The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
2.6 (June 2008)
1. A Letter from Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
2. From the Field: Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, “Called to be a Sentinel: Environmental Educator, Pastor, and Activist”
3. Focus on the Web: Statements
4. Sierra Club Announces "Faith in Action" Publication
5. Recent Publications in Religion and Ecology
6. Conference Announcements
7. Worldviews and other Calls For Papers
We have just returned from a remarkable trip to East Asia where we attended conferences in Korea, China, and Japan. In each country there is growing interest in world religions and ecology.
We had a series of excellent meetings in Beijing. There is very strong interest in having some conferences on religion and ecology in various settings including the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Renmin University as well as Beijing University.
In addition, we had a marvelous meeting with Pan Yue, the Vice Minister of the Environment in China who is extremely keen on traditional values of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism becoming more central to environmental protection. He speaks and writes of the necessity of creating an ecological civilization drawing on these traditional religious values. He has published his essays on this topic in English in China and we are hoping to publish them in the States as well.
Pan Yue is very committed to having the Environmental Ministry support further dialogue on this topic perhaps starting as earlier as this fall. He also wants to make sure that all the Harvard volumes on Religion and Ecology are translated into Chinese. The volumes on Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism have already been translated and will soon be available in Chinese. He has a PhD in the history of religions.
We also participated in an excellent conference at the Academy of Korean Studies outside of Seoul. The vice director is very committed to establishing a PhD program in Confucianism and ecology and wants to develop a curriculum for the schools that would incorporate Confucian values into environmental classes. He says the the Ministry of Education is willing to commit considerable funding to this project. He would like us to advise him on this.
Just to keep you up to date!
With warmest wishes,
Mary Evelyn & John
Called to be a Sentinel – Environmental Educator, Pastor, and Activist
I am grateful to Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim of the Forum on Religion and Ecology (FORE) for the invitation to share some of my story of environmental commitment as an activist, academic, minister and now leader of a large UCC Conference of Churches.
The story begins in the late 1950s on the 35th floor of a NYC building where I was visiting my father’s office. There wasn’t much for an eight year old to do, so I began looking for a book with pictures. I stumbled across a thin volume with twenty or so black and white photos of the devastating aftermath of the nuclear bomb we dropped on Hiroshima. It was an original copy of the Smythe Report. While children love gruesome fairy tales, this was reality, and I never forgot what I saw. Forty years to the day after that horrific explosion, I would co-lead an ecumenical religious witness at the Nevada nuclear weapons test site where over 150 people gathered to be inspired by my friend Henri Nouwen and then to be arrested for trespassing on government property.
Some time between those two events, I fell in love with the earth. Walking in John Muir’s footsteps when I was fifteen, cycling 5,000 kilometers in Europe in my twentieth summer, enjoying the first Earth Day while in college, and choosing to become a vegetarian thanks to reading Albert Schweitzer and Francie Moore Lappe’s Diet For A Small Planet — these experiences implanted in my soul a reverence for creation that would shape the rest of my life.
As an undergraduate at Princeton, and then at Yale Divinity School, and finally in Yale’s Department of Religious Studies I studied social ethics. As fulfilling as this was, my interior life remained restless. My life had been profoundly shaped by academics, and I felt called to contribute to shaping the lives of others. But the activist in me was impatient – until I stumbled upon Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society and Barry Commoner’s The Closing Circle. Suddenly, my training as an ethicist had direction and relevance. Growing up in a family of scientists prepared me to appreciate their perspectives. More importantly, I wanted to extend their work into the arena of social ethics.
Eagerly, I engaged a process of discovery to identify others who blazed this trail. When I came across the work of Paul Santmire, Scott Paradise and Holmes Rolston, III I began to experience a call to focus on this work. The problem was that there was no one at Yale to advise me. The Department of Religious Studies supported my desire to concentrate on environmental ethics, but apart from a few noteworthy pioneers in other settings, this was unexplored territory. Thankfully, John Smith, a pragmatist in the Philosophy Department with a wide range of interests, stepped in as a willing advisor.
Ultimately, the encouragement of my mentor Henri Nouwen convinced me to try to combine pastoral ministry and academics. So I withdrew from the Ph.D. program, completed the requirements for the M. Div., was ordained as a UCC minister, and for the next six years served as a chaplain and teacher at two private schools.
Having some liberty as the school chaplain, I offered a course on environmental ethics. The larger questions of this course would often become the focus of the weekly chapel programs attended by the entire school. Not surprisingly, other chaplains and campus ministers (notably Paul Santmire and William E. Gibson) were also bringing together academic and spiritual disciplines to engage environmental justice and related interests.
In the spring of 1981, I added an activist component to this work. Throughout the 70's I had been involved in a variety of anti-nuclear weapons protests at the Trident submarine base in Groton, Connecticut. But those efforts seemed unconnected to my academic and vocational pursuits. Inspired by my pastor and mentor William Sloan Coffin, Jr., I convened a conference on the nuclear arms race. Students came from public and private high schools from several states to hear Robert J. Lifton, Dean Hammer (one of the Plowshare Eight), representatives from the Union of Concerned Scientists and others. Out of this conference, S.T.O.P. Nuclear War (Student/Teacher Organization to Prevent Nuclear War) was born, and over the next several years it grew to have over 100 chapters in high schools throughout the country.
For the next three years I tried to balance and integrate my work as chaplain, teacher and leader of an activist organization. Having a stake in all three of these arenas was more important to me than distinguishing what properly fit into each slot. (Need I say – not everyone saw it that way!) Another way of describing this is to lift up the passage from Ezekiel that was read at my ordination in 1980:
The word of the Lord came to me: 1 O Mortal, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one of their number as their sentinel; 0 and if the sentinel sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; 0 then if any who hear the sound of the trumpet do not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, their blood shall be upon their own heads. 2008-06-20 15:13:22 They heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; their blood shall be upon themselves. But if they had taken warning, they would have saved their lives. 2008-06-20 15:14:26 But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel's hand. (Ezekiel 33:1-6)
By this time in my life, two things had become clear to me. First, we were (and still are!) living at a time when the potency of human choice was so concentrated that on a variety of fronts, the future of the created order was in the balance. Today, I make this point everywhere I speak by saying that we are the first generation to foresee – and final generation with an opportunity to forestall – the most catastrophic consequences of global warming. It’s no different than what we must say about nuclear weapons. It’s worth noting that Carl Sagan makes reference to this same point in his book Cosmos. He briefly refers to the “L-Factor” of the Drake equation. The “L-Factor” suggests that once an intelligent civilization gains the capacity for interstellar communication, at about the same time they gain the capacity to destroy themselves.
The other point of clarity had to do with my own calling. Whether I was serving as a teacher, a chaplain, a leader of an activist peace organization or a pastor, I was called to be a sentinel (to use Ezekiel’s term). As the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (the oldest and one of the largest interfaith peace organizations in the country) and for twenty years as a pastor of a local church, first in Massachusetts and then in Ohio, I did my best to live out this calling.
But over the past 20 years, it has become more and more clear to me that this is not a personal or idiosyncratic calling. In today’s world, it is the calling of anyone who would lead a faith community as well as anyone who seeks to be a faithful leader of any community. Reminiscent of the “L-Factor,” today’s media assures that every leader knows that the planet is in peril. Thank God for that technology! But what moral obligation comes from this knowledge? How does our awareness of the consequences which “life as we know it” is having on the planet (and particularly on the poor) – how does this necessitate changes in our conduct and focus as leaders?
As leader of the largest Protestant denomination in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I often speak to groups of clergy. Almost without fail, I tell them that in a matter of a few years – perhaps only two or three – at a minimum, every fourth sermon must at least touch on our responsibility for the created order and the new choices and decisions we must make if our grandchildren are to experience the Eden into which we were born.
Living out our responsibility as Ezekiel’s sentinels is essential, but if we are to be effective, we must combine that urgency with Jesus’ command to love. As you can imagine, in my twenty years as a minister of a local congregation, the environment was a frequent theme. Our most effective Earth Day service centered on the invitation to the congregation to bring a photograph of their favorite place on earth two weeks prior to our service. We then made a bulletin cover which was a collage of these photos. The liturgy and sermon focused on our love of the earth and the theological truth that love is the most powerful force on earth – powerful enough to motivate all the changes we now face.
I now frequently invite our churches and pastors to imagine leaders of all faith traditions in tens of thousands of houses of worship across God's good earth inviting the people in their congregation to allow themselves to acknowledge how much they love the earth. Imagine clergy who know enough science to articulate with passion the frightening realities towards which our current unrestrained choices are leading. Imagine hearing scripture from each faith tradition articulate the responsibility of each generation to assure that future generations can flourish. And imagine religious people the world over embracing a call which resides in every faith tradition - a moral call to resist greed in favor of sharing and even sacrifice.
All of the best and some of the worst mass movements for social change have been led by people of faith. Each tradition has everything it needs to launch the revolution in moral choice and behavior that will give life back to unborn generations of children. Able and willing religious leaders must do what it takes to inspire those in our congregations to love the unborn as much as we love ourselves and our children.
The scientists who have overcome ridicule and stayed focused on this issue will one day be known as heroes, as will the politicians who have shown courageous leadership by calling for the profound changes that are necessary, as will the business leaders who are stretching their time horizons from months to generations. Bill McKibben has said that this is one of those moments for which the church was born. I would conclude by adding not only the church, but the synagogue, the mosque and the temple as well.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal is Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ.
“Faith in Action” highlights environmental initiatives from 50+ faith groups
Washington, DC – Highlighting one exceptional faith-based environmental initiative from each of the fifty states, the Sierra Club today released its first ever national faith appreciation report, “Faith in Action: Communities of Faith Bring Hope for the Planet.” The report illustrates the growing momentum of the “creation care” movement and recognizes local leaders.
“This report demonstrates that the call to care for the earth comes no matter what one’s faith background is,” said Lyndsay Moseley, of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Partnerships Program. “We are inspired by the faith community’s leadership in working to protect the planet, and this report is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the many people of faith working on creation care initiatives across the country.”
The National Faith Appreciation Report is a project of the Sierra Club's Environmental Partnerships Program, which works actively with faith groups around the United States to broaden support for environmental protection.
“We are excited by the opportunity to recognize these phenomenal efforts, and hope that this report will further encourage people of faith by illuminating a broad array of successful models of environmental engagement,” said Moseley.
The groups highlighted are engaged in a variety of environmentally-conscious initiatives.
Some examples from the report include:
• The Texas Christian Life Commission, the largest Baptist organization in Texas educating congregations about creation care and calling for a moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants to reduce health risks.
• The Sterling, Va., Community Lutheran Church, whose Earth-Keeping Ministry operates a garden providing organic produce to local low-income families.
• North Dakota’s Prairie Stewardship Network, an ecumenical organization educating the faith community and others about clean energy and global warming.
• Hazon, a Jewish environmental organization in New York City which organizes community bike rides and educates about sustainable living.
• The Catholic Dioceses of Pueblo and Colorado Springs, Colo., whose Bishops spoke out in defense of a polluted creek.
• St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church, a Tucson, Ariz., congregation engaging in and teaching about water stewardship and conservation.
• The Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin, which is engaged in helping mosques and Muslim families reduce their carbon footprint.
To read the full report, visit www.sierraclub.org/partnerships/faith
Below are some recently published items in “Religion and Ecology” that we would like to draw your attention to.
A. Toward a New Consciousness: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities
The newly published report "Toward a New Consciousness: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities" is now available for download. The report is a summary of the findings from a conference convened by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies last October, 2007.
Fifty-seven leaders from the sciences, humanities, communications, policy, philanthropy, business and the creative arts gathered in Aspen, Colorado to identify the shifts in core human values and ethics required to support a more sustainable relationship with the natural world and articulate directions to help catalyze this transition. The PDF of the report may be accessed at: www.environment.yale.edu/newconsciousness.
B. Ellen Bernstein, The Splendor of Creation: A Biblical Ecology (Pilgrim Press, 2005).
For More information about the book and to purchase it, visit: http://ellenbernstein.org/endorsements.htm.
From the Introduction:
At the core of the environmental crisis is a great divide between mind and body, between head and heart, between human and nature. This divide is not new. The world's religions and mythologies have always told stories of humanity's separation from nature. But today the split is so vast that its consequences on the environment are potentially catastrophic.
The Jewish mystics of the seventeenth century said that when Adam and Eve ate the apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they set in motion the rift between humanity and nature. In the beginning, the world was whole and the creatures knew their place. Adam and Eve lived a peaceable life in the Garden of Eden. God had invited Adam to enjoy all of the fruits of the Garden -except for the fruit of the tree of knowledge. "If you eat from it, you will surely die."
Adam and Eve ate the apple from the tree of knowledge. They let themselves be seduced into thinking that the knowledge tree would bring them superior powers; that knowing more would mean being more. They challenged the original order and goodness of the universe by taking something that was not theirs to take. The fruit of the tree of knowledge was God's sacred property. It was not for people to eat or use.
Adam and Eve did not die a bodily death for their transgression (at least not immediately), but they did die a spiritual one. They were expelled from paradise and condemned to a life of suffering. They would be alienated from each other and the land for the rest of their lives. In taking what was not theirs, they upset the balance of nature and ruptured their own interior balance. We choose a path that leads to spiritual death and nature 's ruin whenever we take what is not ours, whenever we believe that our portion is not enough, whenever we assume that knowledge is a commodity we can consume.
Yet, just as we have the power to spoil the creation, we also have the power to make it whole. We have the power to mend the earth and to mend ourselves, to sew the pieces back together again. Mending the earth and our selves demands sustenance and vision. It is a lifelong task. It requires lifelong love. I have chosen Judaism as the path I walk and the Bible as the sacred text I contemplate along the path. I offer them up to you in The Splendor of Creation.
C. Chet Bowers, University Reform in an Era of Global Warming (2008).
To download a free copy of this publication, visit: http://cabowers.net/CAPress.php.
Book Summary: The book provides an examination of why many professors continue to rely upon the conceptual frameworks (including the deep taken for granted cultural assumptions) learned in their own graduate studies. The argument is made that this leads to what Gregory Bateson refers to as double bind thinking where the patterns of thinking constituted in the distant past are relied upon for understanding how to address today’s problems. This part of the analysis goes into why the acceptance of a conduit view of language (essential to sustaining the myth of objective knowledge, and thinking of individuals as autonomous thinkers) prevents most faculty from recognizing how language thinks them as they think within the language (to paraphrase Heidegger). The second major focus is on the need to educate students in how to live less consumer dependent lives, and this leads to an extensive discussion of how to introduce students to understand and to participate in the local cultural commons, why they should help to support policies that conserve the world’s diversity of cultural and environmental commons, and how to introduce them to an understanding of the different forces that are enclosing (by transforming what is freely shared into commodities and market mediated relationships, by silences, by ideological forces, etc.) what remains of the cultural commons. There is a chapter on how to recognize the analogs from the distant past that continue to frame the meaning of key words in today’s vocabulary, as well as how to identify more current and ecologically informed analogs. And there is a chapter that explains the professor’s mediating role in helping students become aware of the difference in their experiences in the cultural commons and in the industrial/consumer-oriented culture. Without this mediating process, most students move between the two subcultures as though there were no fundamental ecological and community sustaining differences, and thus fail to develop the communicative competence needed for resisting the further enclosure of the cultural commons.
D. Mathea Levine and Marian Brickner, I’m Lucy: A Day in the Life of a Young Bonobo (2008). Afterward by Jane Goodall.
Book available for purchase at: http://www.bonobokids.org/.
Book Description: This book, written with caring words by Mathea Levine, astonishing photographs by Marian Brickner and a heartfelt afterword by Jane Goodall, has truly been a collaborative effort brought about by a collective desire to teach children about our closest primate cousins. I’m Lucy educates, excites and ignites young readers and their families. And when purchased through our website, www.bonobokids.org , all profits from the sale of I’m Lucy are donated to non-profit organizations dedicated to saving the bonobos and the environment.
Bonobos share 98.7% of human DNA and are distinguished from other great apes by their matriarchal and cooperative society. While over 100 bonobos like Lucy and her family currently live in zoos, wild bonobos are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo where they are often hunted and their habitat risks total destruction from human encroachment and environmental desecration. The bonobo population has dropped to nearly 10,000, placing these endangered creatures devastatingly close to total extinction.
When you visit Bonobokids.org you’ll find that this is more than a website where you can purchase the book. The interactive site offers cool information on bonobo ape kids and rewards human kids who practice ‘green’ behavior. The Bonobo Challenge blog invites kids to learn, get involved, play games and win contests while connecting with other “BonoboKids.” In zoos and in the wild, bonobo societies are cooperative and cohesive, and BonoboKids mission is to bring kids together - with each other, with the earth’s creatures, with the world.
By purchasing a copy of I’m Lucy you will become part of a community springboard for an ongoing and productive relationship between children and their world. Bonobokids.org gives kids the opportunity to connect to this amazing ape and to understand that today’s actions affect bonobos, and all creatures - even themselves - tomorrow.
Thanks to all of you for your love and support. And please further our efforts by forwarding this email to anyone who loves children, animals, books and the environment!
Though some conferences are listed here, please see a fuller list of upcoming events on our web-site: http://fore.research.yale.edu/calendar/.
A. Our Earth, Our Church, Ourselves: Embrace the Beloved Community
A Call to Action National Conference. November 7-9, 2008, Milwaukee, WI
Register by July 15th for a Discount!
This conference will deal with Environmental Justice, Social Justice, Church Reform and Spirituality. A posthumous award will be given to Sr. Dorthy "Dot" Stang, who was killed in Brazil's Amazon rain forest after 40 years of defending the right of peasant farmers and protecting the environment.
Speakers Include: Robert Bullard, Dolores Huerta, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and John Shelby Spong.
B. Video from Renewing Hope Conference
We are pleased to announce that, at long last, video from the conference is available for viewing online. We know that many of you have been waiting for this to be posted, and we thank you for your patience.
Only selected events are available for online viewing; the Divinity School has chosen one event from each day of the conference to post on their website. There are plans to eventually make all of the conference events available on DVD once the master videos are in our possession, but this process will take time. If the event that you were hoping to view is not among those posted online by YDS, please let me know and I will place you on the list to be informed when the full version is available. Please note that the breakout sessions were not taped, so there is no video available from that portion of the conference.
You will also find the conference contact list attached (in Microsoft Excel). This list includes the name, institutional affiliation (if applicable), and email address of each registered participant. Any individual who responded to my last email and asked to be omitted from this list has been removed. Therefore, if you cannot locate a specific individual on the list, that person may have requested to have their information kept private. There are also several people who did not provide an email address, therefore these individuals also do not appear on the list. Please note that this list is not to be used for sales or marketing, but solely for the purposes of personal communication, networking, and continuing the conversations begun at the event.
To learn about upcoming events concerning the Renewal film go to: http://www.renewalproject.net/events
C. Montana Summer Environmental Ethics Institute
See www.umt.edu/ethics for more details.
The Center for Ethics at The University of Montana will hold its third annual Environmental Ethics Institute in early August of 2008. The institute provides a unique opportunity for scholars, students, professionals, and interested citizens to gather in Missoula , MT to discuss and reflect on environmental issues. The institute consists of a seminar, a course, and several public lectures/panel discussions. Students may enroll for either the 5-day course or the 2-day seminar (or both). The course requires 4 to 5 weeks of asynchronous online study prior to 5 days of face-to-face contact in Missoula . Students last year loved this format, one commenting that it was "the perfect balance of a variety of teaching strategies!" The seminar is a new offering in 2008, and will be held over two days. A wide variety of interested individuals -- students, professors, community members and professionals-- will have the opportunity to take part. To learn more about the Environmental Ethics Institute and last year's events visit: http://www.umt.edu/ethics/
The 2008 course offering will be Environmental Ethics and Policy, taught by Andrew Light, Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Washington .
The 2008 weekend seminar will be taught by Karen Warren, Professor of Philosophy at Macalester College ( St. Paul , MN ), and is called Gender, Health, The Environment, and Social Justice: Exploring Their Interconnections.
Registration information can be found at: http://www.umt.edu/ethics/programs/EEI.html
D. Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education
This summer for the first time in its 33 year history, CAJE—Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education--is offering an ECO-Track at its conference at the University of Vermont in Burlington in August. We have put together a wonderful array of over 60 sessions on Judaism and ecology from the practical to the pleasurable to the sublime. You’re invited to daven outdoors; to learn in the Eco beit midrash, to study with an array of 20 teachers who have been developing the field Judaism and ecology for over 20 years, to hike and bike in the beautiful Vermont countryside, to experience nature from a Jewish perspective, to discover the world of Jewish farms and farming and how to bring these practices to your classroom. You’re invited to learn how to teach Jewish values by using nature’s classroom.
This is truly a UNIQUE opportunity. For the FIRST time 20 pioneers in the field of Judaism and ecology are joining together and Volunteering their time and their expertise with the hopes of creating a sea change in the Jewish community and ENGAGING Jews more deeply in ecological thinking and environmental concerns. We all believe that our tradition has much to offer the Environmental Movement, and we are eager to share our work with you.
So please join us this summer. NOTE: You don’t need to be a JEWISH EDUCATOR to LOVE the CAJE conference. The Conference is for all of us who love learning and experiencing the Joy of Jewish community. We are particularly eager for people who have never been to CAJE to join us—especially for those of you who may have a strong interest in environment, nature or the outdoors.
SCHOLARSHIPS are available to COLLEGE students (apply through the Schusterman Fellowship program).
SCHOLARSHIPS are available to adults (who need them) who plan on taking at least 10 sessions in the ECO-Track. And College Credit is available from Hebrew College for those who are taking at least 10 eco-track sessions and are interesting in getting academic credit.
Scholarships are on a first-come, first-served basis, so apply now!
To see listing of program: http://caje33.wikispaces.com/Environmental3
To register and apply for scholarships: https://caje33.wikispaces.com/Registration+Info#finassistance
Chair, CAJE ECOTRACK
Founder, Shomrei Adamah
Due to the growing length of the Newsletter, a more extensive list of CFPs and organizations that deal with “Religion and Ecology” broadly defined can be found at:
Other Professional Organizations: http://fore.research.yale.edu/education/professionaldevelopment/groups.html
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.
For more information, visit: http://www.brill.nl/wo.