environmentalists

A recent Michigan State University-led study suggests the so-called “greening of Christianity” over the last two decades has failed to prompt average Christians to care about or try and help the environment.

The study also contends Christians care less about the environment than atheists and people of other beliefs.

“There is very little evidence to support the idea that rank-and-file Christians are as green as non-Christians or nonreligious individuals, approximately two decades into the supposed greening of Christianity trend,” the study states. “In fact, these results are consistent with the finding of earlier studies that Christian identity, beliefs, and behaviors are negatively related to environmental concern.”

Despite the way scholars portrayed their findings, results indicate a large portion of Christians do, in fact, care about the environment, as the data from the study indicates. Indeed, Christians are often just a few percentage points away from their atheist and non-religious peers in many cases. (See data box)

Researchers crunched a wide swath of data from the 2010 General Social Survey to determine their findings. Table2

Michigan State University grad student John Clements, one of the researchers on the team, said in an email to The College Fix that he does not believe Christians would be offended by the results.

“I think anyone would take offense at being called something that might be considered against social norms if the person views that norm as something that is socially desirable,” he stated. “For people who don’t see the environment as an issue to care about, they may not be concerned about an anti-environmental label.”

“But let me be clear,” Clements added, “we are not labeling anyone.”

The findings may be considered good news to some evangelical leaders who see the environmental movement – Environmental Evangelism, Green Christianity, Creation Care – as a false religion, and bad news to nature lovers who are zealous about protecting Mother Earth and worship the environment as their religion.

The study cites prominent Christian figures and organizations over the last few decades that have attempted to integrate environmental concerns and Christian values.

For example, many Catholic parishes have adopted Earth Charters, the Evangelical Environmental Network aims to “equip, inspire, disciple, and mobilize God’s people in their effort to care for God’s creation,” and the Southern Baptists launched an Environment & Climate Initiative.

“The initiatives may be accurately described as calls to action by religious leaders, with scant evidence that rank-and-file adherents are following these calls,” the study states. “Furthermore, some of the efforts … have drawn considerable ire from more politically conservative Christian leaders (e.g., James Dobson and Charles Colson) … and seem to be attracting more opposition than support within Christian America.”

Fix contributor Katie England is a student at Colorado State University Pueblo.

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In the “People’s Republic of Boulder,” by City Council decree, residents are known as “pet guardians,” and now they’ve stretched their roles to guardians of wild life as well.

On Sunday, about 50 people gathered at Pearl Street Mall for a candlelight vigil to demand justice for an adult, male elk shot by a police officer in a suburban Boulder neighborhood on New Year’s Day.

To honor the elk, participants played recordings of elk bugling from their cell phones. They passed out flyers to passersby. They vowed to mount pressure on police as the investigation continues. In addition to the vigil, a silent march took place recently as well.

Since the shooting, town meetings have been held. The chief of police has made statements. An announcement from the district attorney on whether charges will be filed against the police officer, who reportedly failed to handle the situation by the book, is expected today.

Meanwhile, in interviews with The College Fix, some CU Boulder students offered a different perspective, calling the reactions a bit much, even insulting.

Junior Taylor Lane, 20, said she thought the vigil was “extreme.”

“So many people in Boulder are concerned with our ecological, or ethical, facade and this is a perfect example,” she said. “One animal was shot out of season. I’m certain more than that are hit by traffic on a daily basis.”

What’s more, the Boulder community did not hold a vigil for the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., in mid-December, in which a classroom of young students were gunned down by a mentally unstable gunman.

Senior Mitchell Whitus, 20, said he feels the Boulder community reacted “to the wrong thing.”

“I saw a report on Channel 4 about the vigil, and a lady who was there compared the shooting of the elk to the Sandy Hook shooting,” he said. “I’m appalled that they would compare the shooting to the massacre of children. Why not hold a vigil for the Sandy Hook shooting, instead? It is crazy.”

Nearly half of Boulder’s residents are registered Democrats, and the city is widely understood as the home of “pet guardians” and environmentalists.

Nevertheless, their reaction to the elk shooting also runs in stark contrast to the lack of any uproar over a bear that was tranquilized on the CU Boulder campus last year, then found dead after being hit by a car.

Meanwhile, other students felt the Boulder community used the elk as a symbol to gather around, but failed to hit on the bigger question of the police officer’s conduct in shooting the beloved creature.

Senior Elizabeth Coombs, 22, said the elk is the wrong target.

“I think we should focus on the potential abuse of power by the officer if he was, indeed, on duty when he shot the elk,” she said.

Fix contributor Aslinn Scott is a student at CU Boulder.

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IMAGE: Odolaigh/Flickr

An article in The New York Times this week highlights the latest tactic global warming extremists are using to attack Big Oil. The article raises many similar issues also highlighted in a College Fix article published last month.

The New York Times notes that recently “college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil, and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.”

The problem with this trend, as contributor Danielle Charette pointed out in her Nov. 13 article on The College Fix, and also spelled out by those quoted in The New York Times, is that colleges need their portfolios to make money, and divesting in successful businesses isn’t exactly the wisest move to that end.

As the old saying goes, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Click here to read The College Fix article on the subject.

Click here to read The New York Times article on the subject.

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Student environmentalists have targeted colleges’ endowments, pressuring campus leaders to sell off petroleum industry stocks as a new tactic in the war against “Big Oil” emerges on college campuses.

The strategy against the fossil fuel industry and Wall Street aims to pressure university trustees to divest from endowment shares that don’t agree with environmentalists’ values and philosophies, and the movement has already met with some success.

One such example is Unity College, which likes to call itself “America’s Environmental College.” It’s the latest school to revise its investment portfolio in the name of “sustainability.” Campus leaders announced the decision earlier this month.

Stephen Mulkey, president of Unity, told ThinkProgress.org that “the trustees have looked at the college’s finances in the context of our ethical obligation to our students, and they have chosen to make a stand.”

Mulkey also declared in a campus news release that “we are running out of time. The window of opportunity for salvaging a livable planet for our children and grandchildren is rapidly closing.”

It’s unclear whether the move is simply a marketing ploy for the small school, an attempt to attract green students to the Maine campus, which currently has a $13.5 million endowment, very small compared to other colleges across the nation.

Meanwhile, those other larger campuses with much bigger piles of cash are under pressure by the movement, led by well known activist and global warming guru Bill McKibben of 350.org.

He’s taken on a nationwide tour to whip college students into a frenzy to pressure their administrations to divest. Targets of that campaign include Swarthmore and Middlebury colleges, which hold endowments of $1 billion and $871 million, respectively.

McKibben’s website argues “divestment is the opposite of an investment–it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Fossil fuel investments are a risk for investors and the planet–that’s why we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies.”

However, McKibben – a professor at Middlebury – does not address the notion that divesting in a stock doesn’t make it disappear, simply go to another buyer.

But protestors insist holding certain pro-business and pro-industry stocks amount to hypocrisy. In mid-October, five Middlebury students issued a fake press release thanking the college for divesting from fossil fuels in honor of the Dalai Lama’s campus visit. The students were eventually given an unofficial reprimand for the hoax, according to news reports.

Similarly, at Swarthmore College,“Mountain Justice” club members have tried numerous publicity stunts, like delivering the Board of Trustees Christmas stockings full of coal, and decorating campus buildings with “Brought to you by Chevron” flyers.

So far, Swarthmore administrators have not budged, and even offered up a reasonable response against the environmentalists’ efforts.

After meeting with members of Mountain Justice, Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp released this statement: “The Investment Committee believes that we should be an active shareholder in the companies whose shares we own, thereby enabling us to hold them accountable. Indeed, we have some notable examples in our history where affecting positive social change has come from exerting influence on a company by virtue of our stockholder presence.”

Not to mention, the college needs its portfolio to make money. Swarthmore’s 2010-11 endowment provided almost 40 percent of the college’s operating revenues, with the college reportedly spending an average of $29,955 per student from the endowment.

Further, the firms who manage college investments usually have confidentiality clauses. Opening university endowments to student scrutiny not only undermines these firms’ competition, but also encourages any number of other groups to uses the endowment for symbolic protest.

Nevertheless, the pressure continues to mount.

“Divestment is fast becoming a tactic used by student activists fighting against climate change,”notes a recent article in 7 Days, Vermont’s Independent Voice.” “Students at the University of Vermont last month called on the board of trustees to pull endowment funds from oil and energy stocks. Also in late October, students at 18 colleges and universities staged a National Day of Action to pressure their administrations to divest; the campaign involved some big-name institutions, including Cornell, Boston University and Harvard.”

What’s more, students at Wesleyan University have called on their administration to divest from Shell and Exxon Mobil, weapons contractors, Bank of America, and companies in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

It remains to be seen whether the pressure will affect change. This latest movement was inspired by the widespread 1980s divestment movement against South African apartheid, which by some accounts was a successful model, although skeptics contend it was international pressure that removed U.S. companies from South Africa, not university politics.

Fix contributor Danielle Charette is a student at Swarthmore College.

IMAGE: ArbyReed/Flickr

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The new MLK?

by College Fix Staff on September 5, 2012

Decades ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these poignant and solemn words about an end to social injustices: “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. How long? Not long.” Dr. King used the phrase more than once; a notion the civil rights leader borrowed from 19th century abolitionist minister Theodore Parker.

Now the terminology has been morphed again, this time by Bill McKibben, a global warming guru and frequent guest speaker at universities across the nation, where he is often billed as an “environmental superstar” and invited to promulgate his extreme views to packed lecture halls.

McKibben pretty much equates environmentalism with the American Civil Rights movement — but he adds the Civil Rights movement had it better in a way, people took it more seriously, according to an account of a recent talk he gave.

In an appearance at Swarthmore College, McKibben channeled Dr. King and told a roomful of students that “the arc of the universe is short and it bends towards heat.”

“But maybe it’ll come out OK,” McKibben added.

McKibben also told students: “ ‘If you were a betting person, you would probably bet against [our movement].’ He thinks the Civil Rights movement may have had greater reason to believe they would achieve their goals than the environmental movement,” according to the account of the speech.

Click here to read the full report.

The speech took place last spring, but McKibben is no stranger to campus lectures. His website notes he has spoken at about a dozen campuses so far this year, and that’s not counting commencement addresses.

And if you’re wondering about his stance on the future of planet Earth, here’s a snippet, taken from his personal website:

“Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. … We can’t simply keep stacking boulders against the change that’s coming on every front; we’ll need to figure out what parts of our lives and our ideologies we must abandon so that we can protect the core of our societies and civilizations.”

This is fodder for what passes as a mainstream guest science lecture at many of today’s universities. Or wait, is this religious studies?

Two Washington University in St. Louis students spent $250 apiece on tickets to an Obama campaign event Tuesday, intent on getting Obama’s attention over the Keystone XL Pipeline Project:

Senior Arielle Klagsbrun fell in love with Barack Obama in 2008 when she worked on his presidential campaign.

When she saw the man she voted for three years ago on Tuesday, she interrupted him during a pause in his speech to ask him to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.

“He had been talking about our future, and that’s what vetoing Keystone XL is about: It’s about protecting not only the climate, but also our water sources and our agricultural fields and our indigenous land for the people that come after us,” Klagsbrun said.

[…] President Obama acknowledged their interruption after finishing his speech, noting the presence of environmentalists in the crowd.

This was probably not the reaction they were aiming for.

In July, the Wall Street Journal endorsed the proposal, a U.S.-Canadian oil pipeline awaiting U.S. regulatory approval, saying the project would create 100,000 jobs.

[Student Life]