The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
3.10 (October 2009)
1. Editorial, by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
2. Overview of the Thomas Berry Award and Memorial Service, by Tara C. Maguire
3. New Books by Thomas Berry
4. Thomas Berry Videos
5. WiseClimate 2009
7. Department Chair Position at the University of North Texas
8. Call for Papers: "Sustainability," Conference on Current Pagan Studies
9. From the Field: "Simplicity, Solidarity, Sustainability: Living a Life Grounded in Nonviolence," by Swasti Bhattacharyya
10. Worldviews and Other Journals
Welcome to the October issue of the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology. We are pleased to share a lot of interesting and exciting information with you this month, including information about new publications, events, job opportunities, and a short piece by Swasti Bhattacharyya about the importance of the Gandhian principle of nonviolence in the Brahma Vidya Mandir, an ashram for women.
We hope that the information in this newsletter, along with all of the efforts of the Forum, are of service to you in your own engagements with religion and ecology.
Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
California Institute of Integral Studies
The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale
Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors
On Saturday, September 26, one thousand people from points all around the globe gathered at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City to honor the memory and celebrate the life of Thomas Berry, author, professor, geologian, and respected elder of the religion and ecology movement.
The event began with the presentation of the Thomas Berry Award to Martin S. Kaplan, long-time supporter of the work of Thomas Berry and the fields of religion and ecology and interreligious dialogue. Mr. Kaplan gave the accompanying lecture and spoke of the vision of Thomas Berry and how we must all carry that vision into the future. The talk focused on climate change and was a strong appeal to political and religious leaders to respond to the findings of the IPCC report for the common good of present and future generations. In addition to Mr. Kaplan’s speech, remarks were given by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim of Yale University; Senator Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation; Ann Berry Somers of the University of North Carolina Greensboro; Stephen Dunn, CP, of the University of Toronto; Rick Clugston of the Earth Charter International Council; and Steven Rockefeller of Middlebury College.
Further detail on the Thomas Berry Award and the text of many of these speeches can be found at:
Following the award ceremony was the memorial service for Thomas Berry—a celebration of his life and a gesture of gratitude from all present for his Great Work. It began with a momentous procession including members of the Omega Dance Company, glorious banners by Ralph Lee and the Mettawee River Company, and accompanied by the music of Paul Winter on his hauntingly beautiful soprano saxophone and Tim Brumfield on the great Cathedral organ. Additional musical tributes were offered by Eugene Friesen on cello, Kathleen Deignan, Danny Martin and the entire congregation gathered in song.
The music, dance, and artistry combined to uplift the crowd and carry all gathered there out of those walls of stone, into communion with all members of the community of Earth.
Paul Winter himself reflected:
“it was a summit meeting of wisdom-keepers...all Thomas' children. I said to Jim Morton at the party: ‘the community that has emerged from this transformational oasis you created here, is itself a Cathedral.’ Ralph Lee's symbols-on-poles, and the Omega banners, worked brilliantly at the end, along with Tim's rapturous organ playing, and together it all seemed to spark that spontaneous and joyous recessional, the most celebrative I think I've ever seen for any event in the Cathedral. How Thomas would have loved that! And John's "whoop" was one of the great moments in the Cathedral's history, a prayer I'll long remember. It was truly an honor to take part in it.”
And in the words of another in attendance that day, Clare Hallward remarked:
“I felt shaken as by a mighty wind, love as fire. We were all caught up in that beautifully orchestrated dance of joy unleashed. The music rang forth in revelation, a song of praise carried on wings of sound, a dimension of feeling beyond thought, expressing the explosion of creative love that brought the universe into being, whirling the longings of our hearts for love and belonging up among the rafters and the very stars. Affording us a glimpse of what Thomas called the Grand Liturgy of the Universe. Words no longer suffice to convey the moment.”
In addition to the music and dance, memories and reflections were offered by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim of Yale University, Wangari Maathai of the Greenbelt Movement, Wm. Theodore de Bary of Columbia University, Brian Swimme of the California Institute of Integral Studies, and Sr. Miriam MacGillis of Genesis Farm, as well as a poem in Thomas Berry’s honor written and read by Brian Brown of Iona College. Stories both humorous and profound touched all present and gave a glimpse into both the humanity and the greatness of the man being remembered and honored there.
The text of selected tributes and reflections can be found at:
Lauren deBoer commented:
“Thomas represented an older, deeper, more primary source of wisdom, one we need so much today. He brought that out in people, gave expression to the unexpressed in so many of us, made us feel less alone, less alienated, perhaps a little less sorrowful and more hopeful about what we can do about the desecration of the planet…I am grateful for the healing vision Thomas has given, both for my own healing and for that of the larger culture. May it endure for generations to come.”
Filled with that spirit of hope and healing the dancers, streaming banners, and triumphant music gave a final farewell and exuberant gesture of gratitude for the life and work of Thomas Berry, and a renewed commitment to carry on his vision and in the words of Martin Kaplan, to “choreograph our way into the future by listening intently to the music and dance of the Earth, and of all the species that share Earth with us.”
And further details on Thomas Berry and the events described here can be found at:
Tara C. Maguire
The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale
3. New Books by Thomas Berry
The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the 21st Century
By Thomas Berry
Edited and with a foreword by Mary Evelyn Tucker
Columbia University Press, 2009
This series of essays represents a powerful commentary on some of the key issues facing religions in the 21st century. Ranging from the enduring problem of human alienation to future forms of religious experience the book covers a wide spectrum of religious issues. Thomas Berry, a leading scholar of the world’s religions, reveals his immense erudition and sympathetic spirit. Composed over some four decades, the essays illustrate Berry’s early understanding of the need for interreligious dialogue and the study of other religions. Berry’s prophetic insight regarding the rampant destruction of Earth’s ecosystems and extinction of species is evident. These essays illustrate his passionate concern for the fate of Earth and of future generations. They are a timely and urgent call for the world’s religions to respond to this growing ecological crisis.
Table of Contents:
Introduction by Mary Evelyn Tucker
1. Traditional Religion in the Modern World
2. Religion in the Global Human Community
4. Historical and Contemporary Spirituality
5. The Spirituality of the Earth
6. Religion in the Twenty-first Century
7. Religion in the Ecozoic Era
8. The Gaia Hypothesis: Its Religious Implications
9. The Cosmology of Religions
10. An Ecologically Sensitive Spirituality
11. The Universe as Divine Manifestation
12. The Sacred Universe
13. The World of Wonder
Christian Future and the Fate of Earth
By Thomas Berry
Edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
Orbis Books, 2009
Thomas Berry, a prophetic voice on the environmental crisis for many years, calls on Christians to respond to this global crisis with utmost urgency and with a unified sense of the sacred community of life. These essays represent the most comprehensive reflections of Thomas Berry on the role of Christianity in our times. Berry challenges Christians to respond to the growing environmental crisis. He asks boldly why Christians have not been more consistently concerned about the destruction of ecosystems, the loss of species, and the fate of future generations. In powerful and poetic language he presents a compelling vision of the sacredness of the universe and the interrelatedness of the Earth community. Drawing on Thomas Aquinas and Teilhard de Chardin he brings the Christian tradition into a cosmology of care for the whole of creation. There is no other Christian thinker who, over so many years, has raised such a prophetic voice regarding Earth's destruction and the need for human response. These essays are Berry’s signature statement on the interconnectedness of both Earth’s future and the Christian future. Berry calls for both Christian theology and liturgy to open up for reflection on this issue. He makes important correlations between some of his key ecological insights and Christian doctrine, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Christology. He observes that some ecological movements are emerging within Christian communities, especially among religious women. The epilogue is his signature statement on the comprehensive new role of the human in responding to the environmental challenge.
Table of Contents:
Introduction by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
Preface by John Cobb
1. Spiritual Traditions and the Human Community (1977)
2. Third Mediation (1982)
3. Catholic Church and the Religions of the World (1985)
4. Christian Cosmology (1985)
5. Christian Future and the Fate of the Earth
6. Task of the Church in the 21st Century (1995)
7. Christianity and Ecology (1997)
8. Women Religious: The Voice of the Earth (1994)
9. Wisdom of the Cross (1994)
10. Universe as Cosmic Liturgy (2000)
Epilogue: Reinventing the Human at the Species Level
Thomas Berry Speaks
Produced by Marty Ostrow
Fine Cut Productions, LLC, 2006
This DVD is a video interview with Thomas Berry, composed of two parts. The first part, “The Great Work” (11 mins), is an introduction to Berry, wherein he states his fundamental concerns for the planetary crisis, “the Great Work” that confronts us. The second part, “The Power of Story and The Capacity for Change” (15 mins), is Berry’s prescription to remedy our planetary crisis, in which he suggests that a new cultural story of the universe can provide hope and change. This video can be purchased at http://www.finecut.org/thomasberry.htm. A preview of this video can be seen at http://renewalproject.net.
Thomas Berry: The Great Story
Produced by Nancy Stetson and Penny Morrell
Bullfrog Films, 2002
The 49 minute film opens displaying the beauty of the natural world as Berry unfolds the story of creation. He sees his life work as waking us up to that sacred story. He calls us "mad" for the way we are despoiling our home, our planet, its beauty, and its living systems. He is a force that reminds us that we are living through the greatest extinction spasm of the past 65 million years. We are the ones responsible. Berry urges us to change our ways. At the heart of the film is Berry's experience of the universe as a cosmic liturgy. He reminds us that "we are not a collection of objects but a communion of subjects." His values are rooted in this sacred cosmology which includes the entire natural world. The mountains, rivers, birds, fish, all living organisms are not there for our use but for a union which is needed for us to become who we are. As Berry says, "I am not myself without everything else."
The DVD version of the film contains 47 minutes of additional interviews with Thomas Berry on The Great Work (History, Reinventing the Human, The Corporation), Universe (Spirit/Matter, Linear Time vs. Seasonal Time, Existence), and Art (Poems, Creative Disequilibrium), plus scene selection. This video can be purchased at http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/tbhv.html.
Thomas Berry and the Earth Community
Produced by Caroline Webb, 2006
This DVD contains a 7-minute musical slideshow using Thomas Berry's words (spoken in interview and written) about the human-Earth relationship. It also includes a 9-minute interview with Thomas Berry, conducted by Caroline Webb in February 2006. In this interview, Berry discusses how to form an appropriate relationship with nature, calling for a new jurisprudence, a new philosophical basis for our law and legal system such that all beings, and even ecosystems, are given legal standing in our courts. The interview and the slide-show may be previewed and purchased on http://www.Earth-Community.org.
More videos of Thomas Berry can be found at: http://fore.research.yale.edu/education/resources/videolist/video_2.html#thomas
The Gaiafield Center for Subtle Activism at California Institute of Integral Studies, in collaboration with Association for Global New Thought, Culture of Peace Initiative, Vessels of Peace, Zambuling Institute of Human Transformation, and many local groups around the world announce WiseClimate 2009, a “subtle activism” program to bring people from around the world together in meditation, prayer, and celebration to support a wise approach to global climate change.
In the fall and winter of 2009, the United Nations Climate Change conference will convene in Copenhagen, a key energy bill will be put before the US Congress, and other critical climate-change related events will occur. Join people all around the world in meditation, prayers, and celebration to support the highest and best outcomes emerging from these important forums in the fall of 2009.
WiseClimate begins in October with a series of teleconferences and audio webcasts involving “deep listening” subtle activism practices and featuring spiritual leaders from around the world. Participants will also have the option to be part of an “intentional learning community” that will involve more regular subtle activism practices in the context of a small group.
The highlight of the Program will be a Global Ceremony on Tuesday December 1 (Wednesday December 2 in some parts of the world) featuring a free webcast from Melbourne, Australia as part of the Association for Global New Thought Delegate Gathering on the eve of the Parliament of World Religions.
For More Information, visit: http://www.gaiafield.net
“Breaking Down Barriers”
Online, interdisciplinary conference
October 19-30, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.blackwell-compass.com/
“Environmental Stewardship in The Judeo-Christian Tradition”
Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST)
Our Lady of the Snows Conference Center
Belleville, Illinois 62223
October 23-25, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.faithscience.org/news.html
American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
November 7-10, 2009
For More Information, visit:
Associate or Full Professor and Chair
Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies
University of North Texas
The Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies invites applications for the position of department chair. The department chair teaches two courses per year. Rank and salary commensurate with experience and qualifications. Salary competitive.
Required qualifications: Ph. D. or terminal degree in philosophy, religious studies, or a related discipline. AOS: open. AOC: open.
Preferred qualifications: tenure; publication record; undergraduate and/or graduate teaching experience; administrative experience; record of receiving external grants; scholarly record of interest in or support of the department’s long-standing and continuing focus on the history of philosophy, environmental philosophy, and religion and ecology/nature, interdisciplinary research, and international collaboration.
The University of North Texas is located in Denton, Texas at the apex of the Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton Metroplex triangle, with a metropolitan population of 7 million people, the fourth largest in the US. The Metroplex is home to world-class cultural resources, such as the Nasher Sculpture Museum in Dallas, the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth and the Murchison Performing Arts Center in Denton. In 2009 UNT was ranked among the top ten “Up-and-Coming Public Universities” in the nation by US News and World Report and is designated an “Emerging Tier-1 Research Institution” by the Texas legislature. The university accommodates 36,000 students and is growing annually. Detailed information about UNT can be found at www.unt.edu
Closing date for applications: December 15, 2009. Review of applicants will continue until the search is closed.
All applicants must apply online at http://facultyjobs.unt.edu Please submit: CV; letter of interest; teaching evaluations, if applicable; and the names and email addresses of three references. More information may be subsequently requested. UNT is an AA/ADA/EOE.
6th Conference on Current Pagan Studies
Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, USA
January 30 & 31, 2010
Sustainability is becoming an extremely important word as we face dwindling fuel resources, water shortages, climate change and so on. We want to explore what sustainability means in practical terms. We are open to many areas of research in the field Pagan Studies. However, we are particularly looking for papers that explore Pagan theo/alogies, outlooks, artistic values, etc. and whether or not they can be helpful in saving our planet.
Remember that our definition of Pagan is very broad encompassing Wicca, witchcraft, earth-based religions and other permutations that have arisen from the current interest in Neo-paganism. We are reaching out to indigenous religions who might not see themselves under the rubric of pagan but who have a worldview of the Earth as being alive. We are also reaching out to those who understand that our vision of life affects the quality of that life.
For More Information, visit: http://paganconference.pashamusic.com/index.html
While a commitment to the earth, to living sustainably, does not have to coincide with a commitment to nonviolence, for many there is a deep connection between the two. Vinoba Bhave (a disciple, friend, confidant, and spiritual successor to M. K. Gandhi) once talked about nonviolence in the following manner: "Compassion for all creatures, gentleness, forgiveness, serenity, freedom from anger and malice—all these are different terms for non-violence. In fact all the virtues are contained in truth and non-violence; truth and nonviolence are the essence of all of them" (Vinoba, Talks on the Gita, p. 233). For Vinoba, truth and nonviolence are at the heart of all other commitments, including to one’s self, one’s community, and the world. Indeed, we see how this is lived out in the daily lives of the sisters of the Brahma Vidya Mandir, an ashram in Paunar, Maharasthra , which was established by Vinoba in 1959 for women.
Since 2006, I have been learning from the sisters of this community. They provide important examples of how we can live in this world responsibly. Their very lives challenge the assumption that living sustainably and working toward a peaceful world are just utopian ideals. It is a goal they, and I, believe is worth pursuing. Vinoba’s teachings set the context in which the sisters choose to live. Of the many things they do and practice, I highlight three and demonstrate how they interconnect with truth and nonviolence.
First, the sisters live a life of simplicity. The purpose for establishing this ashram was to provide women with the opportunity to pursue a life of spiritual development as a community. While a few members occasionally leave the ashram, most do not. Thus they are better able to control their surroundings, lessen their distractions, and focus their attention. They work as they are able, and they have a daily schedule that allows time for exercise of the body, mind, and soul. They share common spaces, bathe and wash their clothes with buckets, sleep on simple cots, and maintain the ashram. Their possessions are at a minimum; they understand and practice the difference between what one "needs" and what one "wants." This simple lifestyle is a conscious choice, not a result of circumstances. By keeping their needs and desires to a minimum, they are living out aspects of nonviolence. Their actions recognize that humans need to carefully consider their use of the earth’s resources.
Second, they live in solidarity with the poor. The tools with which they garden and farm are the ones utilized by the poor. While the ashram is in central India, where in the summer temperatures can reach above 45° Celsius, they choose not to have air-conditioners, refrigerators, or other appliances because these are not available to the local villagers. They hand spin the cotton, have it woven into material (khadi), and from this they sew their own clothes. They articulate how, by wearing khadi, they are circumventing the entire market economy that is suppressing and oppressing the most vulnerable within our global communities. Additionally, each member works 6.5 hours a day on projects that benefit community. When calculating their work, manual and intellectual labor are of equal value. For those sitting at a desk researching and writing would have nothing to eat if someone else was not cooking. By living in solidarity with the poor, the sisters consciously make choices that bring the least possible harm and again, make minimal demands upon natural resources.
Third, the sisters live as sustainably as they are able. As mentioned above, they wear only khadi. It is easy to see how this can lead to a greater appreciation of the value of cloth. When a piece of clothing is torn, they repair it; they do not throw it out and purchase a new item. They are 70-80% self-sufficient, growing a good portion of their food. They supplement what is needed by purchasing from local village famers. They operate a small dairy. This provides them with milk and cow dung. Through a low tech system, the cow dung is converted to gas that is used in the kitchen. Most do not travel extensively. They do not own a car, and they utilize public transportation when the need arises. Their chosen life style produces a minimal amount of trash and their carbon foot print, though present, is negligible.
From the three commitments discussed above, we can see how Vinoba’s understand of truth and nonviolence is being lived out in our contemporary world. According to Vinoba and the sisters of the Brahma Vidya Mandir, the truth is we do not live in isolation from others, even the poorest among us. The truth is we must acknowledge the limits of the natural resources and live accordingly. By choosing to do otherwise, we do violence to ourselves, others, and the earth itself. While some of the sisters might enjoy a good philosophical discussion regarding the effectiveness of their actions, most of them simply continue making choices to live simply, in solidarity with the poor, and as sustainably as possible. Their lives have inspired me in many ways, not the least of which is to be more conscious of the decisions I make, to consider what I really need verses what I might want, and to consider the costs of my decisions to others. For this, and all the other gifts I have received, I am grateful.
Associate Professor of Religion
Buena Vista University
Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology