OOS 44-2
Global perspectives on the vital relationship between ecology and religion

Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 8:20 AM
337, Baltimore Convention Center
Mary Evelyn Tucker, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT
There is an emerging alliance of ecology and religion in several international contexts including Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Over the last decade there has been a growing realization that along with science, policy, law, and economics there is a need for environmental ethics and religion to be part of the conversation - both within academia and beyond.  For some 20 years the Forum on Religion and Ecology has worked both to create an academic field and to encourage a force for environmental awareness and transformation in the larger society.  With a series of 10 international conferences at Harvard (1996-1998) followed by 10 edited volumes on world religions and ecology ( 1997-2004) the Forum is now based at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  Involved in research, education, and outreach the Forum helps to facilitate the dialogue between science based approaches to the environment and ethical understandings of valuing and caring for nature in the world's religions and cultures. With ongoing publications and annotated bibliographies we are expanding the field of research and study in ecology and religion. With a website and newsletter sent to some 10,000 people around the world we are identifying engaged projects and programs, conferences and books, films and teaching resources.

Some key case studies in Asia (  China ), the Middle East ( Israel), and South Africa show where the intersection of ecology and religion is becoming increasingly influential.  In China, for example there has been a remarkable revival of Confucianism in the last several decades in response to the destruction of the tradition under Mao. We will highlight some of the features of this movement and relate it environmental issues.  In China these efforts are being called the need to create the conditions for "ecological civilization." This term is used at the highest levels of government ( both central provincial) and it is in the Constitution as well. This idea reflects the growing awareness that China's current trajectory of economic growth has led to environmental devastation and pollution. A counterpoint to this is a cultural change of creating an ecological culture based on Chinese traditional values, especially Confucianism. This revival of Confucianism for ecology is being discussed in China on various levels - government, academic, and civil society. The Chinese are searching for a way to activate a Confucian based environmental ethics as a foundation for conservation as well as more sustainable modes of development.