Rusty Pritchard shows that evangelical faith and climate change do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Pritchard is the president and co-founder of Flourish Magazine, which encourages responsible environmental stewardship through an evangelical perspective. Pritchard said he understood the reasons why many Christians bristle at environmental advocacy, but he believed it did not have to be that way.
“A lot of evangelicals are politically conservative, and a lot of folks from the environmental movement seem to represent political liberalism,” Pritchard said. “The church can help to bridge that divide. I think Christians are very curious about what’s going on in the world, and they hear about climate change, but a lot of it comes from a gloom and doom perspective. I think Christians are looking for solutions to these problems rather than just talking about the problems themselves.”
Pritchard is part of “Climate Change: Science, Faith and Free Enterprise,” a pair of public climate change panels set for 2-4:30 p.m. and 6-8:30 p.m. today in the Bost Extension Center’s South Auditorium.
Panel organizer Julian Carroll said the panels’ goal was to research effective ways to communicate climate change science to informal audiences. These included not only faith-based audiences, he said, but also farmers, hunters, and others who might not share the same background as climate scientists themselves.
“Every community has a different language,” Pritchard said. “We are not presenting an opinion. We are listening to the discussion and gathering feedback on how best to present science in an understandable language. Our project is a non-advocacy project by mandate from the National Science Foundation.”
Carroll said the panels were part of the research project he coordinated, the Climate Literacy Partnership of the Southeast (CLiPSE). He said CLiPSE was one of 15 projects awarded two-year NSF grants in 2010 with the goal of promoting climate education.
“Our approach was (to educate) K-12 and informal audiences,” Carroll said. “Some of the other (grant recipients) were metropolitan science museums and things like that.”
Panelists include Pritchard, MSU assistant professor of agricultural engineering Joel Paz and Bob Inglis, executive director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative (E&EI) and former U.S. Congressman. Carroll said these panelists will each speak for 10-15 minutes before opening the floor to questions, which attendees will be able to write on note cards for facilitators to read to panelists. He said Karen McNeal, CLiPSE principal investigator, would moderate the panel.
Pritchard said he looked forward to hearing from Inglis, who developed limited-government climate solutions while serving as a ranking member on the House Science Committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee.
“I feel like we’re going to hear some (climate change) solutions that aren’t the standard, run-of-the-mill cap-and-trade solutions we’ve heard,” Pritchard said. “(This panel) should get people in the same room that are outside (each other’s) comfort zones and (help them) find out what they have in common.”
Paz’s research specialties include water quality, Geographic Information Systems and the impact of climate change on agriculture. He said minor changes to temperature, rainfall or atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could have significant effects on crops.
“If you look at, say, increases in temperature, it would probably increase insect pet population,” Paz said. “You’ve got lower winter mortality of insects because of higher winter temperatures. With pathogens, they love moisture, and if you have high rainfall amounts or high carbon dioxide, the higher growth rates of plants (create) denser canopies. It’s more humid inside, and thus more conducive to pathogen development.”