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Koster co-edits new book on climate change

Dr. Hilda Koster, associate professor in Concordia’s religion department, and her co-editor Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim have released a book entitled “Planetary Solidarity: Global Women’s Voices on Christian Doctrine and Climate Justice.”

An opportunity to gather and celebrate the book was held on Feb. 9, but the book was originally released in the fall of 2017. The book addresses the topic of climate change and the effects it has specifically on women around the globe. Such contributions by Koster and other professors here at Concordia are important to not only to the authors, but also their students.

The process started approximately two years ago after Koster read the “Laudato Si’,” the encyclical letter from Pope Francis which addressed climate change and its links to poverty and the planet’s vulnerability. In it, Pope Francis calls “every person living on this planet” to take action on climate change. Although Koster believed this letter necessary, she felt a very important aspect was missing: the recognition of the hardships and effects that climate change has specifically on women.

In response, she decided that women’s struggles across the globe should be highlighted, and together with Ji-Sun Kim, associate professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion, they began the process of writing their book. “Planetary Solidarity” is a collection of essays from 18 female theologians across the globe that each uniquely address how women are affected by climate change. Each essay has a common theme centered around women, the climate, and theology.

“Women are very vulnerable,” Koster said. “They also have the least education, so they don’t have, often, access to information to mitigate, especially on how to adapt to climate change.”

Along with editing the book, Koster wrote a chapter herself and co-wrote the intro with Ji-Sun Kim. The two worked together to unite these 18 women by networking and utilizing their many combined connections. Women theologians from all over the globe contributed, from Africa to Iceland to Korea, along with numerous other countries. Together they created a book which received accolades from prestigious institutions and their faculty.

In an online review, Dr. Peter C. Phan of Georgetown University called the book “an insightful, path-breaking and timely collection of female voices on the impact of climate justice on the ways we understand and articulate the fundamental Christian beliefs.” Mary Evelyn Tucker of Yale University also offered her evaluation of the book, saying, “this is a path breaking book exposing the challenges for women in the face of climate catastrophe around the planet … These voices are inspiring and life-transforming in the hands of the gifted women writers assembled here.”

While this book has an effect in professional discourse, it can also impact Concordia and its students. Dr. Michelle Lelwica, chair of the religion department, stressed the importance of scholarly contributions from Concordia faculty.

“This kind of scholarly work not only brings prestige to the college, but it also enriches a scholar’s field of study,” Lelwica said. “Students really should care and pay attention to the scholarship their professors are engaged [in] because doing so will open their eyes to the ways their own professors are active learners, that they are doing the kind of hard work they are asking their students to do.”

Bringing recognition to the college could manifest itself into higher enrollment. With more well-known professors engaged in professional discussion, there is a greater opportunity for the college to receive commendation. However, Koster and Ji-Sun Kim’s main goal for the book goes beyond Concordia.

“Our vision was planetary solidarity. Solidarity with people who are especially marginalized and who are made vulnerable by climate change, especially poor women,” Koster said.

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