Avery Davis Lamb is an activist, ecologist, and public theologian working at the intersection of Christianity and environmental justice. He is the co-executive director of Creation Justice Ministries, whose mission is to educate, equip and mobilize Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation. Follow him on Twitter @averydavislamb.
Avery has a background in both ecological research and faith-based environmental organizing, studying ecology in various ecosystems and organizing faith communities across the country in support of action on environmental justice. He serves on the board for The Center for Spirituality in Nature and is a fellow with the Re:Generate Program at Wake Forest Divinity School and the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at Duke Divinity School.
Posts By This Author
Persevering Despite the Profound Depth of the Climate Crisis
IT BEGINS IN the way the 2020s could end: with a climate change-driven heat wave that kills 20 million people in India. Kim Stanley Robinson’s work of science fiction is heavy on the science and light on the fiction. Indeed, the “fiction” of this novel reads more prophetic than futuristic. Just like biblical prophets, Robinson is less interested in predicting a far-off world than seeing our current world for what it is. The words of the prophet Jeremiah would fit snugly in this book: “Disaster overtakes disaster, the whole land is laid waste” (4:20).
Robinson’s vision of a response to climate change veers on the edge of technological utopianism without ever falling into the abyss. The airships, cryptocurrencies, and drones of Robinson’s novel are not simply fantastic simulations of a utopian (or dystopian) world. They are pragmatic responses to a world that is burning and melting under our feet. While the need for technological solutions is so apparent in Ministry (and in our own world), Robinson’s hope is not located in technology. Rather, the tentative hope of Ministry is found in the unwavering humanity of its many heroes.
Liberation Starts at the Table
2020 WAS A YEAR of ecological breakdown. Simultaneous climate disasters have roared, including the worst wildfire season in the history of California and, as I write this, the most active hurricane season on record in the Atlantic. Meanwhile, freak wind storms called derechos plagued the Midwest and heatwaves baked the Southwest. In the midst of such devastation, it can seem downright irresponsible to search for hope. Yet, the paradoxical call of the cross is that, in the deepest darkness, joyful and beautiful transformation might be possible.
In The Green Good News, T. Wilson Dickinson does not settle for platitudes of hope. He does not affirm, as is so tempting for Christians, that all will be fine because of faith in God. Instead, Dickinson finds good news in the possibility of a beautiful and joyful set of responses to ecological breakdown. With humble writing grounded in stories of his own life, Dickinson offers a reading of scripture that does not separate the liberation of creation from the liberation of the poor but follows the vision of Jesus, in whom all creation—human and more-than-human—holds together. In a refreshing move, The Green Good News sheds the romanticism of creation care in favor of a biblically based environmental justice from the margins. Dickinson unequivocally offers a call to conversion from neoliberalism to solidarity with all oppressed creatures. This ecological conversion takes place at the heart of the Christian witness: the table.
Beyond Human Nature
WHILE THE CLIMATE crisis has reconfigured our relationships with each other, other creatures, and our places, fiction has not. It remains focused on the human’s internal, moral journey, as if human life is something circumscribed from the rest of creaturely life. Gun Island is a much-needed antidote to the anthropocentric ideal of the novel, one that meets the age of climate change with stories that are true to the new dimensions of relationships unfolding around us.
In his first novel since his nonfiction masterpiece The Great Derangement, in which he laid out a vision for a climate-changed literature, Ghosh illustrates the agency of nature: how in this Anthropocene age, shaped by human activity, our porous lives are intertwined with those of our nonhuman interlocutors, who become increasingly present in our lives through climate-change-driven typhoons, fires, and species migration. He tells a story of stories, not recasting the tales of modernity, but reaching back into Bengali folklore to guide us through this uncanny age. For, as one of Gun Island’s characters says, “Only through stories can invisible or inarticulate or silent beings speak to us; it is they who allow the past to reach out to us.”
How Three Coastal Churches Became Hubs of Climate Resilience
WE DO NOT need another litany of climate disaster. What we need are stories of climate resilience—communities responding to the physical and spiritual needs wrought by climate collapse. For millions of people, those needs are brought by floodwaters inundating communities with rain and rising tides. And as waters rise, some churches also rise to generate spiritual and physical resilience, reimagining their land, mission, and ministry for the age of climate change. According to these congregations, climate action is not a deviation from the mission of the church; it’s the only way to remain true to the message of the gospel when floodwaters are rushing into our houses and sanctuaries.
Flow, river, flow
WERE IT NOT for the “Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner Tonight!” banner and obligatory “Episcopal church in 1 mile” sign, you could drive past St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and miss the building entirely. Obscured behind a line of oaks and a hillock of native hydrangea, the sanctuary almost disappears into the landscape. For Rev. Diana Carroll, that’s the hope.
When Carroll moved to Annapolis, Md., in 2012 to serve St. Luke’s, the four acres behind the church, which abuts Back Creek, a tributary of the Chesapeake, were a tangled mess of brush. The church had planned to clear that land to build a large sanctuary and convert the current structure into an education building, but Carroll and members of the St. Luke’s Green Team suggested St. Luke’s keep its current sanctuary and use the five acres as “a sanctuary without walls.” As Carroll envisioned it, if the church restored the land, it would still be “a sacred space as had always been dreamed about for that location.”
For years, St. Luke’s has been involved in climate action, integrating climate literacy into its preaching and education while advocating for stronger climate policy at the Maryland State House. So in 2017, when the 120-person congregation received a total of nearly $2 million in grants—largely from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, plus small grants and donations through the church—to restore wetlands and a buried stream on their property that drained into Back Creek, they realized the project was a physical expression of their commitment to earthkeeping. With the help of an ecological restoration company, they coaxed back to the surface the stream that had been diverted through stormwater pipes and built a cascading streambed, with step pools and weirs—low dams to slow water flow—to filter the water as it makes its way toward Back Creek. They named the restored stream Bowen’s Branch, after a late congregant who cared deeply about watershed stewardship in Annapolis.
When I visited St. Luke’s in 2019, Carroll and I followed the curve of the stream to its mouth, which is now a living shoreline, a small coastal edge made of native plants and natural materials rather than a concrete seawall. In an age of climate crisis, marshes like this one are critical: As sea levels rise, marshes engage in a kind of dance with the rising tides through a process called accretion. This is especially important in a place like Annapolis, where waters breaching sea walls and submerging parking lots, roads, and sidewalks has become a frequent problem (only four such events were recorded in the early 1960s, compared to 63 in 2017). When the dock in downtown Annapolis floods, explained Carroll, the church’s marsh helps absorb the extra water. The marsh is also a carbon sink, more effective at sequestering carbon than the equivalent area of dry land.
By restoring their land to serve its intended purpose, the church created a climate sanctuary: absorbing higher tides, filtering polluted stormwater from extreme rain events, hosting displaced creatures, and drawing carbon out of the air. And while St. Luke’s sanctuary is high enough above sea level to be outside the floodplain, the same is not true for all Annapolis residents. The church is in solidarity with those neighbors, absorbing the water their houses cannot, holding a space for lament when devastation comes, and advocating for equitable climate solutions—an ecotone where the meditative ebb of human action meets the flow of steadily rising tides.
Amazon Fires Are Like Arson in God's Cathedral
What we need now is to #PrayfortheAmazon — to lament the devastation to the creatures and to our climate. We need to talk about the loss in our churches, singing and praying in community. Then we need to have the courage to mobilize and save what’s left of this beautiful world.
Our Ethical Structure
IN HIS ESSAY “The Land Ethic,” environmentalist Aldo Leopold tells a story from The Odyssey in which Odysseus, upon returning to Troy, hangs a dozen slave girls for misbehaving in his absence. The act, Leopold writes, was not one of ethics but of property: “The ethical structure of that day ... had not yet been extended to human chattels.” Leopold uses this as an example of how our ethical structure has expanded over history. This expansion of the moral circle is a common thread in history, encompassing, slowly, people and things that were once outside moral consideration.
Faith Communities Hold World Leaders Accountable at U.N. Climate Negotiations
The United Nations climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland — the follow-up to the blockbuster 2015 Paris conference — came to a dramatic close on Dec. 15 with the adoption of the "Katowice Climate Package." The package represents significant progress on global climate action and will allow nations to move forward in setting and meeting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets over the next five years. However, the roadmap will need major improvements to reach the level of “ambition” the scientific community says is needed to protect the most vulnerable.
Denying Climate Change Is Not Just Political — It's Deadly
A dystopian scene is unfolding across California. Charred car skeletons sit idle on the side of roads in the working-class town of Paradise, Calif. In one video, a camera pans to reveal what looks like an apocalyptic movie set — passing the remains of an abandoned school bus, begging us to ask what happened to those who were inside.
Breaking the Climate Silence in Our Sanctuaries
Climate change is a crisis of moral proportions. Rather than responding to the climate crisis with resignation or cynicism, our congregations can chart a new path forward by responding to this moral crisis in a distinctively religious way. By probing deeply into our religious traditions, we can present truths that are needed in this time of climate catastrophe.
Yes, Climate Change Is Terrifying. Here Are 6 Things to Give You Hope.
We will need both lament and hope to cope with the existential crisis of climate change. Go read New York Magazine writer David Wallace-Well’s piece for your dose of lament. Then read the stories below for a briefing on where to look for hope.
Science: A Sacred Resistance
It is crucial for Christians to be involved in this march and supportive of science. Our orientation to the world is to care for all creation, human and non-human. Science, when done humbly and rigorously, recognizing our creaturely place in creation, and seeking understanding over control, enables us to more fully care for the world and draw closer to God. The march for science is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with scientists whose work helps us better understand the world and care for the oppressed.
Trump Just Signed an Executive Order on the Environment. Here’s What You Need to Know.
The power of the order is found less in its immediate consequences, and more in its trajectory-setting results. While the world is slowly backing away from a crumbling cliff, this executive order represents a shift into drive to send the global climate hurtling toward the ledge.
'Religious Freedom Has Never Been Unfettered'
“Religious freedom has never been unfettered. It has always been the case that you are free to exercise your religion — as long as it’s not hurting anyone else,” Bishop Gene Robinson said.
Happy Thanksgiving? End the Violence at Standing Rock
In the same week as a holiday that celebrates gratitude, inclusivity, and cultivation of common ground, militarized police and political powers chose instead to continue a 600-year American legacy: destruction of land, sterilization of culture, and denial of the full humanity of indigenous people.
The Patron Saint of Environmental Justice?
Francis’ life shows us that were he with us today, he would likely be less concerned with the blessings of pets and more concerned with the racism and classism of our environmental problems.
Joe Biden Crashes College Party With This Important Message
The two team up to take on rape culture and send a strong message about bystander intervention. Vice President Biden reminds us of the statistics: one-in-five women and one-in-sixteen men assaulted by the time they leave college. But he’s not the only one qualified to talk about sexual assault. Biden assures us" “Everyone in this room is qualified. It’s on all of us to change the culture and prevent sexual assault.”
1 Year Later, '100 Miles' March Takes on Rising Anti-Immigrant Sentiment
It has been a year since immigrant mothers made the impressive pilgrimage on foot from an immigrant detention center in Pennsylvania to the political seat of power in Washington, D.C. On Sept. 16, the women of last year’s 100 Women 100 Miles pilgrimage returned to the steps of the Supreme Court — singing, chanting, and praying for justice and mercy in the immigration system. Then, as part of an event organized by We Belong Together and The National Domestic Workers Alliance, they retraced a portion of their steps — a scaled-down anniversary pilgrimage, from the Supreme Court to the White House.
Kissing Sexist, Racist Christianity Goodbye
Brock Turner’s case is not an isolated incident of a poor judge or a flawed judicial system. The roots of Brock Turner’s three month sentence goes deeper than the courtroom in Santa Clara, Calif. These roots extend deeply into the soil of power, privilege, and patriarchy — systems actively formed, in part, by misdirected Christianity. Eldredge, Harris, Driscoll, and Piper are only four recent examples of a harmful narrative that has been preached for centuries.
Yes, Prayer Can Change Things
We are at a moment when prayer is often viewed as a cop-out for policy action. The distaste for prayer in our political arena was most visible in the New York Daily News cover story “God Isn’t Fixing This,” following the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting in December. The cover story called the politicians’ prayer tweets “meaningless platitudes” in the face of their inaction.
In light of this frustration with the political posturing of prayer, how might we see the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation as a meaningful action toward climate justice?
Standing With the Standing Rock Sioux
Unlike the Keystone pipeline protests, which garnered headlines around the world, the Standing Rock protests have largely gone ignored – silenced, in McKibben’s words, as a result of “the endless history of unfairness” experienced by Native Americans.