How do you get people to care about the environment? How do you get them to change their behavior? How do you change a society?

These are the kinds of questions that intrigue Joanne Moyer, who has served on the MCCN Creation Care Council since its inception. Moyer lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and is currently a Ph.D. student in Natural Resources in Environment and Environmental Management at the University of Manitoba.

“I get fired up thinking about what drives people to care and to act,” Moyer says. “This touches on philosophy and religion and culture and psychology and education and lots of other things as well.”

Moyer’s long-term goal is to teach in an academic setting. She says she explored working for a variety of non-profits on environmental issues, but found that most of these jobs involved organizing while she enjoyed reading, writing and thinking about environmental issues. “I hope I can help practical-minded people think about things that will be helpful to them in their work,” Moyer says.

Right now, Moyer is directing her attention toward Kenya, where she is researching faith-based environmental organizations for her dissertation. Her work is part of a project that assesses how people who participate in environmental assessment learn from the process and apply their learning to other settings. Kenya had a particular draw for Moyer because her family lived in East Africa for two years when she was a child.

Moyer’s first impressions are that the ways Africans understand their churches are very different from the ways many Westerners perceive churches. “In countries like Kenya where social institutions aren’t strong and political institutions are often corrupt, the church is the only organization that people trust,” she observes. Religious slogans are everywhere, churches are highly respected and when church leaders tell the community to think about or act on a particular problem, they will. On the other hand, many missionaries to Kenya have taught a gospel focused primarily on an otherworldly salvation, and a theology that respects creation is not a given.

Care of Creation Kenya is one group that has impressed Moyer. Its purpose is to bring the message of environmental stewardship to church leaders. The organization hosts workshops for church leaders. At a recent workshop for Presbyterian clergy, Moyer reports, attenders began the workshop saying they didn’t know why they were there. At the end, a representative came forward and said, “We have only one thing to say: we repent.” Care of Creation Kenya has also addressed deforestation by developing a tree nursery with the largest collection of indigenous species in the country.

Moyer will return to Kenya September 2010 to spend time with two other groups: Arocha Kenya and the development arm of the Quaker Mission in Kenya. •