Worldwatch Paper #164: Invoking the Spirit: Religion and Spirituality in the Quest for a Sustainable World

December 2002
Gary Gardner
ISBN: 1-878071-67-X
62 pages

A powerful pro-environmental coalition may be emerging worldwide as religious people and institutions begin to partner with advocates of sustainable development. The past decade saw a small but growing number of meetings, advocacy initiatives, educational programs, and lobbying efforts by the two communities, who long had kept each other at arm's length.

In Worldwatch Paper 164: Invoking the Spirit, Gary Gardner, Worldwatch Reseach Director, states that in learning to work together, the two groups must overcome mutual misperceptions and divergent worldviews, which have historically kept them apart. He writes that secular environmentalists worry about the checkered history of religious involvement in societal affairs. Religious institutions, on the other hand, may have perspectives on the role of women, the nature of truth, and the moral place of human beings in the natural order that sometimes diverge from those of environmentalists.

Though misperceptions and misunderstandings between the two communities persist, engagement is growing. To further collaboration, religious people and institutions would do well to leverage their influence in favor of sustainability, and environmentalists would gain by appealing to the public at an emotional/spiritual level. With these steps, a new ethics encompassing humans, the divine, and nature can help usher in a just and sustainable civilization.

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