Dark Green Religion


Chapter 9. Conclusion: Dark Green Religion and the Planetary Future

(Listed In Order of Page and Paragraph Number In Dark Green Religion)

Chapter 8 of DGR suggested a terrapolitan earth religion (or civil earth religion) is beginning to emerge, which is promoting kinship ethics and the construction of environmentally sustainable societies. Chapter 9 considered what would need to happen for this to be more than an ardent hope.

On 28 December 2008 (just as DGR went into production), as part of its new Constitution, Ecuador established legal rights for nature. This little-noticed but stunning development could provide a model for the legal infrastrucructure needed for the emerging, terrapolitan world. It is well worth reading (my emphases are in italics):

Title II
Fundamental Rights

Chapter 1
Entitlement, Application and Interpretation Principles of the Fundamental Rights

Art. Rights Entitlement. Persons and people have the fundamental rights guaranteed in this Constitution and in the international human rights instruments.

Nature is subject to those rights given by this Constitution and Law.

Chapter: Rights for Nature

Art. 1. Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain itself and regenerate its own vital cycles, structure, functions and its evolutionary processes.

Any person, people, community or nationality, may demand the observance of the rights of the natural environment before public bodies. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.

Art. 2. Nature has the right to be completely restored. This complete restoration is independent of the obligation on natural and juridical persons or the State to compensate people or collective groups that depend on the natural systems.

In the cases of severe or permanent environmental impact, including the ones caused by the exploitation of nonrenewable natural resources, the State will establish the most efficient mechanisms for the restoration, and will adopt the adequate measures to eliminate or mitigate the harmful environmental consequences.

Art. 3. The State will motivate natural and juridical persons as well as collectives to protect nature; it will promote respect towards all the elements that form an ecosystem.

Art. 4. The State will apply precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles.

The introduction of organisms and organic and inorganic material that can alter in a definitive way the national genetic heritage is prohibited.

Art. 5. The persons, people, communities and nationalities will have the right to benefit from the environment and form natural wealth that will allow wellbeing.

The environmental services cannot be appropriated; its production, provision, use and exploitation, will be regulated by the State.

When the articles were individually approved, in the run up to the approval of the constitution, the votes on each article were overwhelmingly in favor. They seemed to echo Christopher Stone's novel legal argument, first advanced in 1972, that trees and other living things should have standing in the courts, and people ought to be able to represent their interests (see DGR, p. 19).

Par. 3, popular pressure can wrest concessions from elite social sectors, for example, see Bron Taylor, ed., Ecological Resistance Movements: The Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1995).

Par. 1, unabridged Thomas Derr’s statement about the Earth Charter’s pantheism:

The prior language of ‘intrinsic value of all beings,’ an arguable point at best, is gone, but its replacement is its functional equivalent: ‘[E]very form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.’ This is the point that the Charter’s originators regard as indispensable and at the heart of the values shift that they advocate. We are enjoined to ‘declare our responsibility [not only] to one another, [but also] to the greater community of life.’ We humans have ‘kinship with all life’ and need ‘humility regarding the human place in nature.’ We must ‘treat all living beings with respect and consideration.’ . . . Peace requires ‘right relationships’ not only with other people but with ‘other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which we are a part.’ And we still must awaken to a ‘new reverence for life.’ [Derr, "Earth Charter," 7.]

Par. 3., more on Derr’s perception: It is not surprising that Derr and others would make this kind of statement given the kind of pantheistic statements made by proponents such as Strong and Gorbechev (such as in Dark Green Religion, p. 178). For less measured criticisms of those involved in the Earth Charter movement than Derr’s, which views its proponents as wolves in sheep’s clothing, see the article by Lee Penn (sourced in Dark Green Religion, 286, note 85), which considers the Earth Charter “totalitarian.” Penn spends a great deal of time looking at the religious beliefs and backgrounds of prominent Earth Charter proponents, including Strong and Gorbechev. One need not appreciate the vitriolic tone to recognize that Christians such as Penn are quite able to discern nature religion when they see it.

Par. 1, quotation by Thomas Derr that the Earth Charter’s intrinsic value language would prevent its adoption by the United Nations: “If I were to guess . . . I would say that the language of intrinsic value that is still in the Charter . . . will prove the final stumbling block to official acceptance. As long as the Charter talks that way, it will fall short of the universal appeal that would enable it to be adopted by the General Assembly.” Derr could well be right about this. [See Derr, "Earth Charter," 8.]

Par. 3, Benthall’s assertions have affinity with Anna King’s suggestion (see bibliography) that scholars should study the religion to be found amidst such groups. Benthall buttressed his statement by noting, contra Dawkins, that while most scientists do not believe in a personal God or consider themselves religious, more than half identify as spiritual, leading him to conclude, “it is certainly clear that any stereotype of scientists being implacably opposed to religion, in the manner of Richard Dawkins, is over-simplified” (138).

Par. 2, Wordsworth sonnet, to which Lovelock was referred (which would be widely known among intellectuals in Britain):

Great God! I ’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

[Wordsworth, Miscellaneous Sonnets. Part I. xxxiii.]
Par. 1, unabridged references documenting and promoting religious environmentalism (especially among the so-called “world religions”), see such entries in Bron Taylor, Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (London & New York: Continuum International, 2005), and also: Roger Gottlieb, ed., This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment, first ed. (New York & London: Routledge, 1996), David Landis Barnhill and Roger Gottlieb, eds., Deep Ecology and World Religions: New Essays on Sacred Ground (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2000), Roger S. Gottlieb, ed., Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), Roger S. Gottlieb, A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), Laurel Kearns and Catherine Keller, Ecospirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth, 1st ed. (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007), and the ten volume “Religions of the world and ecology” book series edited by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, published between 1997 and 2007 by the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. For an in depth ethnography exploring a movement among Roman Catholic Nuns who have significant affinities with dark green religion, see Sarah McFarland Taylor, Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). For an elegantly written effort to blend Christian and Pagan spiritualities, which will please few Pagans and Christians despite its eloquence, see Mark I. Wallace, Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2005).
Par. 2, when speaking of educators as mavens I focus especially on prolific environmental studies scholars such as David Orr. Demonstrating his affinity with dark green religion, Orr was quoted in July 2008, “It is no accident that connectedness is central to the meaning of both the Greek root word for ecology, oikos, and the Latin root word for religion, religio.” (see http://www.oberlin.edu/news-info/98sep/orr_profile.html). Orr’s books include Design on the Edge: The Making of a High-Performance Building (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006), Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1994), and Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992).
Par. 4, additional publications by J. Baird Callicott include his edited, Companion to a Sand County Almanac: Interpretive & Critical Essays (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), a collection of important essays he wrote during the 1980s,In Defense of the Land Ethic: Essays in Environmental Philosophy (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989), a co-authored and widely assigned book in environmental studies courses, see J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames, eds.,Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought: Essays in Environmental Philosophy (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989), and an important collection of essays debating the wilderness idea, see J. Baird Callicott and Michael P. Nelson, eds.,The Great New Wilderness Debate (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998). With one of his collaborators he returned to an earlier interest in Native American land ethics in J. Baird Callicott and Michael P. Nelson, American Indian Environmental Ethics: An Ojibwa Case Study (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004). Since the early 1990s, Callicott has been at the University of North Texas, the same faculty joined a decade later by Ricardo Rozzi.

Par. 1, For a scholarly forum in response to Callicott’s Earth’s Insightssee the special issue of Worldviews: Environment, Nature, Culture (vol. 1, no. 2, 1997), which was devoted to it, including Bron Taylor, "On Sacred or Secular Ground? Callicott and Environmental Ethics," Worldviews 1, no. 2 (1997), 99-112.

The environmental philosopher Max Oelschlaeger deployed a similar strategy to Callicott. Oelschlaeger wrote a provocative book promoting a return to Paleolithic religious consciousness, by which he meant perception that considers nature sacred and that represented a clear rejection of the world’s major religious traditions. Later, thinking strategically and ignoring the irony, Oelschlaeger produced a book that endeavored to turn Christianity green; see Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), Max Oelschlaeger, Caring for Creation: An Ecumenical Approach to the Environmental Crisis (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994). A decade afterward he was still envisioning and promoting a future, Paleolithic religion; see Max Oelschlaeger, "Paleolithic Religions and the Future," in Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. For more on Callicott and Oelschlaeger’s terrapolitan efforts, see Bron Taylor, "A Green Future for Religion?," Futures Journal 36, no. 9 (2004).

Par. 2, Baird Callicott took obvious delight in noting that of the four forces Dave Forman listed as most important to radical environmentalism’s emergence and strength, the most important was academic philosophy (the second was conservation biology). For evidence Callicott cited Dave Foreman in "The New Conservation Movement," Wild Earth 1, no. 2 [Summer] (1991), 8. See also Peggy Tripp and Linda June Muzzin, Teaching as Activism: Equity Meets Environmentalism (Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005).

Par. 4, for additional references on the sometimes vitriolic debate over the social construction of nature, see especiallyEnvironmental History (1996), which reprinted Cronon’s article alongside critiques of it by conservation historians Samuel P. Hays and Michael P. Cohen, who had both earlier written important books on the conservation movement: Samuel P. Hays,Beauty, Health and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955-1985 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press, 1987), Michael P. Cohen, The Pathless Way: John Muir and American Wilderness (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), Michael P. Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club (1892-70) (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1984).

Soon after that issue of Environmental History was published, even broader discussions occurred in various journals and books, the most important of which appeared in Michael Soulé, "The Social Siege of Nature," in Reinventing Nature? Responses to Postmodern Deconstruction, ed. M. Soulé and G. Lease (San Francisco: Island Press, 1995), Callicott and Nelson, eds., The Great New Wilderness Debate, and Tom Butler, ed., Wild Earth: Wild Ideas for a World out of Balance(Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed, 2002). These three books included articles by many individuals who had been engaged in dark green religion, including Foreman, Gary Snyder, Reed Noss, Val Plumwood and Gary Paul Nabhan.

Par. 1, For books specifically about the sustainability revolution, which provide many examples of phenomena with dark green dimensions, see Andres R. Edwards, The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift (Gabriola, BC: New Society Publishers, 2005), and Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being, and Why No One Saw It Coming (New York: Viking, 2007).]

Other important publications that reflect the trend include John B. Cobb, Jr., Sustainability: Economics, Ecology, and Justice(Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1992), Robert Costanza, ed., Ecological Economics: The Science and Management of Sustainability (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (New Haven, [Conn.]: Yale University Press, 2006), Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, 1st ed. (New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 1993), Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, 1st ed. (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co., 1999), Darcy E. Hitchcock and Marsha L. Willard, The Business Guide to Sustainability: Practical Strategies and Tools for Organizations (London ; Sterling, VA: Earthscan, 2006), Chad Holliday, Stephan Schmidheiny, and Philip Watts, Walking the Talk: The Business Case for Sustainable Development(Berrett-Koehler, 2002), Huey Johnson, Green Plans: Greenprint for Sustainability (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), Amory Lovins et al., Harvard Business Review on Profiting from Green Business (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2008), William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, 1st ed. (New York: North Point Press, 2002), Andrew W. Savitz and Karl Weber, The Triple Bottom Line: How Today's Best-Run Companies Are Achieving Economic, Social, and Environmental Success-and How You Can Too, 1st ed. (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006), Bob Willard, The Next Sustainability Wave: Building Boardroom Buy-In (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2005), Bob Willard, The Sustainability Advantage: Seven Business Case Benefits of a Triple Bottom Line(Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2002).

There has also been a proliferation of business organizations devoted to sustainability, such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, see http://www.wbcsd.org/, and CERES, a coalition of investors and environmentalists that has developed important environmental principles and benchmarks for corporations and businesses, and states its mission as “integrating sustainability into capital markets for the health of the planet and its people.” See http://www.ceres.org.

Environmentalists have traditionally viewed cynically the expression of green commitments by corporations, dismissing them as public relations “greenwashing.” Such criticism is less often on target than it used to be, however. As the environmentalist milieu broadens, there will be further cross-fertilization as environmentalists and business people learn from one another and some of them re-configure their views.

Two of the prime texts in adaptive management well illustrate the value of breaking down such barriers between environmental and corporate sectors; see Gunderson and Holling, Panarchy and Fikret Berkes, Johan Colding, and Carl Folke, Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2003). I once participated in a long sustainability dialogue with officials involved with the Chlorine Chemistry industry. While sometimes difficult, important mutual understanding emerged. Afterward, one of the main lobbyists for the industry decided he wanted to work full-time promoting the sustainability movement in the corporate world.

Par. 1, regarding Sanyo’s remarkable Gaian spirituality, lest readers think I am making this up, I provide the full paragraph summarized at the top Dark Green Religion, p. 216:

Mankind’s blind pursuit of convenience and material comforts threaten to upset this fragile balance of co-existence sustaining life on Earth, creating such problems as environmental destruction and the break-down of societal values. Guided by the keywords ‘symbiotic evolution’ [a hyperlink here explained, “Symbiotic Evolution can be defined as the joyful evolution with Earth and all lives that inhabit it. Another way to think of it is to consider it as the ideal where all life can feel great about having lived together with each other. We believe that there must be a way for all life to coexist and co-evolve.”] and ‘sustainability’ [a second hyperlnk explained, “Sustainability is synonymous with preserving and maintaining. Its goal is to provide future generations an environment they can strive in. At SANYO, in order to create a sustainable future, we will move away from the commonly-held view of "technology manipulating nature" to a cooperative "technology assisting nature" ideal.”] and equipped with world-leading technologies, SANYO will provide solutions to help sustain a positive co-existence with Gaia.

Par. 2, on the real dangers of environmental decline, there is a gargantuan literature that need not be presented here. Excellent entry points include the reports presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. The best place for non-scientists to start is the “Summary for Policymakers” that appears with each report, then look for the graphs and charts available from its website; these resources and the full reports and more are available at http://www.ipcc.ch/.
Par. 1, on the present trends toward ecological and social collapse, I have found these studies especially illuminating: P. Vitousek, P. Ehrlich, and P. Matson, "Human Appropriation of the Products of Photosynthesis," Bioscience 36, no. June (1986), Peter M. Vitousek, Jane Lubchenco Mooney, and Jerry M. Melillo, "Human Domination of Ecosystems," Science 277, no. 5325 (1997), Helmut Haberl et al., "Quantifying and Mapping the Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production in Earth's Terrestrial Ecosystems," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 104, no. 31 (2007). The most recent study shows decisively why the peoples of every part of the world must become part of the solution to the environmental crisis. Some areas more than others have already appropriated the overwhelming majority of the photosynthetic productivity of the ecosystems in their regions. This demonstrates that even if there were the funds and political will among the world’s more affluent nations to decisively help those in destitute ones, they could only, at best, help. Preventing eco-social collapses are, inevitably and primarily, a regional responsibility. It should also be noted that affluent countries have not shown a willingness to respond decisively to the environmental crisis even in their own countries, let alone beyond their borders.

Par. 4, Elsewhere, Eiseley wrote similarly to the quotation provided in Dark Green Religion, p. 220:

No utilitarian philosophy explains a snow crystal, no doctrine of use or disuse. Water has merely leapt out of vapor and thin nothingness in the night sky to array itself in form. There is no logical reason for the existence of a snowflake any more than there is for evolution. It is an apparition from that mysterious shadow world beyond nature, that final world which contains—if anything contains—the explanation of men and green leaves.

[Loren Eiseley, “The Flow of the River,” in Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature (New York: Vintage, 1959 [1946]), 27. For another reading of Eiseley including a sense of his influence, see Benthall, Return to Religion, 157-58.]