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April 25, 2014

‘Noah’ panelists address connection between faith and the environment

Photo courtesy of Javier Sierra
The panelists from left to right: Jack Jenkins, Michael Brune, Danielle Baussan, Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, and Chris Mooney. Photo courtesy of Javier Sierra.

Faith and environmentalism: two concepts that are typically not intertwined in the minds of everyday citizens have a growing connection around the country and the world.

It is the intersection of these two powerful communities that director Darren Aronofsky wanted to highlight in his recent blockbuster Noah. He addressed the “nexus of faith and environmentalism” in the film Wednesday afternoon at a panel co-hosted by the Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Aronofsky was joined by fellow panelists Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; Ari Handel, co-writer of Noah; Danielle Baussan, managing director for energy policy at CAP; and Jack Jenkins, senior writer and researcher for the faith and progressive policy institute at CAP.

Moderated by Climate Desk’s Chris Mooney, the panelists were given the opportunity to address the prevalence of the environment in the Bible and how to bring the faith and environmental communities together.

“I think to try to remove an ecological message from the story of Noah is a bigger edit job than to sort

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14042519/610b5bb7-a334-4f46-ab0b-241e298db35a.png
Darren Aronofsky (left) with Ari Handel. Photo courtesy of Javier Sierra.

of emphasize [the environment],” Aronofsky explained. “[...] It’s about saving the animals, so there is clearly an ecological message in there.”

From that ecological message comes the idea of stewardship, or “the moral responsibility to be a good caretaker of the environment,” Mooney said.

When discussing dominion, Jenkins explained, “There is this bifurcation within a lot of Christian communities of of folks who see dominion as an excuse to exploit the planet and those who understand dominion as authority and as stewardship.”

That idea is highlighted throughout the movie, and was specifically noted when Noah’s character says, “We broke this world. We did this. And now it begins again.”

“He was speaking from a hopeful perspective. It was about resiliency,” Brune said of Noah’s words. “I think that is a lot of what the struggle is for our constituency in the environmental community right now, in that there is great cause for despair when we think about climate change. When we think about species loss and the devastation that we’re seeing across all ecosystems on almost every part of the planet. And yet, at the same time we have greater awareness, we have greater participation in environmental solutions,and a greater ability to actually solve some of these problems.”

And those solutions can be extended beyond the environmental community to communities of faith.

“One thing that I think is an interesting part of that nexus is caring for the poor, which is obviously a tenant of most faith organizations and faith communities,”  Baussan said. “But it’s also common knowledge in the climate community that the poor are going to be the first and the worst hit by climate

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14042519/a231635d-6be3-4e36-bcfc-2d7aa0fe9782.png
Michael Brune (left) with Darren Aronofsky. Photo courtesy of Michael Brune.

change. And so there is this common nexus, and an opportunity for the two groups to work together using the knowledge of the climate community with the network and outreach that the faith community has among poor communities to both inform and help mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

Handel emphasized, “Whatever is the problem, is the problem that is the responsibility of every single person. You’re taking the easy way out if you say, ‘you know what, if those guys would just do a better job of what they need to do, then everything would be okay.’ Actually the question is, ‘if I do a better job of what i need to do, then maybe everything will be okay.’”

Using that idea and idea of stewardship, the intersection between environmentalists and communities of faith are becoming stronger and more frequent. And that’s a right step in the direction to protect our planet and the generations to come.

“The faith community itself is so broad and diverse, and opportunities to bring the faith community into the climate change discussion is an opportunity to bring people to the table that have often been left out of that conversation,” Baussan said.

You can check out a video of the panel here.

-- Cindy Carr, Sierra Club Media Team


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