Conference mixes politics and religion |

Conference mixes politics and religion

John Colson
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Ed Bastian knows about political activism, and he knows about religion.

Now he hopes to provide an example of how those two sources of influence and power can be used together to work toward social change, in particular, altering public attitudes about global warming.

Bastian, who currently splits his time between Aspen and Santa Barbara, Calif., was a rising young Republican political operative before he joined up with Hunter S. Thompson’s campaign for Pitkin County sheriff in 1970. It was an event that radicalized Bastian’s political outlook and gave rise to an abiding belief that grassroots activism can be a powerful agent for social change.

He also is the head of the Spiritual Paths Foundation, an interfaith group that is the main sponsoring agency behind an Oct. 6-7 conference in Aspen titled “Spiritual Resources for Sustainable Living: Environmental and InterSpiritual Partnership.”

The two-day conference is meant as a starting point for bringing churches and environmental organizations together in the fight against global warming. Other sponsors include the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Community Office of Resource Efficiency.

The speakers, whom Bastian referred to as “respected spiritual leaders,” will include elders of the Ute Indian Nation and the Rev. Sally Bingham, the “environmental minister” at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

A statement about the event on Bastian’s website declares that those in attendance will hear “perspectives from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish spirituality,” as well as those of several leading environmental figures. These will include Michael Potts of RMI, Gary Gardner of the Worldwatch Institute and Randy Udall of CORE.

Bastian, drawing an analogy between global climate change and the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, said the churches and civil-rights groups of the time “joined forces to change the laws and stop segregation, and the results were amazing.”

He said one of the strong points of organized religion is its ability to motivate people to call for changes in laws or customs that are harmful to humanity.

“We need to draw on those same sources in our culture to achieve change,” he said. “Churches can be great change agents and role models.”

And that, he said, is what is necessary to awaken humanity to the risks of global warming.

“It doesn’t matter how people think the world came into being,” he said, referring to ongoing debates among Darwinists, creationists and others.

“Those little arguments pale in comparison to the crisis that is looming,” if something is not done to slow a rapid rise in global temperatures, which a growing number of scientists and public officials believe is the result of human activities, he said.

The weekend program begins Saturday with a talk from 9 a.m. to noon at the Aspen Chapel, followed by workshops from 1 a.m. to 8 p.m. at ACES’ Catto Center at Toklat in Ashcroft. There will be a follow-up session from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Sunday at the Aspen Chapel.

The cost of the full program is $75, or $25 for just the Saturday morning talk.

For more information, contact Bastian at spiritandnatureaspen or call 618-1936.

John Colson’s e-mail address is