Willa Swenson-Lengyel Holmes Rolston III Chair in Religion and Science | Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
- Ph.D. University of Chicago
- M.A.R. Yale Divinity School
- B.A. St. Olaf College
Areas of Expertise
- Religion and the Environment
- Environmental Ethics
- Religious Ethics
- Moral Psychology
I teach courses in environmental ethics, religion and the environment, theology, and religious ethics. My goal is to help my students grapple with fundamental questions such as:
- What might it mean to live a good life in a world shot through by injustice and tragedy?
- How does environmental harm inflect and intensify those injustices and tragedies? How does understanding our environmental context impact our understanding of what it means to live well?
- How might religious symbols, rituals, and intellectual traditions help us to make sense of ourselves, our societies, and our place in the natural world?
My research focuses on inaction in the face of climate change. I ask: why is inaction so persistent, especially among privileged and powerful actors, when the consequences of such inaction are practically and morally disastrous? I draw on religious, philosophical, and social scientific research in answering this question.
My first book project looks at hope and climate inaction, analyzing how hope may be a source of both motivation and passivity in response to climate change. I have a second project I am working on as well, which looks at desires for environmental purity as they influence climate inaction.
I’m interested in the way in which perceptions of people’s own complicity in climate change, alongside the scope of the moral demand, can lead to inaction and passivity. I suggest that justification and grace may be useful in addressing this sense of inevitable failure and passivity.
My research has been published in the Journal of Religious Ethics, the Journal of Religion, and the Journal for the Society of Christian Ethics. I am new to Davidson College in Fall 2022. I am coming from Villanova University, where I held a Catherine of Siena Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ethics from 2018-2022.