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

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photo: Dave Stokes/Creative Commons

Since the beginning of TreeHugger posts on the intersection of environmentalism and religionM, 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.

This overlap in mission, belief, and action is too important to ignore. In continuing to sideline the power of faith communities in mobilizing people for environmental protection, the green movement overlooks a potentially huge ally.

Over the next several weeks in an ongoing series of posts I'll be highlighting this overlap, showing how the different religions have traditionally viewed the environment and humans relationship to it, as well as how this is being expressed today and put into practice. While there are undoubtedly differences between them in this regard, there is enough common ground among them that the possibility for cooperation and positive ecological change is huge.

More on Religion & Environment:
Fasting, Praying, and... Going Green: A New Tradition For Ramadan
Eco-Kosher Jews Fulfill Religious Obligations At The Dinner Table
The Vatican Declares Pollution One of the Most Deadly Modern Sins
Australian Anglican Church Says Population Growth May Break Commandment 'Thou Shall Not Steal'
World's Richest Hindu Temple Doesn't Just Ban Plastic Bags, Bans Plastics

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