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Climate Action Planning in Atlanta, Ga., and the Catholic Church

Authors: Dominic Wilkins*, Syracuse University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Cultural Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: climate planning, Atlanta, Catholic Church, justice, religion
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent years have seen a rapid increase in religious discourse concerning climate change and justice, in many ways an extension of the long engagement U.S. religious organizations have had with environmental justice efforts. These concerns have been particularly prevalent across the institutional Catholic Church, including both Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’, Pan-Amazonian Synod in October, 2019, and numerous statements by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. However, despite their continued global importance, religious institutions and actors are often left out of conversations about responses to climate change. This paper addresses this by comparing the City of Atlanta’s climate action plan with one proposed four months later by the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta. In doing so, this paper discusses the limitations of purely technical climate action planning while shedding light on how non-governmental organizations can participate in climate action planning. Drawing methodologically from Amitav Ghosh’s (2016) comparison between Pope Francis’s proposal for integral ecology and the Paris Climate agreement, this paper provides a local example of the potential benefits greater attention to religion can bring to arguments for justice in climate action planning. This paper ends with a broader theoretical discussion concerning how further engagement with religion provides insights into different (and potentially contradictory) notions of justice, nuances that if unaddressed can lead climate action planning to reproduce systemic patterns of marginalization and erasure.

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