Academic journal article Journal of Women and Religion

Green Studies, Religion, and Environmental Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Women and Religion

Green Studies, Religion, and Environmental Practice

Article excerpt

The current issue of the CWR journal, "Eco-feminism and Beyond," provides us with the opportunity to reflect upon the legacy and influence of eco-feminism as it relates to education in general, social issues, and environmental issues. This article summarizes a recent study done by the Theological Roundtable on Ecological Ethics and Spirituality (TREES) at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley. (1) This study is deeply indebted to the legacy of the ecofeminist critique of patriarchy. More specifically, the ecofeminist critiques of hierarchy, fragmentation of thought, and dualistic thinking are foundational for this research project.

This project springs out of a felt need to address the issues at the intersection of ecological degradation and social injustice from within the framework of specific religious traditions. It is important for the theological and religious communities to respond to crises such as: environmental racism, overpopulation, gross economic inequities, global warming, and deforestation. Not only should religious scholars be prepared to deal with these contemporary issues, but they also have the capacity to help address these issues. (2) In addressing these issues, it is important to explore the philosophical, institutional, and communal aspects of them. Philosophically and educationally, there ought to be more classes that deal with these issues across the spectrum of religious studies: theology, ethics, biblical studies, history of religions, etc. This, however, is not enough. An education must also include an institutional critique.

For the purpose of this research project we asked the question, how might the GTU respond to ecological crises in its waste-management, energy consumption, investment, and development policies? This institutional review highlights the non-hierarchical, multi-discipline, and cross-class collaborative dialogue that is needed to address these issues. We will need students, faculty, and staff addressing these issues on the institutional level, as well as input from the scientific, economic, and public policy communities.

Finally, we must remember the community within which we exist. For the GTU, this means the wider Bay Area community and the diverse peoples and ecosystems therein. How can we, as an institution of theological education, reach out to the Bay Area and to the many eco-systems therein and help heal local ecological and social justice ills? In trying to answer these questions, TREES performed the following research: a case-study, if you will, for affecting changes in theological education that seeks to bring about a more sustainable and just future for all life on the planet.

Project Description

TREES, with support from the Office of the President at the GTU, completed a research project during the summer and fall of 2001: "Green Studies, Religion, and Environmental Practice at the GTU and Beyond." (3) By using the term green studies, we intend to be as inclusive as possible, while simultaneously identifying a theme that the many sub-fields have in common, which, simply put, is a foregrounding of ecological perspectives as they emerge in dialogue with the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The term green studies hopefully bridges some of the oppositions implied in other charged terms such as "environmental" vs. "ecological," or "theology" vs. "ethics," suggesting instead a broad, pluralistic range of interdisciplinarity and cooperation. Green studies then includes many fields of study. It encompasses theories and concerns of ecology, environmental ethics, and social justice, while connecting them to and revealing them as embedded within those of religion and theology. Green studies is at the heart of the three-fold mission of TREES: to raise awareness of the issues that surround the demise of the earth at the educational-philosophical, institutional-physical-structural, and communal-bioregional levels, and to facilitate institutional commitment to reform in these areas. …

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