Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Environmentalism Ignores the Power of Religious Communities At Its Peril - Let's Change That

by Matthew McDermott, New York, NY

Since the beginning of TreeHugger posts on the intersection of environmentalism and religion, on how the different spiritual traditions of the world are embracing more ecologically-friendly behavior, have been peppered throughout our archive. The fact of the matter though is that, consciously or not, we have largely shied away from highlighting how communities of faith are going green, how religious values can and are being a force for furthering ecological awareness.

Even a Strictly Utilitarian Perspective Demands Religious Inclusion

Instead we have largely focused on the practical aspects of going green: It'll save you money, it's better for your health, it's better for the planet's health (which is better for your health...), it'll preserve a world that your children and grand-children will thrive in, etc, etc.

Which is exactly why we--and I'm speaking now about the environmental community more widely not just my own little corner of it here on TreeHugger--need to recognize the value of religion in creating a more ecologically and socially just future. Before we even get to discussing different spiritual paths' take on the environment, as a practical matter religion is at the center of hundreds of millions of people's lives in one way or another.

It is foolish to not tap into this in a public way, encouraging and emphasizing the fact that there is not a major (or minor) faith tradition on the planet that does not speak positively on environmental preservation.

Religions Value Environment Differently, But There's Plenty of Common Ground

Granted, these values are differently emphasized, differently expressed (and certainly differently applied) in various communities and at different times, but at the core there is not a single path that explicitly endorses pollution, endorses ecological destruction, endorses environmental degradation. Furthermore, as awareness about humans' environmental impact grows more and more religious groups are actively emphasizing ecological protection and acting on these beliefs in practical ways... read more story at