The Common Good

Environmental Activist Anna Clark: 'Christians Must Conserve Resources'

At the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina last weekend, I was able to speak with Anna Clark, author of Green, American Style, president and founder of EarthPeople, a green consulting firm, and a contributor to Taking Flight: Reclaiming the Female Half of God's Image Through Advocacy and Renewal. Anna has a heart for equipping churches to make small and big changes for the sake of creation care and stewardship of the earth's resources. How can Christians do this, you ask? Read our conversation to find out:

Claire Lorentzen: You spoke about how Christians need to lead in the sustainability movement because we already know about sacrifice, and sacrifice is necessary if we want to adapt our culture to one that upholds sustainability. Will you talk more about what unique roll you think Christians have in the sustainability and creation care movement?

Anna Clark: I think it is to give people the meaning, to remind us of the bigger meaning because this can all descend into legalism like anything else. The companies I work with have metrics now. It has become a checklist thing, a competitive tool. All fine if that's what moves it forward -- fine. But if we lose the heart in this, it is too easy to pat ourselves on the back, to think we are doing enough. But really, there is great urgency involved and a moral imperative. This is a humanitarian problem. The people who are suffering are the poorest of the poor. If people can understand how our acts change and affect people on the other side of the world, and why, as Christians, we need to do everything we can, not just preach the gospel and go build houses, but also conserve resources. That is what we can do. We have to be the conscience of society. And if we abandon this cause, we lose our relevance. People care about this today; give people a reason to care about it with their faith, and, oh my gosh, I think we could transform a lot of people on the sidelines.

So why do you think the environment has been on the sidelines of faith communities for so long?

From my observation, I think it goes back to the Apollo 13 example that I used [in my talk]. We don't know who we are supposed to save; we are disconnected from the global village; we only see the consumer culture and advertising messages of today. It programs you to want, to desire. So that is what we are facing all the time, and most of the time we don't even know it. It is the cultural overlay that no one wants to own up to because we feel powerless. I had to deprogram myself from consumerism.

You mentioned in your talk that women must lead in the sustainability movement. Could you share a little more about what you think the unique role of women of faith are in this movement?

We need to own our power and recognize that we have this. We need to recognize that our institutions are not designed right now to necessarily bring out the leadership in us. So we need to go find some communities that can help us cultivate these things and find some support. Listen to what God's got for us. A lot of us aren't given the tools to learn how to penetrate that. I'm a marketing person, I know that I have to keep knocking on the door.

And I want to share this. Cynthia [La Grou] in Taking Flight wrote that her "favorite model is the Virtuous Woman from Proverbs 31. Though the means of doing business have changed, her qualities remain the same. The virtuous women is industrious and entrepreneurial. The fabric of her life is skillfully woven with personal, family, and social responsibility." What this showed me was, wow, in the Bible there are examples of women who are doing all these things, wearing all the hats, being bold, being courageous, running things. Regular churches don't hold that up as an example. We need to look for better examples. They are in there. That is what is awesome!

portrait-claire-lorentzenClaire Lorentzen is the online editorial assistant at Sojourners.

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