The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
2.5 (May 2008)
1. Introduction to the May Newsletter by Whitney Bauman
2. From the Field: Religion and Conservation biology by Tom Baugh
3. The Vatican and Voluntary Simplicity
4. Spiritual Environmentalism by Paul Carr
5. Beyond Earth Day by Kim Winchell
6. Focus on the Web: How to get connected with the Forum.
7. Job Announcement: Executive Director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light.
8. Leadership by Youth for Faith and the Earth (LYFE) Conference
9. Greening Our Religions
10. Earth Ministry Contest
11. Worldviews and Other Journals
12. Calls for Papers/ Conferences and Events
Dear Forum Colleagues:
Greetings! I hope that you are doing well. I think you will find a lot of exciting information in this May 2008 Newsletter. The “From the Field” piece by Tom Baugh is a desciption of the trials and triumphs of forming a “religion and conservation biology” working group within the Society for Conservation Biology. It is a good reminder of how both religious and scientific perceptions can get in the way when trying to do interdisciplinary work in “religion and ecology;” and, how they can be overcome to forge new and exciting directions! Following this are a series of news stories in religion and ecology that we thought would be of interest to you. This month’s “Focus on the Web” is dedicated to how to get connected with the Forum through our website. Finally, don’t miss the Job and Conference announcements at the end of the Newsletter!
This Newsletter is again a testimony to the wonderful, interdisciplinary work that we get to do in the field of “religion and ecology.” It strikes me that the connections that can be made across disciplinary boundaries provide a good metaphor for the types of boundaries that need to be crossed in order to deal with the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time: economic, gender, race, national, political, ideological, etc. If anything, “religion and ecology” should be about re-interpreting and reconnecting (re-legere/ligare) our lives within the “house” (oikos) in which we live. If we want then, to be true to the etymology of these two separate words and then try to fashion them together into a new meaning, we might provide the following description of what “religion and ecology” is: religion and ecology is the field in which we re-interpret our value-traditions and value-making capacities in ways that help to re-connect us to and with the world around us. Whether we work from within an extant tradition or seek new ways of connecting with the rest of the natural world is less important than critically analyzing whether or not our older and newer sources of value and meaning are detrimental or beneficial to the house in which we live.
2007-2008 Forum Research Associate
RELIGION AND CONSERVATION BIOLOGY
By Tom Baugh
In the Beginning
One Board member expressed concern that allowing a Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group might bring the wrath of the godly down upon the 13,000 member Society for Conservation Biology (SCB), while another wondered if the proposed Working Group was an attempt by the godly to assume control of the Society. These comments reflected the great tension between science and religion, not only within the SCB, but throughout Western cultures. It was in this context and with this tension that, in July 2007, the Board of Governors of the SCB approved, by close vote, the formation of a committee to explore the possibility of developing a Working Group on religion and conservation biology.
The vote was taken in response to a proposal submitted by an SCB member. In the richly cited proposal, the member pointed to religion as a frequently guiding and controlling component of cultures that, while not always obvious, is generally a pervasive and often a unifying aspect of a society. The proposal suggested that religion and theology are “greening” and will continue to do so and that religious focus on the environment is an irreversible theme of theological inquiry and religious life. The proposal also mentioned some of the many religious organizations with environmental missions and the increasing number of secular environmental organizations with outreach in a religious dimension. A positive vote on the proposal allowed a small group of colleagues within the SCB to establish the Exploratory Committee as the first in three potential steps from Provisional Working Group to full Working Group.
Before the Big Bang
The proposal was not the first time the SCB had attempted to approach issues of religion and conservation biology. SCB publishes several journals including the typically technical ‘Conservation Biology’ and the less technical but often provocative ‘Conservation in Practice.’ Articles addressing religion and conservation began to appear in Conservation in Practice in 2002. In 2005 there was a flurry of articles and responses in the journal Conservation Biology with titles such as ‘Between Heaven and Earth-Evangelical Engagement in Conservation,’ ‘Armageddon Versus Extinction,’ and ‘Evangelicals are Conservationists,’ among others. At that time it was apparent that the SCB was unresolved in its reference to the place, if any, of religion in reference to conservation.
Establishment of the Exploratory Committee
In response to the vote of the SCB Board of Governors, the exploratory committee formed in August of 2007 and, within two weeks, had the minimum 20 SCB members required to petition the Board for the next step, the formation of a Provisional Working Group. By mid-September over 60 SCB members had joined the Exploratory Committee and the required forms had been filed requesting that the SCB Board of Governors name the Exploratory Committee a Provisional Working Group.
Formation of Provisional Working Group
Growth of the exploratory committee continued to be rapid and a fledgling Board was formed to guide development. By November 2007, the initiative had achieved the size and structure necessary to move from exploratory status to that of a Provisional Working Group. The exploratory committee had developed a draft charter calling on the potential Working Group to inform the members of the Society for Conservation Biology of the relationships among religion, conservation biology, and biodiversity and represent the objectives of the Society for Conservation Biology to those involved in religion and theology.
Petition for Full Working Group Status
Response to the call for involved membership continued apace and by January 2008 all was in place to petition for full Working Group status. The continued rapid development and recruitment was stimulated to a great degree by open, transparent, communications on several levels. For example, the RCB Board often engaged in extensive daily e-mail exchanges. One university member of the RCB Board observed that in all of the groups in which he participated, he had never encountered such a volume of interest and exchange. Another approach that helped in communication and the development of group identity was a monthly e-mail report from the Provisional Working Group to the full RCB membership. In addition, the Provisional Working Group was able to establish a web page and listserve (funded by the Green Institute) and hosted by the SCB. The web page carries a list of Working Group Board members with their backgrounds, a FAQ about the Working Group with its charter and objectives. In addition, the web page also hosts a section titled ‘Sources and Resources’ providing information to SCB members on religious organizations with environmental missions as well as NGO’s with similar missions and a growing list of publications of possible interest to the Society members.
In January 2008 the Working Group sent an email of introduction to several dozen religious organizations with an environmental mission. The email stated, essentially, ‘we are open for business.’ Congratulatory emails from organizations were frequent and encouraging. Also, by mid-January 2008 several religious organizations with environmental missions had requested consultation on strengthening the ‘conservation biology’ component of their environmental education message. In February 2008 an SCB member had requested consultation about addressing conservations issue in one of the theocratic regions of the US. The Provisional Working Group has also helped establish communication between a ‘biblical garden’ in Israel and a similar facility in Pakistan.
In March 2008 the Provisional Working Group was granted full Working Group status. The professional activities of the Working Group currently includes networking and consultations on conservation biology and biodiversity with religious organizations with environmental missions and networking and consultations with Society for Conservation Biology members concerning religious organizations with environmental missions. The current RCB Board is composed of men and women from Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria, Canada, and the United States. The general membership of the broader organization includes participants from 14 countries including Pakistan, the USA, Hungry, Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, the UK, Belgium, Canada, Australia, China, India, Kenya, France, Tanzania, Israel, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and the Netherlands.
As it approaches its first year of existence the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group continues to exercise a careful professionalism. It is likely that this is path the group will travel for some time to come.
Information about the RCB Initiative
For additional information about the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group of the Society for Conservation Biology (www.conbio.org) see the website at http://www.conbio.org/groups/working-groups/religion-and-conservation-biology.
Author’s Note: Tom Baugh is a Fellow with the Green Institute (http://greeninstitute.deanmyerson.org/), a member of the Society for Conservation Biology (www.conbio.org) and other professional societies, and is serving as the first President of the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group (http://www.conbio.org/groups/working-groups/religion-and-conservation-biology) of the Society for Conservation Biology.
Archbishop urges 'green' lifestyles
U.N. Vatican ambassador speaks to crowd of 250 at St. Hilary's in Fairlawn
By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published on Thursday, May 01, 2008
FAIRLAWN: There is no doubt that global warming is a real threat to the planet Earth and its inhabitants, said the Vatican's ambassador to the United Nations.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore speaking Wednesday evening at St. Hilary Catholic Church called on those in attendance to simplify their lives by adopting a life of ''voluntary simplicity'' to reduce the impact of each human on the environment.
Bedford NH Presbyterian Church, 13 April 2008
By Paul H. Carr
Dr. John Carroll, professor of environmental conservation at the University of New Hampshire, said: “A conversion experience which transforms material to spiritual values is needed the meet the challenge of increasing energy costs.” He was introduced by elder Julie Rizzo as the keynote speaker of “Living Faithfully and Sustainably in New Hampshire,” a conference held at the Bedford Presbyterian Church on April 13.
“The world’s oil production capacity is at or near its peak,” he said. “This combined with increased demands of China and India will push oil prices higher. Some of last winter’s shipments of LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) destined for the U.S. went elsewhere because our weak dollar enabled other countries to pay more.
Dr. Carroll is concerned about New Hampshire’s vulnerability to food shortages caused by disruptions in the supply of foreign oil. NH grows only 2 to 4% of its food. The rest is brought in mainly by trucks. Massachusetts grows 10% of its own food. Maine has a goal of 80% by 2020.
Dr. Carroll said: “Corn Ethanol is a total sham. If the US converted all of its corn crop to ethanol, it would provide only 20% of present energy consumption.” At best, it takes a gallon of oil for transportation, fertilizer, and refining to produce a gallon of ethanol. The diversion of corn from ethanol is increasing the price of food, causing starvation and violent protests in many countries.
The ethanol yield per acre from sweet sorghum is 6 times higher than from corn and sugarcane is 9 times higher. Biofuels from cellulose sources, such as switch grass, have the potential for even higher yields in the future, but there is still the problem of soil depletion.
Dr. Carroll said that the solutions to oil price increases and global warming are the same: increased energy efficiency, conservation, and sustainable energy from wind, geothermal, and solar. The January 2008 issue of the Scientific American noted that there is enough solar energy falling on the deserts in the Southwest to power the entire United States. Solar collecting and DC power transmission technology is available, but would require $420 billion from 2011 to 2050.
Dr. Carroll was followed by Denise Blaha and Julia Dundorf, co-founders of the NH Carbon Challenge. Denise Blaha told how she was able to save $978 and reduce her carbon emissions by 17,000 lb annually by the following: lowering thermostats, cold water washing, drying cloths on an inside rack (or outside), replacing incandescent bulbs by compact fluorescent lights, and reducing her driving by 780 miles per year (15 miles per week.) She also spoke about the effects of climate change here in New Hampshire.
The NH Carbon Challenge is a UNH initiative committed to providing NH residents and communities with the information, tools and support necessary for households to reduce their residential carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 pounds per year. Denise Blaha invited the community of Bedford to sign up for the Carbon Challenge as Manchester has done. Their web page is http://carbonchallenge.sr.unh.edu/index.jsp
The exhibit area had displays and hand-on activities to encourage people to take next steps in energy reduction. Exhibits included paper and aluminum recycling displays, composting demonstration equipment, an interactive carbon calculator, as well as useful products that can help you figure out where to start trimming your energy use and expenses. The Toadstool Bookshop in Milford sold books from its “green” section including copies of Sustainability and Spirituality and other books by Dr. Carroll.
Beyond Earth Day
by Kim Winchell
Faithful earthkeeping is at the heart of who we are and what we do as people of God.
It’s that time of year again when observations of Earth Day garner some headlines or attention by schoolchildren, politicians, celebrities, and even a growing number of churches. I celebrate that, no question about it.
What I celebrate even more is that within our church, many more people and congregations have come to realize that caring for creation — earthkeeping—is an integral part of our religious identity and practice. Faithful earthkeeping flows from who we are, what we do, and how we relate to God, creation, and one another. It should have always been that way, but it’s taken church folk a while to awaken to the Spirit’s urging anew in our lives and times.
In light of climate change alone, I’ve begun describing where we are today as our 21st-century Deuteronomy 30:19 moment. We have set before us — once again —"life and death, blessings and curses" and need now to choose life, in an ecojustice and eco-sustainable way, for us and our descendants to live.
For the Full story, visit: http://www.lutheranwomantoday.org/featuredArticles/0408article1.html.
If you ever find yourself wondering, “how can I get more connected with the Forum,” this brief section might be useful for you.
First, if you need to subscribe, unsubscribe, or update your contact information, please do so at: http://fore.research.yale.edu/sign-up/. Here you will find a form where you can tell us as much or little about yourself as you would like.
A third way to get involved would be to send us a course syllabi for possible inclusion with our web-section of syllabi: http://fore.research.yale.edu/education/resources/syllabi/.
A fourth way to get involved is to visit our professional development section and send us information about calls for papers, conferences, workshops, and grants that fall into the field of “religion and ecology”: http://fore.research.yale.edu/education/professionaldevelopment/.
Fifth and finally, please forward this newsletter to as many friends as you think might be interested and encourage them to subscribe to the listserv. As this important network grows, the information that will be available to us all will increase and, in the end, make for a richer source of information!
Iowa Interfaith Power and Light (IIPL) is a statewide organization mobilizing the religious community to become leaders in the fight against global warming. Launched two years ago, IIPL gave birth to the “Cool Congregations” stewardship program, having already trained 150 congregations to take pro-active steps to curb global warming in their houses of worship and homes.
Based in Des Moines, IIPL is now seeking its first full-time Executive Director to lead our educational outreach and advocacy for global warming solutions, to develop partnerships with utilities on energy efficiency goals, and to continue the expansion of our signature Cool Congregations initiative.
We are looking for a person of integrity who possesses a sense of urgency and calling to this work, who can inspire others to take action and assume productive roles in this growing movement. If you think you are also a good strategist and administrator, and want to create a unique and dynamic organization with strong membership services, please consider applying by the May 31st deadline.
IIPL is one of the offspring of The Regeneration Project, the national office of the Interfaith Power and Light affiliate network. There are 26 other state IPL programs.
Further website information on state IPLs and their parent organization can be found at www.theregenerationproject.org.
After two successful years with week-long sessions at Brew Creek Lodge, LYFE is moving down Valley to Squamish for the August long weekend. We have space this summer for 50 young adults from all faith and spiritual traditions to explore with us what Faith Communities and People of Spirit teach us about caring for the Earth we all share - and the practical ways we can take a lead and make a difference.
Friday Evening August 1st
We Welcome You with a Witness Ceremony by Youth From the Squamish and LIl'wat First Nations. Registration at the North Van Outdoor School begins at 7 pm on Friday August 1st. By 8:30 when all have arrived we plan for a special welcome to the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation. Youth from both the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations will welcome us in a Witness ceremony that begins the journey together for Leadership by Youth for Faith and the Earth.
We will also hear about Heartsong, a program that brings aboriginal and non-aborginal kids together around the beats of many drums in their school.
Saturday August 2nd
BRINGING LYFE TO FAITH
Through special presentations, dialogues, activities, music and celebrations we will experience the richness of the different faith traditions we represent. In Paradise Valley by the Mamquam River and high in the Garibaldi mountains we will lift up our voices in songs and prayers and celebrations. Alicia Cundall and Deanna Lewis who participated in the Interfaith Youth Core Conference in Chicago last fall will be the leaders for our day of Bringing LYFE to Faith.
Sunday August 3
BRINGING LYFE TO THE EARTH
The One Earth we share from our many worlds of Faith is threatened by climate change from greenhouse gas emission, by pollution and misuse of water, and over-consumption from those at the top leaving more than a billion at the bottom. On Sunday we will bring LYFE to the issues of climate change, water conservation and material over-consumption.
We will hear from and learn what actions people of faith around the world are doing to address problems that are threatening the Earth: Changing Climate, Wasted Water, Over Consumption. We will connect with them and with points of sacred activism on these three issues all over the world. Once identified we will create our own Google Map of Bringing LYFE to the Earth.
Monday August 4
BRINGING LYFE TO POWER
As we prepare for returning to our own places and communities, we will plan together LYFE Campaigns that will address the three EARTH issues we discussed and actions we mapped. We will work to commit to actions that we can all take to make a difference in BRINGING LYFE to POWER.
Recently, five scholars lectured on the potential and limitations of their religious traditions in addressing the environmental crisis. The lectures were followed by animated audience discussion and were held at Ascension Lutheran Church, S. Burlington, VT. Cosponsors included Vermont Interfaith Power and Light; Vermont Interfaith Action; ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain; Burlington Area Ministerial Association; and Ascension Lutheran Church. By May 18, all the lectures will be permanently available on www.retn.org, at "Greening Our Religions" in Program Library. Ascension Lutheran Church was the series producer.
The available lectures and dates given were as follows:
Islam, Dr. Saleem Ali (April 6)
Christianity, the Rev. Nancy Wright (April 13)
Native American Traditions, Dr. Kenneth Mello April 20
Judaism, Dr. Rebecca Gould (April 27)
Buddhism, Dr. Stephanie Kaza (May 4).
Individual DVDs of each lecture are available for $20 from www.retn.org.
For more information, contact:
The Rev. Nancy Wright, M.Div., M.A.
Pastor, Ascension Lutheran Church
95 Allen Rd
S. Burlington, Vt 05403
St. Francis Sermon Contest
The contest is open to anyone and everyone who wants to submit a sermon, homily, or message of faith in action related to care for God’s creation! Three finalists each will be selected in lay and clergy categories to give their sermons at Earth Ministry’s Celebration of St. Francis in October. See below for full contest rules and fabulous prizes. And get ready to rumble...enter today!
Entries will be accepted from anywhere within the United States; however, transportation will not be provided for contest finalists. Feel free to nominate other people! Contestants must be members of Earth Ministry. If you would like to enter but are not a member of Earth Ministry, membership starts at $35 and you may submit a check with your entry or join online through our secure website. Finalists will be notified by August 15th, 2008.
Sermons will be initially screened by a panel of clergy and lay judges and narrowed to six finalists, three in the clergy category and three in the lay category. Winners in each category will be chosen by a popular vote of those attending the St. Francis Sermon Smack-Down on October 4th. Attendees will vote for the top sermon in the lay category by paper ballot. Attendees will choose the top sermon in the clergy category by voting with their dollars, a donation that will support the work and mission of Earth Ministry.
All finalists will receive a copy of the book Earth Prayers, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon. The winner in the clergy category will receive a creation-themed stole. The winner in the lay category is invited to preach his or her sermon at Plymouth UCC, a 1,000 member church in downtown Seattle, the following morning (Sunday, October 5). Winning sermons in both categories will be published in the Winter 2009 issue of Earth Letter.
If your institution does not currently subscribe, please send an order request to your library with the following link: (http://www.brill.nl/wo). You will also find the current table of contents and information on individual subscriptions through that link. We hope that you will take part in the life of this journal!
Due to the growing length of the newsletter, I am only going to insert here the links to calls for papers and other upcoming events. I invite you to visit the Forum web-site for this updated information.
Other Professional Organizations: http://fore.research.yale.edu/education/professionaldevelopment/groups.html.
Upcoming Events: http://fore.research.yale.edu/calendar/.