The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
3.5 (May 2009)
1. Editorial by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
2. From the Field: “The Eco-Footprint of War,” by Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss
3. Sustainability at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting
5. Calls for Papers
6. New Books
7. Environmentalism Article by Steven F. Hayward in the Claremont Review of Books
8. Harvard Summer Course with Paul F. Waldau on "Religion and Animals"
9. Workshop on Religion in Climate Change
10. "2009" Earth Plunge" Retreat at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice
11. Message from Dan Spencer on "Greening Religion: Pedagogy, Religion, and Ecology"
12. Worldviews and Other Journals
Welcome to the May issue of the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology. We have a lot of exciting information to share with you this month. We have asked Reverend Amanda Hendler-Voss to write a short piece related to a theological response to war, particularly in light of the ecological footprint of war, which involves devastating effects on the natural environment and its human and nonhuman inhabitants. In this context, a theological response is a matter of changing ideas and beliefs to account for the ecological implications of war and militarism, and it is also a matter of changing the practices of individuals and communities, supporting active engagements in efforts to build a more peaceful and sustainable world.
In other words, a religious response to the ecological footprint of war calls for a transformation of practices and behaviors as well as a transformation of the ideas and beliefs that compose one’s religious worldview. Indeed, much of the work done in the field of religion and ecology points to this mutually constitutive relationship between worldviews and practical engagements with the world. Transforming one’s worldview facilitates a transformation of practices, and vice versa.
Another example of the mutual influence between worldviews and practices can be found in a recent letter signed by four Episcopal bishops from dioceses in the northwestern United States. In this letter, the bishops urge people to avoid buying bottled water. They encourage delegates to drink out of reusable bottles and not to bring bottled water to the upcoming General Convention to be held in Anaheim, California. (For an overview of the letter, see this blog post by Joel Connelly: http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/archives/167949.asp.)
These efforts to transform the daily practice of drinking and transporting water reflect the shift that has been taking place in the Episcopal Church toward a more ecological worldview, a worldview that emphasizes the role of humans as “faithful stewards of God’s creation.” Furthermore, this religious response to water issues is part of larger initiatives of the Episcopal Church to develop a religious response to climate change, including the Genesis Covenant (http://genesis.eds.edu/), which proposes to cut the carbon emissions of the facilities run by the Church in half in the next ten years. Accordingly, the bishops draw a connection between the carbon footprint of bottled water use and the challenges of responding to climate change and making a transition to “clean, safe, and renewable energy.”
The letter from the Episcopal bishops indicates that religious responses to water issues are not limited to efforts to recover water symbols, but also involve concrete actions and engagements with the natural environment, including everyday practices like drinking out of reusable containers instead of drinking bottled water. Also, it is important to note that religious responses to water issues can be found not only in the efforts of Episcopalians or other Christians, but also in many other religious traditions throughout the world. For example, in Troubled Waters: Religion, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), Gary Chamberlain discusses many ways in which the religious meanings embedded in Eastern, Western, and indigenous traditions contribute to ethical responses to contemporary water issues, including pollution, over-consumption, privatization, and the uncertain effects of climate change on the water cycle. Along with Rev. Hendler-Voss’ response to war and the Episcopal bishops’ response to bottled water, Chamberlain’s work shows how worldviews and practices converge in religious responses to environmental issues. It is our hope that this newsletter is of help in your own endeavors to work with the convergence of worldviews and practices in the field of religion and ecology.
Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
California Institute of Integral Studies
Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale
Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors
And God said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood
is crying out to me from the ground!" – Genesis 4:10
After hearing the story of Cain and Abel for nearly three decades, an essay by eco-theologian Gunther Wittenberg introduced me to a character lurking between the lines—one rendered silent for too many years.(1) I should have known better. A close reading of the opening chapter of Genesis suggests that the Earth was, in fact, a co-creator with God—a sacred midwife of sorts, assisting in calling forth life. It’s no wonder the first act of murder recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures ruptures the relationship between humanity and the Earth. When Cain kills his brother, the Earth’s open mouth chokes on the blood and cries out in protest to God. The consequence of Cain’s violent act is estrangement—from family, God, and Earth.
Today’s bloodshed equally debilitates our relationship with the Earth. In fact, war levels a triple impact on the environment— first, with the manufacture of weapons, which burns fossil fuels; second, through their transport and use; and finally, through rebuilding destroyed infrastructure. Resources that could curb climate change are instead eaten up by the war machine. With destruction as its primary purpose and the Pentagon as the largest world consumer of oil, war sets the table for environmental degradation.(2) Bombing campaigns and active combat scar the land and all that lives off of it. But they also require the rebuilding of all that’s been destroyed—a binge of development that emits yet more carbon into our atmosphere.
And then there are nuclear weapons. On the island of Runit, the concrete cap covering 85,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste is cracking and crumbling.(3) Yet the plutonium stored underneath this saucer-like dome—the dregs of 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands—will remain toxic for another 24,000 years.
Lemeyo Abon doesn’t have quite as many years left. She was just a child when “Bravo” exploded on the Bikini atoll. Surprisingly, “Bravo” became the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated by the U.S. when scientists grossly underestimated its size, missing an important fusion reaction.(4) The blast gouged a mile-wide wound in the reef. While the indigenous people of the Bikini atoll were evacuated, Lemeyo’s community—located on Rongelap atoll less than 100 miles downwind—were not evacuated for two days. When a mysterious, radioactive ash showered the island, the children played in it.(5) Toxic levels seeped into organs and bones, and Lemeyo’s father succumbed to a painful death by way of stomach cancer. Her body bears the scars of battling thyroid cancer. Three years after the atomic tests, the U.S. government resettled Lemeyo and her fellow islanders, mistakenly telling them the land was safe. They continued to live close to the Earth, eating the island’s fruits and fishing in surrounding waters. But the land was not safe, and in 1985, after pleas for help to the U.S. government fell on deaf ears, Greenpeace International conducted “Operation Exodus,” evacuating the entire population to safer land.(6) Lemeyo still lives in exile. The sacred relationship shared between her indigenous community and their land was violated in the act of nuclear weapons testing.
Eco-feminist theology names the stubborn link between the violation of women’s bodies and the violation of God’s bodies (the Earth and the beloved community). Devaluation of the bodies of women and God has historically included desecration of these bodies through violence. War offers a particular lens through which we observe the tie that binds violence against women to violence against the Earth, both of which emerge from the brokenness of God’s people.
The violation of land, women, and the spirit of a people are all integral to the objectives of war. Eco-feminist theology, however, moves beyond the common victimization of women’s bodies and God’s bodies to claim them as a locus for healing and change. “The global reality of violence against women is that women are not only victims, but also astute, creative and successful actors in responding nonviolently to it.”(7)
The Earth, too, was created with the capacity to heal itself. In fact, some scholars liken global warming to a fever, which causes “an unbearable environment for some pathogens” in order to heal the body.(8) Kurt Vonnegut has compared human behavior to a virus, and he contends, “I think that the Earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us.”(9)
In Genesis 4, Cain poignantly laments the empty alienation from the Earth that renders him a vagrant and a wanderer. He cries, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” We too know that living in estrangement from the Earth is akin to death. And while our personal lifestyles—particularly as Westerners—leave a heavy imprint on the Earth, our insatiable appetite for war contributes far more to the desecration of God’s created world. We cannot change our present course without altering structures, like excessive defense spending and militarism as a solution to international conflict, that demand our mass consumption of fossil fuel and degrade the Earth.
As people of faith, we believe God calls us to be in right relationship with all of creation. The good news is that the work of peacemaking lightens our load on the planet. To live in mutual harmony with the Earth and with one another is a gift that bears much fruit, so let’s raise our voices and put our hands to work building a peaceful world.
1. Gunther Wittenberg, “Alienation and ‘Emancipation’ from the Earth: The Earth Story in Genesis 4,” The Earth Story in Genesis, eds. Norman Habel and Shirley Wurst (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000).
2. Don Fitz, “What’s Possible in the Military Sector?” 30 April 2007. http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/15537
3. “Marshall Islands: Long-lived Legacy, Short-lived Promises.” 18 August 2008. http://weblog.greenpeace.org/nuclear-reaction/2008/08/marshall_islands_longlived_leg.html
4. “The ‘Bravo’ Test.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/peopleevents/pandeAMEX51.html
5. “Nuclear Testing Survivor – Ms Lemeyo Abon – Speaks Out.” 27 April 2006. http://annegoddard.blogspot.com/2006/05/nuclear-testing-survivor-ms-lemeyo.html
6. “The Evacuation of Rongelap.” http://www.greenpeace.org/international/rainbow-warrior-bombing/the-evacuation-of-rongelap#
8. “Fever,” Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 9 September 2007, www.wikipedia.org.
We would like to inform you of two sustainability events at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), taking place in Montréal, Quebec on November 7-10, 2009. These events include the Renewable Energy Special Topics Forum and the Teaching Workshop on Sustainability.
Renewable Energy Special Topics Forum
“To Sustain and Renew: AAR, Native Energy, and Building Supportive Partnerships Between Academia and First Nations/First Peoples”
Presenters: Marilyn Notah Verney, Timothy Leduc, and Patrick Spears
Tentative Schedule: Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009
This year, the Sustainability Task Force inaugurates the AAR’s newest innovative environmental initiative. Beginning with the Montreal meeting, the American Academy of Religion has linked its on-line registration process to NativeEnergy to encourage the thousands attending our annual meeting to offset their production of carbon dioxide emissions (“Greenhouse gases”) generated by travel. Through its third party verified and certified Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and offsets, NativeEnergy helps to build Native American, farmer-owned, community based renewable energy projects that create social, economic, and environmental benefits. This Special Topics Forum is essentially a working session to discuss ways that the AAR and the broader realm of Academia can take a greater role in supporting environmental sustainability efforts, while helping to support and sustain native cultures in the process. President of Tribal Wind, Patrick Spears (of the Lakota Nation), who also represents NativeEnergy, will discuss how RECs and offsets work and the kind of tribal renewable energy projects their RECs support.
Teaching Workshop on Sustainability
“Teaching Religious Studies in an Age of Global Warming: Transforming Ourselves, Our Students and Our Universities”
Presenters: Roger S. Gottlieb and Stephanie Kaza
Schedule: Friday, Nov. 6, 2009, 1-5 p.m.
Teaching the environmental crisis poses unique challenges and opportunities for higher education. The scope and extent of the threat demands that faculty inform themselves about a host of practical, theological, moral, historical and political concerns that probably were not part of their original scholarly field. At the same time, the encompassing nature of the threat touches all of our lives. Faculty, like students, experience fear, grief, and despair as we face the vanishing species, changed weather, and polluted waters of our planet. Yet the very universality and severity of the environmental crisis also provides a unique opportunity to make our teaching intensely relevant to the world outside the classroom, and to experience the deep satisfaction of offering teaching that is personally, morally and politically important.
This workshop will explore these challenges and opportunities, giving participants the chance to examine their own responses to the environmental crisis, to engage with faculty concerning teaching resources, sample syllabi and course modules, instructional themes, and ways to connect with other academic departments and the wider campus sustainability movement. Material will be provided to support the development of “Religion and Environment” courses, and integration of environmental themes into courses such as “Introduction to Religious Studies,” “Social Ethics,” “Religion and Politics” or studies of particular religions. We will take up relevant theological issues, moral problems, the role of religious environmentalism in relation to other social movements, and engaged teaching techniques designed to (re)connect students to these cruci al moral issues and their meaning for life on earth.
"Island Time: The Fate of Place in a Wired, Warming World"
Eighth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE)
University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
June 3-6, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://asle.uvic.ca/
Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture
Bath Royal Scientific and Literary Institution
16-19 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN, UK
June 6-7, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.lamp.ac.uk/sophia/events/
"Elemental Faith: Earth, Air, Fire, Water"
Annual Atlantic Seminar in Theological Education
Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada
June 7-12, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://astes.ca/
“The Dynamics of Culture and Environment in Asia”
43rd Annual Conference of Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast (ASPAC)
Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, CA, USA
June 19-21, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://aspac09.soka.edu
“Cosmology of Convergence: Toward a More Mutually Enhancing World”
Summer Institute at Sophia Center in Culture & Spirituality
Holy Names University, Oakland, CA, USA
July 16-19, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.hnu.edu/sophia/
Journal of Animal Ethics
The new multidisciplinary and international Journal of Animal Ethics will be published in 2010 by the University of Illinois Press in partnership with the Ferrater Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. This will be a journal of inquiry, argument, and exchange dedicated to exploring the moral dimension of our relations with animals. Its aim is to put animals on the intellectual agenda and to stimulate discussion within academic and professional institutions. It will be multidisciplinary in nature and international in scope, as well as peer-reviewed. It will cover theoretical and applied aspects of animal ethics -- of interest to academics from the humanities and the sciences, as well as professionals working in the field of animal protection. The Journal will comprise: full-length scholarly articles, shorter articles, "Argument" pieces in which author s will advance a particular perspective (usually related to current affairs) or respond to a previous article, review or research report, as well as review articles and reviews. The Editors will be Professors Andrew Linzey and Priscilla N. Cohn, who are looking for articles (3-5,000 words), "Argument" pieces (1-2,000 words), reviews and review articles that have relevance to the ethics of our treatment of animals. Guidance for authors will shortly appear on the Centre's website: www.oxfordanimalethics.com
Special issues of the journal include: "Waste, Garbage and Filth: Social and Cultural Perspectives on Recycling;" "Sustainable Water Management;" "Environmental Sustainability and the Built Environment;" "Land Use and Sustainability;" "Renewable Energy and Sustainability;" and more. For more information, visit: http://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Earth under Fire: How Global Warming Is Changing the World
By Gary Braasch
University of California Press, 2009 (Updated Edition)
Earth under Fire is the most complete illustrated guide to the effects and implications of climate change now available. It offers an upbeat and intelligent account of how we can lessen the effects of our near-total dependence on fossil fuels using technologies and energy sources already available. A thorough updating and a new preface for the paperback edition bring the compelling facts about climate change up to the beginning of the new U.S. administration. Award-winning photojournalist Gary Braasch brings to life, through vivid pictures and compelling narrative, his extraordinary 8-year journey around the world to document changes already underway to people, communities and ecosystems. Earth under Fire reveals the science behind climate change and the larger implications for business, governments, and societies. Contributors include Bill McKibben, Alton C. Byers, Sylvia A. Earle, Paul R. Epstein, Peter H. Gleick, Janica Lane, Thomas E. Lovejoy, Cristina G. Mittermeier, Jonathan Overpeck, Camille Parmesan, and Stephen H. Schneider.
Mongolian Buddhists Protecting Nature: A Handbook on Faiths, Environment and Development
By Chimedsengee, Cripps, Finlay, Verboom, Batchuluun, and Khunkhur
The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), 2009
Since 1990, Mongolia has seen a massive increase in the number of groups working in the environmental sector. There are groups helping to reduce pollution, address deforestation, bring in eco-tourism, save species and achieve many other things. However, surprisingly few of them have established direct relationships with one of the most historical, sizeable, and influential sectors of Mongolian society: the Buddhist sangha. This handbook is an attempt to address this. It is the first comprehensive guide to approaching and working with Buddhist communities in Mongolia, and it explains why this is an area of action and outreach which could, and should, be explored by environmental groups from both within and outside Mongolia. This handbook can be downloaded for free in English or in Mongolian at: http://www.arcworld.org/
A Reenchanted World: The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature
By James William Gibson
Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2009
For more than two centuries, Western cultures, as they became more industrialized, increasingly regarded the natural world as little more than a collection of useful raw materials. The folklore of powerful forest spirits and mountain demons was displaced by the practicalities of logging and strip mining. In the famous lament of Max Weber, our surroundings became “disenchanted,” and nature’s magic was swept away by secularization and rationalization. But over the last 35 years, Gibson argues, a new culture of enchantment has developed. As we grapple with increasingly dire environmental disasters, he points to this cultural shift as the last utopian dream, the final hope of protecting the world that all of us must live in.
We want to inform you about an article by Steven F. Hayward that appeared in the Winter 2008 issue of the Claremont Review of Books. This article, titled "All the Leaves are Brown," reviews the following books related to environmentalism: The World Without Us (by Alan Weisman); American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau (edited by Bill McKibben, foreword by Al Gore); How We Can Save the Planet: Preventing Global Climate Catastrophe (by Mayer Hillman, Tina Fawcett, and Sudhir Chella Rajan); The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy (by David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith); The Green State: Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty (by Robyn Eckersley); Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (by Matthew Connelly); Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility (by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger); Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet (by Seymour Garte); and Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can't Predict the Future (by Orrin H. Pilkey and Linda Pilkey-Jarvis).
To read this article, visit: http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1588/article_detail.asp
Paul F. Waldau is teaching a course this summer at Harvard University entitled "Religion and Animals." The course, which is part of Harvard Summer School, is open to the public and invites college, high school, and adult students to earn credit or seek enrichment. In this course, students trace the history and shape of this emerging academic field and its relation to other academic disciplines. Students also examine social, public policy, conceptual, environmental, ethical and philosophical implications of the field. Class sessions are discussion-based, and students undertake both group work and a number of individualized writing projects.
To view the course syllabus and more information, visit: http://www.summer.harvard.edu/
A workshop on religion in climate change, coordinated by the European Forum for the Study of Religion and the Environment (EFSRE) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), is planned to be held in Potsdam (near Berlin, Germany) from January 11-13, 2010.
For information about the workshop series, visit: http://www.hf.ntnu.no/relnateur/index.php?lenke=ridecc.php
“2009 Earth Plunge”
White Violet Center for Eco-Justice
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, USA
July 12-18, 2009
Immerse yourself into Earth to contemplate its impact on your own spirituality. In-depth presentations on the Universe Story, food issues, energy needs, water crisis and the critical question of what this all has to do with our own lives and faith.
There will be time to get your hands into the soil, help with the alpaca herd and meet our bees. Quiet time and time for prayer/ritual is key to this wonderful experience. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is blessed with acres of forest, cropland and gardens for you to explore. Come and let Earth touch your soul!
Cost: $600 includes room and board ($50 non-refundable deposit)
Registration deadline is June 26.
Colleagues in Religion and Ecology:
I am writing an essay on "Greening Religion: Pedagogy, Religion, and Ecology" for a special issue of the Ometeca Journal under the theme "Teaching for Ecological Sustainability in the Sciences and Humanities." The editors ask that I include the following areas:
-- The history of our discipline in relation to ecological sustainability. What are the key books, theories, debates, criticism, etc.? How has our discipline responded to ecocrisis? How should our discipline respond to ecocrisis? What does our discipline have to offer to the pursuit of ecological sustainability?
-- Pedagogical principles and practices. What principles and practices of ecological sustainability can be incorporated into our discipline? How have you changed your pedagogy in response to ecocrisis and the pursuit of ecological sustainability? How might your colleagues change their pedagogy? Feel free to use examples from specific courses.
-- Interdisciplinary connections. How might your discipline become more interdisciplinary? How might colleagues from differing disciplines utilize insights from your discipline in their pedagogy and courses?
-- An annotated bibliography of key texts (10-15).
The goal of this special issue is to provide readers with a compendium of insights and strategies for transforming particular disciplines, pedagogical practices, and our larger educational vision in regard to the pursuit of ecological sustainability.
If you have taught or published in the area of Religion and Ecology, and have thoughts on Pedagogy or any of the themes listed above, I would love to hear from you! Or if you have a course syllabus you would be willing to share with me, I would appreciate seeing how you approach your course. I am aiming for a July 1 date for a completed manuscript. Many thanks!
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology