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FAITH-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES IN APPALACHIA: CONNECTING FAITH, ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN AND REFORM

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Christian faith-based environmental reform efforts in Appalachia advance a framework for policy change based on the view that the roots of the contemporary environmental crisis are moral and spiritual in nature. We examine how this framework is advanced among twenty faith-based organizations in Appalachia—a region with a legacy of serious environmental problems and a strong Christian tradition. We argue that these groups call for a new paradigm for assessing the causes of environmental problems—and for alleviating them. Unlike the traditional paradigm for change, which emphasizes political alterations, faith-based initiatives in Appalachia seek to advance environmental reform by promoting a transformation of personal values, attitudes, and conduct in support of an environmental ethic of care. Furthermore, these initiatives' strategies focus on educational and other strategies that can bring about this personal transformation—and, eventually, societal change. The major assumptions promoted by the traditional paradigm are seen by these Appalachian initiatives as key reasons for continued environmental degradation, while the underlying values of the new paradigm constitute a vision for an earth-keeping community having individual and global dimensions.

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