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Abstract

Climate change inaction among first world peoples is startling at an individual, social, and governmental level. In this dissertation, I ask why this inaction is so widespread when the consequences of it are so severe. I argue that one primary and underexplored reason for this in-(sufficient)-action is that climate change potentially threatens the conditions for being human agents. More particularly, I claim that the experience of anthropogenic climate change provides an occasion to investigate more thoroughly the role of hope in sustaining human agency, precisely because anthropogenic climate change pressures many humans’ capacities to so hope. This threat, in turn, helps to make sense of the tendency to inaction and inattention in response to climate change, especially among privileged actors, as they turn away from the threat to their agency and into ‘practical denial.’ By examining how this is so, this investigation helps explain why many are inactive and what challenges must be overcome in order to respond efficaciously to climate change. To make this argument, I first clarify the nature of hope. Then, I argue that hoping is an integral part of human moral anthropology, necessary for sustaining the moral life over time. Turning to current moment, I analyze the ways in which characteristics of the climate crisis can pressure hoping. Finally, I end the dissertation by examining one community’s resources for responding to this pressure and learning to live in hope. In particular, I argue that Christians can find resources for renewing and sustaining hope a) in practices of lament, b) in renewed attention to vocation, and c) in reflection on God’s presence amidst forsakenness, made manifest in Jesus as the Christ.

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