Sacred Custodians of the Earth? Women, Spirituality, and the Environment

By Alaine Low; Soraya Tremayne | Go to book overview

Preface

This volume is the result of a two-day international workshop organized by the editors at the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research on Women at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford, in June 1996.

The book explores connections between spirituality and the environment, and the role of women within this context. The choice of the title is a response to the new feminist movements which link women with spirituality and the sacred, and which are having an increasing influence on environmental thinking and planning. It is also in tune with the rapidly growing interest over the past three decades in environmental issues on a global scale (Brundtland Report, 1987), women’s issues (UN Decade of Women) and the emphasis being placed on the importance of the role played by women in the use and protection of natural resources. Literature on women and their relationship with the environment is abundant, and this has been analysed from different perspectives in various disciplines by specialists from the developed and developing world. The convenors therefore set the premise of the workshop at a different level, namely to explore some of the major spiritual, religious and philosophical views and beliefs concerning women and the environment. The participants questioned how these belief systems affect behaviour, and whether they can be put to use to create an awareness among people of the need to protect, preserve and enhance the environment. Central to the discussion was the consideration of how women are viewed in various spiritual and religious ideologies in relation to the environment and the community, and whether in reality they occupy the place accorded to them by post-modernist thinking, as well as by many policy-makers and planners. The contributors aimed to explore whether women were ‘innately’ connected to nature because of their responsibility in the daily management of natural resources, and whether women manage and exploit the environment more sensitively than men. We also set out to assess whether any

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