Others got to the same place by way of religion, most prominently Richard Cizik, director of governmental relations for the National Association of Evangelicals—but also people like Sally Bingham, an Episcopal priest in San Francisco and a founder of the religious environmental group Interfaith Power and Light. A moderate Republican, she had to defend herself on a talk-radio show from a listener who accused her of buying into the liberal myth of global warming. “I am,” she pronounced frostily, “a religious person called to care for creation from this platform.” And many followed their own idiosyncratic paths, like Howell, who started researching the connections between food, health and the environment after her mother died of cancer. Soon she and her husband, JD, found themselves caught up in replacing all their light bulbs and toilets with more-efficient versions and weighing their garbage, which by obsessive recycling they have reduced to less than 10 pounds a week.
But probably the most common formative experience is one that Wendy Abrams of Highland Park, Ill., underwent six years ago, as she was reading an article about global climate change over the next century; she looked up from her magazine and saw her four children, who will be alive for most of it. That was the year the hybrid Prius went on sale in the United States, and she bought one as soon as she could. This reflects what Pope describes as a refocusing of environmental concern from issues like safe drinking water, which were local and concrete, to climate change, which is global and abstract. Or so it was, anyway, until it came crashing into New Orleans last summer with the force of a million tons of reprints from The Journal of Climate. Katrina, says Pope, “changed people’s perceptions of what was at stake”—even though no one can prove that the hurricane was directly caused by global warming.