Added international affairs article, updated links

Jeremy Kidwell 2021-04-02 09:39:30 +01:00
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### First, the publications and a bit of summary:
- Christopher D. Ives, Jeremy H. Kidwell, [“Religion and social values for sustainability”]( in *Sustainability Science*, vol. n, iss. n, Feb 2019.
- Jeremy H. Kidwell, ["Mapping the Field of Religious Environmental Politics"]( in *International Affairs*, Volume 96, Issue 2, March 2020, Pages 343363,
- Christopher D. Ives, Jeremy H. Kidwell, [“Religion and social values for sustainability”]( in *Sustainability Science*, Volume 14, Feb 2019.
*You should read the whole study (link above!) but here's a quick summary that might be helpful if you're not familiar with the scholarly field we're interacting with:*
I've been delighted to take up a new research collaboration with Christopher D. Ives who has a tremendous level of experience within environmental sciences, particularly environmental management, but also an awareness of human geography. Chris and I are trying to identify what features are unique about religious environmentalism particularly Christian environmentalism with which we're both most familiar and then communicate that to a broader policy-focussed (and secular) scholarly audience across environmental and political science and probably also environmental economics. There is a lot of very important translation work that needs to be done - in many cases, neither policymakers, social scientists or Christians at the grassroots themselves have a clear sense of how their work is unique in comparison to other kinds of environmental movements. In this article, we survey the field of environmental values, where economists and environmental scientists have been attempting for several decades now, to crystallise how we might ascribe value to the natural world. You can see this in the development of an [ecosystem services]( model which crystallised in 2006 in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. This kind of model has proven very helpful in public policy circles in affirming the hidden and potentially quantifiable value of seemingly extravagant measures such as ecosystem conservation. However, it ends up being, in practice, quite difficult to make all the intangible aspects into tangible and quantifiable measurements. Environmental scientists are well aware of this and have been working to develop ever more sophisticated versions of value models, resulting in a recent boom in "cultural values" and "social values" and by extension, we argue, explicitly religious values. A blunt way to put this is that "theology matters" and "churches matter" when it comes to caring for the earth. We highlight a few specific ways this is the case in our article, particularly in providing persons and communities with a matrix for the upholding of altruistic values, which seems to be increasingly difficult in the contemporary public sphere, so all the more important when we can find places where this is the case. However, as I've already suggested, it's not just a matter of distilling all the components of theological understanding into a simplistic model. As we argue, "values are embedded" and not easily extracted from their contexts. Further, the mobilisation of Christian belief is also complex. Popular stereotypes suggest that when Christian leaders put out a public statement (whether this is the Pope or Billy Graham) their people just fall into line obediently. We take the example of Pope Francis' recent encyclical Laudato Sí to highlight ways that top-down dissemination doesn't always work in predictable ways, particularly in Christian church hierarchies. Finally, we highlight ways that theological worldviews are complex and layered. Our identities as people of faith draw on a number of different sources. We argue that if researchers are to engage with people of faith in a meaningful way, their methods will need to work on such a level which can capture the full web of values within a worldview and represent the significance of theology in the midst of it.
- Jeremy H. Kidwell, Franklin Ginn, Michael Northcott, Elizabeth Bomberg and Alice Hague, [“Christian climate care: Slow change, modesty and eco-theo-citizenship”]( in Geo, vol. 5, iss. 2, Sep 2018.
- Jeremy H. Kidwell, Franklin Ginn, Michael Northcott, Elizabeth Bomberg and Alice Hague, [“Christian climate care: Slow change, modesty and eco-theo-citizenship”]( in *Geo*, Volume 5, iss. 2, Sep 2018.
This article is the first major output from a massive study, which involved interviews with ministers, lay-leaders, and activists at 44 different Eco-Congregation churches across the UK, documentary analysis of hundreds of Eco-Congregation applications, and much more which we'll be sharing in other research outputs in the next few years. It's the first study of this scope of Christian environmentalism in the UK. In the broader scholarly study of environmentalism, one key question relates to how action and values relate to one another. That is, do we have a value and then act on it OR is it through ongoing actions that our values are formed and reinforced? We agree with a host of geographers and sociologists who essentially suggest that this is a paradoxical question which has no answer. Actions and values reinforce one another across the life of an individual person (and community) and it is impossible to ultimately sort out which of these two started everything off for a particular person. This is a salient concern for the study of Christian environmentalism, as policymakers are ultimately very curious to know whether being part of a church community (=practices?) or holding some kind of theological belief (=value?) have some sort of measurable impact on whether you will make changes to your lifestyle etc. in response to a problem like climate change. It's also worth noting, that social psychologists have observed that the relationship between holding a value and acting upon that value-orientation is complex as well. Many people hold values (sometimes defending them quite fiercely) without taking actions which enshrine those values. Given all these paradoxes, we wanted to see if we could provide a more faithful representation of what is going on in Eco-Congregations in Scotland, and perhaps find a description which might map onto Christian environmentalism more broadly.
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2. Environmentally active Christians are generally modest about their achievements and unlikely to champion their successes. They often see other secular groups as more efficacious even when they aren't. In an age when community level groups are often supported through grant funding, this can have a particular impact on their ability to secure resources, or to have the ambition to take on big projects. Similarly, when churches do support a big project, they often hand it off to the wider community for long-term stewardship. We found examples of dozens of large scale eco-projects which were discretely built-up by an Eco-Congregation group. There is a related impact on public perceptions of Christian environmentalism. Christians do often have a visible focus on eco-projects related to their buildings (new boilers, energy production, windows, lighting, etc.) and leave their wider community-facing achievements unclaimed. There's another strand of research here which remains implicit in this article, but which I'll be taking up in later work. This is, that Christians involved in Eco-Congregations are also often involved in a whole range of other community groups: from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Green Party to Scout Groups, Fair Trade and Transition Towns. What does it mean for us to attribute their work done "while in church" to their Eco-Congregation, and the work they do whilst working alongside others in secular groups to "secular workers"? I'll be suggesting that there is a whole layer of Christian environmentalism which lies hidden away and that we need to appreciate the way in which a Christian community may serve as beacon or incubator for a wider range of environmental work and concern.
- Jeremy H. Kidwell and Michael Northcott, [“Temporality and Christian Environmental Activism”]( in Greening of Religion: Hope in the Eye of the Storm, ed. Jonathan Leader, Cherry Hill Seminary Press, 2018, pp. 167-175.
- Jeremy H. Kidwell and Michael Northcott, [“Temporality and Christian Environmental Activism”]( in Greening of Religion: Hope in the Eye of the Storm, ed. Jonathan Leader, Cherry Hill Seminary Press, 2018, pp. 167-175.
In this article, we take up a question, first raised by Michael Northcott when he and I began working on our Ancestral Time project, as to whether the unique theologically formed understanding of time held by Christians might underwrite unique reactions to environmental challenges like climate change. There are a range of possible examples the notion of the communion of saints and Christian eschatology to give two possible options and we could see ways that these ideas provided unique theological options, but we wanted to know whether a Christian theology of time made a difference for Christian environmentalism among the general Christian (environmentally concerned) public. The short answer is "no". In general, we found it quite difficult to get any of our respondents to talk about time. In some cases respondents conveyed the same kind of "short-term emergency" thinking that is often present in secular environmental conversations. Others were (conversely) unconcerned with the passage of time, and noteably skeptical about human ability to predict the future in any way. In both of these two groupings, it was difficult to ascertain whether there was anything specifically theological about their response. There was little theological language used, even when asked through follow-up questions. What we concluded was that the general focus of our respondents was on climate change as a *human* problem, and a reluctance to leave the human frame in order to think about the distant future in any concrete way. I note in our article some ways that this maps onto the anthropology of time. The take-away for policymakers is that when seeking to find resonance with Christians on environmental issues, it is important to use temporal framings which map onto ordinary human lay-experience of those issues.
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- A forthcoming article presented for the International Studies Association,
[Religion in Global Environmental Politics: Structuring Religious Environmentalism](
- Jeremy H. Kidwell, [“The historical roots of the ecological crisis”]( in OUP Handbook of Ecology and Bible, 2019
- Jeremy H. Kidwell, [“The historical roots of the ecological crisis”]( in The Oxford Handbook of Bible and Ecology, ed. by Hillary Marlow and Mark Harris. Oxford University Press, 2021.
Here I take on the (in)famous article by Lynn White which suggests that Christianity is to blame for the environmental crisis (as it was in the 1960s) and look more broadly at the concept of "crisis" as it has been constructed. I argue that there are problematic framings of both "crisis" and "religion" at the heart of this debate and urge scholarls to look towards some more sophisticated framings of both concepts in engaging with climate change. Note: *You might sense a resonance here with my arguments above regarding how Christians react to apocalyptic framings of environmental problems...*