Exploring the Interface of Religious Life and Environmental Politics in Montana

Leif is researching independently in northwest Montana where faith-based environmental organizing sets the stage. Three emerging organizations seek to empower religious congregations to take up environmental advocacy — Montana Faith & Environment Coalition, Faith and Climate Action Montana, and Montana Interfaith Power & Light. Through interviews with advocates and faith leaders, Leif is beginning to answer questions about the opportunities and challenges for work at the intersection of religion and environment in the mountain west. Among them: what has been the relationship between religious life and environmental politics and how is that relationship changing over time? What is the status of the ecumenical movement and can the environment be a focus for interfaith work? What kinds of values do religious communities hold regarding their landscape and what language do they use to discuss those values?

Leif explores these questions in order to produce conceptual toolkits and communication strategies. On the one hand, these are for environmental managers seeking to work more effectively amidst the cultural particularities of the rural west; on the other, they are for religious leaders seeking to engage their congregations in moral discourse about the environmental issues that concern us all.

Student Researcher

Leif Hemming Castren, Western Resource Fellow | Leif is a Master of Environmental Studies candidate at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a Master of Arts in Religion candidate at Yale Divinity School. He currently studies at the interface of religious ethics and environmental values—exploring the diverse ways that humans and human communities have related to the ecosystems in which they are embedded, especially in his home state of Montana. Leif was a 2017 Fulbright fellow to Chile where he studied forest ecosystem responses to volcanic eruptions and community projects in ecological restoration. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Middlebury College. See what Leif has been up to.  |   Blog