Dr. Richard Cartwright Austin has completed a forty-year ministry with
the Presbyterian Church (USA). Applying Christian faith to the modern
environmental crisis, Austin pioneered both theological reflection and
From his pastorate in the Coal River Valley of West Virginia, Austin
wrote the first books to critique strip-mining for coal from an
environmental perspective. Then he helped to organize the movement that
achieved the first Federal regulation of strip-mining abuses. He has
subsequently organized campaigns to protect valleys from hydroelectric
dams and to protect mountains from over-timbering.
From Chestnut Ridge Farm in southwestern Virginia, Austin has helped to
develop markets for chemical-free fruits and vegetables as alternatives
to regional tobacco cultivation, and techniques for sustainable
forestry as alternatives to clear-cutting. His tasteful "Peck of Pretty Peppers," was distributed nationally. Austin has now retired from farming.
Austin's Environmental Theology,
also available on this site, is a uniquely readable series, respected
by theologians yet helpful to lay readers. From New York to California,
Austin has assisted church groups to develop environmental ministries.
He has taught Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox ministerial students.
Austin has three sons and six grandchildren. His wife, Anne Leibig, teaches Gestalt
psychotherapy. Together they prepared the Peck of Pretty Peppers Cookbook that was included in each box of peppers shipped from Chestnut Ridge Farm.
Read Austin's extended biography here.
"At the heart of the biblical vision is a promise that if we love
nature and treat the life of the earth with respect, we will fulfill
our human vocation and find personal satisfaction. Furthermore, we will
be happy with the earth's response. The harvest which the earth yields
is far more than meat and fruit, oil and wine. Interactions with nature
differ from the interpersonal, social, and cultural relationships which
predominate in modern life, so that natural relationships may expand
our sensibilities and enrich our lives. ... Nature is beautiful: if we
do not engage with this beauty we are deprived. Culture and manufacture
provide us many things that are both essential and desirable, but they
are not worth placing nature at risk. To make peace with God we are
called to make peace with nature as well, so that God's glory may
return to our landscape." - Dick Austin in Hope for the Land, Nature in the Bible.
Learn more about this book, or read about our other books.
"A striking feature of the natural world is how many things work
together to support existence, each contributing to the life of others.
We call this a universe: a whole composed of many interdependent and
mutually supporting parts. If the many things in existence did not
support each other, there would be chaos instead, in which most things
attack, destroy, or flee from each other....
"When we look at the
beauty of the natural world, we see that both the animate and inanimate
tend to support each other. Each, directly or indirectly, contributes
to the life of all. Equally striking is the amazing diversity which is
so supported. The world's life-support system does not make everything
the same, but rather permits the flowering of so many different things.
From our perspective, the earth - with all its complexity of life and
activity - is more beautiful than an alternative, sterile planet. We
see that an important aspect of the beauty of the universe is the
process of individuation, by which species become differentiated from
one another; and by which individuals within species, sustained by
interdependence, develop their unique potential." - Dick Austin in Beauty of the Lord, Awakening the Senses.