deal with. But it became manageable, she says, when she was able to look at it "just through a faith lens" instead of her "LBJ School, state-public-policy lens." For Moorhead, faith provided hope, and with that in mind, Texas Impact brought under its wing an organization called Texas Interfaith Power & Light, which lobbies aggressively for environmental causes, provides helpful resources like Texas-based renewable energy credits on its website (www.txipl.org), and helps local religious groups make their contribution to saving the planet.

Since 2000, compact fluorescent lightbulbs and low-flow showerheads have begun to appear at youth-group fundraisers, says Moorhead. Meals on Wheels and More has delivered (and installed) CFLs along with hot meals. Congregation Beth Israel's Rabbi Steve Folberg has even taken on global warming as his signature issue, prompting him to host the Austin Clergy Climate Connection Conference last February.

Teaching environmental stewardship from a faith angle opens the discussion to arguments you won't find at the Sierra Club, says Moorhead. Under the doctrine of baptism, for instance, "polluting the environment is an abdication of collective responsibility for a child's future." And the Catholic Church's doctrine of prudence advises not just against behaviors that are proven bad for the environment – but against those that might prove so, as well.

What helps Moorhead fight the good fight is understanding that it's not all about fixing this overwhelming problem; instead, she says, faith teaches her to maintain a "right relationship" with creation. "You don't just fix something and wipe your hands and move on," says Moorhead. "You stay in that relationship. That's the profoundly countercultural message of faith tradition: It's not just about you. It doesn't end when you die."


Green Crush Faves:

Book: For the Time Being, by Annie Dillard

Enviro Doc: The Inconvenient Truth, by you-know-who

Green Business: Meridian Energy Systems

Hero: "My grandpa Edson Roush, who spent his entire life as a small-family farmer in Appalachia practicing sustainability before anyone knew to call it that."

Locally grown food: White Mountain yogurt and Stonewall Peaches, either separately or together

Shade of green: "The color a banana is about 15 minutes before it's ready to eat (if you like your bananas crunchy like I do)."

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