The Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter
4.10 (October 2010)
1. Editorial, by Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
2. Rustum Roy (1924 – 2010)
4. Ground for Hope (Nov. 14-15, New Jersey, USA)
5. New Publications
6. Essay Competition on Christianity and Animals
7. Call for Papers for American Academy of Religion Regional Meetings 2011
8. Job Opening: Assistant Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Drew Theological School (Madison, NJ, USA)
9. Job Opening: Director of Education and Programs at Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center (Abiquiu, NM, USA)
10. “Restoring Food Democracy: What Gandhi Can Teach Us About Sustainability, Appropriate Technologies, and Social Justice,” by A. Whitney Sanford
11. Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
Welcome to the October 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 books, conferences, calls for papers, job openings, events, and more.
We are always working to inform you about recent publications that relate to the field of Religion and Ecology. This month there are many to mention, covering such topics as biotechnology, Islamic perspectives on climate change, the ecological attitude implicit in Shinto, Christian perspectives on animals, and the visionary thought of the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Along with publications, conferences are an excellent way to participate in emerging developments related to issues at the intersection of religion and ecology. We want to highlight the upcoming conference, “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin for A New Generation.” It will be held November 18-21 at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA, USA. Keynote speakers include Mary Evelyn Tucker, Illia Deleo, Brother Jeffrey Gros, and David Grumett. John Grim and Brian Swimme will also be speaking.
We are excited to inform you that the 2010 American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting will be held October 30-November 1 in Atlanta, GA, USA. This conference includes many presentations on topics concerning Religion and Ecology, Religion and Animals, and other related areas of inquiry. We hope you’ll be involved. In addition, regional meetings of the American Academy of Religion will be held in March and April 2011. See below for CFPs for some regional meetings that have special sections on Religion and Ecology.
We want to direct your attention to some upcoming events. One event is a project of 350.org, scheduled for October 10: “10/10/10: Global Work Party.” Including local events happening worldwide, the event is a day to celebrate climate solutions, ranging from community gardens, solar panels, bike workshops, etc. For more information, visit: http://www.350.org/1010.
Another event is “Ground for Hope,” a religious-environmental education and training event for clergy, laity, seminarians, and seminaries. The event will take place November 14-15 in New Jersey, USA, and it will include speakers, workshops, a tour, and other educational opportunities.
This month, we include a short piece by A. Whitney Sanford, Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Florida, who discusses a democratic approach to food in light of the “food democracy” of Gandhi. Sanford shows how Gandhi’s food democracy can teach us important lessons regarding sustainability, technology, and justice, specifically with respect to the contemporary challenges of consumerist ideologies and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
There are two job openings that we would like you to know about. The first opening is for a full-time tenure-track position of Assistant Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Drew Theological School in Madison, NJ, USA. The second opening is for a Director of Education and Programs at Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center in Abiquiu, NM, USA.
As the aforementioned jobs, publications, and events indicate, the field of Religion and Ecology includes the efforts of people from many different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Honoring and celebrating all those people whose efforts contribute to the field of religion and ecology, we want to announce the death of Rustum Roy, a professor of materials science and medicine who was also an advocate for interdisciplinary education and for dialogue between science and religion. Roy passed away on August 26. He was 86.
We hope that this newsletter supports your own work and helps you further your own engagements with the field of Religion and Ecology.
Sam Mickey & Elizabeth McAnally
California Institute of Integral Studies
Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale
Web Content Managers & Newsletter Editors
Rustum Roy (July 3, 1924 - August 26, 2010) was an American materials scientist who held visiting professorships in materials science at Arizona State University and in medicine at the University of Arizona, as well as an emeritus position at Pennsylvania State University in three departments. He described himself as a science policy analyst, advocate of interdisciplinary education and alternative medicine, and science and religion.
To read an obituary published in Centre Daily Times, visit:
To read an obituary written by Dana Ullman, visit:
“Reason, Theology and the Genome”
A conference on the ethics of human enhancement
Christ Church College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
October 9, 2010
“10/10/10 Global Work Party”
A Day to Celebrate Climate Solutions Worldwide
October 10, 2010
“Campus Initiatives to Catalyze a Just and Sustainable World”
2010 Conference of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
Keynote by Mary Evelyn Tucker
Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO, USA
October 10-12, 2010
Environmental Literacy for a Sustainable World
Ecology and Education Summit
Co-organizers: Ecological Society of America and National Education Association
National Education Association headquarters, Washington DC, USA
October 14-15, 2010
American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting
Atlanta, GA, USA
October 30-November 1, 2010
“Climate Existence 2010”
Keynote Speakers: Bill McKibben, David Abram, and Harald Welzer
November 1-3, 2010
“The Life & Vision of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.”
The Tablet Forum Series
Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, NY, USA
November 4, 2010
The International Association for Environmental Philosophy
Fourteenth Annual Meeting
Marriott Château Champlain, Montreal, Canada
November 6-8, 2010
Society for Ecofeminism, Environmental Justice, and Social Ecology (SEEJSE)
Sixth Annual Meeting
Marriott Château Champlain, Montreal, Canada
November 8, 2010
“Pierre Teilhard de Chardin for A New Generation”
Hosted by Santa Clara University and the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley
Conference Speakers: Mary Evelyn Tucker, Illia Deleo, Brother Jeffrey Gros, David Grumett
Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA, USA
November 18-21, 2010
PDF flyer available at: http://fore.research.yale.edu/calendar/item/pierre-teilhard-de-chardin-for-a-new-generation/
“2010 Winter Solstice Celebration with Paul Winter Consort & Special Guests”
Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, NY, USA
December 16-18, 2010
Drew Theological School, GreenFaith, Watchung Presbyterian Church and the Green Seminiary Initiative invite you to:
Ground for Hope
A Religious-Environmental Education & Training Event
Sunday, November 14
2:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Watchung Ave. Presbyterian Church, North Plainfield, NJ, USA
Monday, November 15
8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
The Theological School at Drew University, Madison, NJ, USA
Keynote Lecture by:
Dr. Larry Rasmussen
Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics Emeritus,
Union Theological Seminary
Education and Training on:
* Eco-preaching, worship, biblical, theological and religious education
* Environmental justice & advocacy
* ‘Green’ facility management
* Environmental Justice, Green Building and Drew Sustainability Tours
Sunday only: $15
Free for seminary students
Groups of 4 or more from one house of worship – 20% discount
Schedule, information and registration at www.greenfaith.org
PDF flyer available at: http://fore.research.yale.edu/files/Ground_for_Hope.pdf
Rediscovering Teilhard’s Fire
Edited by Kathleen Duffy, S.S.J.
Saint Joseph’s University Press, 2010
Rediscovering Teilhard’s Fire is a collection of 17 scholarly essays focusing on the legacy of Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin. It is divided into four thematic sections: Teilhard as Visionary, Mystic, Theologian, and Philosopher; Teilhard’s Aesthetic Appeal; Teilhard in Dialogue; and Teilhard’s Contributions to Science and Technology.
To download the table of contents and the order form, please view the PDF on this page:
The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity’s Compassion for Animals
By Laura Hobgood-Oster
Baylor University Press, 2010
Today we find ourselves in an anomaly in human history: many of our lives are empty of animals. We have pets and sometimes watch documentaries on Animal Planet, but few of us know how the other species on our planet really live today. And as Laura Hobgood-Oster reveals, many are not living very well–sadly, not very well at all.
Seeking to awaken Christians to the place and, too often, plight of animals in the twenty-first century, The Friends We Keep gently but astutely introduces the situations animals face today—as companions, as animals in sport, as animals raised for food, and as creatures in the wild—and simultaneously retells a myriad of often surprising and instructive stories from the long, rich history of Christianity. We see and experience animals as Christians have for generations—as beloved companions to the saints, as unfortunate prisoners in Roman arenas, as sentient and compassionate recipients and givers of hospitality, and as good and worthy beings created by God. Once upon a time, it seems—not too terribly long ago—animals held an important place in Christianity.
Could it be, then, that Christianity can be good news for animals today?
With a guide for group discussion and ideas for how people of faith can respond, this thoroughly engaging and enlightening book is essential for all who desire to live compassionately.
Shinto and a 21st Century Japanese Ecological Attitude
By Daniel Shaw
VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2010
Japan, like many other industrialised countries, is in dire need of a change in treatment of the environment, as is evidenced by a gamut of environmental problems. Its native religion, Shinto, can be sufficiently isolated from other Japanese ideological traditions in order to be considered separately from them, with beliefs, values, themes, an attitude and a worldview that are specific to Shinto spirituality, and in many cases already integrated into everyday Japanese life. Shinto worship of spirits which permeate the world is concurrent with a Japanese self-identification of being ‘at one’ with nature. These beliefs can be shown to lead to ecocentrism and potentially a holistic ecological attitude of ‘respect for nature.’ Such an attitude would be bolstered by the Japanese importance of maintaining a ‘mindful heart.’ This book aims to convince the reader that the beliefs and values exhibited in Shinto spirituality could play a fundamental role in developing a Japanese ecological attitude. It should be of particular interest to those interested in Japanese culture, environmental ethics and world religions.
Islam & Climate Change ~ A Call To Heal
By the Wisdom In Nature team
Online Booklet, 2010
From a small team of faith-inspired community activists…
This picture guide outlines an Islamic perspective on one of the most pressing challenges of our time. In simple language and with pictures, it introduces the following themes:
Disturbance of the Natural Order
A Call to the Fitrah
Islam: A Religion of Harmony
Fulfilling our Role as Khalifah
A Revival towards Wholeness
The Power of Many
Climate Change is a signal that humankind has lost its course. By drawing on spiritual wisdom, we can respond to this call - this call to heal. This booklet was produced by a team of community activists to educate, cultivate reflection and inspire holistic action to help build a fairer and more sustainable world for all.
Download for free at http://www.wisdominnature.org.uk/Resources/reading.htm
Catholic Concern for Animals (http://www.all-creatures.org/ca/) has launched its 2010 essay competition on Christianity and animals. The essay title is “Moral indifference to animal suffering is a challenge the Church has to address”. Winners receive £500 (and £200 to their academic institution, if relevant). Essays need to be 2,000 words (maximum) and the deadline for submissions is November 1, 2010.
The competition provides an opportunity for original contributions to thought about the status of animals within the Christian tradition and is especially appropriate for students studying theology and other relevant subjects. The competition is organised by Centre Fellow, Dr Deborah M. Jones, who is also General Secretary of Catholic Concern for Animals. Details about the competition can be obtained by emailing Dr Jones at email@example.com (please write “Ark Essay” in subject box).
For more information, visit: http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/2010/08/2010-essay-competition-on-christianity-and-animals/
2011 Midwest Regional Meeting
Augustana College - Evald Hall
Rock Island, Illinois, USA
April 1-2, 2011
The Religion, Ecology, and Culture section solicits proposals for papers and panels that explore the dynamic interrelationships of religion, ecology (environment, nature, animals), and culture, including those that seek to understand religious responses to, and analyses of, the ways in which human and nonhuman species relate to their natural environments. There is a paper competition for the Best Research Paper in the Area of Religion, Ecology, and Sustainability.
Proposals are due January 2, 2011.
2011 Upper Midwest Regional Meeting
Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA
April 1–2, 2011
Religion and Ecology Section
Amy Marga, Luther Seminary
Submissions are welcome on any aspect of religion and ecology study, including the role of politics, globalization, war, or legal decisions in the creation of and/or resistance to environmental degradation. Other topics within the field are also encouraged. This year, we are particularly interested in papers on the topic of “Dreams, Visions, and Mosaics: Beauty in the Work of Thomas Berry and Terry Tempest Williams.”
The submission deadline is December 15, 2010.
Drew Theological School invites applications for the full-time tenure-track position of Assistant Professor of Christian Social Ethics, pending budget approval, starting Fall 2011. Applicants must have a completed PhD or equivalent degree by July 1, 2011. We are seeking candidates with research and teaching interests in moral theology traditions and, preferably, one or more of the following areas: global economic ethics, particularly related to Latin America; environmental justice; moral subjectivity of children and youth.
Responsibilities include teaching and mentoring: master’s students in the seminary, and PhD students in the Graduate Division of Religion. Candidates must show evidence of a scholarly research and publication agenda as well as promise of and/or a record of excellence in teaching.
Rooted in its Methodist heritage, Drew Theological School is committed to building a respectful, diverse ethos that, with emphases appropriate to its differing degree programs, nurtures Christian faith, critical thinking, engagement of society, and intellectual vitality for students who bring diverse theologies, political perspectives, racial/ethnic identities, sexual orientations, nationalities, and vocational goals. A successful candidate will bring demonstrated skills and potential for contributing to this commitment.
To apply, all applicants must send curriculum vitae, a cover letter that includes teaching and research interests, a writing sample, three letters of reference and copies of transcripts to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 15, 2010. Informal conversations will be held at the AAR in Atlanta with qualified candidates selected by the committee who are either registered with the AAR Job Center or send a cover letter and CV to email@example.com before October 21, 2010. To enrich education through diversity Drew University is an AA/EOE.
Location: Abiquiu, New Mexico
Reports To: Executive Director
Application Due: October 18, 2010
Ghost Ranch is dedicated to being a leading educational center in the global effort to develop a higher level of human consciousness and spiritual awareness, a deeper connection with the earth, a broader understanding of sustainable living, and expanded creativity so that all may live well in God’s Creation. At Ghost Ranch we provide spacious hospitality amidst the stunning physical beauty of the high desert of Northern New Mexico, and we offer a wealth of programs in the fields of spirituality, social justice, the arts, sustainability, outdoor adventure and science. We provide educational programs for people of all ages and every faith. We are also devoted to inspiring and training leaders for progressive and emerging religious movements, as well as ecumenical and interfaith endeavors.
The Director of Program will develop and articulate the broad vision for the Ghost Ranch Educational program, as well as create, implement and evaluate the Ghost Ranch programmatic offerings. The Director of Education and Programs will nurture and expand the already extensive network of relationships with faculty and resource people in our programmatic areas, and will be seen as a national leader in educational programming which integrates spirituality, sustainability, the arts and science. The growth in the Ghost Ranch educational program and in this position will develop over time. The new Director of Education and Programs will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Executive Director and other staff to develop a program which increasingly addresses the important issues of our day.
To see the full job description, visit:
The overflowing shelves and pristine aisles of our supermarkets belie an uncomfortable reality–that we face a global food crisis and that our existing production practices are inadequate to feed the world’s growing populations. Control over the world’s food supply is increasingly concentrated into fewer hands, and the growing array of items emerges from narrowed choices of seed and species; for example, the global food system relies on monocultures of corn and soybeans, based on genetic lines that do not reflect the diversity developed over time. Despite the rhetoric of “feeding the world” and increased production, the growing corporate control of the world’s food supply has led to increased hunger, environmental degradation and social inequities. For many, these conditions reinforce the need for intensive techniques of industrial agriculture and justify emerging biotechnologies such as transgenics. What I propose here is that, first, a just food system must incorporate democracy, sustainability and attention to social justice; and second, Gandhi’s thought provides some tools to evaluate the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of food production.
Gandhi and Food Democracy
Over 50 years ago, Mohandas Gandhi offered the basis for a food system that emphasized sustainability, equity, and democracy. He emphasized food production at the village level, meaning that farmers must have access to water, productive soils, and a variety of seeds and landraces. When landscapes become degraded or farmers lose access to appropriate seeds, water and inputs, then food production is no longer possible.
Today, farmers and activists in India and abroad are using Gandhi’s social thought to rethink food production and social relations. Gandhi argued that freedom lay in democratic and broad access to the means of production. If colonial, corporate or centralized governmental structures control access to resources such as water or seeds, citizens are beholden to those structures. Gandhi’s prescient words remain relevant as growing corporate control of agricultural production represents neo-colonial incursions into India’s food sovereignty.
While many Indians and Europeans saw technology, urbanization and industrialization as forms of progress, Gandhi critiqued these trends because that he believed that an over-reliance on these ideologies and the accompanying technologies enslaved people, both rich and poor, as the need for goods became the driving force of society. He advocated programs and appropriate technologies (E.F. Shumacher’s term) to enhance agricultural productivity and that would return the benefits to village populations. For example, Gandhi encouraged small scale irrigation schemes—rather than massive dams—that addressed local needs and that could be developed and maintained at the village-level. To evaluate appropriate technologies, he simply asked “who benefits?” The important point is that these appropriate technologies diffuse knowledge, adapt to local conditions a nd benefit local economies and so represent an alternative paradigm for development.
What Gandhi Can Teach Us Today
Although India gained its independence over fifty years ago, Gandhi’s words foretell a “religion of the marketplace” paradigm that has become a global reality. Today, the globally dominant paradigm is one of high production that privileges large-scale agriculture and wealthy nations and reflects the growing entrenchment of neoliberal ideologies. In response to growing hunger and environmental devastation, many people see transgenics or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as the obvious solution, and these emerging biotechnologies have received staunch support from agribusiness, e.g. Monsanto, and NGOs such as the Gates Foundation in Africa. While there are multiple evaluative frameworks for GMOs, e.g. theological, biological, and medical, my work focuses on social justice and food democracy, that is, who has access to these technologies, who gets fed, and who makes the choices.
Farmers in groups such as Via Campesina, as well as farmers in India I have worked with, question the benefits and consequences of GMOs, citing concerns about ownership of germplasm, loss of landraces, costs of technological packets that accompany transgenic seeds, and loss of control of their food supply. If these seeds are not drought-resistant, for example, and require intensive inputs, then these seeds replicate the problems of monocultures in addition to adding new problems of ownership and patents. These evaluative frameworks include disaggregating regional and household access to food, technology, and money, reflecting anthropologist Ruth Mein-Dick’s (CGIAR)’s research. For example, do men gain sole access to new technologies and cash at the expense of women who have retained local knowledge about species and inter-cropping methods.
As we face a world of increased hunger, environmental degradation, and growing social inequities, we must respond to new technologies rationally and acknowledge their potential social, economic, and ecological consequences. Our critiques should not be backward-looking, as Meera Nanda argues in Prophets Facing Backward. Arguing for a romanticized agrarian past or throwing out (as opposed to, say, critiquing) western scientific knowledge can reify and strengthen oppressive existing hierarchies. Nonetheless, investigating the social and financial underpinnings of scientific funding and research yields a critique of the role that scientific institutions play in social relations.
With an increasing amount of information about food products, deciding what to eat can be bewildering, but these uncertainties compel those who are concerned about food to question not only the food choices but decisions leading to those choices. Gandhi’s thoughts on self-sufficiency, agricultural technologies, and social equity can help us evaluate the costs and benefits of various choices so that we can restore broad and democratic access to the means of food production.
A. Whitney Sanford
Associate Professor of Religion
University of Florida
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.