Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
066: George Handley on Environmentalism and Mormonism

066: George Handley on Environmentalism and Mormonism

Jay Griffith writes:

George Handley

My friend Mitch called me a while back in frustration with the air pollution along the Wasatch Front. It was really bad at the time and he was concerned for the health of his young family. We talked about the seeming apathy and inaction from many within our faith and legislature—at least in Utah—as well as the lack of official response from the Church regarding the environment. We wanted to do something to make a difference beyond what we were currently doing in our personal lives. From that conversation our wives and several other couples formed a group called The Mormon Stewards with a Facebook page of the same name. That conversation also provided the impetus for seeking this interview with Professor George Handley. Our hope was to help us and others be just that—better stewards of this most precious gift—the earth.

In this podcast Sarah Collett and I spend time with George exploring how he came to be one of the leading LDS advocates for “the environment,” how and why our faith informs and fires that passion, and how he navigates the complexities of being a part of a culture and church where most—at least in those large portions of conservative America—aren’t well informed about environmental stewardship, let alone want to change their lifestyle or advocate for it.

George Browning Handley is Professor of Comparative Studies, Interdisciplinary Humanities at Brigham Young University.



George Handley bio

LDS Earth Stewardship. A group and website George helped found.

Home Waters. Blog by George Handley. Ongoing essays and reflections on Patheos

The Mormon Stewards. Facebook group


  1. jon

    In defense of Utahns, they have gotten better than before on the air pollution front compared to the past, from what I understand, especially now that fireplaces are becoming less common. But there is still much further to go. I wouldn’t want to live there. It’s a difficult situation when the bad air is locked in like it is on the Wasatch front.

    Looking forward to listening to this interview!

  2. A Happy Hubby

    On many of the “Thoughtful Faith” episodes I am listening and nodding my head in agreement with much of what I hear.

    I have to admit this one felt different. I had never really felt any of my views on environmentalism had much intersection with my Mormonism. This did get me to think. I am certainly glad I listened and I was especially glad to hear how humble George was about not “pushing” his views. I wish many more people were willing to share their views in such a non-judgmental way.

    I think I would have to say that my view on environmentalism would be, “It’s complicated”. I am an engineer at heart and my mind just thinks with that framework. I am a valid very pro recycling just because it makes perfect sense in most cases. On the other side with Global Warming (which I do think is highly probable, but not scientifically proven to be human-caused) I just have a hard time getting excited about using hybrid cars and the such. It just seems to me that such efforts are equivalent to using a teacup to bale out the Titanic. Some bigger technological breakthrough is going to be needed or I almost think we are done for. I can be such an optimist! 🙂

    One side comment. Jay speaks very softly. I often had an issue hearing him and I want to hear him! 🙂

    1. Dave Dixon

      I thought you and Sarah had great questions, and George, of course, had some great insight. Relating to your question regarding family planning toward the end, I just thought I would add something I have thought about. If the earth is full, with enough and to spare, but only if we care for the poor and the needy, could each of us try to reach out to as many kids in need outside of our family as we have within it? In our family we have tried to sponsor kids through different foundations, or donate to organizations dealing with malnutrition. Any thoughts on that?


        I love that Dave. Great thought. After having two boys born to us, my wife and I adopted a two and half year old girl who was in the state system. Her mom had become mentally ill but had the presence of mind to put her up for adoption. A family in our ward brings in foster teen boys. There are many opportunities to focus on what Christ taught as most important–caring for the hungry, homeless, the widow, the orphan, those in prison.

        Bob Rees, who was interviewed on a Thoughtful Faith, is part of an organization to help malnourished children. You can find that here:

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