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In a time of darkening environmental prospects, frightening religious fundamentalism, and moribund liberalism, the remarkable and historically unprecedented rise of religious environmentalism is a profound source of hope. In A Greener Faith , Roger S. Gottlieb chronicles the promises of this critically important movement, illuminating its principal ideas, leading personalities, and ways of connecting care for the earth with justice for human beings. He also shows how religious environmentalism breaks the customary boundaries of "religious issues" in political life. Asserting that environmental degradation is sacrilegious, sinful, and an offense against God catapults religions directly into questions of social policy, economic and moral priorities, and the overall direction of secular society. Gottlieb contends that a spiritual perspective applied to the Earth provides the environmental movement with a uniquely appropriate way to voice its dream of a sustainable and just world. Equally important, it helps develop a world-making political agenda that far exceeds interest group politics applied to forests and toxic incinerators. Rather, religious environmentalism offers an all-inclusive vision of what human beings are and how we should treat each other and the rest of life.
Gottlieb deftly analyzes the growing synthesis of the movement's religious, social, and political aspects, as well as the challenges it faces in consumerism, fundamentalism, and globalization. Highly engaging and passionately argued, this book is an indispensable resource for people of faith, environmentalists, scholars, and anyone who is concerned about our planet's future.
The argument of Gottlieb's hopeful, surprising book is that today, religious people and organizations are among the most committed, and most persuasive, environmental activists. Gottlieb's view is global, principally examining religious green activism in the U.S., but also looking at Zimbabwe, Taiwan and the Vatican. And his approach is ecumenical, encompassing Jewish and Christian theologians who have found a powerful biblical call to stewardship of God's creation, and Buddhist teachers who are prompted by their belief in compassion to extend care to the natural world. Church groups have participated in peaceful demonstrations against the Bush administration's energy policy; Jews, inspired by the holiday of Tu B'Shvat, the birthday of the trees, have planted redwoods in denuded stream banks owned by grasping corporations; and interfaith groups have petitioned lawmakers to address global warming. Sometimes religious groups cooperate with secular organizers, as when the Sierra Club and the National Council of Churches co-sponsored a proconservation TV ad. Not only have religious activists helped energize the environmental movement, but environmentalism has reinvigorated religious practice: Lay people and clerics alike have crafted new religious rituals that celebrate the Earth, such as Buddhist gathas (short verbal formulas) for recycling and Christian liturgies for Earth Day. Gottlieb keeps academic jargon to a minimum, so this timely book should have crossover appeal.