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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


March/April 2010

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Climate's Salvation? Why and How American Evangelicals are Engaging with Climate Change

Current debates from Capitol Hill to Copenhagen suggest political will to tackle climate change is in short supply. The public engagement that might undergird it is also thin.1 Yet action stirs in a seemingly unexpected realm: In November 2009, preceeding negotiations for a global agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, two American evangelical pastors, Tri Robinson and Ken Wilson, traveled to the United Kingdom to launch an action plan to combat climate change. (See sidebar on this page) They were joined by leaders from different faith traditions around the world, all with similar commitments to action, who filled the grand halls of Windsor Castle with a colorful mélange of religious vestments and reverberations of prayer and song.2 Co-hosting the interfaith gathering with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the delegates: “The world's faith communities occupy a unique position in discussions on the fate of our planet and accelerating impacts of climate change,” particularly given inescapable moral dimensions of the issue.3 Noting stagnation among policymakers, he urged, “You can inspire, you can provoke, you can challenge your political leaders, through your wisdom, through your power, through your followers.”

Katharine K. Wilkinson is a Rhodes Scholar and doctoral candidate in Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford, where she is affiliated with the Environmental Change Institute and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. Her research explores climate change discourse, advocacy, and engagement among American evangelicals, and she is currently working on a book manuscript on the topic.

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