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Religion and Ecology (Wallace)

Course Title

Religion and Ecology

   
Instructor(s)

Mark I. Wallace
Associate Professor
Department of Religion
Swarthmore College

   
Discipline

Religion

   
Subject(s)

Religion; Ecology

   
Pedagogical Level

Undergraduate

   
Date

Spring 1999

   
Presentation

Swarthmore College

   
Overview

Description

This course focuses on the intellectual and ethical resources within different religious traditions for developing an earth -centered philosophy of life. The thesis of the course is that the “greening” of religious studies—including a revisioning of God or the Sacred as healer and sustainer of all forms of life on the planet—is called for by an analysis of the current crisis. Topics include ecological thought in Western philosophy, theology, and biblical studies; the role of Asian religious thought in forging an ecological worldview; the value of American nature writings for environmental awareness, including both Euroamerican and Amerindian literatures; the public policy debates concerning vegetarianism and the antitoxins movement; and the contemporary relevance of ecofeminism, deep ecology, neopaganism, and wilderness activism. Materials will be handled and discussed in a dialogical, interdisciplinary, and interreligious context. In addition to writing assignments and the midterm, small groups will teach particular class sessions and a community service learning component will be added to the course. Students will be asked to compose a final project as the culminating requirement for the course. The goal of the course is for class members to develop their critical understanding of the power of religion to foster (and impede) ecologically responsible lifestyles.

   
Format

No special format listed

   
Prerequisites

This course will follow a rough seminar format with occasional opening comments by the instructor and general classroom discussion, sometimes led by small groups from the class.

The course will be divided into five parts:

  1. Ecology in Christianity and Judaism: Philosophy, Theology, and Root Metaphors
  2. Ecology in Asian Religions: Taoism, Buddhism, and Dynamic Interdependence
  3. American Nature Traditions: Amerindian, Euroamerican
  4. Public Policy Conflicts
  5. Earth Spirituality, Wilderness Activism, and Further Religious Resources
   
Requirements

Requirements include the completion of one short paper, one small group presentation, a midterm examination, a final project, and participation in classroom discussions.

   
Evaluation

Grades
Writing requirements and approximate grade percentages:

Short Paper and Small Group Presentation
33%
Mid-term Exam
33%
Final Term Project
15%
Participation, Class Discussion
19%
   
Texts

Required Texts

Abbey, Edward. The Monkey Wrench Gang. New York: Avon, 1992.

Callicott, J. Baird, and Roger T. Ames, eds. Nature in Asian
Traditions
of Thought. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989.

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York: Garland Publishers, 1977.

Kinsley, David. Ecology and Religion: Ecological Spirituality in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1995.

McFague, Sallie. The Body of God: An Ecological Theology. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 1993.

Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1988, c1932.

Zimmerman, Michael., et al. Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1993.

Note
Additional Required Readings are marked in the schedule below with an asterisk (*).

   
Schedule  

Part 1:  Ecology In Christianity and Judaism
             Philosophy, Theology, and Root Metaphors

Jan 19

Introduction and Ecological Self-Portraiture

Jan 21

Introduction and Ecological Self-Portraiture (continued)

Assigned Reading

  • White, “The Historic Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” Science 155 (1967): 1203–1207.
  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, xiii-xxi, 101–40.
  • Book of Genesis, Bible, chs 1–2.
Jan 26

Introduction and Ecological Self-Portraiture (continued)

Assigned Reading

  • Heidegger, Question, i-xxxix (skim), 1–35.
  • *Devall and Sessions, Deep Ecology, 63–108.
  • Sessions, “Introduction to Part Two: Deep Ecology,” in Environmental Philosophy, 165–82 (skim).
Jan 28

Introduction and Ecological Self-Portraiture (continued)

Assigned Reading

  • Heidegger, Question, 115–82.
  • *Zimmerman, Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity: Technology, Politics, and Art, 222–47.
 

Christian Ecotheology and Ecofeminism

Feb 2

Christian Ecotheology and Ecofeminism

Assigned Reading

  • McFague, The Body of God, vii-63.
  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 203–209.
  • *Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature, 5–46, 207–27 (skim).
Feb 4

Christian Ecotheology and Ecofeminism (continued)
Assigned Reading

  • McFague, The Body of God, 65–97.
  • Fox, “The Deep Ecology-Ecofeminism Debate and Its Parallels,” in Environmental Philosophy, 227–44.
Feb 9

Christian Ecotheology and Ecofeminism (continued)

Assigned Reading

  • McFague, The Body of God, 99–157.
  • *Starhawk, “Feminist, Earth-Based Spirituality and Ecofeminism,” in Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism, 174–85.
Feb 11

Christian Ecotheology and Ecofeminism (continued)

Assigned Reading

  • McFague, The Body of God, 159–212.
 

Judaism, Creation, and the Eco-Kosher Project

Feb 16

Judaism, Creation, and the Eco-Kosher Project

Assigned Reading

  • *Green, “God, World, Person: A Jewish Theology of Creation, Parts I and II,” The Melton Journal 24/25 (spring 1991–1992): 4–7; 4–5.
  • *Wyschogrod, “Judaism and the Sanctification of Nature,” The Melton Journal 24 (spring 1991): 5–7.
  • *Schorsch, “Learning to Live with Less: A Jewish Perspective,” Spirit and Nature, 25–38. Assignments Due
  • 1st Paper Due
Feb 18

Judaism, Creation, and the Eco-Kosher Project (continued)

Assigned Reading

  • *Waskow, Down-to-Earth Judaism: Food, Money, Sex, and the Rest of Life, 117–43, 350–79.
Feb 23

Judaism, Creation, and the Eco-Kosher Project (continued)

Assigned Reading

  • *Katz, “Judaism and the Ecological Crisis,” in Worldviews and Ecology, 55–70.
  • *Strassfeld and Strassfeld, “Surroundings” in The Third Jewish Catalogue (esp. “Ecology: bal tashhit”), 288–315 (skim).
 

Part 2:  Ecology in Asian Religions Taoism, Buddhism, and Dynamic Interdependence

Feb 25

Taoism, Buddhism, and Dynamic Interdependence

Assigned Reading

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 68–98.
  • Thompson, “Pacific Shift,” in Nature in Asian Traditions, 25–36.
  • Callicott, “The Metaphysical Implications of Ecology,” in Nature in Asian Traditions, 1–25,
    51–66.
  • Tu Wei-ming, “The Continuity of Being: Chinese Visions of Nature,” Nature in Asian Traditions, 67–78.
Mar 2

Taoism, Buddhism, and Dynamic Interdependence

Assigned Reading

  • *“The Sermon at Benares” and “Questions Not Tending to Edification,” in The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha, 28–37.
  • *De Silva, “The Buddhist Attitude Toward Nature,” in Buddhist Perspectives on the Ecocrisis, 9–28.
  • LaFleur, “Saigyo and the Buddhist Value of Nature,” in Nature in Asian Traditions, 183–209.
  • Kalupahana, “Toward a Middle Path of Survival,” in Nature in Asian Traditions, 247–58.
Mar 4

Midterm

Mar 6–14

Spring Break

 

Part 3: American Nature Traditions

Amerindian

Mar 16

Amerindian
Assigned Reading

 

  • Neihardt, Black Elk, ix-104.
  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 7–21, 42–50.
  • *McGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality,x-39.
Mar 18

Amerindian (continued)
Assigned Reading

 

  • Neihardt, Black Elk, 105–212.
  • *Grim, “Native North American Worldviews and Ecology,” in Worldviews and Ecology, 41–54 (skim).
Mar 23

Amerindian (continued)
Assigned Reading

 

  • Neihardt, Black Elk, 213–300.
  • *Allen, “The Sacred Hoop: A Contemporary Perspective,” in The Ecocriticism Reader, 241–46.
 

Euroamerican

Mar 25

Euroamerican
Assigned Reading

 

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 142–60.
  • *Emerson, selections from The Norton Book of Nature Writing, 144–58.
  • *Thoreau, selections from The Norton Book of Nature Writing, 169–207.
  • *Muir, selections from The Norton Book of Nature Writing, 279–98.
Mar 30

Euroamerican (continued)
Assigned Reading

 

  • Leopold, “The Land Ethic,” in Environmental Philosophy, 87–100.
  • Rolston III, “Challenges in Environmental Ethics,” in Environmental Philosophy, 124–44.
  • Callicott, “Do Deconstructive Ecology and Sociobiology Undermine Leopold’s Land Ethic?,” in Environmental Philosophy, 144–64.
Apr 1

Euroamerican (continued)
Assigned Reading

 

  • Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 210–32 (focus on Snyder and Berry sections).
  • *Snyder, The Practice of the Wild, 3–47, 175–85.
  • *Snyder, No Nature: New and Selected Poems, 218–19, 236–38, 245 (from Turtle Island).
  • *Berry, W., Collected Poems, 69, 109.
 

Part 4:   Public Policy Conflicts

Apr 6

Vegetarianism
Assigned Reading

 

  • *Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethic For Our Treatment of Animals, 163–91.
  • *Regan, “Christianity and Animal Rights: The Challenge and Promise,” in Liberating Life: Contemporary Approaches to Ecological Theology, 73–87.
  • *Green, “Vegetarianism: A Kashrut For Our Age,” This Sacred Earth, 301–302.
Apr 8

Antitoxins Movement
Assigned Reading

 

  • *Edwards, “With Liberty and Environmental Justice For All: The Emergence and Challenge of Grassroots Environmentalism in the United States,” in Ecological Resistance Movements, 35–55.
  • *Lohman, “Visitors to the Commons: Approaching Thailand’s ‘Environmental’ Struggles from a Western Starting Point,” in Ecological Resistance Movements, 109–26.
Apr 13

Antitoxins Movement (continued)
Assigned Reading

 

  • *Wallace, “Environmental Justice, Neopreservationism, and Sustainable Spirituality,” in The Ecological Community, 292–310.
  • www.enviroweb.org/pen/crcql
 

Part 5: Earth Spirituality, Wilderness Activism, and
Further Religious Resources

Apr 15

Earth Spirituality, Wilderness Activism, and Further Religious Resources
Assigned Reading

 

  • Abbey, The Monkey-Wrench Gang, 1–212.
  • *Taylor, “Earth First! and Global Narratives of Popular Ecological Resistance,” in Ecological Resistance Movements, 11–34.
Apr 17

Earth Spirituality, Wilderness Activism, and Further Religious Resources (continued)
Assignments Due

  • Final term project presentations
  • Apr 20

    Earth Spirituality, Wilderness Activism, and Further Religious Resources (continued)
    Assigned Reading

     

    • Abbey, The Monkey-Wrench Gang, 213–387.
    • *Manes, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmasking of Civilization, 225–48.
    Apr 22

    Earth Spirituality, Wilderness Activism, and Further Religious Resources (continued)
    Assigned Reading

     

    • Final day of readings TBA based on emerging class interests.
    Apr 29

    Earth Spirituality, Wilderness Activism, and Further Religious Resources (continued)

    Assignments Due

    • Final term project presentations.
    • Final term projects final due date TBA.

     

    Copyright © 1999 Mark I. Wallace.
    Reprinted with permission.
    The author retains all copyrights for all syllabi materials.
    Please contact each author individually for reprint rights.