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December 2008

The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
2.12 (December 2008)

Contents:

1. Editorial by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally   

2. New Blog: “Sustainable China”

3. New Books

4. Conference Announcements

5. Job Announcement: Joint Position in Philosophy/Religion Studies and Anthropology

6. New Global Digital Library on Ethics

7. Focus on the Web: Ethics  http://fore.research.yale.edu/disciplines/ethics/

8. From the Field: "Yoruba Religion and Ecology in Cuba," by Amanda D. Holmes

9. Worldviews and Other Journals

 



 

 

1. Editorial by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally

 

Welcome to the December issue of the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology.  We hope that you all are thriving as we begin the new year.  We are very exicted about the possibilities that this year will bring for new and renewed engagements with religious and ecological perspectives.  In this issue of our newsletter, we provide information about some of the possibilities that are already coming to light.  We have information about a new blog, new books, conference announcements, a job announcement, and a new digital library of resources on ethics.  We have invited Amanda Holmes, a doctoral candidate of Ecological & Visual Anthropology at the University of Florida, to write a piece about her research on the intersection of religion and ecology among the Yoruba diaspora in Cuba.

 

Many of the themes discussed in this issue of the newsletter and in the field of Religion and Ecology address the meaning and value of the material world, thus indicating the possibility of overcoming the modern view of the material world as completely separate from the world of meaning, value, holiness, spirit, and divinity.  An intriguing concept is sometimes used in efforts to articulate the possibility of developing a worldview for which the material world is intimately intertwined with meaning and holiness.  The concept is re-enchantment. 

 

The process of re-enchantment takes place after what the German social theorist Max Weber described as “the disenchantment of the world” (die Entzauberung der Welt).  Borrowing the term “disenchantment” from Friedrich Schiller, Weber argued that, with the processes of modern rationalization, the world was becoming increasingly devalued and secularized. 

 

Efforts to re-enchant the world take many forms.  For instance, the re-enchantment of the world involves religious practitioners showing how their traditions can facilitate engagements with the eco-social realities of this world, rather than being exclusively other-worldly.  Re-enchanting the world also involves scientists showing how the narratives of contemporary scientific research articulate a universe that is pervaded by mystery, value, and meaning, rather than a mechanistic universe devoid of any inherent value.  The re-enchantment of the world does not entail a rejection of modernity or a regression to pre-modern or pre-scientific worldviews.  Rather, re-enchantment opens possibilities for new understandings in which religious and scientific practices can function as co-creative partners and not simply as mutually exclusive opposites. 

 

One of the things we find particularly intriguing about the re-enchantment of the world is the way in which it implicitly involves a musical metaphor.  The verb “enchant” derives from the Latin incantare, where cantare means “to sing.”  Whereas the German word “Entzauberung” suggests a loss of “magic” (Zauber), its translation in English as “disenchantment” suggests that chanting or singing is somehow involved, as if the disenchantment of the world occurred when there was no longer any singing in the world.  Perhaps it was the disenchantment of the world that Rachel Carson was expressing when she wrote Silent Spring, warning that uncontrolled pesticide use would kill many animals, especially the birds whose singing voices would resound throughout springtime.


To re-enchant the world could thus suggest an act of resonating with the world.  To re-enchant the world could entail making room in the world for the songs of birds, wolves, humans, babbling brooks, and rustling leaves.  Furthermore, to re-enchant the world could mean that we humans let the world come into our songs, not only as a subject of musical and poetic songs, but also of the repeated themes and refrains with which our scientific and religious traditions are composed.  If we say that the field of Religion and Ecology can facilitate the re-enchantment of the world, perhaps this means that the field can create new refrains that facilitate harmonious relationships between religious and ecological perspectives, or more generally, harmonious relationships between all the performers in what Aldo Leopold calls in A Sand County Almanac “the orchestra of evolution.”  It is our hope that this newsletter provides access to some new refrains and new possibilities for re-enchanting the world.

 

Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally

Forum on Religion and Ecology

Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors

(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

 

 


 

 

2. New Blog: “Sustainable China”

 

"Sustainable China" (www.sustainablechina.info) is a new blog featuring news and opinion by James Miller and Mary Evelyn Tucker. It aims to stimulate debate about the role of Chinese religious and cultural values in fostering ecological sustainability in China. China is the world’s largest country by population, the fourth largest economy in real GDP terms, and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

 

As China deals with the devastation of its natural environment, it is experiencing a resurgence of interest in religious and spiritual issues. The blog explores the possibility of fostering a new philosophy of sustainable development, one that marries scientific understanding with a renewed appreciation for traditional Chinese values of harmony with and respect for the natural environment.

Please note that the Harvard volumes on Confucianism and Ecology, Daoism and Ecology, and Buddhism and Ecology have been translated into Chinese and were published in China this summer.

 

 


  

 

3. New Books

 

We would like to inform you about two recently published books: 1) Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation, and 2) A Voice for Earth: American Writers Respond to the Earth Charter.

 

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Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation

Edited by Lyndsay Moseley and the staff of Sierra Club Books

Published by Sierra Club Books, 2008

 

Religions worldwide celebrate Earth’s gifts of abundance and sustenance, and call on humankind to give thanks, practice compassion, seek justice, and be mindful of future generations.  In Holy Ground, leaders from many faith traditions, along with writers who hold nature sacred, articulate the moral and spiritual imperative of Earth stewardship.  In essays, sermons, and other short pieces commissioned or gathered for this book, they share personal stories of coming to understand our unique power and responsibility to care for creation.  A book to be treasured and shared widely, this landmark collection will bring together caring people of all faiths and all beliefs on common, holy ground.

 

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A Voice for Earth: American Writers Respond to the Earth Charter

Edited by Peter Blaze Corcoran and James Wohlpart

Published by University of Georgia Press, 2008

 

A Voice for Earth is a collection of poems essays, and stories that together give a voice to the ethical principles outlined in the Earth Charter (www.earthcharter.org).  The Earth Charter arose out of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and was adopted in the year 2000 with the mission of addressing the interrelated problems of economic development and environmental protection. In the quest for a sustainable future the Earth Charter is considered to be a unique and integrated set of global ethics.

 

An article describing the book is found at:


http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2008/nov/15/writers-add-substance-earth-charter-vision/

 

Three commentary papers on the Earth Charter are on the Forum's website at:

 

http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/projects/index.html

 

 


  

 

4. Conference Announcements

 

We would like to inform you about two upcoming conferences: 1) “China and Global Climate Change,” and 2) “Breaking Down Barriers.”

 

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"China and Global Climate Change” 

 

The Centre for Asian Pacific Studies (CAPS) and the Environmental Studies Programme (ESP) at Lingnan University, Hong Kong, are jointly organizing a conference on "China and Global Climate Change: Reconciling International Fairness and Protection of the Atmospheric Commons.” The conference will be held at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, China on June 18-19, 2009.

 

Major conference themes include (1) Practical Considerations, including the latest findings on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts related to China's role; (2) Ethical Considerations, including questions of fairness, justice and human rights related to climate change and China's role; and (3) Political Considerations, including issues related to the domestic and international politics of climate change, the international climate change negotiations, and the political significance in other countries of China's climate change diplomacy and policies.

 

The conference welcomes paper proposals from individuals wishing to present papers at the Hong Kong conference.  In conjunction with the conference meeting in Hong Kong, there will be a 'virtual' aspect for participants who wish to participate from outside Hong Kong. Individuals interested in participating online are also encouraged to submit paper proposals. All papers will be eligible for publication in the conference proceedings. A selection of papers will be invited for inclusion in a peer-reviewed book and potentially in a special issue of a scholarly journal.

 

The submission deadline for paper proposals is January 31, 2009.

 

For more information about the conference, visit: http://www.ln.edu.hk/caps/conference.php 

"Breaking Down Barriers”

The Compass Project of the publisher Wiley-Blackwell calls your attention to an online, interdisciplinary conference scheduled for October 19-30, 2009. The subject of the conference is “Breaking Down Barriers.” The hosts intend this to be the largest online meeting ever held in the social sciences and humanities. The conference will include keynote speakers, workshops, question and answer sessions, a virtual presence in Second Life, and a book exhibit. For additional information and details of how to register, visit the conference website at:

http://www.blackwell-compass.com/

Papers are welcomed on the sub-themes of: paradigms, borders, the environment/energy, communication, and justice/human rights.  Abstracts are invited for survey/review papers from the disciplines of History, Literature, Philosophy, Religion, Geography, Linguistics, Sociology, and Social Psychology.  Preference will be given to papers which interest more than one discipline. Accepted papers will be published in special issues of the Compass journals. 

The submission deadline for abstracts is January 14, 2009.

 


 

 

5. Job Announcement: Joint Position in Philosophy/Religion Studies and Anthropology

 

The Department of Anthropology and Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies at the University of North Texas invite applications for a jointly appointed, interdisciplinary, tenured position at the level of Associate Professor to begin fall of 2009. Responsibilities include research, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, and service in the participating departments, colleges, and the university. The normal teaching load is two courses per semester with the expectation that this will be equitably divided between Anthropology and Philosophy/ Religion Studies. 

 

A PhD or terminal degree in Anthropology, Philosophy, Religion Studies, or a related discipline is required. Competence to teach in both departments is also required, demonstrated either by educational background, courses taught, and/or publication record. Candidates must demonstrate research and teaching ability on issues at the intersection of philosophy (and the humanities) and anthropology (and the social sciences more broadly), and have experience in field-based anthropological or philosophical research on issues of local, regional, national, and international scope, and experience working with humanists, scientists, engineers, and policy analysts.

 

Preferred qualifications include a research interest, demonstrated by publications, that combines theoretical sophistication with a commitment to a case-studies approach to addressing societal challenges; preference will be given to those whose work speaks to the philosophical dimensions of social science research. Desired areas of research include: environmental justice, community conservation and sustainability, human ecology, religion and ecology, globalization and policy, or traditional ecological knowledge. 

 

Review of applications will begin December 1, 2008 with interviews beginning by January 31, 2009; they will continue until the search is closed. Send letter of application, C.V., and the names, addresses, and contact of three references to:

 

Professor Doug Henry

Department of Anthropology

University of North Texas

1155 Union Circle #310409

Denton, TX 76203-5017
 
Applications can also be sent electronically to (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 

UNT is an AA/ADA/EOE committed to diversity. 

 


 

 

6. New Global Digital Library on Ethics

 

A new global digital library on ethics was launched on October 9, 2008.  This library will provide users free access to full text versions of about 200 journals and more than a million documents in the field of applied ethics.

 

The digital library on ethics was developed by Globethics.net, a global network organization with the objective of empowering people in all regions of the world to reflect and act on ethical issues. They developed the Globethics.net Library to ensure that persons and institutions - especially in Africa, Asia and Latin-America - have access to good quality and up to date knowledge resources. There is no cost involved in using the library. Individuals only need to register (free of charge) as participants on the Globethics.net website (http://www.globethics.net) to get access to all the full text journals, encyclopedias, e-books and other resources in the library.

 

The library does not only offer free access to knowledge sources, but also offers participants the unique opportunity to submit their own documents on applied ethics (like articles, journals, books, dissertations, newsletters) to the Globethics.net Library. This will ensure that their publications get more global exposure.

 

More information on how to access the library as well as on how to submit documents to the library is available at: www.globethics.net

 

 

 


 

 

7. Focus on the Web: Ethics  http://fore.research.yale.edu/disciplines/ethics/

 

We would like to draw your attention to the Ethics section of our website:

http://fore.research.yale.edu/disciplines/ethics/

 
Along with sections on Policy, Economics, Science, and Gender, the Ethics section of our website is part of the larger section on Intersecting Disciplines (http://fore.research.yale.edu/disciplines/index.html), which highlights the efforts of the Forum to engage the multiple disciplines that intersect with the field of Religion and Ecology.  

 

The Ethics section contains numerous resources related to environmental ethics, including an overview essay by J. Baird Callicott, a collection of links to various websites related to environmental ethics, and an annotated bibliography with references to books related to the theories and practices of environmental ethics.  If you know of any other links or publications that we should include in our Ethics section, please let us know by sending us an email at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 

 


 

 

8. From the Field: "Yoruba Religion and Ecology in Cuba," by Amanda D. Holmes

 

Through understanding not just the names and classifications but additional ways of knowing the environment, I intend to further the field of religion and ecology and ecological anthropology through an exploration of Yoruba diaspora religion and ecology in Cuba. Scholars must find culturally appropriate methods to interpret African diaspora ecological knowledges through improving an understanding of shifting, multisited, and multivocal landscapes, especially concerning human/nature relationships. To improve our understanding of local or “traditional” ecological knowledges, research should not be limited to taxonomic, categorical and hierarchical lists comparing names of plants--or obtaining “local knowledge” in Western scientific form where traditional gets translated as ancient or indigenous, knowledge is informed deductively through empirical tests and written texts, and nature is unde rstood through assumptions based on a priori human/nature and mind/body ontological separations.

 

Instead, scholars must examine the unique knowledges and ways of knowing that locals have with their environment, which include their distinct processes of learning about and interacting with the ecosystems they inhabit, sometimes perceived as extended community. After all, what is traditional about traditional knowledge is not its antiquity, according to the Four Directions Council of Canada but “the way it is acquired and used” (1996 cited in Posey 1999:4).

 

A distinguishing feature of many African and African diaspora religions is that material and spiritual worlds are integrated through experiencing nature. For example, Yoruba practitioners in Cuba and in South Carolina follow what could be called a “nature religion,” which integrates biophysical, human and metaphysical components into an intersubjective cosmos and conversation. Within Yoruba diaspora religion, santeros (initiated priests) communicate with trees, plants, animals, spirits, ancestors and orishas (i.e., divinities) using salutations, songs, dances, and divinations. Osainistas, followers of the orisha Osain and trained healers and herbalists, are specialized santeros initiated into the knowledge of how to communicate with nature and the orishas to be able to know, find and use the ritually required plants and healing herbs from el monte (i.e., wild or sacred forest).

 

Thus, a study of Osain and Yoruba religion reveal an embodied landscape akin to that which Ingold (2000) and Tilley (1994) discuss. The land is not an empty space void of meaning, but instead a landscape inherent with subjectivity. Human and nonhuman realms become a common “intersubjective community,” as scholars such as Apffel-Marglin (1998), Morrison (2000), and Berkes (1999) have found prevalent with indigenous ecological knowledge systems. The human is located and constituted within and of a larger community including spiritual, natural, temporal, spatial as well as human realms, going beyond ontological separations such as subject/object dichotomies.

 

Yoruba practitioners do not appear to understand their environment within a framework of human (subject) versus nature (object), but instead interpret the landscape as repositories of ashé and orishas. Ashe is the life-force that runs though all things; ashe is the "power to make things happen." It is an affirmation which is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept about spiritual growth. In Cuba, ashe is known commonly as luck. Orishas are the spirits that reflect the manifestations of Olodumare, the creator God in the Yoruba spiritual and religious system. Each orisha, or deity, is associated with environmental elements, colors, human emotions, pursuits, Roman Catholic saints and drum patterns called toques (drums are an integral part of the religion). Orishas are often called saints in Cuba since the Lucumi system is based on disguising or integrating the Yoruba spirits with Catholic saints. Humans are able to communicate, receive guidance, ask permission, interact, and even embody these saints or orishas.

 

Osain is an orisha who may be understood and experienced as the embodiment of nature and the Yoruba religion. Osain is one of the most vital orisha, for without him and his kingdom of the sacred forest and the herbs within, there would be no religious rituals. As Canizares explains, “because the wilderness is the true repository of all of Santeria’s secrets [,p]lants, especially herbs are essential to every Santeria ritual” (Canizares 1993:101).

 

The followers of Osain or osainistas are particularly involved in the knowledge of direct communication with the plants through using specialized movements, music and salutations to communicate with the orisha. For instance, Osvaldo, a 72 year-old man who is the head of one of the few cabildos that has existed since the 1800s in Cuba, is an osainista:

 

“You must learn the mystery of Osain. This comes through the sounds of Osain’s prayers. They know at what time you can go and collect the plant that you need and you must tell this plant why she should give you the authorization so that you can collect from her what she gives you. And, this is material” (Osvaldo pers.comm. 2004).

 

Material is not separated and contrasted in binary opposition to spiritual, instead the material and the spiritual worlds are interconnected; they become embodied in each other, and experienced through ritual. “Plants have their mystery,” Osvaldo explains, and the Lucumi religion combines both scientific and spiritual methods to know the natural elements: “We understand her in a scientific-spiritual way” (Osvaldo pers.comm. 2004). Thus, spiritual and material, religion and ecology merge to form an interdependent, intersubjective community within which humans must learn to communicate not just through naming but also through experiential ways of knowing.

 

Amanda D. Holmes
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References 
 
Apffel-Marglin, Frédérique (1998). The Spirit of Regeneration: Andean Culture Confronting Western Notions of Development. New York: Zed Books.

 

Berkes, Fikret (1999). Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management. Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis.

 

Canizares, Raul (1993). Walking with the Night: The Afro-Cuban World of Santeria. Destiny Books.

 

Ingold, Tim (2000). The Perception of the Environment. Essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill. New York: Routledge.

 

Morrison Kenneth M. (2000). “The Cosmos as Intersubjective: Native American Other-than-Human Persons.” In Indigenous Religions: A Companion. Edited by Graham Harvey, 23-26. London: Cassell.

 

Posey, Darrell (1999). Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. London: Intermediate Technology.

 

Tilley, Christopher (1994). A Phenomenology of Landscape: Places, Paths, and Monuments. Oxford: Berg.

 


 

   

9. Worldviews and Other Journals


Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
This journal has as its focus the relationships between religion, culture and ecology world-wide. Articles discuss major world religious traditions, such as Islam, Buddhism or Christianity; the traditions of indigenous peoples; new religious movements; philosophical belief systems, such as pantheism, nature spiritualities and other religious and cultural worldviews in relation to the cultural and ecological systems.

Focusing on a range of disciplinary areas including Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Geography, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Sociology and Theology, the journal also presents special issues that center around one theme.

To receive a free sample copy of Worldviews, please send an email to (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

For more information, visit: http://www.brill.nl/wo.


For more information on other journals related to religion and ecology and to environmental ethics/philosophy visit: http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/journals/index.html. If you know of a publication that needs to be added to this list, please send an email to: (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).