John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
The Forum on Religion and Ecology is the largest international multireligious project of its kind. With its conferences, publications, and website it is engaged in exploring religious worldviews, texts, ethics, and practices in order to broaden understanding of the complex nature of current environmental concerns. The Forum recognizes that religions need to be in dialogue with other disciplines (e.g., science, economics, education, public policy) in seeking comprehensive solutions to both global and local environmental problems.
The objectives of the Forum on Religion and Ecology are to create a new academic field of study that has implications for environmental policy. To this end, the Forum has organized conferences, published books and articles, and developed a world class international web site on religion and ecology. In collaboration with the ecological sciences, the Forum is helping to identify the ethical dimensions by which the religions of the world can respond to the growing environmental crisis. In addition, inspired by the work of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, the Forum is creating a film called Journey of the Universe that will provide an integrating framework for understanding the story of the universe and the Earth from the perspectives of science and religion. This will ground environmental transformation in an evolutionary perspective regarding our profound relatedness to and dependence on the larger Earth community.
Grim and Tucker initiated this work with a series of conferences on religion and ecology from 1996-1998 at Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions. Over 800 environmentalists and international scholars of the world’s religions participated. Ten volumes resulted that were published by Harvard. A concluding series of conferences were held at Harvard including one on world religions and animals (published by Columbia University Press), one on the ecological imagination with Orion magazine, one on world religions and climate change published by Daedalus.
Ten years ago religion and ecology was neither a field of study nor a force for transformation. Over the last decade a new field of study has emerged within academia with courses being taught at colleges and high schools across North America and in some universities in Europe. Canada and Europe now have their own Forums and Australia is planning one. Moreover, a new force of religious environmentalism is growing in churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques around the world. Now every major religion has statements on the importance of ecological protection and hundreds of grassroots projects have emerged. The Forum on Religion and Ecology has played an active role in these developments.
Major accomplishments of the Forum over the last ten years:
- A new field of study in religion and ecology has developed that is recognized by the American Academy of Religion, represented in 12 major articles in the new Encyclopedia of Religion, and growing through the peer-viewed academic journal Worldviews.
- A new force of religious environmentalism has emerged represented by both statements and action of the world’s religions regarding the moral nature of the ecological crisis. This is now depicted in a film called Renewal, which highlights eight case studies of religious engagement with environmental issues in the United States.
- A world class international website on religion and ecology was created and is based at Yale www.yale.edu/religionandecology. This is a website designed for research, education, and outreach. It contains introductory articles on the world’s religions and ecology as well as annotated bibliographies for all published monographs and articles in English on this topic. It has syllabi and materials for teaching. It has gathered the statements of religious leaders and organizations on the environmental crisis, including climate change. It also features events, conferences, and news reports.
- The Forum’s network has grown from 800 to over 8,000 people who receive our monthly newsletter as well as news articles which we gather from the United Nations Environment Programme.
- A series of ten conferences at Harvard on world religions and ecology was held from 1996-1998. We concluded this series, which was the first of its kind, with interdisciplinary conferences at the American Academy of Arts and Science, at the United Nations, and at the American Museum of Natural History with over 1000 in attendance. Scientists, economists, policy makers, UN officials and educators participated in these conferences.
- Major publishing projects have been completed, including ten volumes from Harvard on world religions and ecology, which emerged from the conference series. Several of these have been translated into other languages, including the volumes on Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism into Chinese. The Hinduism and Jain volumes are available in India.
- A new film, Journey of the Universe, is near completion that will be the first telling of the universe story, accompanied by an illustrated book, an educational course, and a website.
- Four volumes of Thomas Berry’s essays have been published, a Berry website created, and an archive for his papers has been established at Harvard.
Establishing the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University: 2006 – present
- We are currently working with the faculties of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the Divinity School, the Department of Religious Studies, the Center for Bioethics
- Working with students in the joint Master’s degree program between the Forestry School and the Divinity School and teaching classes in world religions and ecology
- Organized a major conference on religious environmentalism in March 2008 titled, “Renewing Hope” which had over 350 people in attendance
- This conference featured a new film titled, “Renewal: Stories from America’s Religious-Environmental Movement.” We were advisors to the filmmakers for 3 years.
- Wrote the lead article and assisted in the publication and distribution of Reflections magazine (Spring 2007) from Yale Divinity School entitled “God’s Green Earth: Creation, Faith, Crisis” (22,000 copies have been distributed).
- Did a “You Tube” presentation on religion and ecology for the Forestry School (2008).
- Asked by the IUCN to organize a panel on Sustainability and Conservation for the Barcelona World Conservation Congress (October 2008)
- Organized a symposium at the Yale Club in New York to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Forum on Religion and Ecology (November 2008)
- Organized panels on ethics and ecology at the AAAS (2007, 2009)
- Have spoken extensively at colleges and universities across the United States
- Organizing panels on religion and ecology for the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne, Australia (December 2009)
Read the Overview for the Forum.