"You don't save what you don't love": Margaret Atwood's take on the climate crisis

Renowned writer and lifelong nature-lover Margaret Atwood says it’s imperative that faith communities join the fight against climate change. She says everything depends on it.
Margaret Atwood is an award-winning Canadian author. (Liam Sharp)
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Renowned writer Margaret Atwood says we need to rethink climate change.

"It's not climate change. It's everything change," she said.

And if we are going to successfully address this massive change, we need participation from faith communities.

"Unless people with faith get behind fixing the planet, it is not going to happen," Atwood said. "Why? Because [faith] is very motivating. And you don't save what you don't love."

Lucy Cummings, executive director of Faith & the Common Good

Atwood spoke with Lucy Cummings about the role faith c​ommunities can play in addressing the world's climate crisis at the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto in November 2018. Cummings is executive director of Faith and the Common Good, a network of spiritual groups working for the health of the planet,.

Atwood noted a split among religious communities on the issue of climate change.

"There's a big divide in faith communities between those who feel that people should be caring for the planet and people that feel what the heck, we can do whatever we like because God said [so]. He used the word dominion," Atwood said.

But Atwood said there's an important caveat to how the word 'dominion' is used.

"He [God] uses the word dominion right after having said that the imagination of man is wicked unto his youth. So basically he's saying, yeah, you've got dominion [laughing], but you're really bad people."

Dinner table conversation

The issue of climate change is personal for Atwood and something she's been thinking about for decades.

Atwood spent much of her childhood in the woods. Her father was an entomologist and the family would relocate to research stations in northern Ontario and Quebec during the spring and summer.

She said climate change was a common topic of conversation at the family's dinner table in the 1950s.

"My dad used to talk about [how] we're all going to be burped to death by cows," Atwood said.

"So this is not a new subject. It's a new realization that the subject is important."

"Blobs of hope"

Atwood said human beings are at a crisis point when it comes to addressing climate change. And she gets asked - quite frequently - to offer some sort of hope.

"I'm thinking of starting a little blog called something like 'Blobs of Hope,'" Atwood joked.

"Hope comes in blobs. Something here, something there. I'll share a few blobs with you."

Atwood pointed to initiatives such as Permian Global and Ooho! that are developing innovative ways to solve big issues like deforestation and the proliferation of plastics.

She also offered some advice to those who are looking to inspire people to take action.

"People have to feel that there's one thing they can do this week … that is going to be helpful," she said. "I myself have taken the no straws, no plastic bottles vow."


Lucy Cummings would like to thank Elder Dorothy Taylor of Curve Lake First Nation and co-founder of the Sacred Water Circlefor her support in preparing for the interview.

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