The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
3.7 (July 2009)
1. Editorial: "Religion, Ecology, and Justice," by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
2. Recent Endorsements of the Earth Charter
3. Pope Proposes New Financial Order Guided by Ethics
4. Message from Roland Faber: New Ph.D. program in Religion with a concentration in Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology
5. New Books
7. From the Field: "Islam, Ecology, and the Principles of Environmental Justice," by Sarah E. Robinson
8. Worldviews and Other Journals
Greetings Forum colleagues,
Welcome to the July issue of the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology. We have a lot of interesting and exciting things to share with you this month, including information about recent publications, news items, upcoming events, and other developments taking place within the field of religion and ecology.
We have invited Sarah Robinson to write a short piece for us. Robinson, a Ph.D. Candidate in Religion at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, discusses some of the connections between environmental justice and the field of religion and ecology, with particular attention to the way these connections appear in Islam. To articulate these connections, Robinson indicates how Islamic perspectives affirm some of the Principles of Environmental Justice, which were framed by the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. (To view these seventeen principles, visit: http://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.html.) Robinson also provides many helpful resources for further engagement with the intersection of Islam, ecology, and justice.
Questions of justice are pressing issues for the theories and practices emerging in the field of religion and ecology. The people working in this field attempt to facilitate a revisioning of human-Earth relations, and they study these relationships in their complex contexts, which include not only religious and ecological dimensions, but also social, economic, and political dimensions, all of which bear upon problems of justice and the challenges of racism, classism, sexism, displacement, and disenfranchisement. The environmental justice movement sometimes explicitly includes religious perspectives, but sometimes these perspectives are not fully taken into account. The eco-justice movement involves a more thorough commitment to exploring the connections between religion, ecology, and justice. The term "eco-justice" emerged among a group of Christians in North America in 1970 after the first Earth Day, in their attempt to support the convergence of faith communities, environmentalists, and social justice and peace activists. For more on eco-justice, visit the Forum website’s eco-justice page, which includes an essay by Dieter Hessel and an annotated bibliography: http://fore.research.yale.edu/disciplines/ethics/eco-justice.html.
An example of a commitment to eco-justice appears in the recent encyclical released by Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope is calling for a radical reform of the economic and financial institutions of the world. The Pope says that a "world political authority" is needed in order to counter the inequities of the current system and to protect the world's poor and the natural environment. This new encyclical thus integrates the religious values of Catholicism with concerns for global issues of ecology and justice. More information on this encyclical is given below.
Another example of an attempt to address the intertwinement of religion, ecology, and justice can be found in the Earth Charter (http://www.earthcharter.org), which presents a shared vision of values and principles for a sustainable global society. Contemporary processes of globalization build connections that bring humans together with one another and with the planet, and while these connections can be (and often are) beneficial for human-Earth relations, these connections often involve the spread of war, poverty, religious and interethnic violence, the exclusion and oppression of minorities, the destruction of ecological integrity, and the loss of cultural and biological diversity. The Earth Charter articulates principles that counter the destructive aspects of globalization and ground the emergence of a more peaceful and just global society, a su stainable society founded on a shared vision that embraces democratic political participation, human rights, social and economic equity, nonviolence, ecological integrity, and respect for life.
The Earth Charter has been endorsed by numerous individuals and organizations, including groups from faith communities, universities, city and national governments, non-governmental organizations, and many more. Recently, two more endorsements indicate the increasing involvement of faith communities with the Earth Charter: 1) the endorsement by the Episcopal Church, and 2) the endorsement by Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma), a renowned spiritual leader in India. More information on these endorsements is given below. These endorsements are among many hopeful gestures indicating that people are opening new possibilities for the convergence of religion, ecology, and justice, possibilities to facilitate the emergence of a vibrant and sustainable Earth community.
Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
California Institute of Integral Studies
Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale
Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors
Earlier this month, the Earth Charter was endorsed by the Episcopal Church and by Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma).
The 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church held from July 8-17, 2009 in Anaheim, California, USA, adopted a resolution endorsing the Earth Charter and which encourage diocese, congregations, agencies and individuals to take action consonant with the Earth Charter locally, nationally and internationally.
This effort builds on numerous other efforts from the Episcopal Church such as the recognition during its 75th General Convention, that “the use of fossil fuels harms air quality and public health and is contributing to changes in the global climate that threaten the lives and livelihoods of our neighbors around the world and be it further that the convention affirmed that our Christian response to global warming is a deeply moral and spiritual issue.”
For more information about this endorsement by the Episcopal Church, visit: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/articles/318/1/Episcopal-Church-endorses-the-Earth-Charter-July-2009/Page1.html
India’s renowned spiritual leader Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi--known among her followers as Amma or Mother--endorsed the Earth Charter at a public event attended by over 2,000 people on July 8, 2009 in New York City. On this occasion, Steven Rockefeller, Earth Charter International Council co-chair, introduced the Earth Charter and presented a copy of the Earth Charter to Amma.
She and Mr. Rockefeller then signed a statement endorsing the Earth Charter and pledging ongoing support for the global partnership for a just, sustainable and peaceful world. As a first step to putting this endorsement into action, Amma resolved that the Earth Charter will be integrated into the curriculum of the educational institutions that she created in India, including Amrita University in Kerala, several colleges for teacher training and vocational education, as well as more than 50 schools.
In his speech, Steven Rockefeller explained: “At the heart of the Earth Charter there is an ethic of respect and care – respect and care for oneself, other persons, other cultures and religions, other life forms, and our planetary home – Earth. The Earth Charter challenges us to expand our moral consciousness and – in Amma’s words – embrace the world.”
For more information about this endorsement by Amma, visit: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/articles/310/1/Sri-Mata-Amritanandamayi-Devi-Amma-Endorses-the-Earth-Charter/Page1.html
The Earth Charter was created in a decade long, world-wide, cross-cultural, inter-religious dialogue on common goals and shared values. Finalized and launched in 2000, the Earth Charter has been disseminated around the world, translated into over 40 languages, and endorsed by close to 5,000 organizations that represent the interests of hundreds of millions of people. Approximately 10 percent of these institutions have a religious or spiritual background. To further engage these and other religious, spiritual, and ethical communities in realizing the aspirations of an equitable and sustainable world that works for everyone, an Earth Charter Task Force on Religion, Spirituality, and Ethics has been created that is co-chaired by Mary Evelyn Tucker. Mary Evelyn served on the Earth Charter Drafting Committee and is now on the Earth Charter International Council.
For more information about this Task Force and the Earth Charter Focus Area on Religion and Spirituality, visit: http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/categories/Religion and Spirituality
Associated Press Writer
July 7, 2009
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI called Tuesday for a new world financial order guided by ethics and the search for the common good, denouncing the profit-at-all-cost mentality blamed for bringing about the global financial meltdown.
In the third encyclical of his pontificate, Benedict pressed for reform of the United Nations and international economic and financial institutions to give poorer countries more of a say in international policy.
"There is urgent need (for) a true world political authority" that can manage the global economy, guarantee the environment is protected, ensure world peace and bring about food security for the poor, he wrote.
The document "Charity in Truth," was in the works for two years, and its publication was repeatedly delayed to incorporate the fallout from the crisis. It was released a day before leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations meet to coordinate efforts to deal with the global meltdown, signaling a clear Vatican bid to prod leaders for a financially responsible future and what it considers a more socially just society.
For full story, visit:
Dear Friends and Colleagues!
It is my great pleasure to be able to inform you that on the initiative of three of the Co-Directors of the Center for Process Studies, Monica Coleman, Philip Clayton and myself, and with great support from the President, Dean, and Faculty of Claremont School of Theology, the responsible accreditation agencies have granted Claremont School of Theology approval to install a new Ph.D. program in Religion with a concentration in Process Studies.
The purpose of the new Ph.D. program in Process Studies is to train future leaders in process-relational approaches to the study of ecology, culture, and religion today; to address key areas of debate that arise at the intersection of religion, culture, and nature; and to provide academic leaders, religious leaders, and leaders in society with the tools necessary for understanding interconnections between ecology, culture, and religion in this postmodern and pluralistic world. Students will be trained in emerging theoretical perspectives that help to reconceive and overcome fundamental dichotomies and binaries in contemporary culture. Students will learn to formulate truly pluralistic and differentiated worldviews and be able to contribute to transformational change by using techniques from postmodern/poststructuralist scholarship, techniques that are appropriate to our contemporary society.
The new Ph.D. program in Process Studies will draw on and seek to integrate a whole range of contemporary studies in culture and religion, including their theological, philosophical, cultural, environmental, and interreligious dimensions. The diverse fields of interaction will include philosophies in Western and non-Western traditions, theologies and philosophies of religion in diverse traditions, comparative religious studies, process studies and process theology, gender studies, feminist theory and feminist theologies, cultural studies (critical theories and liberation theologies), ecological studies (philosophies, theologies, and spiritualities), and the various fields of religion and science.
Indeed, this is an important step in the relationship between Claremont School of Theology and the Center for Process Studies, in Claremont School of Theology’s commitment to the process community, and for the Center for Process Studies new and exciting role right in the center of a Ph. D. program. This decision encourages us to imagine a bright future for all programs and projects of the Claremont process community, her service to the worldwide process community and the realization of her aim, the Common Good.
Center for Process Studies
Ecological Imaginations in the World Religions: An Ethnographic Analysis
By Tony Watling
Continuum Books, 2009
The field of religion and ecology is an emerging and growing movement that is becoming relevant and influential in the world. It seeks to analyze, encourage, inspire, use, compare, and combine religious traditions to engage and shape environmental issues.
Tony Watling seeks to ethnographically analyze this important field and its expressions. In particular, he analyses and compares its explorations of different world religions for ecological themes and the resulting expressions of ecological visions, in what he terms ‘religious ecotopias’ – idealized, environmentally-friendly re-imaginings of nature and humanity, and correspondingly religion, which seek to influence environmental attitudes.
The End of the Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth
By Dianne Dumanoski
Crown Publishing, 2009
In this lucid and important volume, the coauthor of Our Stolen Future examines the historical forces that have propelled our planetary crisis and looks beyond its symptoms to ask what fundamentally ails us as a civilization. Climate change is happening, and it is the result of human activity: our fossil fuels, our global growth, our seemingly insatiable desire to consume. Despite the common belief that global warming will be a gentle escalator ride to a balmier climate, research reveals that Earth's history is one of massive instability as the climate swings dramatically between searing heat and brutal ice ages in the course of a century, or even decades. It is impossible to predict the results of our modern experiment in environmental influence, but major change is coming--we cannot expect our lives to continue on as they have. Noted environmental journalist Dianne Dumanoski provides a very eloquent and deeply sobering view of the current crisis and delivers an urgent warning that our civilization must prepare for a future of radical uncertainty.
Red Clay, Blood River
By William Everett
Booklocker.com, Inc., 2008
William Everett has written Red Clay, Blood River, an “eco-historical novel” to explore issues of human and ecological reconciliation. Earth’s voice weaves together events surrounding America’s “Trail of Tears” and South Africa's “Great Trek” (both in 1838) to help us vividly experience the many connections of slavery, migration, and exploitation of the earth that still shape our lives today. To help us live into the issues of reconciliation posed by this past, Earth introduces us to three students of ecology whose search for work and meaning is caught up in the resonances of these historical events. Through this poetic and complex narrative we struggle in a different way with the belief that there can be no human reconciliation without reconciliation with the Earth.
William Everett is Professor of Christian Social Ethics, Emeritus, at Andover Newton Theological School. He writes and does woodworking in western North Carolina.
199 Ways to Please God: How to (Re-)Align Your Daily Life with Your Duty of Care for Creation
By Rianne C. ten Veen
Fastprint Gold, 2009
This book aims to increase awareness about the current state of our environment and Islamic injunctions to play our part in protecting it as guardians of Creation ("We appointed you viceroys in the earth after them, that We might see how you behave." Yunus/ Jonah 14). It includes some disconcerting facts about the current state of affairs, but hopes this will serve as inspiration for positive action (oftentimes saving money at the same time). It is organized around four key areas of Islamic life (beliefs, worship, transactions and moral character), reflecting on Islamic teachings, the current situation and then giving examples of practical ways we might please God by being a good guardian.
With a long-standing interest in the environment, Rianne C. ten Veen has written this book as part of her struggle for the environment. With two Master degrees and a Diploma in Environmental Policy, she is a humanitarian aid worker in her day time job and part of the management team of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES) outside her day job. She is a passionate researcher and activist on justice for people and the environment.
Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, has written several books on the new economy and how it might be structured to achieve democracy, equality and ecological sustainability. Among the most recent are America Beyond Capitalism (Wiley 2005), Unjust Deserts (with Lew Daly; New Press 2008), and Making a Place for Community (with Thad Williamson and David Imbroscio; Routledge 2002).
For the first two, visit:
“Religions, Landscapes and Other Uncertain Boundaries”
Annual conference of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)
Bangor University, Wales
September 7-9, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://basr.open.ac.uk/conference.htm
“Charles Darwin: Shaping our Science, Society & Future”
Charles Darwin Symposium 2009
Darwin Convention Centre, Darwin, Australia
September 22-24, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.cdu.edu.au/cdss2009
“Revolution in Evolution”
Christ Church Cathedral, Darwin, Australia
September 25-27, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://christchurchcathedral.org.au/
“Breaking Down Barriers”
Online, interdisciplinary conference
October 19-30, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://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, USA
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:
Among seventeen Principles of Environmental Justice, the three principles below receive brushstrokes of comparison with work on Islam and ecology. The Principles of Environmental Justice outline the destination towards which academics and activists work, addressing human costs of environmental damage that problematically fall along lines of race and ethnicity. Islam and ecology encompasses activism and writing highlighting Islam’s capacity to address environmental problems. Environmental justice (EJ) and Islam and ecology both contextualize human suffering and exploitation related to environmental problems, envisioning and making justice.
Principle 1: Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
Certain indigenous North American lifeways highlighting earth’s maternal sacredness and creation’s interrelatedness were influential in formulating this principle, and although in Islam, a direct correlation of divinity with nature is not consistent with God’s independence, humans and all of nature are interdependent, paralleling this EJ Principle. Islam’s sacred text, the Qur’an, honors nature’s Creator, displaying nature appreciatively, with nature pointing to God’s metaphorical or mystical presence. Certain Sufi writings describe nature and the universe as alive, an experiential reflection of God. Yet, this aliveness dims amidst modern rationalism and science, whose reductionism dismisses divine presence in nature.
Over several centuries, Western philosophy gradually desacralized nature and humanity, which philosopher and Islam scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr names “the impoverishment of reality.”(1) Nature and the body were slowly re-imagined as machine-like, enabling more exploitative relations. Contemporarily, in a heavily rational cultural milieu, perspectives valuing nature’s sacrality can become trivialized or nostalgically valorized, and consistently marginalized. Yet alongside such rational thinking, the majority of humanity lives within a religious worldview, according to Nasr, who encourages philosophically resacralizing Western thinking towards restoring cohesion between humanity, all living beings, and the divine.
Principle 2: Environmental Justice demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.
Both movements—EJ and Islam and ecology—involve academic study and activism with a strong value for social justice. According to sociologist Robert Benford, “The environmental justice movement is not an ecology movement. It never really was. As a number of scholars have noted, it’s about social justice, procedural and distributive.”(2) Comparative religion scholar Richard Foltz writes, “For the most part, contemporary Muslim writers on the environment have characterized environmental degradation as merely a symptom of social injustice…some humans are taking more than their share.”(3) Both EJ and Islam and ecology, involve a strong objection to unequal distribution of resources and hazards, critiquing deciders and beneficiaries of such social striations.
Disparities of both wealth and environmental dangers may be remedied through actions. In Islam, God’s will is embodied best through concrete actions, first and foremost with the hand, then with the tongue, and finally with the heart.(4) Thus, concrete policies enforcing justice align with this value. A pillar of Islam, zakat, almsgiving or welfare tax, provides an Islamic public policy mandate to enforce distributive justice, and sadaqah, voluntary charity, and kharaj, voluntary taxes, extend that counter-discriminatory intention.
Principle 3: Environmental Justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.
Early in Islam, the elements of nature, such as air, trees, water, and land, were understood to be common property of all living beings, ultimately belonging to God. Legal scholar in early Islam, Abu al-Faraj, wrote, “People do not in fact own things, for the real owner is their Creator; they only enjoy the usufruct of things, subject to the Divine Law.”(5) Contemporary property laws do not attribute all to God, per se, but certain lands and commonly needed resources, like water, have religious basis for protected status and shared ownership.
Numerous texts in Islam encourage responsible, ethical resource use. Islam scholar Mawil Izzi Dien translates Qur’anic Surah 7:31, “eat and drink, but waste not by excess.”(6) In this and other passages, people may use only available resources, such as land, water, and animal life, never depleting them completely or beyond the point of usefulness for other people. Though human-centered, this Qur’anic principle provides for equitable and sustainable resource protection.
Stewardship of nature places ownership in God’s hands and responsibility in human hands. In Islam, all life and all creation belong to God, with people serving God as Khalifah, or viceregents of the created world, or natural resources. Both al-Faraj and economics professor Mohammed Ansari write of true ownership residing not with humanity, but with God. Human claims to resource ownership reflect people’s presumption to share ownership with God or to displace God’s ownership, both comparable to sharing God’s identity, a grave error.(7) Even so, God’s representatives remain ripe with interpretive power.
These Principles of Environmental Justice provide compelling comparison with Islam and ecology. Echoing Principle one, Islam and ecology work highlights that humanity and all beings live interdependently, and nature’s sacrality points people towards God, despite rationalism reducing the living world to exploitable resources. In Principle two, public policy addresses inequitable distribution of resources and environmental dangers, with concrete actions, like zakat, enacting distributive justice. Principle three reflects Khalifah; with God as true owner of all life and resources, humanity must responsibly protect common resources from depletion. In conclusion, these marginal movements may strengthen one another through mutual consideration, with intersectional crossroads providing new ground for justice-making.
1. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man. Rev. ed. (Chicago, Illinois: Kazi Publishers, 1997/1967), 115. (return to text)
4. Muslim, Sahih Muslim bi-sharh al-Nawawi. Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1407/1987, 2:21-26; idem, Sahih Muslim, trans. Abdul Hamid Siddiqi. Lahore: Sh. Muhammed Ashraf, 1976, 1:33, in Dutton, Yasin. “The Environmental Crisis of Our Time: A Muslim Response.” Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003), 323.
Ansari, M.I. “Islamic Perspective on Sustainable Development.” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 11, 1995, 394-402.
Ayoub, Mahmoud M. Islam: Faith and History. Oxford: Oneworld, 2004.
Ba Kader, Abou Bakr Ahmed, Abdul Latif Tawfik El Shirazy Al Sabagh, Mohamed Al Sayyed Al Glenid, and Mawil Y. Izzi Deen. Basic Paper on the Islamic Principles for the Conservation of the Natural Environment. 2d ed. Gland, Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1983.
Bryant, Bunyan, Ed. Environmental Justice: Issues, Policies and Solutions. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1995.
Cole, Luke W. and Sheila R. Foster. From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement. NY: New York University Press, 2001.
Foltz, Richard C. “Islam,” The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. Bron Taylor, Ed. NY: Continuum, 2005.
Foltz, Richard C. “Islam,” The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology. Roger S. Gottlieb, Ed. NY: Oxford University Press, 2006, 207-219.
Foltz, Richard, Azizan Baharuddin, and Frederick M. Denny, Eds. Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.
Izzi Dien, M. The Environmental Dimensions of Islam. Cambridge, England: The Lutterworth Press, 2000.
Khalid, Fazlun and Joanne O’Brien, Eds. Islam and Ecology. NY: Cassell, 1992.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man. Rev. ed. Chicago, IL.: Kazi Publishers, 1997 .
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Religion and the Order of Nature (Cadbury Lectures). NY: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Pellow, David N. and Robert J. Brulle, Eds. Power, Justice, and the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.
“Environmental Racism.” WCAR NGO Forum Declaration, Article 117, 03 September 2001. http://www.africanresource.com/
“Indigenous Environmental Network.” http://www.ienearth.org
“Islam and Ecology Bibliography.” http://fore.research.yale.edu/religion/islam/bibliography.html
“Islamic Foundation for Ecology & Environmental Sciences.” (UK)
“Principles of Environmental Justice.” http://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.html
Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology