The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
2.2 (February 2008)
1. The Enchantment, Dis-Enchantment, and Re-Enchantment of Nature by Whitney Bauman
2. From the Field: “Renewal,” by Terry Rockefeller and Marty Ostrow
3. “Renewing Hope: Pathways of Religious Environmentalism”
4. Focus on the Web: Publications
5. Excerpt from the Papal Address on the World Day of Peace: “The Family, the Human Community, and the Environment.”
6. Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
7. Links to Upcoming Events/Call for Papers
On January 17-20, 2008, a group of about 200 scholars met in Morelia, Mexico for the 2nd meeting of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture (ISSRNC). The theme was “The Enchantment, Disenchantment, and Re-Enchantment of Nature.” (For a full conference schedule, see: http://www.religionandnature.com/society/conferences.htm). As you might imagine, this theme drew a wide variety of interest from such fields as the performing arts, anthropology, religious studies, philosophy, ethics, and environmental studies. Panels were offered in both English and Spanish and several field trips around the area (including one to a Monarch Butterfly Refuge) rounded out the conference experience.
Among the questions raised over the course of the conference was the one of whether or not the sacredness or enchantment of nature is necessary for developing an environmental ethic and a “sustainable” vision of human-earth relations in general. Many panels addressed how indigenous views of nature shape the world in different ways vis. a vis. the Modern view of nature. Also, under this umbrella of this question, several panels addressed human-animal relations. Another question that surfaced several times in the conference was the question of technology and nature. Sessions ranged from those exploring indigenous and eastern versions of science to those that argued that even modern, western technologies are “part” of nature and a proper “view” of nature is only possible when human societies are thought back into “nature.” Emerging “spiritualities” of nature were also examined here. Questions of methodology and the epistemic location of the academician in the study of “religion and science” and “religion, nature, and culture” were also addressed. Finally, the conference presented opportunities for exploring some more specific topics such as: conservation, eco-tourism, and “green” nutrition.
These concurrent sessions were enhanced by four excellent keynote speakers by: Dr. David Carrasco, Harvard University; Dr. Victor Toledo, UNAM-Morelia, Mexico; Dr. Holmes Rolston III, Colorado State University; and Dr. Kocku von Stuckrad, University of Amserdam. Furthermore, conference goers were treated to entertainment by local indigenous dancers.
As with all good conferences of this nature, more questions were raised than answers given. However, the take-home message from my perspective is that the interaction between our visions and understandings of “non-human nature” and the referent of those visions is much more complex than meets the eye. It is impossible to separate out “nature” from “culture” and what is “natural” from what is “technological.” Though some at the conference would probably disagree with my assessment, I left thinking that it was much more important that we take responsibility for our actions and technologies rather than argue over which ones are natural. The latter argument leads ultimately to dead ends in dialogue and politics, while the former allows us to examine the ethical consequences of our imaginings and actions in the world. “Nature”, however conceived will be enchanted, or not, but this does not necessarily tell us what we ought to do about global climate change, for instance. More important, I think, is simply listening to the many voices of the world (both human and non) and deciding what type of world(s) we want to help co-create. Conferences such as the one in Morelia provide us with the opportunity to hear the voices of people from different parts of the world—as with the first meeting of the society, members came from many countries and continents—and also from those acting as spokespersons for the rest of the natural world. This open space for dialogue is so necessary for creative solutions to problems, especially in a world that demands a bottom line, a specific solution, or a plan of action.
I also hope this Newsletter serves as an open space for reflection. Below you will read about the new film “Renewal” that serves as a space for hearing this “religion and ecology” movement into speech (as Nelle Morton might have said). This new feature-length documentary captures the spirit of the “green faith” movement in the US. Following the “Renewal” article, you will read about the upcoming conference surrounding the film at Yale University, “Renewing Hope.” This conference is sponsored by the Forum on Religion and Ecology and will provided another “space” of dialogue and listening. The Newsletter ends with the usual “Focus on the Web,” and other news and events. As always, if you have something to add to the Newsletter, please do not hesitate in contacting me.
Forum on Religion and Ecology
2. From the Field: “Stories to Renew Us All”
Stories to Renew Us All
A new film on America’s religious-environmental movement
RENEWAL, a new feature-length documentary, is the first film to capture the breadth and vitality of today’s religious-environmental movement. From within their Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim traditions, Americans are becoming caretakers of the Earth. With great courage, these women and men are re-examining what it means to be human and how we live on this planet. Their stories of combating global warming and the devastation of mountaintop removal, of promoting food security, environmental justice, recycling, and land preservation, and of teaching love and respect for life on Earth are the heart of RENEWAL.
“Their faith made them green!" producer-director Marty Ostrow said, recalling the many people who inspired RENEWAL. “As we traveled the country researching our film, we encountered many exciting and inspiring people and initiatives. But perhaps, most moving of all, was the fact that so many people felt they were the only ones who were doing this work. In the absence of a well-defined, highly publicized movement with a name, they had shown up anyway to change how we live on the Earth. Ordinary citizens, motivated by their religious beliefs, were answering a spiritual call to honor the profound connections that human beings have with all other life and resources in the natural world.”
And so the producers’ research became a source of hope and inspiration for the people they met. “When we would tell people about others we met along the way, they were often surprised and always delighted to hear about this growing movement,” Marty explains. “It became our mission to make a film that would inform not only the people who are already doing this work, but all people in America and beyond, that religious-environmentalism is here!”
Terry Kay Rockefeller, the other producer-director on the RENEWAL team reflects, “America’s great movements for social transformation – abolition of slavery; promotion of civil rights and immigrant rights; anti-death penalty work; support for the poor and homeless – have all included the commitment of people of faith. Today’s religious-environmental movement is poised to have a significant impact, if communication among the committed is increased, if the voices of its activists are raised up, and if the movement’s achievements become more widely known. That really is our hope for the stories we tell in RENEWAL – that they will inspire concerted action to produce the changes our planet needs.”
While the 90-minute film is designed for screenings and broadcast, each of its stories can also stand alone. The eight stories in RENEWAL are:
A Crime Against Creation: Evangelicals bear witness to mountaintop removal and the destruction of Appalachia
Going Green: GreenFaith in New Jersey helps congregations take the first steps to environmental action
Food for Faith: Muslim tradition and charity forge bonds between urban communities and sustainable farms in Illinois
Ancient Roots: The Teva Learning Center and Adamah in Connecticut bring environmental education together with Jewish tradition
Compassion in Action: Green Sangha, a Buddhist community in northern California, leads a campaign to save trees
Eco-Justice: The Holy Spirit inspires a battle against industrial contamination in small town Mississippi
Sacred Celebration: Catholics and Native Americans embrace religious ritual in a struggle to protect New Mexico’s land and water
Interfaith Power and Light: Across America people of all faiths mount a religious response to global warming
Now is a particularly exciting moment for producer-directors Marty and Terry because finally after four years of research and production they have begun working with committed individuals and groups to use RENEWAL in their communities. The “Renewing Hope: Pathways of Religious Environmentalism” Conference at Yale University, February 29 – March 2, organized by the Forum on Religion and Ecology will provided an extraordinary opportunity to bring together activists with scholars from many different disciplines. This will be a perfect setting in which to discuss how to support the work that is so vitally needed to stem the tide of environmental devastation. And change is coming, the film producers believe, within American congregations, denominations, and interfaith councils, in seminaries and theological schools, and through partnerships of people of faith with civic organizations, NGOs, and international forums.
The RENEWAL producers are working with Active Voice http://www.activevoice.net/ to craft an engagement campaign that will maximize the impact of the documentary. Recently, they received $30,000 from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock to sponsor 50 organizations to test the documentary with their constituencies. These early, preview screenings are designed to identify the challenges people face in promoting sustained activism and sustainable change. The test organizations are being selected to comprise a balanced cross-section of religious and secular organizations, at the grass-roots, local, state, regional and national levels. They will include members of all the major religious traditions practiced in the US, clergy and laity, environmental activists, interfaith councils, civic organizations, religious institutions, government agencies, scholars, and theologians.
“We want to support people and organizations everywhere who are inspired by RENEWAL to engage in environmental action,” says Terry. She sees individuals and groups taking many different paths. “Some will organize as communities of faith. Secular organizations that need to broaden their base, may reach out to religious organizations. Individuals may find in RENEWAL’s stories the inspiration to finally commit to changing their patterns of consumption and behavior. And neighborhoods, towns and cities can build community across religious differences.”
This possibility for forging new partnerships underscores another powerful message in RENEWAL. “Today, when so many news headlines proclaim the ways that religions divide people, the heroes of our documentary really celebrate the potential for interfaith action to unify our communities and the world. From very different religious perspectives, the people we filmed are finding a common purpose in protecting the splendor of the natural world and in caring for life on our planet,” observes Terry. “The potential of the religious-environmental movement to bring us together, in order to reflect on how we live and to address environmental challenges is enormous,” adds Marty, “and absolutely critical at this moment.”
The RENEWAL engagement campaign is just beginning. DVD copies of the documentary will be available soon. People who are interested in learning more should visit www.renewalproject.net.
--By Terry Rockefeller and Marty Ostrow
3. Renewing Hope: Pathways of Religious Environmentalism
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FOR THE RENEWING HOPE CONFERENCE. PLEASE NOTE THAT RGISTRATION IS FULL. THE KEYNOTE TALKS AND PANELS WILL BE AVAILABLE ON THE INTENET.
“Yale Conference to Examine Religion and Ecology Alliance”
A major conference that will explore the emerging alliance of religion and ecology will be held at Yale University from February 28 to March 2.
The conference, “Renewing Hope: Pathways of Religious Environmentalism,” comes at a time of increasing awareness of climate change and for the need to address environmental challenges from within the religious traditions. Over the course of four days, scholars, theologians and other religious leaders will examine their traditions’ environmental ethics and practice. In addition, pressing issues related to water, climate change, energy and eco-design will be discussed with expert facilitators.
The conference is organized by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, co-directors of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale, and sponsored by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale Divinity School.
Sallie McFague of the Vancouver School of Theology, a leading thinker for many years on the subject of religion and the environment, will deliver the conference’s opening lecture, “A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming,” on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, 409 Prospect Street.
Another highlight of the conference is the premiere of Renewal, a film focusing on religious environmental work in several Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities. The screening will take place on Friday, Feb. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Sterling Divinity Quadrangle.
“This conference promises to underscore how much common ground exists between the faith and environmental communities,” said Yale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge. “These synergies have tremendous potential, and a conference like this is a small, but important, step toward realizing proper stewardship of God’s creation.”
The conference will culminate in a gala dinner featuring local and organic food. Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, will address conference participants and suggest that religious communities are key partners with scientific leaders in creating a sustainable future. “The religions have a key role to play in helping to moderate values and inspire action for environmental protection, restoration and renewal,” he said.
Plans are to provide live streaming of at least two of the conference sessions -- McFague’s Thursday evening address and a panel presentation on Friday afternoon -- on the Yale Divinity School web site at http://www.yale.edu/divinity/video/index.shtml. For conference details, visit http://www.yale.edu/divinity/news/071128_news_renewing.shtml. For more information on religion and ecology, visit http://www.yale.edu/religionandecology.
4.Focus on the Web: Publications
The “publications” section of the Forum on Religion and Ecology’s website (http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/) provides the visitor with information about Books, Journals, On-going Projects, and Official Statements published in the field of “Religion and Ecology.” Furthermore, you can find in this section:
the Forum on Religion and Ecology’s Publication Brochure (http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/brochure/index.html),
Media Statements including an archive of news clippings from the United Nations Environmental Program (http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/massmedia/index.html).
and archives of former Forum Newsletters (http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/newsletters/index.html).
5. Papal Speech on World Day of Peace: The Family, The Human Community, and the Environment
In case you missed it, we wanted to share with you the following excerpt of the Pope’s speech on January 1, 2008. For the full speech, visit: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20071208_xli-world-day-peace_en.html.
“The family, the human community and the environment”
Part 7. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations. Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.
Part 8. In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions. Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this “home” of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation. The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony. One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth's energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency. The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.
6.Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
Worldviews has taken on a new subtitle, to reflect more clearly the journal's mission to explore how the world's religions are responding to the balance between human cultures and ecology. The new title, effective with Volume 12 (2008) is: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology.
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!
Here is a link to some other journals in the field of “religion and ecology” and environmental ethics/philosophy: http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/journals/index.html.
7. Calls for Papers and Upcoming Events
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/.