George Handley, Associate Dean of the BYU College of Humanities, spoke on his experiences in environmental advocacy at BYU Law’s Conflict Resolution Forum on April 5, 2017.
Handley said his interest in the environment developed from working on a ranch, fishing, and hiking at summer camp when he was a teenager. “That’s where I developed a real love of the natural world,” he said. Although he trained in comparative literature with a PhD from Berkeley, he made a conscious choice to make environmental advocacy part of his life, even when it was a steep learning curve. Handley has been involved with Provo sustainability campaigns, the Southern Utah Wilderness Conservation Society, and Utah Interfaith Power and Light.
Handley shared five lessons that he learned about advocacy and conflict resolution as an environmental advocate.
Advocacy requires humility and knowledge: “People turn to you as the expert, and that’s humbling; it encourages you to know more.”
Advocacy stems from your own beliefs: “When you speak from the depth of your heart about what you believe and who you are, that goes so much farther to build bridges.”
Advocacy tries to change leadership, but it needs to change the electorate: “Most Americans do so little work to keep themselves informed. They don't read the news.”
Mormon environmentalism is not an oxymoron: “The bottom line is that there is vibrant Mormon environmentalism going on.”
The more that people wait for the LDS church to change the picture, the less the picture will change: “Religion gains meaning not by how frequently it is preached, but by individuals going out and doing good.”
Handley has taught at BYU for almost 20 years in comparative literature. He received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a master’s and a doctorate degree from University of California, Berkeley.