The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
3.3 (March 2009)
1. Editorial by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally, "Perspectives on Energy"
2. Common Ground: Science and Religion in Dialogue for a Sustainable Future
3. Report on the Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Theology and Energy, by Luke Higgins
4. New DVDs on the Green Patriarch Bartholomew
5. New Book: Agenda for a Sustainable America
6. Call for Papers: "The Dynamics of Culture and Environment in Asia"
8. GreenFaith Leadership Programs
9. Green Yoga Conference and Certificate Program
10. Environmental Ethics Institute
11. Eco-theology Course: "Greening Our Spirits, Greening Our World"
12. From the Field: "Vegetarianism & the Jewish Community," by Richard H. Schwartz
13. Worldviews and Other Journals
Welcome to the March issue of the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology. We have a lot of interesting information to share with you this month, including new publications, conferences, programs, and more. The Forum is continually facilitating the participation of individuals and communities in emerging forms of research, activism, and advocacy related to the complex intersection of religion and ecology. Consider, for example, the topic of energy.
In recent months, we have drawn attention to some very exciting developments related to issues of energy in the field of religion and ecology. In early February, we sent out news clippings that contained stories about a pastoral letter written by Luc Bouchard, the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Paul in northeastern Alberta, Canada. In this letter, Bishop Bouchard criticizes the oil sands (or “tar sands”) developments in Alberta, saying that they lack “moral legitimacy,” for they are sacrificing the integrity of creation for economic gain. Bouchard contends that the economic benefits of oil production are outweighed by extensive environmental costs, including green house gas emissions as well as damage to the area’s boreal forest, the Athabasca River, and local aquifers.
Furthermore, it is not only Catholics who are questioning the moral legitimacy of the oils sands developments. The news clippings we sent out in early March contained a story about an indigenous community mounting a legal challenge to the tar sands developments. The Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta claims that these developments are contributing to human health problems and are destroying their traditional lands. There is evidence that the developments are damaging fish stocks by polluting the water, disturbing the migratory grounds of millions of birds, threatening traditional medicinal plants, and contributing to diseases that are killing many animals (including deer, moose, caribou, and elk). In short, the Beaver Lake Cree, like the Catholics supporting Bishop Bouchard’s letter, provide examples of how religious individuals and communities can raise their voices against unsustainable and unjust practices, such as the practices of oil production in Canadian oil sands. (For the full stories related to the oil sands, see articles in January and February UNEP news clippings: http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/massmedia/2009_UNEP_Emails.pdf.)
While sharing information about activism and advocacy emerging in Catholic and indigenous responses to energy issues, we have also been excited to share information about new possibilities for collaborative research integrating religious, philosophical, and scientific perspectives on energy. In the February issue of our newsletter, we drew attention to the 2009 Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Theology and Energy, which was held at the University of Central Arkansas. This event brought together multiple perspectives to address issues related to energy and the environmental crisis, including perspectives from theology, process philosophy, ethics, politics, continental philosophy, and cosmology. We have asked Luke Higgins, a presenter at the colloquium, to write a report on the event, which we are including below. Also addressed in this newsletter is another topic that involves rethinking our consumption of energy: vegetarianism. We have invited Dr. Richard H. Schwartz, Professor Emeritus at the College of Staten Island, to write a piece for us on the connections between vegetarianism and Judaism. Schwartz discusses connections between vegetarianism and Jewish values, while relating these values to other social and environmental issues, including global climate change, pollution, energy, and world hunger.
With the aim of opening new possibilities for research, activism, and advocacy, we hope that this newsletter provides some useful and exciting information and that it brings energy to your engagements with religion and ecology.
Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
California Institute of Integral Studies
Forum on Religion and Ecology
Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors
On May 3-4, 2009, The Center for the Study of Science and Religion at the Earth Institute of Columbia University, in collaboration with The Fetzer Institute of Kalamazoo, Michigan, is holding a public dialogue between science and religion on sustainability. The program, "Common Ground -- One Earth," will be held at Low Rotunda, Columbia University. This program will bring together scholars, leaders, and activists from diverse fields and perspectives to describe and plot a path toward a sustainable and equitable future. Keynote addresses will be given by Mary Evelyn Tucker, James Hansen, and Peter Mann.
The 2009 Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Theology and Energy took place at the University of Central Arkansas from February 20-21, 2009. Organized by Clayton Crockett, Associate Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Religious Studies at UCA, and Donna Bowman, Assistant Professor at the UCA Honors College, this conference engaged the important interdisciplinary topic of energy through the lens of a wide range of current theological and philosophical frameworks, including Process theology and philosophy, postmodern theology, Continental philosophy, and cultural theory. Although most of the papers' theoretical explorations of energy addressed the environmental crisis, many papers explored more cosmological and philosophical approaches to energy as well, linking scientific and theological speculation in creative ways.
Catherine Keller of Drew University, a renowned eco-feminist, process theologian, presented the keynote address on Friday night. She explored the theological and ethical ramifications of recent understandings of "dark energy," "quantum entanglement," and climate change among other topics. Jay McDaniel kicked off the colloquium with a broad discussion of the role that progressive religion is called to in facing the energy/environmental crisis, emphasizing a Process-eco-theological approach. Mary Jane Rubenstein and Wilson Dickinson both brought ancient Christian mystical texts into conversation with philosophical and cosmological speculations on divine vs. creaturely energies. Luke Higgins explored the history of the modern scientific concept of energy, offering Whitehead's concept of intensity as a helpful alternative. A paper by Whitney Ba uman explored the topic of energy, "emergence" and theology's role in an interdisciplinary academic context. Don Viney brought Whitehead's and Teilhard's approaches to cosmology and energy into conversation. In his paper, Jeff Robbins explored the intersection of consumerism, green politics, and secular "indulgences." Donna Bowman approached the Process understanding of relational creativity/productivity in the context of internet based craft guilds. Numerous conversations emerged at the border of Process and Continental philosophical approaches, and everyone came away with a far broader sense of how theology might fruitfully engage the topic of energy in an interesting and relevant way.
The Colloquium was sponsored by Honors College, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Humanities and World Cultures Institute, and College of Liberal Arts at UCA; Steel Center at Hendrix College; and the American Academy of Religion.
* The Arctic: The Consequences of Human Folly. Becket Films LLC, 2009. 30 minutes.
* The Amazon: The End of Infinity. Becket Films LLC, 2009. 42 minutes.
* The Green Patriarch. Becket Films LLC, 2009. 30 minutes.
The organization Religion, Science and the Environment led by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox church, has held since 1995 seven shipborne symposia bringing together scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists, policy makers and the media. Two new DVDs, The Arctic: The Consequences of Human Folly and The Amazon: The End of Infinity, follow two of these voyages. In ‘ground zero north,’ the participants bear direct witness to the impact of global warming on Arctic peoples and the tragic effect of toxic pollution from the industrial south. (Bonus materials include a spirited debate on the nuclear power issue with Mary Evelyn Tucker and Hans Blix). The Amazon DVD, ‘ground zero south’, shows the disastrous results of an economic system where destroying the forest is more profitable than exploiting the standing forest with its infinite biodiversity. Playing a major part were indigenous participants with their view that they are part of nature compared to ‘modern man’s’ separation from and war with nature. The DVD, The Green Patriarch, is an intimate and engaging portrait of a religious leader on a spiritual mission to save our earth, God’s Creation. The film follows him from the Patriarchate in Istanbul to the burning rain forests of the Amazon to the melting glaciers of the Arctic where he gathered representatives of the world’s religions in a silent prayer for the planet. These DVDs can be obtained from www.becketfilms.com.
Agenda for a Sustainable America
Edited by John C. Dernbach
Washington DC: Environmental Law Institute, 2009
This book is a comprehensive assessment of U.S. progress toward sustainable development and a roadmap of necessary next steps toward achieving a sustainable America. Packed with facts, figures, and the well-informed opinions of 41 experts, it provides an illuminating “snapshot” of sustainability in the United States today. And each of the contributors suggests where we need to go next, recommending three to five specific actions that we should take during the next five to ten years. It thus offers a comprehensive agenda that citizens, corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and government leaders and policymakers can use to make decisions today and to plan for the future. It assesses trends in 28 separate areas of American life—including forestry; transportation; oceans and estuaries; religion; and state, local, and national governance. In every area, contri butors reveal what sustainable development could mean, with suggestions that are specific, desirable, and achievable. Their expert recommendations point the way toward greater economic and social well-being, increased security, and environmental protection and restoration for current and future generations of Americans. Together they build a convincing case for how sustainable development can improve our opportunities and our lives.
Dieter T. Hessel, director of the Program on Ecology, Justice and Faith, contributed an essay in this book on "Religion and Ethics Focused on Sustainability." To download a PDF version of this essay, visit: http://fore.research.yale.edu/disciplines/ethics/essays/index.html
“The Dynamics of Culture and Environment in Asia”
43rd Annual Conference of Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast (ASPAC)
Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, CA, USA
June 19-21, 2009
The conference on “The Dynamics of Culture and Environment in Asia” seeks to examine how cultures and societies have positioned themselves in relation to the environment at various historical junctures. It seeks to understand the complex relationships among culture, nature, and humans and to re-conceptualize and reconstruct the boundaries of the Asia-Pacific in an era of globalization. It seeks to investigate cultural and historical influences on economic change, social movements, public policy, arts, and ecological upheavals among other facets of society.
A focus on the interaction between environment and culture around major rivers in Asia is particularly welcome. The conference specially invites papers with a consideration of the multidimensional perspective that explores the geographical dimensions of rivers in relation to the movement of people, its banks as a confluence of cultures, political empires, pilgrimages, visual culture, mythology, literature and its waters as a site of historical and cultural transformations.
A consideration of the intersections of various disciplines such as the interactions between civilizations and the natural environment, between biology and poetry as they meet in bio-poetics, is also welcome. Other possible themes include a consideration of culture and environment; environment and economy; environment and society; nature and culture; nation and urban space; displacement and belonging; environmental philosophy; environmental literature; environmental ecology; and arts and built environment.
Presentations may include: 1) individual papers, 2) multiple paper sessions, and 3) roundtable panels.
The DEADLINE for abstracts (500 words max) is April 15, 2009.
For the full Call for Papers, visit: http://aspac09.soka.edu/Callforpapers.html
"Ethics, Religion, and the Environment" Symposium
Keynote Lecture by Mary Evelyn Tucker: May 9, 7:30pm, 182 Lillis Hall
University of Oregon, Oregon Humanities Center, Eugene, OR, USA
May 9-12, 2009
5th World Environmental Education Congress
Palais des Congrès de Montréal, QC, Canada
May 10-14, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.5weec.uqam.ca/EN/
e-Biosphere ‘09 International Conference on Biodiversity Informatics
The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (QEIICC), London, UK
Online Conference Community
June 1-3, 2009
Deadline for poster abstracts, discussion group topics, and side-events: April 15, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.e-biosphere09.org/
"God’s Unfinished Story"
First Annual Summer Institute
The Well: A Center for Our Sacred Unity with God, Earth and One Another
LaGrange Park, IL, USA
July 10-11, 2009
For More Information, visit: http://www.csjthewell.org/InstituteJuly09.htm
For more events, visit: http://fore.research.yale.edu/events/2009/index.html
GreenFaith, an interfaith coalition for the environment, offers two programs to help people of faith and religious institutions become environmental leaders.
The GreenFaith Fellowship Program is an 18-month comprehensive education and training program to turn clergy and laity into religious-environmental leaders. Through June 1, 2009, GreenFaith is accepting applications for the third class of the Fellowship Program. For more information, visit: http://www.greenfaith.org/
The GreenFaith Certification Program is the first interfaith environmental certification program in North America. The program empowers houses of worship to earn recognition as a GreenFaith Sanctuary through a two-year process of education and action. Over 2 years, participating institutions carry out initiatives to integrate environmental themes into their worship, religious education, facility maintenance, and social outreach. In recognition for their accomplishments, these institutions earn certification as a GreenFaith Sanctuary. For more information, visit: http://www.greenfaith.org/
10. Environmental Ethics Institute
The University of Montana announces its celebrated 4th Annual Environmental Ethics Institute from June 8-13, 2009 in Missoula, Montana. This year’s institute will be co-taught by Andrew LightandChristopher Preston around three themes: fire, restoration, and wilderness in an age of climate change.
The six days of instruction will involve three half-day field trips. These will include a visit to the Pattee Canyon forest thinning project at Missoula’s urban/wildland interface, the Milltown Dam Superfund restoration site, and the Rattlesnake Wilderness and National Recreation Area. Guides on these field trips will include Dr. Steve Running, contributor to the 2007 Nobel Prize Winning IPCC report on climate change and Dr. Robin Saha, contributor to the 2007 “Toxic Waste and Race at 20 (1987-2007)” report.
The three weeks of online study and six day workshop is open to students, faculty, and interested professionals of all kinds. However, the workshop is particularly suitable for educators who are seeking a grounding in the foundations of environmental ethics and its most pressing challenges today.
The DEADLINE for early registration is April 15. Regular registration ends May 14.
For more information, visit http://www.umt.edu/
Presented by Kim Winchell, Diaconal Minister (ELCA)
Casa del Sol, Ghost Ranch Retreat Center, Abiquiu, NM, USA
June 15-21, 2009
This course offers an in-depth week of group study and reflection on answering God’s call to care for the Earth, and a chance to re-fill your spiritual well in the mystical surroundings of Ghost Ranch. In caring for the Earth, we also care for one another, and make our faith more alive and relevant in and to a broken world. How can we draw upon our theology and spirituality, to help empower and guide our actions to mend creation? How can we reach and teach others in our faith community, with a message of both urgency and hope? This course would be helpful to both clergy and laity, to those already engaged in creation care activities, or for those who feel God’s call to “do something!” but aren’t quite sure where to start. Participants will use the “Awakening to God’s Call to Earthkeeping” study guide and discuss ways to present this, an d other resources, in their own settings. The sessions will incorporate scriptural study and eco-theology, eco-spirituality, times for contemplative and short written reflections, ideas for creation-honoring worship, and group prayer and discussion. Participants should leave feeling empowered and more equipped to help lead earthkeeping efforts in their home congregations.
For more information, visit: www.ghostranch.org
12. From the Field: "Vegetarianism & the Jewish Community," by Richard H. Schwartz
I appreciate this opportunity to discuss my environmental and vegetarian activities and my thoughts about increasing the awareness and involvement of religious communities in environmental issues. I hope this piece will provide some insights that will be helpful to others.
In 1975, I began teaching a course, "Mathematics and the Environment," at the College of Staten Island. The course was designed to motivate liberal arts/non-science students by using basic mathematical concepts, including ratios, percents, graphs, sequences and elementary statistics and probability, to explore current critical issues, such as pollution, resource scarcities, hunger, energy, and health. As there was no text for such a course, I wrote Mathematics and Global Survival, which was published in 1979 and is now in its fourth edition. (Now that I am retired, I am looking for someone interested in revising and updating this book, as I think it would be very valuable at this time of many environmental crises to have courses relating mathematics to environmental issues in many schools.)
While reviewing material related to world hunger, I became aware of the tremendous waste of grain associated with the production of beef. (Over 70% of the grain produced in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million of the world's people die annually due to hunger and its effects.) In spite of my own eating habits, I often led class discussions on the possibility of reducing meat consumption as a way of helping hungry people. After several semesters of this, I took my own advice and gave up eating red meat, while continuing to eat chicken and fish.
I then began to read about the many health benefits of vegetarianism and about the horrible conditions for animals raised on factory farms. I was increasingly attracted to vegetarianism, and on January 1, 1978, I became a vegetarian and joined the International Jewish Vegetarian Society.
Since that decision, I have learned much about vegetarianism's connections to health, nutrition, ecology, resource usage, hunger, and the treatment of animals. I also investigated connections between vegetarianism and Judaism. I was greatly influenced by a course on “Judaism and Vegetarianism” given by Jewish vegetarian pioneer and activist Jonathan Wolf that I took at Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan and by Jonathan's writings and vegetarian-related activities. I learned that the first Biblical dietary regimen (Genesis 1:29) was strictly vegetarian, and I became convinced that important Jewish (and other religions') mandates to preserve our health, be kind to animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, share with hungry people, and seek and pursue peace all pointed to vegetarianism as the best diet for Jews and everyone else. To get this message to a wider audience, I wrote a book, Judaism and Vegetarianism, which was published in 1982. (Expanded editions were published in 1988 and 2001.) Of course, all of my reasons for becoming a vegetarian are also applicable to other religions.
Since I recognized that a shift to vegetarianism was only a part of the necessary responses to current environmental and other threats, I wrote Judaism and Global Survival, which related Jewish teachings to such issues as social justice, pollution, energy, global warming and population growth. It was published in 1984 and a second edition was published in 2002.
To help spread my messages, I spoke to many groups, appeared on many radio and cable TV interview programs and contributed many letters and articles to various publications. I now have over 130 articles and about 20 podcasts of my interviews and talks at www.jewishveg.com/schwartz. In 2007, I helped produce a documentary “A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World,” which discusses how the application of Jewish values can help respond to global warming and other environmental threats. Because we believe the movie's message is so essential to helping avoid an unprecedented catastrophe, we have given away about 20,000 DVDs. The documentary can be seen and complimentary DVDs can be requeste d by visiting www.aSacredDuty.com.
Presently, I am president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV), editor of the JVNA online newsletter, a patron of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society, a Councilor for the Vegetarian Union of North America (VUNA) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM).
Most recently, I became director of the Veg Climate Alliance, a group that aims to increase awareness that a major societal shift to vegetarianism is an essential part of efforts to avoid the potential disaster that the world currently faces and to help shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.
To get greater involvement in the Jewish community, I have tried to initiate a “Vegetarian Sabbath” and an “Environmental Sabbath” and to have the Jewish environmentally-related holiday of Tu B'Shvat considered a “Jewish Earth Day.” I have also tried to engage in a respectful dialogue/debate on “Should Jews (and others) be Vegetarians?” Even though I have had only limited success so far, I plan to continue and greatly increase my efforts, because the threats to all of humanity are so great. I look forward to working with many others in the religious and environmental communities.
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Mathematics
College of Staten Island