Reconciling Conservation and Development in an Era of Global Environmental Change A Theocentric Approach

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Benjamin S. Lowe
Rachel L. Lamb
Ruth Padilla DeBorst


Longstanding friction between socioeconomic development and biodiversity conservation has become increasingly untenable in an unprecedented era of anthropogenic global environmental change. Despite numerous and high-profile attempts at better integrating these often-competing priorities, unresolved tensions remain as a result of dueling worldviews and approaches: much of development tends to be anthropocentric (centered on humans) while much of conservation remains eco/biocentric (centered on the bio/ecosphere). We offer theocentrism as a biblically normative and conceptually effective way to transcend and reconcile these conflicting worldviews. After providing a brief biblical overview of theocentrism, we highlight seven theoretical implications of this worldview. We then offer four practical applications for faith-based organizations along with examples of Christian groups that are seeking to more holistically integrate conservation and development in their work around the world.

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How to Cite
Lowe, B., Lamb, R., & Padilla DeBorst, R. (2021). Reconciling Conservation and Development in an Era of Global Environmental Change: A Theocentric Approach. Christian Relief, Development, and Advocacy: The Journal of the Accord Network, 2(2), 49–64. Retrieved from
Author Biographies

Benjamin S. Lowe, University of Florida

Ben Lowe is a doctoral candidate, NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and Harvey Fellow at the University of Florida (USA). His expertise is in the human dimensions of environmental conservation, and his research examines how people perceive and respond to climate and environmental change, and the roles that religion, ethics, and communication play in the process. The author of Green Revolution, Doing Good Without Giving Up, and The Future of Our Faith (coauthored with Ron Sider), Ben is ordained in the Christian and Missionary Alliance and has over a decade of experience engaging faith communities around social and environmental concerns. His work has been featured in media outlets ranging from Audubon Magazine and Christianity Today to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Rachel L. Lamb, University of Maryland

Rachel is currently a PhD Candidate in Geographical Sciences and Flagship Fellow at the University of Maryland, College Park. Through her research, Rachel is exploring how climate change governance can better reflect the complex, non-linear and dynamic nature of social-ecological systems. In particular, her work focuses on the socio-economic applications of NASA carbon monitoring products to advance climate policy in the land-use sector. 

As part of her professional development, Rachel has worked for numerous agencies and organizations, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, A Rocha Peru, National Socio-Ecological Synthesis Research Center (SESYNC), Society for Conservation Biology, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During the summers, she teaches Environmental Law and Policy and Land Resources Policy at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in Michigan as an Assistant Professor. Prior to beginning this program, Rachel served as Y.E.C.A.’s National Organizer and Spokesperson and was a founding member of the Steering Committee, serving two years as Chair. She currently holds the position of Senior Advisor to the organization. 

In 2015, Rachel was named a White House Champion of Change for her efforts in protecting our environment and communities from the effects of climate change. In 2018, Rachel was named a Harvey Fellow by the Mustard Seed Foundation. 

Ruth Padilla DeBorst, Community of Interdisciplinary Theological Studies

Dr. Ruth Padilla DeBorst is John Stott Visiting Scholar at Wheaton College, where she is continuing her exploration on the theological reworking that needs to occur in order for Christians to step into our vocation as caretakers of God’s good creation. Dr. Padilla DeBorst yearns to see peace and justice embrace in the beautiful and broken world we call home. A wife of one and mother of many, theologian, missiologist, educator, and story-teller, she has been involved in leadership development and theological education for integral mission in her native Latin America for several decades. As Leader of Missional Leadership with Resonate Global Mission, she works with the Comunidad de Estudios Teológicos Interdisciplinarios (CETI: a learning community with students across Latin America), and coordinates the Networking Team of INFEMIT (International Fellowship for Mission as Transformation), among other things. She serves on the board of A Rocha, the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and the American Society of Missiology. She lives with her husband, James, in Costa Rica as a member of Casa Adobe, an intentional Christian Community with deep concern for right living in relation to the whole of creation ( Her studies include a Bachelors in Education (Argentina), an M.A. from Wheaton College, and a Ph.D. in Theology (Boston University).