Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith

Executive Director GreenFaith

What is your relationship with flying?

I’m coming out of my worst two months of flying and possibly of my life, I think. But I have my plan so I'm feeling good about that. My plan is to top my flying at 80,000 miles next year and commit to reducing my flying. I'm going to do a 20% year over year reduction for the next three years, and then evaluate at that point in time. I offset the miles I do fly.

My flying has increased as the reach of GreenFaith’s work has increased. And so, as we have grown to engage with a more global audience, which has been a real joy and privilege, I have also found that flying, has been a part of building and nurturing those relationships.

Along with that, there's been a genuine enjoyment of the privilege of seeing different places and meeting different people around the world. And the privilege associated with that. So I would say that's what it has meant.

What has contributed to your commitment to reducing flying?

It’s been a process of education and seeing how massive the impact of flying is, and my own carbon footprint. It just becomes a question of integrity. I can't be out there wailing on corporations to reduce their emissions and talking to other people about reducing our own carbon footprint if I'm flying all over the place.

It began with an uncomfortable realization that the way in which I was flying, because of its impact was inconsistent with my own values. And because I tried to live consistently with my values, I needed to wrestle with that. So it's been a gradual process of education, awareness, and wrestling with the discomfort. How has this decision impacted your life? It has provided what feels like a first stage of a resolution, or a way to address the lack of integrity that I mentioned earlier. Emotionally, it's made me feel, “okay, at least I'm wrestling with this stuff now, in a way that's open and that is consistent with who I am and who I want to be.” It's made me realize that in terms of the traveling that I am going to do, I need to be much more intentional, and maximize the benefit of that in terms of the relationships that I build, and the work that I get done.

Do you experience a sense of loss or challenge around this decision?

I feel some loss of freedom. That's counterbalanced by the fact that I feel like I'll actually be able to be at home and around my loved ones and community a little bit more, which honestly feels nice. To be completely honest, I feel like even with my new flight reduction plan, for the first several years I'm still going to be flying much more than the average person. So, I want to be very clear about not being too proud of this as a solution and it's one that balances my need to have integrity, with the desire to keep on building relationships. I also feel that there's a sort of practical workman-like dimension to it. I believe everybody needs to get to work on this stuff, and this is my way of getting to work on it. So it feels like I'm shifting out of a place where the primary emotion was feeling bad about a lack of integrity, to a place of, “okay, I've got to roll up my sleeves and get to work on this.” I've got to do the emotional work and I've got to do the practical work also.

How has your faith played a role?

My faith teaches me that I need to do what's right, even when it's hard. There's a great phrase in organizing about when you've got a problem, a lantern on the problem. You don't ignore it or try to make it go away. My faith pushes me to hang a lantern on this discomfort, and to address it. And my faith has helped me have the perseverance to stick with paying attention to that, even when I didn't necessarily see a solution to it.

I also believe that it's a gift from God and the spiritual realm, to say okay, I want to address this, here’s a concrete way of doing that creatively, as a new step in the development of my own identity and my own personhood. This is a spiritual gift. Through wrestling with this morally and spiritually, it's something that's emerged out of that inner struggle. So I think it's very much a journey. This process is an important spiritual and religious aspect, that isn't necessarily for everybody, but it certainly is for me.

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