In July 2022, Martin Palmer, Chief Executive of FaithInvest, visited Salt Lake City and met with Robert Rees, the renowned Latter-day Saint academic and green activist. The two share a deep interest in environmental issues and have written extensively on the topic.
During their time together, which included a Zoom webinar conversation on the theme ' Can faith traditions fast forward our planet to a better future?' on 19 July (the answer was a resounding 'yes!') the two discussed an exciting new initiative Rees had devised to help tackle climate change.
From 'fast Sunday' to 'FastForward'
This concept was based on the 'fast Sunday’ tradition of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (informally known as the Mormon Church). In fast Sunday, members abstain from food and drink for two meals, donating what they would have spent to help people in need in their local community.
Dubbed 'FastForward', the new initiative encourages church members to skip a meal on the third Sunday of every month and to use the money saved to contribute towards tackling climate change.
Salt Lake Tribune religious correspondent Peggy Fletcher Stack published an article on 8 August in which she outlines the potential to raise enormous funds to tackle climate change.
"Donating savings from skipped meals could amass $1B a year for the fight against climate change." —Peggy Fletcher Stack
Fasting as an act of faith
There has been a tradition of fasting in many faiths, for millennia. It is daring act of faith which, although it can be uncomfortable to experience hunger when there is food available, it also has measurable physical and spiritual benefits.
There are also traditions of using any money saved on food for the benefit of the poor at special times of the year such as Ramadan in Islam, Lent in Christianity and 'fast Sundays' in Mormonism.
What is interesting about the FastForward for the Future of the Planet concept is that the funds raised will be added to a global fund, since planet-wide environmental issues are, by definition, global.
With 85% of the world's population belonging to a faith tradition, this means that the faith-based environmental movement is the planet's largest civil society group. The initiative created by Rees has the potential to tap into this movement, which is tackling the whole spectrum of interrelated solutions to environmental issues from ethical pilgrimage and forest conservation, to sustainable agriculture and clean water projects.
The Faith Plans programme from FaithInvest also takes this wider view of the role of faiths. The programme uses a framework called the Seven Key Areas as a starting point for faiths to consider as they claim their place as stakeholders in the future of the planet.
Fasting as activism
By taking action to tackle climate change through the 'FastForward' initiative, the simple act of foregoing one meal per month has the potential to connect a personal act of faith to a global movement of environmental stewardship and conservation. That's a breathtaking thought.
The 'FastForward' initiative is still in the planning stages and has not yet been launched, but we will be taking a keen interest in seeing how this movement evolves. The initiative was approved unanimously by the board of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance (MESA) in August 2022.
For more information about other Mormon environmental work, visit the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance.