Andrew Schwartz’s journey from PLU sociology major to environmental justice advocate and eco-ministry leader | News

There are some differences in how faiths view the environment. For example, while Christians may feel humans should steward the land, other faiths believe the land stewards humans, Schwartz explains. Some faiths, such as Buddhism, offer ways to deal with suffering and pain and the “deep agony of what it means to be alive, and finding tremendous beauty, comfort, friendship and love on the other side,” he says. “Seeing a different perspective opens my eyes to the work that can and should be done.”

He’s attended meetings that fell apart due to the power of truth-telling. It can be tough to sit with the brokenness of the moment, he says. One story illustrates his point. Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, spoke at a conference about the depths of her pain as Arctic ice melted, food insecurity spread, and caribou disappeared.

“It still haunts me,” he says. “And then you sit down with Bernadette and she talks about her kids and grandkids as reasons for why she fights, and why she has to have hope. That’s what sustains me. Climate change work is a very tragic love story, where you fight hard because you love so much.” 

Shannon M. D. Smith, Center for Earth Ethics’s communication manager, has worked with Schwartz for four years. His work is encouraging and inspiring, she says. “He has grown seeds both metaphorically and literally to emerge in this moment,” Smith says. “Calling our attention to plants, agriculture, food systems and the interconnectedness with other systems of extraction and oppression.”

“I think we’re all excited to see where and how Andrew’s contributions to these conversations will have a long-standing impact,” she says. “Whether that’s in a local community framework or a global dialogue, all our voices can make a difference.”

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