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Spring 2023 · Vol. 52 No. 1 · pp. 55–68 

The Pandemic Reveals that We Are Nature

Adam A. Ghali

Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,
stays there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.

– Rilke, “Sometimes a Man Stands Up” 1

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every facet of human life and revealed much about the world it entered. Amid many consequences, one stands out to me: the pandemic reveals that we are nature. Personal experience, societal observation, and study of the of pandemic upheaval have shown me that we are nature, in two indispensable aspects: (1) humans {56} are part and expression of the earth, kin with all other creatures, dependent on and deeply embedded in the earth, and implicated in its disease; and (2) humans have a nature, a set of dispositions and possibilities, at once biological and spiritual, psychological and social, bound up with our relatedness to one another, God, and the earth. This insight illuminates several dimensions of pandemic impact and implication. Moreover, for Christians, it evokes our theologies of creation, nature, and supernature, extends our spirituality, and expands our discipleship to include the earth and its inhabitants. If we can heed this opportunity, we may hear creation’s song of praise and join it, 2 move beyond human-centric, modern, technologically constrained imaginations, 3 and discover, amid the struggles of a global pandemic, that we are nature.

Re-imagining creation, discipleship, spiritual formation, and love for our human and other-than-human neighbors should be seen not as a threat to, but as a renewal of, historic Christian faith.

NATURE IN THE PANDEMIC: EXPERIENCES AND CONNECTIONS

The pandemic catalyzed attention to nature through people’s experiences with the outdoors and climate-exacerbated environmental events. A personal anecdote illustrates this. My wife and I welcomed our first child early in the pandemic, encountering new parenthood amid markedly reduced social contact and support, uncertainty of viral risk, and without a timeline for return to stability. One reprieve from the persistent challenge of isolated, homebound, and exhausting newborn care was taking our son outside for a walk. However, when he was two months old, a major wildfire hit our region, one of the largest of the 2020 California wildfire season. 4 In addition to the devastation of forest, wildlife, and property, the air quality plummeted, prohibiting us from taking our son outside due to the sensitivity of his infant lungs. Although the challenge of the environmental situation would have been significant under any circumstances, its coincidence with the pandemic exacerbated our experience of both. Moreover, as new parents, it engendered questions about the ecological state of the world in which our son would grow up, praying, of course, that he would have a secure and hopeful future. These experiences drove home that I was bound up with nature and demanded I find a greater appreciation for what that meant and required of me as a parent and husband, a Christian, a psychologist, and a professor.

Though the pandemic is obviously a biological event, appreciating how it reveals that we are nature implies another consciousness. First, with its inception likely zoonotic transfer, the pandemic context is strained human-environment relationships (e.g., climate change, habitat destruction), that are known contributors to zoonotic transfer and will likely increase the likelihood of pandemics in the future. 5 Humans are bound up with pandemic-causing viruses not only because we are susceptible to disease, {57} but also because our harmful treatment of creation has direct consequences and creates new risks.

Second, COVID-19 entered a world of climate change and ecological destruction struggling for attention, and the pandemic’s disruption opened space for re-evaluation of many phenomena, including climate. 6 The global lockdown briefly but significantly reduced human greenhouse gas emissions, and many people noted an increased presence of wildlife in their region. 7 However, severe climate events also occurred during the pandemic, which created multiple stressors and increased their salience, as my story demonstrates. 8 Hope emerged that the pandemic might catalyze ecological recovery, but it was eclipsed by other concerns and entrenched interests. 9 COVID-19 and climate come together and show that humans are not separate from, impervious to, or in control of nature, but instead humans are nature and are having a disproportionately large negative effect on it.

Third, lockdowns, physical distancing guidelines, and the dramatic rise of the use of technology led to drastic reductions in many people’s outdoor activity; for regular and new participants, outdoor activity increased. 10 Consistent with the widely studied benefits of nature prior to the pandemic, exposure to nature and outdoor activity were associated with better coping, wellbeing, and mental and physical health outcomes. 11 The pandemic reveals that humans are at home and healthiest in the natural world and are enfeebled when that connection is severed.

HUMAN NATURE IN THE PANDEMIC: PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY AND SPIRITUAL MATURITY

Even as the pandemic is interwoven with the natural world, it is also a psychological event, shaped by human behavior and meanings. 12 We saw social cohesion, creative imagination, and resilience alongside conspiracy theories, xenophobia, social unrest, and financial exploitation. The pandemic reveals that we are nature by prompting us to ask: who is this human creature, acting in these ways, individually and socially, amid pandemic stress? The question leads us to the discovery that humans are profoundly social and environmental; stressed by uncertainty; subject to misinformation, cognitive errors, dark traits, and reactance; and resilient, imaginative, and meaning making. 13

Humans are social creatures with social identities that drive behavior. In the pandemic, social identities drove both resilient adaptive behaviors and destructive exploitative ones. 14 That human nature is social is a platitude, but how our social nature is expressed varies with the quality of the social influence and the individual formation that shapes it. Environment and character both matter. Humans have a dark side, a capacity to do {58} harm that must be recognized alongside their capacity to do good. The pandemic revealed both. Cognitively, the pandemic revealed our aversion to uncertainty, long range planning, evaluating risk, and restraining our penchant for extreme behavior. It revealed that our appetite for misinformation, conspiracy theories, and exploitation is normal, mediated by social meaning. However, many people navigated their informational world relatively effectively, especially for short-term needs. 15

A proper appreciation of human psychology can equip us to grow in our capacities to live well with human nature. The insight that we consist of both dark tendencies and good echoes the insight of ancient spiritual traditions that human nature is mixed and, although subject to guidance and formation, never wholly controllable. Thus, spiritual maturity means pursuing disciplines that help us recognize, harmonize, and rightly direct such qualities in ourselves through the cultivation of the virtues.

In all these ways, the pandemic reveals that we are nature. When placed in conversation with other pandemic effects, additional insights emerge.

THE PANDEMIC IS AN ACCELERATING REVEALER

Amid many kinds of changes, the pandemic accelerated and thus revealed and extended phenomena that were already taking place before the pandemic. 16 The pandemic illuminates societal trends that existed before it emerged. An obvious example is digital technology. The pandemic accelerated our adoption of these technologies and thereby both revealed and extended how central they have been in our lives and will likely continue to be. Another development concerns mental health. Though people demonstrated striking resilience during the pandemic, the pandemic has been widely and correctly associated with negative mental health effects. However, more than just creating new mental health problems, it also accelerated the trend of deteriorating mental health that was already in place before the pandemic. 17 The pandemic both reveals and extends the already problematic and worsening state of US mental health, particularly among young and vulnerable populations. The pandemic also revealed and accelerated other concerning and destabilizing social trends, including social and political polarization and racial tensions, 18 income inequality and vocational distress, 19 social inequalities in health, 20 misinformation and conspiracy theories, 21 and declining participation in organized religious activities. 22

Learning from the pandemic depends on understanding its consequences within larger trends. Therefore, suitable pandemic responses require appreciation of prepandemic problematic conditions which the pandemic exposed and accelerated and addressing those larger conditions, rather than reacting to pandemic disruption alone while seeking to recover {59} prepandemic life. A better appreciation of humans as nature would assist with these goals. For instance, arguing for more mental health provision is understandable, but alone it is insufficient. We must consider the ways society has been struggling prior to the pandemic, reflected in the declining mental health and the other concerning social trends and deteriorating health of the earth. These all contribute to mental health disruption, as revealed and accelerated by the pandemic. Psychology is most comfortable with narrow aspects of human nature but have struggled with its systemic, ecological, and spiritual aspects, and psychotherapy alone cannot compensate for the fraying cultures and ecologies of the juggernaut global economy, which generates and is simultaneously symptomatic of mental, emotional, relational problems, as well as moral, spiritual, and cultural problems. Therefore, discovering humans as nature demands a more comprehensive approach to renewed natural and social structures.

THE PANDEMIC’S NATURE REVEAL INCLUDES A HISTORIC DIMENSION

The pandemic also reveals a historical dimension to our relationship with nature. Australian pastor Mark Sayers suggests that the pandemic confronted worldviews associated with Western culture. 23 It reflected the return of nature to a worldview which assumes separateness from and control over nature. Broadly speaking, Enlightenment thought, science, and technology initiated, then vastly extended, a view of nature that saw nature as fundamentally separate from humanity, and as either a threat to be subjugated, or an inert object for study and control. In Christian religious terms, this expresses the dominion paradigm that Genesis permits or instructs humans to adopt; it promotes a posture of ruling over and subjecting the earth and its inhabitants to ends defined by the powerful. This paradigm has been applied to the earth and human nature, with a variety of cultural, political, and theological consequences. It has been embraced by those of various political “sides.” 24 If Western science brought nature under control in unprecedented forms, the pandemic shook the assumption that this control was complete.

Despite desires for prepandemic normalcy, can or should humanity return to the view of nature that the Western world carried into the pandemic? This view contributed to many human goods, but it has come at great human and ecological costs, which cannot be sustained and should not be extended. Moreover, we have moved the complexity of human-nature interaction far beyond where it has stood over these past several centuries. The capacity to return to normal will be increasingly limited; and to appreciate humans as nature is to embrace the kind of thinking and change necessary to recognize and adapt well to the nature we have {60} always depended on, as revealed in pandemic disruption. As Alex Steffen, climate writer, has aptly titled one of his essays, “we’re not yet ready for what’s already happened.” 25 While rejecting doomerism, we need to take an honest look at a future that is likely to include challenging ecological and concomitant human stress and imagine what is necessary for a new historical moment. 26 Such thinking is honest, humble, courageous, actively hopeful, ecological, self-sacrificial, communal, justice-focused, inclusive, and available to all persons whenever they hear the call—all virtues readily acknowledged and prioritized in Christian spiritual maturity.

THE HUMAN-ENVIRONMENT RELATIONSHIP NEEDS WORK

The pandemic demands that we overhaul our relationship to our environment, which is increasingly a technological economy in conflict with a natural ecology. Ecology and economy share a root—oikos, meaning home or household—yet their disciplines could not be more different. But this common root is instructive. Humans are what they are by virtue of their relationship to home; to speak of human nature is to understand human-nature-in-environment. The meaning of human environment includes but extends beyond the ecological elements in which humans physically dwell. Environments are also the symbolic world in which people live: the stories, beliefs, ideas, symbols, artifacts, tools, technology, patterns of relationships, and built environments in which we move. In short, culture.

But understanding and getting right the relationship between nature and culture is difficult. 27 The deteriorating natural ecology and the expanding technological capitalist economy are now both home to humans, so both are shaping humanity-in-environment. A healthy view of both would see them working together, in service of the whole earth, but they are currently in serious conflict. 28 Along with ecological destruction, humanity expressed in this economic system is particularly harmful in mental health, religious, and ethnocultural ways. 29 Remaking a relationship with the ecological home is essential. Because we are nature, we are nature-in-culture and must develop our cultures accordingly. 30

As the pandemic reveals that we are nature, bringing ecological perspectives into human systems is an outworking of the pandemic. Within psychology, ecopsychology—the recognition that humans’ psychological development and functioning is bound up not only with our biology and human relationships but with all the earth; 31 ecotherapy—the employment of nature-based activities at a variety of levels to promote psychological healing and wellbeing; 32 and climate psychology—the application of psychological principles and climate science to understand experiences amid climate change and promote psychologically and ecological healthier {61} relationships 33—all represent efforts to bring ecological perspectives into human systems. Though combining ecological perspectives and human disciplines is always contested, it essential to the flowering of a just and hopeful post-this-pandemic future. 34

ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THEOLOGY ARE POSSIBLE, NECESSARY, AND TRANSFORMATIVE

Christian theology and practice struggle to promote a healthy understanding of nature and humanity’s place in it, despite the rich possibilities for a positive perspective within Christian scriptures and across denominational traditions through theological concepts of creation and humanity’s creaturely nature. 35 Some reasons why modern Christians struggle are the ideological alignment of the social meanings of nature and climate change with leftist, progressive, and secular views; and the affiliation of modern religion with the Enlightenment’s alienation of the human race from nature. 36 The dominion paradigm dominates, obscuring the vast theological warrant for establishing a theocentric, not anthropocentric (read: androcentric) view of creation and viewing humans as members of, participants in, dependent on, responsible to, and kin with, all creation. 37 The pandemic shows it is time to retire that paradigm.

Nominalist and voluntarist accounts of human will and dualisms of nature and human nature have dominated theology, facilitating arbitrary views of human freedom and distortions of God, with accompanying violence against humans and earth. 38 Rather than recognizing nature and supernature in a way that promotes their interconnectedness, they are pitted against each other, an instance of theology’s

long history of illusory dilemmas generated by false dichotomies . . . [but actually] there is no abiding difference within the one gift of both creation and deification; there is only grace all the way down and nature all the way up . . . Creation, incarnation, salvation, deification: in God, these are one gracious act, one absolute divine vocation to the creature to become what he has called it to become. 39

An intrinsically natural disposition of the human creature is towards the supernatural, the infinite, God. There is no meaningful (or possible) separation between an inert material that exists apart from God, and the Spirit of God which enlivens and simultaneously orients humans to God, who must be the ground and end of all creaturely intention and desire, phenomenologically, morally, ontologically. 40 Thus, there is no spiritual problem in asserting that the pandemic reveals that we are nature; indeed, {62} if we allow it, the pandemic is an opportunity to overcome such dualisms and discover in the truth that we are nature the truth that we are spiritual.

Christians must see creation, discipleship, spiritual formation, and love for our human and other-than-human neighbor, not as a threat to, but an instance of renewal of the historic Christian faith, rescuing it from the political ideological capture and problematic aspects in modernity. 41 Scripture calls for people to reclaim it and notions of God from abuses of power, with each generation understanding that task in its own context. This is ours. The pandemic and climate effects hurt the most vulnerable, climate effects are caused, and pandemic effects exploited, by the most powerful. Young people experience alienation from the church in ways that parallel their conflict over social issues, including problematic political and environmental stances. 42 The entrenched leaderships and theologies of the church have been especially poor at engaging the young people who are experiencing psychological distress and despair over the future of the planet—which is their future—and over the failure of established institutions to address these concerns. 43 Future social and environmental challenges will require meaning making and virtue formation, which speaks to religion and spirituality to be a positive leader.

An appreciation that we are nature invites us to grow in spirituality and discipleship. Adding the simple phrase “and the earth” could help us do this. Years in Christian religious settings have exposed me to liturgies, songs, sermons, prayers, and other Christian practices exhorting me to consider my moral and spiritual state and responsibility relative to God, myself, and my human neighbors, whether the latter be Christians, marginalized groups, enemies, or other groups to which I owe the practice of mercy and charity, and in whom I can encounter the God who reveals God’s self in surprising ways. Recently, this has included pandemic-associated opportunities for Christian reflection. But in these spaces, notably absent has been the earth. Yet the pandemic reveals we are nature. So, what happens when we add “and the earth” to the list of spiritually significant categories of God, self, and neighbor?

Much happens. 44 In the space of “and the earth,” I discover that other living beings are my neighbors, beings who—to my surprise—I find I have a moral obligation to love (Luke 10:25–37). I discover other living beings as spiritual brothers and sisters, united in praise of God (Pss 98, 104, 148; Isa 14:5–8; Rev 5:13) and lamenting the sin that brings destruction to all (Hos 4:1–3; Jer 9:10; Rom 8:18–23), enlivened by the same breath that gives me life, the Spirit of God (Gen 7:22). I discover that my moral responsibility to my human and other-than-human neighbors, contemporary and future, includes my care of the earth, upon whose provision we all depend. I recognize that my marginalized human {63} neighbors, who have a special place in God’s heart and toward whom I have a special responsibility (e.g., Exod 22: 20–26; Isa 58:5–7; Matt 25:40), are also those who are most affected by the destruction of the earth, who would experience greatest the justice through my protection of it. I discover that I can see God, learn about God, love God, in and through all creatures, all the earth. 45 I discover that my own self-centered concern is decentered and placed in a larger theocentric concern; I learn that the earth exists not simply for my use or benefit but in direct relation to God (Job 38–42). I embrace and practice the virtues of humility, self-control, listening, trust, and place.

A discipleship of sensitivity to “and the earth” demands that I reflect on my own practices, my own participation in destructive systems, my own greed, my sin; and I discover that I am not up to this task, have not been faithful to it, have sinned and need forgiveness, grace, and mercy and need to extend these to others; and I need renewal, sanctification, to be ever more formed into Christ’s likeness. Thus, I learn what Christian tradition has sought to teach humans through its history. We are nature, then, teaches us how to be spiritual, how to pursue God, ourselves, one another, and the earth—how to be Christian. For Christians, we must carry this view on discipleship into the world now changed—and revealed—by the pandemic.

A closing anecdote illustrates this view. The pandemic opened with the joy—and challenge—of the birth of my son. But the pandemic was long enough to include the experience of pregnancy loss. In late February 2022, on the downslope of the Omicron wave, my wife and I experienced a miscarriage, accompanied by attendant grief, shock, loss, and disorientation. This took place shortly before Ash Wednesday, a time on the Christian calendar to consider our mortality and finitude, our “dust to dust.” The church service we attended that day was valuable, but we found ongoing solace in a secluded spot by the San Joaquin River, where our Wild Church 46 had once met, and we were held there by the land, trees, water, birds, and God, and facilitated in our deep and authentic grief by the rich translation that we are “dirt to dirt,” 47 that is, earth to earth. Through both the historic Christian spiritual tradition and its enrichment by the ecological consciousness that the pandemic had been forming in us over those past two years, we were invited on a deeper journey of understanding how the very bodily experience of loss, death, mortality, and grief—and, eventually, meaning, growth, and hope—connected us to the earth, and all its inhabitants, as well as to the God who made and enfolded us all, including our little one, now joined to God . . . and the earth. {64}

CONCLUSION

Amid an uncertain future, I hold a hopeful trust in God, grounded in the reality of the beauty and difficulty of life on earth, the importance of faithful action towards self, neighbor, God, and earth, and a belief in an eternal future which exists in mysterious continuity with and discontinuity from mortal life on earth. For a people created from dust—dirt—earth—and given the task of responsible stewardship of the land and expected to appreciate the difference between creature and Creator, it should not be difficult for Christians to appreciate that we are nature—but it is. As Western peoples, who have experienced a disruptive viral pandemic coincident with environmental stressors and significant personal and social stressors, it should not be difficult to allow the pandemic to reveal to us that we are nature—but it is. And yet, doing so is essential to appreciate what the pandemic has shown us, in all our psychological, social, spiritual, ecological natures, about nature in all its aspects; especially as we embrace and nurture our nature to seek the better shared future we value for ourselves and one another—and even more importantly, for own children and the children of one another. To do so, we must get up, walk outside, and lead our children into that place, in order to discover God, nature, ourselves, and our calling there. Join me.

NOTES

  1. Rainer M. Rilke, Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke: A Translation from the German and Commentary, trans. Robert Bly (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 49.
  2. David B. Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 275. Hart argues that “According to Gregory of Nyssa, creation is a wonderfully wrought hymn to the power of the Almighty: the order of the universe is a kind of musical harmony, richly and multifariously toned, guided by an inward rhythm and accord, pervaded by an essential symphony; the melody and cadence of the cosmic elements in their intermingling sing of God’s glory, as does the interrelation of motion and rest with within created things; and in this sympathy of all things one with the other, music in its truest and most perfect form is bodied forth (IIP1.3: 30–33). . . . There are abundant biblical reasons . . . for Christians to speak of the harmonia mundi: in Scripture creation rejoices in God, proclaims his glory, sings before him; . . . theology has all the warrant it needs for speaking of creation as divine composition, a magnificent music, whose measures and refrains rise up to the pleasure and the glory of God,” 275. Hart underscores this theme in his more recent book, You Are Gods: On Nature and Supernature (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2022). {65}
  3. Andy Fisher, Radical Ecopsychology: Psychology in the Service of Life, 2nd ed. (Syracuse, NY: State University of New York Press, 2012), 131.
  4. “Creek Fire,” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, September 11, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Creek_Fire_(2020)&oldid=1109805968, par. 1–2; Marek Warszawski, “What Caused the Creek Fire near Fresno Last Year? Here’s What Investigation Reveals,” Fresno Bee (newspaper), 16 July 2021, https://www.fresnobee.com/news/california/fires/article252459073.html (subscription required).
  5. Edward C. Holmes et al., “The Origins of SARS-CoV-2: A Critical Review,” Cell 184 (2021): 4853; Marco Marani et al., “Intensity and frequency of extreme novel epidemics” PNAS 118, no. 35 (2021): 1–4; Mark J. Walters, Seven Modern Plagues: And How We Are Causing Them (Washington DC: Island Press, 2014), xxi–xxii. Walters notes: “The larger story is not simply that humans and other animals are falling victim to new diseases; it is that we are causing or exacerbating many of these ecodemics. Intensive modern agriculture, clear-cutting of forests, global climate change, decimation of many predators that once kept disease-carrying smaller animals in check, and other environmental changes have all contributed to the increase. . . . Noted scientist Peter Daszak . . . put it this way: ‘Show me almost any new infectious disease, and I’ll show you an environmental change brought about by humans that either caused or exacerbated it,’ ” xxi–xxii.
  6. Adil Mohammad and Evegnia Pugacheva, “Impact of COVID-19 on Attitudes to Climate Change and Support for Climate Policies,” International Monetary Fund (working paper), February 4, 2021, 3–4; Jolanda Jetten et al., eds., Together Apart: The Psychology of COVID-19 (London: Sage Publishing, 2020), 17–22.
  7. Renee Cho, “COVID-19’s Long-Term effects on Climate Change—for Better or Worse,” Columbia Climate School (blog), June 25, 2020, https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2020/06/25/covid-19-impacts-climate-change/; Carol Rasmussen, “Emission Reductions from Pandemic had Unexpected Effects on Atmosphere,” NASA (blog), November 9, 2021, https://climate.nasa.gov/news/3129/emission-reductions-from-pandemic-had-unexpected-effects-on-atmosphere/.
  8. Dan Walton et al., “The Compound Impact of Extreme Weather Events and COVID-19: An Update of the Number of People Affected and a Look at the Humanitarian Implications in Selected Contexts,” The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, September 16, 2021, https://www.ifrc.org/document/compound-impact-extreme-weather-events-and-covid-19, 4–6.
  9. Shannon Osaka, “Scientists Thought Carbon Emissions Had Peaked. They’ve Never Been Higher,” The Washington Post (newspaper), 5 December 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/12/05/carbon-emissions-peak-record-2022/, par. 1–8.
  10. Several reports showed significantly increased outdoor activity during the pandemic, with important qualifications regarding access and use for vulnerable populations and communities of color. See, for e.g., Thomas Beery et al., “Covid-19 and Outdoor Recreation Management: Increased {66} Participation, Connection to Nature, and a Look to Climate Adaptation,” Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism 36, Article no. 100457 (2021): 1, 5–7; B. Derrick Taff et al., “Who Started, Stopped, and Continued Participating in Outdoor Recreation during the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States? Results from a National Panel Study,” Land 10, no. 12 (2021): 1–2.
  11. Marcia P. Jimenez et al., “Associations Between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 9 (2021): 1–14; S. M. Labib et al., “Nature’s Contributions in Coping with a Pandemic in the 21st Century: A Narrative Review of Evidence during COVID-19,” Science of the Total Environment 833, Article 155095 (2022): 1–13; S. Brent Jackson et al., “Connection to Nature Boosts Adolescents’ Mental Well-Being during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Sustainability 13, no. 21 (2021): 10–11.
  12. Jetten et al., Together Apart, 3–6; Steven Taylor, “The Psychology of Pandemics: Lessons Learned for the Future,” Canadian Psychology 63, no. 2 (2022): 233.
  13. Jetten et al., Together Apart, 6, 13–22, 50, 104–16; Taylor, “Psychology of Pandemics,” 233–46.
  14. Jetten et al., Together Apart, 2–22; Taylor, “Psychology of Pandemics,” 235–40.
  15. Jetten et al., Together Apart, 6–8; Taylor, “Psychology of Pandemics,” 236–40.
  16. Scott Galloway introduced me to this key point early in the pandemic: Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, Pivot, Vox Media Network (audio podcast), March–June 2020.
  17. David G. Blanchflower and Alex Bryson, “COVID and Mental Health in America,” PLoS ONE 17, no. 7, Article e0269855 (2022): 1–7; Centers for Disease Control, “New CDC Data Illuminate Youth Mental Health Threats during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” CDC Newsroom, March 31, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p0331-youth-mental-health-covid-19.html; Jim Clifton, “The Next Global Pandemic: Mental Health,” Gallup (blog), December 3, 2021, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/357710/next-global-pandemic-mental-health.aspx; Osea Giuntella et al., “Lifestyle and Mental Health Disruptions During COVID-19,” PNAS 118, no. 9, Article e2016632118 (2021): 1–9; Michele Nealon, “The Pandemic Accelerant: How COVID-19 Advanced Our Mental Health Priorities,” UN Chronicle (blog), October 9, 2021, https://www.un.org/en/un-chronicle/pandemic-accelerant-how-covid-19-advanced-our-mental-health-priorities; Brenda W. J. H. Penninx et al., “How COVID-19 Shaped Mental Health: From Infection to Pandemic Effects,” Nature Medicine 28 (2022): 2027–37; Taylor, “Psychology of Pandemics,” 239–42.
  18. Jetten et al., Together Apart, 107–17; Mario Lackner et al., “Covid-19 and the Forces behind Social Unrest,” IHS Working Paper, 37, Wien: Institut für Höhere Studien (IHS), November 2021, https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-76837-6.
  19. Rakesh Kochhar and Stella Sechopoulos, “COVID-19 Pandemic Pinches Finances of America’s Lower- and Middle-Income Families,” Pew Research Center (report), April 20, 2022, {67} https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2022/04/20/covid-19-pandemic-pinches-finances-of-americas-lower-and-middle-income-families/; Jetten et al., Together Apart, 101–5; Kevin R. McClure, “Don’t Blame the Pandemic for Worker Discontent,” Chronicle of Higher Education 68, no. 20 (2022): 2; Reade Pickert et al., “How Covid-19 Transformed the U.S. Economy,” Bloomberg (newspaper), 29 April 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2022-us-economy-pandemic-recovery/.
  20. Penninx et al., “How COVID-19 Shaped Mental Health,” 229–30.
  21. Elżbieta Kużelewska and Mariusz Tomaszuk, “Rise of Conspiracy Theories in the Pandemic Times,” International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 35, no. 6 (2022): 2373–89; Taylor, “Psychology of Pandemics,” 236–38.
  22. Wendy Wang, “The Decline in Church Attendance in COVID America,” Institute for Family Studies, January 20, 2022, https://ifstudies.org/blog/the-decline-in-church-attendance-in-covid-america.
  23. Carey Nieuwhof and Mark Sayers, “The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast Ep 490: Mark Sayers on Future Church,” The Art of Leadership Network (audio podcast), January 9, 2022.
  24. Nieuwhof and Sayers, 2022 podcast; Elizabeth A. Johnson, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 261–7; Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018), 21–63. In critiquing aspects of modern liberalism, Deneen argues that both progressive and conservative movements endorse extreme and problematic control of nature but do so in different ways.
  25. Alex Steffen. “We’re Not Yet Ready for What’s Already Happened,” The Snap Forward (newsletter), 18 May 2021, https://alexsteffen.substack.com/p/were-not-yet-ready-for-whats-already.
  26. Nieuwhof and Sayers, 2022 podcast; David Schenck and Larry R. Churchill, “Ethical Maxims for a Marginally Inhabitable Planet,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 64, no. 4 (2021): 494–510.
  27. Fisher, Radical Ecopsychology, 119–20; Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2007), 45–48.
  28. Herman E. Daly, “Economics for a Full World,” Great Transformation Initiative, June 2015, https://greattransition.org/publication/economics-for-a-full-world, para. 1–11; Fisher, Radical Ecopsychology, 84–7; Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, 2–3, 9–10; Sally Weintrobe, Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis: Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare (London: Bloomsbury, 2021).
  29. Alvin C. Dueck and Kevin Reimer, A Peaceable Psychology: Christian Therapy in a World of Many Cultures (Ada, MI: Brazos Press, 2009), 33–99; Bruce Rogers-Vaughn, Caring for Souls in a Neoliberal Age (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 35–61.
  30. Fisher, Radical Ecopsychology, 119–20.
  31. E.g., Fisher, Radical Ecopsychology; Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul.
  32. E.g., Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist, eds., Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2009); Tracey A. Laszloffy, “Remembering the Pattern that Connects: Toward an Eco-Informed MFT,” Contemporary Family Therapy 31, no. 3 (2009): 222–36. {68}
  33. E.g., Climate Psychology Alliance—North America (https://www.climatepsychology.us); Sally Weintrobe, Psychological Roots of the Climate Crisis: Neoliberal Exceptionalism and the Culture of Uncare (London: Bloomsbury, 2021).
  34. In addition to resistance, exploitation, or contamination of the incorporation of ecological perspectives through such means as greenwashing and triangulation, there also exist entrenchment of outdated expertise interests and tensions between mainstream versus more radical efforts. Alex Steffen, “The Expertise Bubble,” The Snap Forward (audio podcast), May 18, 2021; Fisher, Radical Ecopsychology, 16–23.
  35. E.g., Protestant: Steven Bouma-Prediger, For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care (Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2001); Orthodox: Hart, Beauty of the Infinite, You Are Gods; Catholic: Johnson, Ask the Beasts.
  36. Katherine Hayhoe, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World (New York: One Signal Publishers, 2021), ix–33; Nieuwhof and Sayers, 2022 podcast.
  37. Johnson, Ask the Beasts, 260–86.
  38. Hart, You Are Gods, 8–14.
  39. Hart, You Are Gods, 19.
  40. Hart, You Are Gods, 9–25.
  41. Nieuwhof and Sayers, 2022 podcast.
  42. Lucie Moore, “Burning Down the House: How the Church Could Lose People Over Climate Inaction,” Youthscape Center for Research, 2021, https://www.youthscape.co.uk/research/burning-down-the-house.
  43. Caroline Hickman et al., “Young People’s Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon,” The Lancet (unpublished preprints), September 7, 2021, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3918955, 3–10.
  44. See Johnson, Ask the Beasts, 267–86, for elaboration and theological development of many of these ideas, especially from a Catholic perspective. See Bouma-Prediger’s For the Beauty of the Earth for reflections grounded in the Protestant tradition.
  45. Hart, You Are Gods, 13: “One cannot contemplate a flower, watch a play, or pluck a strawberry from a punnet without being situated within an irrefrangible intentional continuum that extends all the way to God in his fullness.”
  46. Wild Churches are recognizing the need for spiritual practice to return to the earth, and to move beyond buildings as the only view of places of worship (https://www.wildchurchnetwork.com/); Wild Church Fresno having welcomed us for the first time not two months earlier (https://www.wildchurchfresno.org/).
  47. Avery D. Lamb, “Ashes to Ashes: Ash Wednesday Reflection,” Geez Magazine (blog), February 25, 2020, https://geezmagazine.org/blogs/entry/ashes-to-ashes-ash-wednesday-reflection-by-avery-davis-lamb, par. 6.
Adam A. Ghali, PhD, is a husband, father, psychologist, and teacher who is on a pursuit of intellectual excellence and spiritual growth. His journey consistently and unsettlingly pushes him past current understandings and into deeper appreciations for interconnections among different fields of study, all of humanity and the human experience, faith, and the whole earth.

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