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An Introduction to Christian Environmentalism
Ecology, Virtue, and Ethics
Christians share a common concern for the earth. Evangelicals emphasize creation care; mainline Protestants embrace the green movement; the Catholic Church lists “10 deadly environmental sins;" and the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch has declared climate change an urgent issue of social and economic justice.
This textbook examines seven contemporary environmental challenges through the lens of classical Christian virtues. Authors Kathryn Blanchard and Kevin O’Brien use these classical Christian virtues to seek a “golden mean” between extreme positions by pairing each virtue with a pernicious environmental problem.
Students are thus led past political pitfalls and encouraged to care for other creatures prudently, to develop new energy sources courageously, to choose our food temperately, to manage toxic pollution justly, to respond to climate change faithfully, to consider humanity’s future hopefully, and to engage lovingly in advocacy for God’s earth. Readers will emerge from this text with a deeper understanding of contemporary environmental problems and the fundamentals of Christian virtue ethics.
Introduction: Seven Virtues, Seven Problems, One World
1. Christian Eco-Virtue—In Search of the Golden Mean
2. Prudence—Between Selfless Conservation and Self-Interested Stewardship of Other Species
3. Courage—Between Fossil Fuels, Alternative Energies, and Sabbath Living
4. Temperance—Between Communal Production and Personal Consumption of Food
5. Justice—Between Revolution and Reform In the Fight Against Environmental Injustice
6. Faith—Between Personal, Political, and Technological Responses to Climate Change
7. Hope—Between Despair and Presumption about Human Fertility
8. Love—Between Public Protest and Personal Transformation
Conclusion: Practicing Virtue in a “World of Wounds”
“Scholarly without being stodgy, in understandable and often winsome prose, An Introduction to Christian Environmentalism is a creative contribution to the fledgling field of Christian environmental virtue ethics. Drawing on a wide variety of sources—the Bible and papal encyclicals, Aquinas and Bonhoeffer, Wendell Berry and Dr. Seuss—Blanchard and O’Brien explain how the seven classic Christian virtues constructively address seven crucial ecological problems. An Introduction to Christian Environmentalism is an excellent book on an important topic.”
—Steve Bouma-Prediger, Hope College, Author of For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care
“Faithful, sensible, and constructive. An Introduction to Christian Environmentalism offers Christians a middle way between polarizing views about environmental problems. This well-written and insightful book demonstrates how the four moral virtues and the three theological virtues that have guided the church for millennia can help Christians address the complex environmental problems we face today.”
—Jim Martin-Schramm, Professor of Religion, Luther College
"Anyone teaching a Christian ethics class could use this book to create an ecological theme for the class. It is simple (accessible to undergraduates), well-researched (helping non-expert teachers feel comfortable with the issues), and thought-provoking (to spark deep and wide-ranging classroom discussion."
—Laura Hartman, Journal of Lutheran Ethics
“This is an excellent book, written with brio and precision, about the most vital ecological and economic issues facing Christian theology today. Using Thomas Aquinas as their primary dialogue-partner, Blanchard and O'Brien interrogate the important role virtue-based theology can play in contemporary environmental debates about hydraulic fracturing, fossil fuels divestment, the urban antitoxics movement, ethical food choices, and the management of wild species. An excellent choice for college classrooms, reading circles, or church groups.”
—Mark I. Wallace, Professor of Religion and Interpretation Theory, Swarthmore College
Kathryn D. Blanchard is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Alma College.
Kevin J. O'Brien is Associate Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University.