Chapter published: Watershed Discipleship: communicating climate change within a Christian Framework, a case study analysis

My first publication in a book came out recently! I wrote a chapter for the Handbook of Climate Change Communication, vol. 3: Case Studies in Climate Change Communication, part of the Climate Management Series (Springer, 2018).

The article is called “Watershed Discipleship: communicating climate change within a Christian framework, a case study analysis” (PDF available upon request). It is based on qualitative data I collected through interviewing six individuals engaged in watershed discipleship. I collected the data for a course I took on civic ecology as part of my doctoral program at Antioch University New England’s environmental studies program, then I analyzed the data in a course on case studies and qualitative data analysis.

Since collecting the data, I have become much more involved in the watershed discipleship community, and I did a service-learning project with Ched Myers at Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, who came up with the term watershed discipleship. I now serve as the web editor for the watershed discipleship blog and website. I’m really hopeful that watershed discipleship seems to be an actionable way for Christians to engage with environmental care that draws together the Christian story, the current environmental situation, and social and environmental justice activism.

Here’s the chapter abstract:

Christians in the United States are perhaps better known as climate deniers than as environmentalists, and Western Christians bear the valid critique of Lynn White, Jr. (1967) regarding an unhealthy anthropocentrism and dualistic view of humanity over nature. A growing network of theologians, ministers, and lay people, however, is working to communicate a different narrative. The field of ecotheology has articulated an environmental ethic based on the Christian worldview. The challenge has been moving ecotheology out of the academy and into the values and behavior of the average Christian. The present study will be useful for those interested in communicating climate change to a Christian audience leading to pro-environmental behavior change. It surveys relevant literature regarding what does and does not work in communicating climate change to American Christians, then provides a case study of the communication strategies of six watershed discipleship practitioners who are reclaiming traditional ecological knowledge and themes of “creation care” within the Christian sacred text. Watershed discipleship communicates climate change utilizing the rhetoric and symbols of Christian tradition, and catalyzes pro-environmental behaviors at the individual, community, and ecosystem scale.


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