In an act as simple as driving to a food pantry to drop off some food, Elizabeth Groppe sees a tension: She is helping to feed the hungry, but at the same time she is contributing to environmental degradation through the use of fossil fuels. “It’s an inherently good thing,” says the associate professor of theology, “but by using a car that’s powered by oil, I’m participating in a system that by the sources of extraction is harmful. Plus the emissions that come from the car contribute to global warming, which makes life difficult for future generations, including my children.”
So what’s a theologian to do? Dig deeper, of course. Groppe was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Louisville Institute for a research sabbatical to explore the incongruities between her faith commitments and the daily tasks of her life as a teacher, mother and member of a Christian community. Her research will form the basis of a book titled Guarding the Flame of the Grandeur of God: Christian Life and Practice in an Era of Ecological Crisis.
Her work will explore the sources of her food, clothing and energy, and highlight Christian churches and organizations that are finding ways to reconcile their mission with ecological concerns. For them, as well as for Groppe, the goal is to do good for people and the planet at the same time.