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Spiritual Ecology: Is It the Ultimate Solution for the Environmental Crisis?: Other Topics

By Leslie E. Sponsel

Other Topics

A wide variety of other topics relevant to spiritual ecology includes key personages; particular case studies; nature, plants, and animals; ecology and environmentalism; sustainability and conservation; materialism and consumerism; global climate change; the relationship between religion and science; and revolutionary transformation.

Among the more than a hundred pioneers in spiritual ecology identified by Leslie Sponsel in Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution, one of the most influential during the last five decades has been the Catholic priest Thomas Berry through his many scholarly books, such as Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community.  Like his other writings, this book is filled with profound insights and inspiration, such as the statement that “the universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”  In The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality, and Religion in the Twenty-First Century, Berry advocates an interreligious dialogue to deal with the challenges of the environmental problems of the new century and emerging Ecozoic era.  Furthermore, he calls for a new story of the origin and evolution of the universe as a sacred community embracing the Earth and humankind, informed by the world’s scientific and humanistic traditions.

Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker pursue such ideas further in the Journey of the Universe, a companion book for the award-winning documentary film of the same title and the complementary twenty-episode educational DVD series.  These publications are also an example of how the ongoing environmental crisis provides common ground for collaboration between science and religion, transcending centuries of tension, as John Jaeger showed in his 2012 bibliographic essay in Choice, “Science and Religion—Renunciation or Reconciliation?”  Such collaboration is also apparent in The Good in Nature and Humanity: Connecting Science, Religion, and Spirituality with the Natural World, coedited by Stephen R. Kellert and Timothy J. Farnham.

Turning to the subjects of nature, plants, and animals, two wide-ranging books by Nathaniel Altman are superb reading: Sacred Water: The Spiritual Source of Life and Sacred Trees.  Also fascinating and insightful is Stephanie Kaza’s The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees.  The massive anthology A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics, coedited by Paul Waldau and Kimberley Patton, is a comprehensive interdisciplinary compilation on how religious beliefs, myths, rituals, and art treat animals.  Another survey is Animals as Religious Subjects: Transdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Celia Deane-Drummond, Rebecca Artinian, and David L. Clough.

In recent years, spiritual ecology has been increasingly related directly to concerns for sustainability and conservation.  Worldwatch Institute researcher Gary T. Gardner surveys their mutual relevance in Inspiring Progress: Religion’s Contributions to Sustainable Development, as does in greater depth Lucas F. Johnston in Religion and Sustainability: Social Movements and the Politics of the Environment.  Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, coedited by Darrell A. Posey with several others, is a voluminous assemblage of multidisciplinary essays.  Related to these subjects are works addressing the rampant materialism and consumerism of some societies.  Among them are these three edited books: Allan Hunt Badiner’s Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism; Stephanie Kaza’s Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume; and Richard K. Payne’s How Much Is Enough? Buddhism, Consumerism, and the Human Environment.

In the twenty-first century, religions, like other institutions and sectors of society, are becoming increasingly concerned with the overwhelming international consensus of scientists regarding the undeniable reality and most serious challenges of global climate change.  Among more than a dozen books on the subject, A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming by prominent theologian Sallie McFague considers this challenge.  From the perspective of another religion, John Stanley, David R. Loy, and Gyurme Dorje coedited A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency, with the accompanying website Ecological Buddhism.  Broader considerations are Religion in Environmental and Climate Change: Suffering, Values, Lifestyles, coedited by Dieter Gerten and Sigurd Bergmann, and How the World’s Religions Are Responding to Climate Change: Social Scientific Investigations, coedited by Robin Globus Veldman, Andrew Sasz, and Randolph Haluza-DeLay.


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