Although I was unable to attend the talk with Catherine Flowers, reading about her work in environmental justice (EJ) opened my eyes to a brand new approach to environmentalism. Flowers’s interview with the Center for Earth Ethics highlighted the role of faith leaders in EJ, as she recommended they get involved “by first accessing the EJ issues in their communities.” As a lifelong Christian, it struck me that faith leaders, in particular, were encouraged to delve into environmental work. I have never heard a sermon or even associated Christianity with environmentalism. However, EJ raises the issue of social justice, which religious organizations strive to fight.
Addressing climate change from the perspective of social justice could make environmentalism more accessible to new audiences due to this connection to faith leaders. I attempted to find statistics to back up this theory, but personal experience seems to be stronger in this case. Few members of my majority white, Protestant, middle class, and conservative hometown promoted environmentalism. Generosity and altruism towards poor people in our community were widespread, however. The two cases never collided. The Christian call to help people in need never united with the cause of environmental justice.
This connection between poverty and the burden of climate change belongs in nature’s future. As Catherine Flowers epitomises, social justice can provide a compelling cause to truly care about climate change. Climate justice can move people to act in their communities and change their lifestyles.