Ecologist Rick Lindroth is an evangelical Christian who knows that only 54 percent of White evangelicals believe burning fossil fuels has caused global warming. He admits, at age 67, “For most of my life, I’ve lived under an existential cloud of despair.”
“We have the tools,” he asserts. “All we need is the motivation to act. That’s where the despair comes in.”
Lindroth recognizes the importance of scientific research that documents the threats of climate change but argues that there is a greater need for public discussion that nurtures a love for nature.
To motivate people to care for God’s creation, Lindroth suggests, people first need a “creation connection” that combines climate information with experience in nature. In his own life, he sustains this connection by taking nature walks and inviting friends and students to join him. When visiting his grandsons, they search together for salamanders.
Lindroth responds to frightening climate news by lamenting the facts, acknowledging how he’s complicit, repenting, and then engaging in another “creation connection.”
Every year, he and his wife, Nancy, take an action that will reduce their carbon footprint. In 2022 they installed a more energy efficient home heating and air conditioning system that cost them $13,000.
“Is it going to have any impact? No, other than to drain our bank account. It’s not going to affect climate change one iota,” Lindroth admits. “We do it because we feel it’s morally the right thing to do.”
Lindroth encourages us to take up the practice of concentrating on some aspect of nature—on a leaf, a bird, a night sky—for 30 seconds, as he believes mindful interactions like this can nurture our desire to care for the earth. He compares this practice to hugging a partner or friend for 30 seconds, which can strengthen your feeling of gratitude.
To sustain and encourage hope in others, might you take more nature walks with friends and loved ones? Repent your own complicity in our climate crisis? Take an action, no matter how small, to reduce your carbon emissions?
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “To fight climate despair, this Christian ecologist says science isn’t enough," The Washington Post, April 4, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/04/16/climate-despair-christian-scientist-finding-hope/.