Religion and the Environment

“Why have religions been so late in responding to environmental issues, and what are the obstacles to their full participation?”

This is the question raised by Mary Tucker and John Grim in a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Religions, having the strong influence that they do in shaping society, have a role to play in responding to current environmental problems.

Religions definitely define positions on homicide and suicide and should now respond to ecocide and biocide. Tucker and Grim and point out that the environmental crisis has a moral dimension and religious sensibility should be able to respond to that. Furthermore humanity’s joint residence within the ecosystem means that there is an opportunity, indeed a need, for inter-religious dialog to promote a cooperative social response to environmental degradation.

There is activity within the religious community on issues related to the environment. It ranges from community projects dealing with protection of local environmental resources because of motivation by religious principles to publication of scholarly works studying connections between religion and the environment. In some countries such as Iran and Indonesia environmental policies explicitly draw upon religious principles.

Much information about environmental work driven by religious views is available at Harvard University’s Forum on Religion and Ecology. Tucker and Grim are coordinators for this forum and also visiting scholars at Yale University’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies.

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