Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Compost: ‘Coming out’ as a Christian environmentalist

Welcome to The Compost, a weekly newsletter on key environmental news impacting Southern California. Subscribe now to get it in your inbox! In today’s edition…


I was 19 when I learned that global warming is a polarizing topic in some Christian circles.

My first opportunity to vote in a presidential election came in 2000, while I was earning my bachelors degree in English at California Baptist University. I knew next to nothing about politics at the time, but I’d heard candidate Al Gore speak on the importance of saving the planet and preserving wild spaces. That jived with my close-to-nature upbringing in Big Bear. It also seemed to align with the messages I’d heard about respecting God’s creation during regular services at our local Calvary Chapel and Christian summer camps in the sacred Sequoia National Forest, and with lessons about the natural revelation of God I’d heard in my theology class at Cal Baptist.

I honestly can’t remember if I investigated Gore’s position on other issues. Teenage me surely didn’t do a careful analysis of how he compared with George W. Bush on, say, taxation or foreign policy. But I do remember a student leader in our Cal Baptist class casually asking me in the hallway on Election Day if I’d voted. And I vividly recall the verbal thrashing I received outside my classroom door when I naively volunteered that I’d voted for Gore.

His shaming, of course, centered around those “other issues” being debated that election cycle  — and every cycle, since they never really seem to change. When I managed to slip in a word about the environment, I might as well have told my classmate that I’d picked a candidate based on his favorite ice cream flavor. His message to me was clear: real Christians don’t care about that issue.

Thinking back on that experience all those Novembers ago, it made perfect sense when communications professor Emma Frances Bloomfield told me some young Christians now describe the experience of telling fellow believers that they accept the settled science on climate change as “coming out.”

I spoke with Bloomfield for a story I’ve been thinking about since I started on the environment beat last June, that would try to explore the complex, biblically-justified discrepancies in how Christians view climate change. So when I learned that St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach was installing solar panels as part of a goal to become carbon neutral by 2030, as shown in the photo above, I knew the time was right to dig in.

After my story ran across our front pages last Sunday, I got a number of kind comments from Christians and climate scientists alike. I also got emails calling my article a “hit piece on Christianity” and calling me a “liberal s***head.” Clearly, not a lot has changed in some ways since I was 19. Then again…

Cal Baptist now offers an environmental science program that didn’t exist even when I was there as a graduate student, some five years after my hallway castigation. Most denominations of Christians, like all Americans, also are now much more likely to believe in both man-made climate change and a God-entrusted duty to try and slow it down.

As for me, I’m still working to develop more informed opinions and a thicker skin, without hardening a heart that still bleeds for all of God’s creation.

— By Brooke Staggs, environment reporter


🖋 REGULATE

Asphalt plant to green space: After residents increasingly complained about air pollution and smells from All American Asphalt in Irvine, our Destiny Torres reports the plant has now ceased operations. The city agreed to buy it, with plans to turn it into open green space. …READ MORE…

Heated meeting ends with arrests: Zoning changes for warehousing was one of the hot-button topics that led to seven people being arrested during a Fontana council meeting that drew expletive-filled shouts from the audience, Madison Hart reports. …READ MORE…

Berm Big Brother: Stop digging out the berm! That’s the message Laguna Beach wants to send skimboarders and others who dig out a sandy berm at Aliso Beach. The city is installing cameras to watch for folks tearing the berm down, Erika Ritchie reports, which may make for better waves but also allows contaminated runoff water to reach the ocean. …READ MORE…


🛡 PROTECT

Hangar no more: Demolition of the burned-out blimp hangar in Tustin is now underway, Destiny Torres reports. Officials say they’re monitoring air quality as that work continues. But high winds also moved debris and ash to new places, including the nearby animal shelter. ...READ MORE…

  • Meanwhile, residents say they’re still waiting for crews to clean up toxic debris from around their homes, our Michael Slaten learned. …READ MORE…
  • I got a chance to speak with Madeleine Brand on KCRW’s Press Play about the Tustin blimp hangar fire and fallout. …LISTEN IN…

Gray whale deep dive: There’s good news and bad news about the gray whale migration season now underway off our Southern California coast. Visual journalist Kurt Snibbe breaks both down, with some beautiful graphics to boot. …READ MORE…

Monarch concerns: After dropping for years due to development, climate change, pesticides and more, then rebounding somewhat last season, experts say the number of migrating monarch butterflies in California appears to be back down again so far this season. Eli Ramos looked at what’s going on and how you can learn more. …READ MORE…

  • In just a few hours, Southern Californians can reach one of a few hot spots for migrating monarchs that are open to the public, at the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. I visited for the first time last weekend as part of a quick birthday road trip, and left inspired to help do more to protect them!

Get a roundup of the best climate and environment news delivered to your inbox each week by signing up for The Compost.


🚆 TRANSPORT

Public transit bump short lived: When the 10 Freeway near downtown Los Angeles reopened Monday morning following a fire, our Teresa Liu looked at how lingering concerns about issues such as safety and commute times already had folks who were forced to pivot to public transit for a week happily hopping back in their cars. …READ MORE…

Green for green: California’s incentives for residents to trade gas-guzzlers for electric vehicles are included in this Bloomberg tale on how such programs can help speed the EV conversion. There’s now $285 million set aside in the state budget for the program. …READ MORE…


🎉 CELEBRATE

Frogs release party: More than 70 endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs are settling into their new home near my hometown of Big Bear, our Sarah Hofmann reports. It’s part of a breeding program through the San Diego Zoo to help the species recover. …READ MORE…

Reason for hope: There’s been some heavy climate news of late. But the great Sammy Roth at the L.A. Times asked readers what gives them hope, and he got some inspiring responses in return. A comment I love: “Taking action is the antidote to despair.” …READ MORE…


People take a photo during a preview of the Gypsum Canyon Wilderness in Anaheim, CA on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. The 500-acre park has 6 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
People take a photo during a preview of the Gypsum Canyon Wilderness in Anaheim, CA on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. The 500-acre park has 6 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

📍 EXPLORE

500 acres awaits: Miles of new trails for hiking, biking and riding horses are available to the public starting today, Michael Slaten reports, with the official opening of the Gypsum Canyon Wilderness area in Anaheim Hills. …READ MORE…


💪 PITCH IN

Just talk about it: For this week’s tip on how Southern Californians can help the environment… Theoretically, one of the easiest things we all can do to help fight climate change is to talk about it. Experts say discussing climate issues with family and friends can help to normalize such talk, clear up misconceptions and make people more empowered to act. But in practice, we know such conversations aren’t always easy. So I put together a toolbox with tips for starting climate discussions, how to make them effective, how to respond to a few of the most common claims from climate skeptics and what to do if the conversation goes south. Hope you’ll give it a read and share it wide!


Thanks for reading, Composters! And don’t forget to sign up to get The Compost delivered to your inbox.


Source: Orange County Register

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply