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September 2008

The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
2.9 (September 2008)

Contents:

1. Introduction by Sam Mickey and Elizabeth McAnally

2. Report from Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim 

3. From the Field: Sarah Fredericks 

4. Focus on the Web: Events (http://fore.research.yale.edu/events/index.html)

5. New Guidebooks Related to Climate Change 

6. Blog: Green Muslims in Washington, D.C.  

7. Conference Announcements  

8. Calls for Papers 

9. Job Announcements 

10. Worldviews and Other Journals




1. Introduction by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally


Dear Forum Colleagues,

 

We hope you all are flourishing.  This edition of the Forum newsletter contains a lot of exciting information about religion and ecology, including a report from Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim.  We have invited Sarah Fredericks (professor of philosophy and religion studies at the University of North Texas) to share with us her interdisciplinary and collaborative experiences from the field of religion and ecology, in which she works with questions of environmental justice while exploring some ways that environmental indicators of energy use intertwine environmental ethics, religion, science, and environmental policy.  Also in this newsletter, and in each newsletter, we provide you with access to information about multiple efforts in religion and ecology, including current information related to conferences, books, journals, job opportunities, internet resources, and more.  By keeping you informed about these and other efforts when they are publicized or announced, our aim is to make it possible for you to learn more about them or to participate in them as individuals and as communities, professional organizations, and religious institutions.

 

Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally

Forum on Religion and Ecology

Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors

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2. Report from Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim

Dear Colleagues,

We hope you have had a restorative summer and that this new autumn season will be a productive one for your work.

We wanted to share with you information on a conference that will be held from October 5-14, 2008 in Barcelona that is of great interest to the Forum on Religion and Ecology. This is the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the largest body of environmentalists in the world.  http://www.iucn.org/news_events/events/congress/index.cfm  Over 8,000 people will attend this conference and for the first time it will feature several panels on religion and ecology. There will also be panels on the Earth Charter, in large measure because the IUCN endorsed the Charter several years ago at their meeting in Bangkok. The Newsletter highlights the panel where the Forum will be represented.

We also wanted to let you know about two international conferences that took place this summer in which religion and ecology was part of the discussions along with the Earth Charter.


The first was in Sweden from June 26-28 2008 and was organized by the Tallberg Forum led by Bo Ekman.  http://www.tallbergforum.org/  The title was: "How on Earth can we live together? In search of the common sense". The Tallberg Forum gathered thinkers and leaders from 70 nations for discussions related to the challenges of global interdependence. It began with a workshop exploring scientific and moral boundary conditions for sustainability. Here the Forum on Religion and Ecology's work was highlighted along with the Earth Charter. Some of the questions explored in the following days were: Can we design, govern and manage the sustainable interaction between natural systems and the systems of human activity? Can we negotiate among ourselves the resolution of the planetary crisis? Can we find better ways to integrate the work of governments and institutions with the actions of other actors from civil society, business, or technology when tackling sustainability? It generated many concrete ideas and proposals for policy and strategy and ended with a superb talk by Kofi Annan along with his playing of conga drums!

The second conference was at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris from September 3-5, 2008. It was organized to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  www.un.org/dpi/ngosection/conference/home/shtml 

There were over 1300 participants, many from various religious groups. The aim of the conference was to highlight effective ways in which civil society can contribute to the advancement of human rights at the international, regional, national, and local levels. One of the important dimensions of the conference was the acknowledgement that environmental rights need to be included in discussions of human rights. This referred to both rights of nature and rights of humans to be protected from the harmful effects of polluting water, air, soil and ecosystems. Environmental justice issues were frequently cited. To highlight this approach, there was a panel which featured the Earth Charter as a declaration not just of independence and rights for humans, but as a Charter which features interdependence with and responsibility toward nature, other species, and future generations. For a further report on this panel see www.earthcharter.org.

It is encouraging to see in all of these conferences the expansion of care and concern for the larger Earth community. 

With all good wishes,

Mary Evelyn Tucker & John Grim


 

3. From the Field: Sarah Fredericks

First, I would like to thank Sam Mickey and Elizabeth McAnally for their invitation to write about my research for the newsletter. I’ve appreciated the work of the Forum in the past, look forward to its future activities, and am delighted to be a part of it this month.

Over the past few years as I’ve met fellow scholars at conferences and job interviews, those outside of “religion and ecology” often ask me why I study religion and environmental ethics. While this question might not be quite so common among readers of the Forum, I think my answer to it is a good way to introduce my work.

I came to the world of “religion and ecology” through a PhD program in science, philosophy, and religion at Boston University. While I greatly enjoy the theoretical and historical side of studies in science and religion, I recognized that connecting theory to everyday, practical problems was my main interest. So, to make a long story short, I began to focus on religious environmental ethics, and centered on the ethics of energy use. Religious environmental ethics is particularly appealing to me because religions form the moral basis of many, if not most, people’s worldviews, and I want my work to be easily connectible to popular methods of thought. Additionally, religious ethics have more resources to deal with the limits of human knowledge, despair, guilt, and hope than most contemporary philosophical ethics. I also fit into the “religion and ecology” tent because I think that ethics a nd the sciences need to continually be in conversation with each other to be able to respond to contemporary challenges including human relationships with the environment.

I modeled this interconnection of disciplines in my dissertation where I identified principles of environmental ethics; used them to critique indexes of sustainable energy development, tools used to assess the sustainability of a country’s energy use; and refined the principles based on this test case.

My principles included responsibility, justice, careful use of resources, feasibility, farsightedness, and an adequate assessment of the situation. These principles were drawn from the ethics embedded in Agenda 21, and the work of James A. Nash, who works from a modified natural law tradition; that of Othman Abd-ar-Rahman Llewellyn, a scholar of Islamic law; and that of Richard Sylvan and David Bennett who try to reform deep ecology. I intend that these principles can enable communication between diverse worldviews about environmental ethics even as each participant in the conversation speaks from the specifics of his or her own tradition.

Indicators condense lots of information about a complex phenomenon into easy to understand graphs or single numbers. Most of you are probably familiar with the UV indicator, published in many newspapers, that indicates the danger of getting sunburned on that day according to a twelve-point scale rather than forcing readers to figure out the danger from masses of atmospheric data. Similarly, sustainable energy indicators assess the sustainability of a country’s energy use, typically according to social, environmental, and economic factors. Unlike the UV index, however, sustainable energy indicators often rely on graphical outputs rather than single numbers so that trade-offs between social, economic, and environmental sustainability can be tracked.  In addition to monitoring the effects of a nation’s energy use, indicators can also help assess the effectiveness of particular energy policies.

My ethical analysis of these indicators showed that while the indicators generally do promote the careful and responsible use of energy with some farsightedness about energy policy, they do not register disparities in access to the benefits and burdens of energy use within populations. In other words, the indicators do not focus on justice. Given the widespread prioritization of aid to the poor and powerless in religious ethics, this neglect of justice in energy indicators is a problem.

This observation and the knowledge that minority populations are those with the least access to high-quality energy yet bear much of the burden of energy use has led me to several new research questions in ethics and the sciences of index development: How can ethicists who are not part of minority groups aid environmental justice movements? How will focusing on environmental justice shape Christian environmental ethics? I predict that focusing on environmental justice will help ethicists overcome the “humans against the environment” type of thinking where either jobs or endangered species are prioritized. Instead, I think that emphasizing environmental justice will help us recognize that the environment and humans are currently suffering from the way we are treating the environment and thus need to be helped together. I also think that recognizing the problems of environmental justice will pu sh environmental ethicists to emphasize social change over individual lifestyle changes. 

Prioritizing societal reform leads to additional questions: How can policies and indicators that evaluate policies reflect our priority of justice? How can highly localized environmental justice movements and national environmental policy be linked? How can the expertise of ethicists, social and natural scientists, policy-makers and community members be utilized together? How can scientific knowledge about risk and the state of environments be used by ethicists and community leaders when this knowledge is uncertain, incomplete, and continually changing? What sources of hope do communities have in the face of widespread environmental destruction and injustice.

These are some of the questions that I am exploring or hope to study in the near future. Quite obviously, such research questions require collaboration with academics in a variety of fields, as well as governmental, community and industry leaders. As I just started a new job in a new part of the country, I’m still definitely in the midst of making these connections and envisioning my new research. I already have some fantastic leads and am thrilled to be in the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies at the University of North Texas as it highly supports and encourages such interdisciplinary, collaborative research. 

Sarah Fredericks

University of North Texas

Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies

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4. Focus on the Web: Events (http://fore.research.yale.edu/calendar/)

2009 is just a few months away. While you’re planning your engagements for the upcoming year and for the remainder of this year, be sure to visit the recently updated Events section of the Forum on Religion and Ecology website. 

You can find information about past, present, and future events related to religion and ecology at http://fore.research.yale.edu/calendar/.

Feel free to send information to us at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) regarding coming events so that we can include them on the website.




5. New Guidebooks Related to Climate Change

We would like to announce two recent publications, which can function as guidebooks for engagements with religion and ecology.

The first publication is a “Green Guide for Muslims,” a 20-page booklet published by Lifemakers UK in conjunction with the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES). This guide provides practical means for Muslim households to mitigate climate change in their everyday decisions (e.g., food, water, transportation, energy, etc.), and it includes a helpful checklist so that each household can see how “green” it is. For more information regarding the Green Guide, e-mail IFEES at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or visit the website at http://www.ifees.org.uk.

The second publication is Don’t Stop at the Lights, published by Church House Publishing. This book is a guide from the Church of England, which aims to prepare clergy for leading congregations through the challenges of climate change. This user-friendly guide includes discussion of biblical texts, theological themes, environmental policy, inspiring case studies, and suggestions for practical responses. The guide also includes a list of contacts that could be helpful for creating a greener church. More information about this book can be found at the website of The Church of England (http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr6508.html). Copies of the book can be obtained through mail order or via the internet at Church House Publishing (http://www.chpublishing.co.uk).





 

6. Blog: Green Muslims in Washington, D.C.

We would like to inform you of an interesting web-log ("blog") about a network of Muslims in the District of Columbia (and surrounding areas) who are working proactively to help our communities understand and implement sustainable and eco-conscious ways of living while relating it to faith and a holistic world-view.

For more information, see: http://dcgreenmuslims.blogspot.com.





7. Conference Announcements

 

We would like to inform you of five upcoming conferences:

1. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress

2. "Eco-Cities of the Mediterranean"

3. “Toward an Ecological Civilization”: China Project/International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) Conference

4. "Globalization: the Challenge to America": Eighth Annual Conference for Globalization for the Common Good: An Interfaith Perspective

5. "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)


1. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress
Barcelona, Spain
October 5-14, 2008
"Spirituality and Conservation Sustainability Dialogue" with Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim on October 9, 2008, 9:30-11:00am
For More Information, visit: http://www.iucn.org/

2. "Eco-Cities of the Mediterranean"

October 18-20, 2008

Kempinski Hotel, Ishtar, Dead Sea, Jordan
For More Information, visit: http://www.eco-cities.net/

 
3. “Toward an Ecological Civilization”: China Project/International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) Conference
Claremont Graduate University and Pitzer College, Claremont, CA, USA
October 24-26, 2008

October 24, 2008, 8:00 p.m.
Albrecht Auditorium, Claremont Graduate University
Keynote Address: Mary Evelyn Tucker, "How Reclaiming Confucianism Can Contribute to the Development of an Ecological Civilization"

October 25, 2008, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. & 2:00 - 5:30 p.m.
Founders' room, McConnell Center, Pitzer College
Dean Freudenberger, "Postmodern Agriculture and Creating and Ecology Civilization"
John B. Cobb, Jr., "The Form of an Ecological Civilization"
Reception & dinner, 6:00 p.m., Haddon Conference Room

October 26, 2008, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Founders' room, McConnell Center, Pitzer College
Clifford Cobb, "The Philosophical Basis of an Ecological Civilization"

Conference is free and open to the public. Fees apply for the annual dinner.
For More Information, call (909) 450-1658 or email (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

4. "Globalization: the Challenge to America"

Eighth Annual Conference for Globalization for the Common Good: An Interfaith Perspective

May 31–June 4, 2009

Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, USA

For the Call for Presentations and for further details, visit: http://www.gcgi.info/. 

5. "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
Proposal deadline for papers, panels, roundtables, workshops, etc.: November 15, 2008

For More information, visit: http://asle.uvic.ca.  





8. Calls for Papers

There are two calls for papers that we would like to inform you about.

A call for papers has been issued by The Islamic Perspective Journal. The first issue of this new journal will focus on Islam and environmental crisis. For more information, contact: Seyed Javad, (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

 

 
A call for papers has also been issued by the Political Religion Section of the online journal Religion Compass (http://www.blackwell-compass.com). This call for papers deals with subjects at the intersection of religion, environment, and politics-governance.  The subjects of proposed papers must include elements of religion, environment, and politics-governance analyzed from the perspective of political religions, and focusing on subjects such as contemporary ‘green’ utopias and movements, green religions, green fascisms, green anarchisms, and similar subjects. Approved manuscripts will be about 5,000 words in length. Ideally, 2/3 of the article should be a clear survey of the most recent literature, with the final third allowing th e author to weigh in with their own personal 'voice'.  This latter section allows the author(s) to outline how their own research fits into the picture, and suggest trajectories for future work in the area.  Articles can survey broad, foundational areas of religious studies or can be purely 'state of the field', focusing more on current debates. Send a 500 word proposal for your paper to Roger Griffin ((JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).  Make sure your proposal carries your name(s) as it will appear on the manuscript, your affiliation(s), and clearly states the subject of your proposed paper in a manner that places it in political religion, as described above.




 

9. Job Announcements

We are happy to announce three job opportunities that may be of interest to Forum members.

The Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College is seeking a “Professor of Environmental Studies” (full-time, tenure-track). Applications will be accepted until October 23, 2008 or until position is filled. For position details and application information, please visit: http://www.oberlin.edu/HR/FACopenings/FAC09-03.html.


The Department of Environmental Science at Baylor University is seeking a “Lecturer in Environmental Science/Studies” (permanent 10-month). Applications will be reviewed beginning October 3, 2008 and will be accepted until the position is filled. To ensure full consideration, complete applications must be submitted by October 20, 2008. For position details and application information, please visit: http://www.baylor.edu/hr_services/index.php?id=50814.

California Interfaith Power & Light (www.interfaithpower.org) is seeking a “California Outreach Coordinator” (Half or Full Time). Applications, including a resume and a cover letter, should be sent in by October 1, 2008. To apply or to request more information, please contact: (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


 

 

10. 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).