Three weeks. 1,753 miles. 18 hours of recorded material. Four locations. Two broken computers. One conference. And two jars of peanut butter.
As we near the halfway point of our content-gathering phase, otherwise known as the catching-rides-around-the-country-to-interview-cool-strangers phase, we’ve paused for a bit of a breather in Goshen before we dive back in. It has already been a wild ride. We have not killed each other yet, although we may have expressed a desire to “just be home already” a few times – but we’re also still having fun. Shoutout to Joel, our housemate in Harrisonburg, who had a birthday last week and has been home alone for almost a month now.
Our first trip was one week in length, split between Nashville, TN and McDowell County, WV. We approached our first interviews with a degree of anxiety, nervous to find ourselves in front of a microphone and worrying about the many potential pitfalls that lie in wait for unsuspecting interviewers. Fortunately, our Nashville interviews made it easy for us: Our friends at the Vanderbilt Divinity School, Jordan Luther and Matthew Groves, were easy to talk to, and Tallu Quinn, the director of the Nashville Food Project, put us quicky at ease.
Talking with Matthew was a fantastic way to start. We each had a fair bit of anxiety about leading interviews, worrying about making them feel natural and trying not to say the wrong thing and finding a balance between professionalism and comfort within the interview. Matthew, a tall, stocky 24-year-old with a booming voice and tenacious smile, made it easy for us. Matthew specializes in leading Sunday School classes, especially for teenagers, that grapple with conversations about both faith and climate change, and we had a fantastic conversation with him. We’ve attached a short clip from his interview, as a teaser for what is yet to come.
Afterward, we headed to McDowell County, West Virginia, a current SWAP site location. Our time in West Virginia was eye-opening. The people we talked to brimmed with generosity, and we inevitably left our interviews with more laugh lines than we began with. The area has immense natural beauty, but has also been heavily mined and logged. We were not ready for the frankness with which our new West Virginia friends talked about the extractive industries in the area, with a clear understanding of both environmental harms and the economic realities of McDowell County and a surprising readiness to talk about climate change. However, as they noted, the poor will always be the first to feel society-wide impacts – and McDowell County is no different in this regard, as it struggles to transition away from coal in a world which (they feel) simultaneously uses it and attacks them for mining it. These interviews felt intense, but also very real. We’ll be pondering them for a long time, I think.
After a short weekend back in Harrisonburg, we piled into a Nissan Versa with our CSCS coworker-boss Daniel and trekked to Indiana for the Rooted and Grounded (R&G) conference at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, IN. R&G was a rich time for us, full of deep conversation among the students, pastors, professors, and theologians there. Our interviews during this time – scrunched between lunch and conference seminar gaps – included enthusiastic climate scientist Ben Brabson and keynote speakers Randy Woodley and Karenna Gore.
We left the conference feeling a bit worn down physically (helped along by a hitchhiking head cold) but challenged mentally and uplifted emotionally. A fair number of new questions decided to hitchhike along as well, and now regularly interrupt our conversations with complexifying complaints. These include:
- How can we adopt a creation care theology that is contextualized not only by the nature of the land we live
on,but also by the racial and socioeconomic realities of that same land?
- Could integrating aspects of an indigenous worldview lead the way towards a sustainable lifestyle and also set us on the path toward reconciliation with our settler legacy?
- In an era of division, have biblical interpretive differences become too great for Christians to sit at the same table?
Up next: Traveling to Bluffton, OH; Camp Friedenswald, MI; Chicago, IL; and Pittsburgh, PA, before we return to Harrisonburg. Then – enter Production Mode.
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Article by Harrison HorstCSCS Climate Futures Fellow