Eric and Richard met through a mutual friend, and the two decided to use their influence in their fields to bring people of faith and science together for the sake of the environment. "The concerns that we share about the environment and about human activity affecting it are so deep and of such concern that whatever other differences we may have are immaterial compared to the similarities and sense of moral obligation we have," Eric says.
The pair gathered leaders from their fields and went to Alaska to see how climate change is affecting the Inupiaq Eskimos' island village of Shishmaref. Rising water has caused erosion on the island, shrinking its size year by year, affecting hunting and destroying land. "We went out to see what's happening—the loss of the very way of life the Inupiaq have had for 400 years," Richard says.
The first-hand knowledge Richard's and Eric's colleagues brought back to their research labs and church congregations earned Eric and Richard a spot on Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2008. "For me, and I think for Richard and my colleagues as well, the main job we have is the job of education," Eric says. "To really make the point that there is no such choice about whether we protect people or we protect the environment. It is not a choice, because if we don't protect the environment, we are not going to protect ourselves."