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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Faith communities and climate change focus of recent article in The Columbus Dispatch

Jan. 24, 2017
This news item with School of Environment and Natural Resources faculty member, Greg Hitzhusen was originally published on the website of the Center for Ethics and Human Values at The Ohio State University.
Greg Hitzhusen, a core CEHV member and COMPAS organizer, was recently quoted in a Columbus Dispatch news article about efforts by religious environmentalists to help their faith communities recognize the moral challenges that climate change presents.
Hitzhusen has been engaged in local community environmental work, both as Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources and as a leader of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light. When we asked him to expand on the themes of the article, he wrote:
"The article nicely highlights how some faith communities are voicing their concerns for climate change, quite literally in the public square, but it also displays some of what I'd call an opportunistic view toward faith communities, wherein some environmentalists may see religion as a "tool" for the environmental movement, and that can create problems. From my experience and research, I think most faith communities address climate change and other ecological and sustainability issues from the core of their value commitments, through their own faith-based practices and traditions, not because they want to be used to accomplish the goals of environmental advocates.  In fact, I've heard from many people of faith who are hesitant to engage in "environmental" activities precisely for this reason; as anyone would, we resist when we think that someone is trying to use us to promote a political agenda that might not mesh with our own political preferences.  
We've even seen signs of this within the metrics of environmental sociology - some preliminary research my OSU colleague Kerry Ard and I are conducting right now indicates that if you use traditional survey measures for "environmental concern," then Democrats will score as more concerned about the environment than Republicans. But if you revise the language of environmental surveys to eliminate terms that signal liberal policy preferences, words that would be off-putting to political conservatives, then conservatives score as having just as much environmental concern as liberals.  So environmentalists might have better success, and might gain more allies of different political persuasions, if they began to better understand the values and policy preferences of conservatives.  And since many faith communities are composed of a mix of conservative and liberal members, religion could be a key mediator in developing better understanding across political ideologies, which might be helpful in the public square, particularly as a new administration takes office."
Hitzhusen is a leader of the Center for Ethics and Human Values’ programs on the ethics of sustainable development and climate change. Our Sustainability COMPAS program from the 2015-2016 academic year has continued this year. Upcoming events include a February conference on “Non-Ideal Climate Justice: Global Inequality, the Paris Agreement, and the Limits of the Feasible”and a talk later that same month by philosopher (and Ohio State PhD graduate) John Nolt on “Long-term Climate Justice”. All our events are free and open to the public!