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Spiritual Ecology: Is It the Ultimate Solution for the Environmental Crisis?: Obstructions and Opportunities

By Leslie E. Sponsel

Obstructions and Opportunities

As each of the foundational textbooks and some others previously cited mention, there are many obstacles to spiritual ecology, such as those espoused by fundamentalists in religion, academia, science, government, and other sectors of society.  Alister McGrath, who holds doctorates in molecular biology and divinity from Oxford University, responds to such critics in his very readable and informative The Reenchantment of Nature: The Denial of Religion and the Ecological Crisis.  John F. Haught in Is Nature Enough? Meaning and Truth in the Age of Science and Seyyed Nasr in The Need for a Sacred Science offer other compelling responses.

In spite of the many formidable obstacles and challenges confronting spiritual ecology, others view it as gaining momentum in significantly transforming many individuals, institutions, and eventually societies to become more sustainable and greener, even if this is rather gradual and not yet readily apparent in many cases.  In Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase, Mary Evelyn Tucker writes of a second Axial Age, a pivotal transformation as religions embrace an ecological phase in joining the growing moral concerns and pragmatic actions on behalf of the Earth’s health.  Such thinking is documented by Paul Hawken in his Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, and by David C. Korten in The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.  A practical guide for this transformation is offered by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone in Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy.


By now, it should be apparent that spiritual ecology is a vast, complex, diverse, dynamic, exciting, and promising new field of both intellectual and practical activities of considerable significance.  Although nonviolent and diffuse, without any single leader or institution, it perhaps may even prove to be revolutionary.  Spiritual ecology has been growing exponentially in academic and religious organizations, especially since the late 1980s.  Within a few more decades, it may be evident whether the intellectual and practical activities accumulating will be sufficient to finally help resolve, or at least markedly reduce, local and global environmental problems and crises.

Works Cited