Nature: the main event


Sarah Augustine

Sarah Augustine invited a consideration of indigenous wisdom as the path toward faithful ecological solutions during the Kenney Peace Lecture.

Augustine talks climate activism

 In 1961, humanity was consuming 74 percent of earth’s biocapacity. By 2012, the number had risen to 156 percent. During the annual Keeney Peace Lecture at Bluffton University, Sarah Augustine discussed how overconsumption has brought us to the brink of global disaster while inviting a consideration of indigenous wisdom as the path toward faithful ecological solutions instead of the dominant economic and cultural systems responsible for the current crisis. 

“In our individualistic culture, we tend to think reality is shaped by the values and actions of individuals. In some ways that’s true, but our world is shaped by our collective beliefs,” said Augustine. “Each generation’s actions effect the ones that come after it. While the dominate culture views progress as the accumulation of power, wealth and security over time, in a similar direction, nature reveals a constant process of birth and death that spans far beyond a single lifetime.”

A climate activist, Pueblo descendant and Mennonite, Augustine is the co-founder and executive director of the Coalition for Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery. Her March 26 presentation at Bluffton University was titled, “So We and Our Children May Live.”

Augustine explained, one of the problems with structures such as capitalism is natural resources including water, air and soil have value only as a commodity. For example, there is no value to the insects we depend on to pollinate our food. However, to Indigenous cultures, nature is not a footnote, instead it is the main event. 

“Viewed through an Indigenous cosmology, or way of describing the order of things, the command to love the Lord your God and walk in obedience to God in Deuteronomy takes on a different meaning,” explained Augustine. “Acknowledging our interdependence with all creation and the care and advocacy that we owe the next generation is what it means to walk in obedience to the commandments of the Creator. This is what it means to love the Creator, the Lord our God.”

In addition to the Keeney Peace Lecture, Augustine discussed, “So We and Our Children May Live: Following Jesus in Confronting the Climate Crisis,” the book she wrote with 1984 Bluffton alumnus Sheri Hostetler, at events at First Mennonite Church Bluffton, Lima Mennonite Church and The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center. 

During these events, Augustine invited people who are ready to work toward undoing current systems to join the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery. Orientations are held online the third Thursday of every month via Zoom, and more information can be found at

“I recently met a young man who said he could draw, and I told him we need you. We want you. You can make art with us and for us. Let’s get you connected,” said Augustine. “It’s going to take all of us working together.” 

Bluffton’s Keeney Peace Lectureship was established in 1978 by the family of William Sr. and Kathryn Keeney to express appreciation for Bluffton’s influence and to strengthen the continuing peace witness among the community.