July 2011


The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
5.7 (July 2011)

1. Editorial, by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
2. Journey of the Universe Film Showings

3. Events

4. New Books

5. Tar Sands Climate Protests

6. “A Call to Action on Climate Change,” by Jonathan Gorham

7. Earth Ministry’s 4th Annual St. Francis Creation Care Sermon Contest

8. Open Spaces Sacred Places National Awards Initiative

9. Call for Papers: “Religions, Science and Technology in Cultural Contexts: Dynamics of Change” (Conference of the International Association for the History of Religions, March 1-3, 2012 in Trondheim, Norway)

10. Call for Papers: “Green Perceptions: Ecology and Texts” (Conference on September 15-16, 2011 at St. Paul’s College, Kerala, India)

11. Thinking Nature: A Journal on the Concept of Nature

12. Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

1. Editorial, by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally


Welcome to the July issue of the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology. We have much to share with you this month with regards to developments in the field of Religion and Ecology, including film screenings, books, conferences, events, calls for papers, and more.

We are excited to keep you informed about the Journey of the Universe project. The Journey of the Universe book has been released and is now available. To order the book from Yale University Press, visit: http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300171907

A collaboration of Brian Thomas Swimme, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and John Grim, the Journey of the Universe project also includes a film (available late July 2011) and an educational series (available October 12, 2011). Inspired by the New Story of Thomas Berry, the Journey of the Universe draws on the latest scientific knowledge to tell the story of cosmic and Earth evolution. It aims to inspire a new and closer relationship with Earth in a period of growing environmental and social crisis. For more information about the project, including the most up-to-date list of film screenings, visit: http://www.journeyoftheuniverse.org

There are two news items related to climate change that might interest you. First, a collection of activists and eco-justice leaders from North America have released an open letter (drafted by Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Gus Speth, and others), which calls for people to join in protest against the construction of an oil pipeline connecting the tar sands of Alberta to refineries in Texas. The pipeline would have devastating effects for people and for the planet. To view the open letter, visit: http://www.tarsandsaction.org/invitation/

We also want to inform you about a call for religious responses to climate change. Jonathan Gorham, the President of Green Media Ventures, issued a call for religious thought leaders who would like to partner with his organization to disseminate educational resource materials regarding the science, politics, and solutions for climate change. See below for more information.

We also want to inform you about a new journal, Thinking Nature, which publishes essays that address various philosophical and ecological approaches to inquiring into concepts of nature. Edited by Timothy Morton and Ben Woodard, Thinking Nature is an Open Access journal, available for free online: http://thinkingnaturejournal.com  

For a journal that brings together religious and cultural perspectives to explore ecological issues and concepts of nature, we recommend that you look at Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology, which covers a range of disciplinary areas and addresses major world religious traditions and worldviews in relation to cultural and ecological systems. For more, please visit: http://www.brill.nl/wo. For more information on other journals related to religion and ecology and to environmental philosophy, visit: http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/journals/index.html.   

We are happy to inform clergy and lay leaders with a passion for faith-based environmental stewardship that Earth Ministry is having its 4th annual St. Francis Creation Care Sermon Contest. Sermons on creation care are due by July 31, with winning sermons given on October first at Earth Ministry’s Celebration of St. Francis in Seattle, Washington. For more details, visit: http://earthministry.org/news/find-your-voice-1

We hope this newsletter supports your own work and helps you further your own engagements with the field of Religion and Ecology.

Warm wishes,
Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
California Institute of Integral Studies
Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale
Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors

2. Journey of the Universe Film Showings

Film Screening: The Sophia Center (July 14, 2011)

Sophia Center Summer Institute 2011
“Living the New Story: Cosmology for a Mutually Enhancing World”
The Sophia Center
3500 Mountain Blvd.
Oakland, CA
7pm - Film Screening and Keynote Address by Brian Thomas Swimme
$15 admission fee



Film Screening: Jackson Hole, WY (July 21, 2011)

Center Theater
Center for the Arts
240 S. Glenwood
Jackson Hole, WY
Discussion with Mary Evelyn Tucker & John Grim
Contact: Jennifer Simon, jen.m.simon@gmail.com 


Film Screening: San Francisco, CA (July 22, 2011)

14th International Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) Conference
Westin San Francisco Market Street
50 Third St.
San Francisco, CA
Contact: Matthew Gilbert, mgilbert@noetic.org


Film Screening: Austin, TX (August 8, 2011)

Ecological Society of America (ESA) Annual Meeting
Austin Convention Center (Room 14)
500 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX
Mary Evelyn Tucker will introduce the film.
Contact: Ellen Freiler, ellen.freiler@yale.edu


For more events related to Journey of the Universe, visit: http://www.journeyoftheuniverse.org/upcoming-events/

3. Events

Living the New Story: Cosmology for a Mutually Enhancing World”
Sophia Center Summer Institute 2011
Oakland, CA, USA
July 14-17, 2011

Cosmology for a Mutually Enhancing World”
Post-Institute Retreat of Sophia Center Summer Institute 2011
Oakland, CA, USA
July 17-19, 2011

Global Climate Talks 2011 (COP17) in Durban – So What?”
Annual General Meeting of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
Diakonia Centre , 20 Diakonia Avenue, Durban, South Africa
Light finger supper at 6pm
Meeting at 7pm
July 19, 2011
RSVP to: secretary@safcei.org.za or 021-701-8145

Water, Energy, Climate, and the Importance of Health and Culture”
16th Protecting Mother Earth Gathering
Four Bears Park/Little Shell Powwow Grounds
New Town, North Dakota
July 28-31, 2011

The Future of Creation Order”
Christian Philosophy Conference
VU University Amsterdam
August 16-19, 2011

Uncanny Homecomings: Narrative Structures, Existential Questions, Theological Visions”
2011 Religion, Literature and the Arts Conference
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA, USA
August 26-28, 2011

“God’s Earth: Too Big to Fail? A Conversation Among Faith, Science & Culture”
Presbyterians for Earth Care National Conference
Highlands Presbyterian Camp and Retreat Center, Allenspark, CO, USA
August 31-September 3, 2011



4. New Books

Religion and Ecology in the Public Sphere
Edited by Celia Deane-Drummond and Heinrich Bedford-Strohm
Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011

This collection of essays brings to the surface vital dimensions in the in the engagement between religion and ecology. The authors are aware of both the political urgency, but also the need to delve into a variety of diverse traditions in order to resource such a task, namely, what might religious traditions contribute to ecological debates? A core issue addressed here is how contemporary theology might become public theology, one that is deeply relevant to the particular problems and issues of today. This then raises important theoretical questions about how theology might engage with politics. The diverse methodological approaches possible within Christian theology are represented in this collection, including those drawing on particular traditions such as Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Reformed theology, through to self consciously contextual approaches in liberation, African and Feminist discourse.

Prophetic Activism: Progressive Religious Justice Movements in Contemporary America
By Helene Slessarev-Jamir
NYU Press, 2011

While the links between conservative Christians and politics have been drawn strongly in recent years, coming to embody what many think of as religious activism, the profoundly religious nature of community organizing and other more left-leaning justice work has been largely overlooked. Prophetic Activism is the first broad comparative examination of progressive religious activism in the United States. Set up as a counter-narrative to religious conservatism, the book offers readers a deeper understanding of the richness and diversity of contemporary religious activism. 

Helene Slessarev-Jamir offers five case studies of major progressive religious justice movements that have their roots in liberative interpretations of Scripture: congregational community organizing; worker justice; immigrant rights work; peace-making and reconciliation; and global anti-poverty and debt relief. Drawing on intensive interviews with activists at all levels of this work—from pastors and congregational leaders to local organizers and the executive directors of the national networks—she uncovers the ways in which they construct an ethical framework for their work. In addition to looking at predominantly Christian organizations, the book also highlights the growth of progressive activism among Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists who are engaged in reinterpreting their religious texts to support new forms of activism.


Climate Change and Society
By John Urry
Polity Books, 2011

This book explores the significance of human behaviour to understanding the causes and impacts of changing climates and to assessing varied ways of responding to such changes. So far the discipline that has represented and modelled such human behaviour is economics.

By contrast Climate Change and Society tries to place the ‘social’ at the heart of both the analysis of climates and of the assessment of alternative futures. It demonstrates the importance of social practices organised into systems. In the fateful twentieth century various interlocking high carbon systems were established. This sedimented high carbon social practices, engendering huge population growth, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and the potentially declining availability of oil that made this world go round. Especially important in stabilising this pattern was the ‘carbon military-industrial complex’ around the world.

Climate Change and Society thus attempts to replace economics with sociology as the dominant discipline in climate change analysis. Sociology has spent much time examining the nature of modern societies, of modernity, but mostly failed to analyse the carbon resource base of such societies. This book seeks to remedy that failing. It should appeal to teachers and students in sociology, economics, environmental studies, geography, planning, politics and science studies, as well as to the public concerned with the long term future of carbon and society.          


Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany.
By Matthew Hall
SUNY Press, 2011

In this groundbreaking book, Matthew Hall surveys contrasting attitudes towards the plant kingdom across a range of different cultures. Drawing on Western philosophy, botanical history, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Pagan mythologies and Indigenous worldviews, Hall challenges readers to reconsider the moral standing of plants. In light of the global assault on our plant based ecosystems, Hall uses both religious and contemporary scientific thought to argue that plants are intelligent, relational beings who are the appropriate recipients of care and respect.

Matthew Hall is a research scientist at the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

For more information, and to read sample chapters of Plants as Persons, please visit: www.plantsaspersons.com


5. Tar Sands Climate Protests


Together with North America’s eminent environmentalists, agricultural activists, and other eco-justice leaders, people are invited to join the protest against the proposed construction of a tar sands oil pipeline from Alberta to various oil refineries in Texas. The Alberta tar sands project, which has been called “the most destructive project on Earth,” has decimated local ecosystems and directly affects the land and livelihood of first nation peoples in Canada. Moreover, the construction of a pipeline to connect the tar sands to Texas has been called a “fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” From August 20th to September 3rd protests will be held in front of the White House lawn in order to demonstrate to the Obama administration and Congress that this pipeline is bad for the Earth, bad for all its people, and bad for America.

The “open letter” URL drafted by Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Gus Speth, et al can be found at:


Further information about the Tar Sands, visit: 


6. “A Call to Action on Climate Change,” by Jonathan Gorham

Quakers have been “waging peace” for centuries. In fact, social and political action is deeply engrained in Quaker traditions; fighting for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, nuclear non-proliferation, etc. And now climate change action. These have been epic and ongoing struggles that have drawn Quakers into the fray.

The theme for the New England Yearly Meeting in Rhode Island in August this year is: “350 Years of New England Friends: Called to Heal a Broken Earth” with the multiple sub-themes of celebrating over 350 years of Quaker activism and 350 Parts Per Million (PPM) - the Climate Crisis as defined by the world’s leading scientists. See: http://sessions.neym.org/theme

A further description of the program explains:

Human-created climate change is an issue that demands our attention now – God’s earth is endangered. May we joyously celebrate our birthday, but do so by carrying forward this tradition of faithfulness to future generations. In doing so, we offer them stewardship of both the planet we love and the Light that has enlivened Friends in New England for 350 years.”

In addition to Quakers, other religious groups have recognized the urgency of this issue and are catalyzing education and political actions to motivate their congregants. For example, on May 2, 2011 the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences issued a working group paper calling for concrete steps to combat climate change. In addition, the Massachusetts Chapter of the United Church of Christ is collecting sermons on climate change to make them more widely available. It does so because UCC church leaders feel this repository of good ideas will make it easier to preach on the topic of climate change which it describes as a “crucial challenge and a moral imperative”.

So why has climate change bubbled to the surface, once again? You might think one has only to read the science and watch the news in order to connect the dots. Herein lies the dilemma, most people in the US do not understand that 97% of peer reviewed, published scientists agree that climate change is real and that it is being caused by human activity. Massive public education on the science, politics and solutions is needed. So how do we do this? 

The Science:

In May of 2010 the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences published its two-year study on climate change entitled “Climate Change Choices”. That report it concluded that:

Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment. These risks indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare for adapting to its impacts.”

Ironically, the release of this report garnered almost no public media attention. Why? We were in the midst of monitoring the BP Gulf oil spill.

The Politics:

In the spring of 2011 the US House voted 240-184 to defeat a resolution saying simply “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.”

That defeat does not bode well for any meaningful climate legislation coming from Washington. Our best bet is to show political support for state and local officials who are making bold policy initiatives for sensible programs to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

The Solutions:

There are two educational resources on climate change now available free of charge. One is a set of three monographs prepared by the environmental organization, 350.org. They are on the topics of: Science, Politics and Solutions. They may be downloaded here:


A second FREE resource is also available, a template for an origami paper box. This is an engagement activity designed for teachers, religious educators, youth group leaders, and others wanting to draw people into a meaningful discussion on climate change.

To learn about this new “communications device” go to: www.yourbuzzbox.com/assembly. As the designer of this new medium, I have used these origami boxes successfully to raise awareness and funding for a variety of environmental causes, like getting townspeople to sign up for home energy audits, raising money for a local organic farm, and earning solar PV arrays for our local high school. We make the color templates available for an origami boxes promoting Bill McKibben’s upcoming global event, Moving-Planet – A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels, September 24, 2011. These templates are free with access to the assembly video. See: www.Moving-Planet.org

We are looking for religious thought leaders who would like to partner with us to disseminate both sets of materials, 1) the 350.org sheets on Science, Politics and Solutions, and 2) the origami box as an engagement activity, memento, and conversation starter. If interested, please contact me at jon@greenmediaventures.com

Jonathan Gorham is President of Green Media Ventures a Woodbridge, CT-based business development, marketing and communications firm. He is a Quaker, teacher of Earth Care Witness at First Day School in New Haven, and Chairman of his town’s Clean Energy Task Force. In 2010 he was awarded by CT Governor Jodi Rell a CT Climate Change Leadership award. Gorham is the parent of two daughters who wonder what kind of a planet are we handing off to them.

7. Earth Ministry’s 4th Annual St. Francis Creation Care Sermon Contest

What sparks your passion for faith-based environmental stewardship? The sacredness of water? Christ’s call to speak for those without voice? The impact of climate change on impoverished communities? Seeking the reflection of the Creator in creation?

Share your message of faith, hope, or action for the Earth!

Who: All clergy and lay leaders

What: A creation care sermon

* Submission Deadline: July 31, 2011
* 4 finalists announced August 12
* Sermons given on October 1 (Earth Ministry’s Celebration of St. Francis)

Where: Seattle, WA

Why: To inspire and mobilize other people of faith to care for God’s great gift of creation

For more details on contest rules, judging, and prizes, visit: http://earthministry.org/news/find-your-voice-1

For more information, contact Earth Ministry at emoffice@earthministry.org or call (206) 632-2426.  

8. Open Spaces Sacred Places National Awards Initiative

Open Spaces Sacred Places: The Healing Power of Nature

National Awards Initiative for Integrated Design and Research

In 2012, the TKF Foundation will begin the Open Spaces Sacred Places National Awards Initiative. This new award program will fund the creation of significant Open Spaces Sacred Places that are designed specifically with the intent to study and communicate the impact of a specific type of urban public greenspace on users. Grants will be awarded from a total funding pool of $5 million. Funding will be provided to cross-disciplinary teams that conceptualize, plan, design and implement a physical space, conduct associated research study(s) and disseminate findings. This Request for Proposal (RFP) launches the first phase of the national awards program and will provide funding for planning grants.

The funding will be enacted in two sequential phases. As an optional first step in the Open Spaces Sacred Places Awards process, applicants may apply for a planning grant; deadline for application is September 1, 2011. Following the planning phase, applicants may apply for Open Spaces Sacred Places Awards beginning February, 2012.

For more information and guidelines, please visit: http://www.opensacred.org/grants

To read the May 12, 2011 Press Release, “$5 Million in Grants to Study the Healing and Restorative Power of Nature: National Open Spaces Sacred Places Awards Initiative,” visit:


9. Call for Papers: “Religions, Science and Technology in Cultural Contexts: Dynamics of Change” (Conference of the International Association for the History of Religions, March 1-3, 2012 in Trondheim, Norway)

Religions, Science and Technology in Cultural Contexts: Dynamics of Change”
International Association for the History of Religions Special Conference 2012
NTNU-The Norwegian University of Science and Technology
March 1-3, 2012

This conference seeks to explore how religions, science and technology interact and generate change (progressive, reactive, regressive), particularly in relation to such issues as the environment and climate change; the economy; welfare; life expectancy; popular representation; and sexual equality. Of particular interest are explorations of dynamic relationships between worldviews/cosmologies, socio-cultural practices and technologies; and of ‘the politics of change,’ i.e. how different actors seek to convince the public of the benefits of their own approaches or of the detriment of ‘the others’ approaches.

The conference is organized by the Department of Archaeology and Religious Studies of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

Abstract of 200 words and affiliation details should be submitted by August 1, 2011. For submitting your abstracts and for any type of inquiries, you are welcome to contact the Conference secretary, Filip Ivanovic (filip.ivanovic@ntnu.no).

For the full call for papers, visit the conference website:  http://www.ntnu.no/iar/konferanser/relsci



10. Call for Papers: “Green Perceptions: Ecology and Texts” (Conference on September 15-16, 2011 at St. Paul’s College, Kerala, India)

“Green Perceptions: Ecology and Texts”
St. Paul’s College, Kalakassery, Kerala, India
September 15-16, 2011

In Collaboration with Organisation for Studies in Literature and Environment-India (OSLE-India), St. Paul’s College, Kalamassery, Kochi, Kerala State, is organizing a conference themed, “Green Perceptions: Ecology and Texts” on September 15-16, 2011 at St. Paul’s College, Kalakassery, in Kerala, India.

The contemplation of landscape has always been the source of artistic inspiration. Today, however, the concern for human survival on the planet has made landscape a topic of socio-cultural-political debate. The theme of this seminar focuses on the role of landscape representation and perception in literature, art and other disciplines. The seminar will attempt to illustrate how literary, artistic and philosophical language can represent the close link between the human and the non-human, to provide a platform for academic interaction between scholars of literature and other relevant disciplines under the theme of ecology and to examine how scholars and students of literature and language can contribute to tracing relationships between literature and the environment.

Abstracts not exceeding 300 words have to be submitted before July 20. The contributors will be informed of acceptance by July 30. Full papers, not exceeding eight pages in MLA format have to be submitted by August 31 to zednem2005@yahoo.com

For the full call for papers, visit:




11. Thinking Nature: A Journal on the Concept of Nature

Thinking Nature publishes essays that address the larger problem of trying to think nature in philosophical and ecological means and display the need for further inquiry into the conceptual monstrousness of nature.

Editors: Timothy Morton and Ben Woodard

Thinking Nature is available free of charge as an Open Access journal on the Internet. Content is available online and in PDF format here:


To read the current issue (Volume 1 2011), visit:




12. Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology 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; and 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

For more information on other journals related to religion and ecology and to environmental ethics/philosophy, visit: http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/journals/index.html.  If you know of a publication that needs to be added to this list, email news@religionandecology.org.



For the archive of previous Forum newsletters, visit: http://fore.research.yale.edu/publications/newsletters/index.html