RESOURCES FOR EARTH DAY
Far from the widespread enthusiasm and participation
I recall from the first Earth Day in 1970, when others and I planted a
tree in Hyde Park, Chicago, this year the observance is muted by the pandemic.
Nature is to be respected, more than controlled; it is a process which includes us, not a product external to us to be used or disposed of. Our proper attitude toward nature is awe, not utility.Technology will not solve the problem. If we are to survive, people of all faiths, and those of none, must find in their own traditions ways of accessing and implementing this wisdom. The resources below may help.
Quotations from World Religions
O Mother Earth, you have ocean for clothes and mountains and forests on your body. You are the wife of Lord Vishnu, the Creator of the world. I bow to you. My feet are touching your body; please forgive me.
— HinduThe essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything. We can never say that we are simply falling to pieces or that anyone else is, and we can never say that about the world either. Within our lifetime no disasters [need] happen. We can prevent them. It is up to us. We can save the world from destruction . . . .
— BuddhistIf we live simply, limit our needs and do not try to fulfill every desire, collecting more and more, automatically we will protect the environment. Because we will not need so many things, we will not need big industries to produce unnecessary things. If we live simply, the environment will stay clean.
— Jain, Sushil KumarWe are the caretakers of this planet. It is our responsibility to walk gently upon the earth, to care for it as it has always cared for us. And if we do not change our ways, we will soon destroy God’s gift. We are the ones who determine the fate of earth. May we move toward the holiness of treating the earth with respect and dignity.
— JewishWhat does it mean to be creatures of thought and longing who live on this planet we have named earth? Sing the family . . . . Sing the one home, the gentle earth, the grass, the sunlight, the eventide. We will make this small plot of soil, this globe, the messenger of meaning and peace.
— Unitarian UniversalistAir is guru, water the father and earth the great mother. Day and night are two male and female nurses in whose lap the entire world plays.
— SikhBut what would our spirits be, O God, if they did not have the bread of earthly things to nourish them, the wine of creative beauties to intoxicate them . . . ? Teach us, Lord, . . . how to grasp the hidden mystery in the womb of death, not by a refinement of human doctrine, but a simple, concrete act by which you have plunged yourself into matter in order to redeem it.
— Christian-Roman Catholic, Teilhard de ChardinNature in its essence is the embodiment of my Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.
— Bahá'í, Bahá’u’lláhIt is He who sends down rain from the sky: from it you drink, and out of it grows the vegetation on which you feed your cattle. With it He produces for you corn, olives, date-palms, grapes and every kind of fruit: verily in this is a sign for those who give thought. He has made subject to you the night and the day, the sun and the moon, and the stars are in subjection by his command; verily in this are signs for men who are wise.
— Muslim, Qur’anThe winds are Her thoughts, the waters are Her feelings, the fire is Her passion, and the earth is Her body. When the streams flow clear and the winds blow pure and the sun nevermore rises unrenowned nor the moon ride in the skies unloved; when the stones tell of the God of the Wilds and the greenwood grows deep to call back Her own, then we will have fulfilled the dream of Pagan religions everywhere.
— PaganAhura Mazda created the water and earth, plants and animals, the stars, moon, and sun, and all prosperity whose origin and effect are from the manifestation of righteousness.
— Zoroastrian, BundahisNature softly whispers thy words to my ears; Nature sings to me my song; Nature is a bridge to cross to thy dwelling place. Gentle breeze, Thy touch to me is the caress of the Beloved; Even the branches swing in ecstasy when they receive Thy message. There is no greater scripture than nature; For nature is life itself.
— Sufi, Hazrat Inayat KhanWhatever befalls the Earth befalls also the children of Earth.
— American Indian, attributed to Chief SeattleIf I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.
— Christian-Protestant, Martin Luther
Pledges to the Earth
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
EARTH PLEDGE II
For the Beauty
of the Earth [tune: Dix, Conrad Kocher, 1838],
For the beauty of the earth, for the splendor of
For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the
Infinte Spirit, sometimes called Grandfather, Grandmother
We gather to praise your creation,
We pray to know more deeply that we are in the Garden
We pray for humility –
Let us cast the pollution from our eyes
Great Spirit, let us remember
Wondrous trees, breathing life into the atmosphere:
May the vision of mutual interrelatedness,
Hear and empower our mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Visit Religions of the World and Ecology at: http://www.hds.harvard.edu/cswr/research/ecology/foreword.html
for the complete text and links; what follows is an abridgement]
by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim
(addressing Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism,
Indigenous Traditions, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Taoism)
. . . One of the greatest challenges . . . to contemporary religions remains how to respond to the environmental crisis, which many believe has been perpetuated because of the enormous inroads made by unrestrained materialism, secularization, and industrialization in contemporary societies, especially those societies arising in or influenced by the modern West. Indeed, some suggest that the very division of religion from secular life may be a major cause of the crisis.
Others, such as the medieval historian Lynn White, have cited religion’s negative role in the crisis. White has suggested that the emphasis in Judaism and Christianity on the transcendence of God above nature and the dominion of humans over nature has led to a devaluing of the natural world and a subsequent destruction of its resources for utilitarian ends. . . .
For the most part, the worldviews associated with the Western Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have created a dominantly human-focused morality. Because these worldviews are largely anthropocentric, nature is viewed as being of secondary importance. This is reinforced by a strong sense of the transcendence of God above nature. On the other hand, there are rich resources for rethinking views of nature in the covenantal tradition of the Hebrew Bible, in sacramental theology, in incarnational Christology, and in the vice-regency (khalifa Allah) concept of the Qur'an. The covenantal tradition draws on the legal agreements of biblical thought which are extended to all of creation. Sacramental theology in Christianity underscores the sacred dimension of material reality, especially for ritual purposes. Incarnational Christology proposes that because God became flesh in the person of Christ, the entire natural order can be viewed as sacred. The concept of humans as vice-regents of Allah on earth suggests that humans have particular privileges, responsibilities, and obligations to creation.
In Hinduism, although there is a significant emphasis on performing one’s dharma, or duty, in the world, there is also a strong pull toward moksha, or liberation, from the world of suffering, or samsara. To heal this kind of suffering and alienation through spiritual discipline and meditation, one turns away from the world (prakrti) to a timeless world of spirit (purusha). Yet at the same time there are numerous traditions in Hinduism which affirm particular rivers, mountains, or forests as sacred. Moreover, in the concept of lila, the creative play of the gods, Hindu theology engages the world as a creative manifestation of the divine. This same tension between withdrawal from the world and affirmation of it is present in Buddhism. Certain Theravada schools of Buddhism emphasize withdrawing in meditation from the transient world of suffering (samsara) to seek release in nirvana. On the other hand, later Mahayana schools of Buddhism, such as Hua-yen, underscore the remarkable interconnection of reality in such images as the jeweled net of Indra, where each jewel reflects all the others in the universe. Likewise, the Zen gardens in East Asia express the fullness of the Buddha-nature (tathagatagarbha) in the natural world. In recent years, socially engaged Buddhism has been active in protecting the environment in both Asia and the United States.
The East Asian traditions of Confucianism and Taoism remain, in certain ways, some of the most life-affirming in the spectrum of world religions. The seamless interconnection between the divine, human, and natural worlds that characterizes these traditions has been described as an anthropocosmic worldview. There is no emphasis on radical transcendence as there is in the Western traditions. Rather, there is a cosmology of a continuity of creation stressing the dynamic movements of nature through the seasons and the agricultural cycles. This organic cosmology is grounded in the philosophy of ch’i (material force), which provides a basis for appreciating the profound interconnection of matter and spirit. To be in harmony with nature and with other humans while being attentive to the movements of the Tao (Way) is the aim of personal cultivation in both Confucianism and Taoism. It should be noted, however, that this positive worldview has not prevented environmental degradation (such as deforestation) in parts of East Asia in both the premodern and modern period.
In a similar vein, indigenous peoples, while having ecological cosmologies have, in some instances, caused damage to local environments through such practices as slash-and-burn agriculture. Nonetheless, most indigenous peoples have environmental ethics embedded in their worldviews. This is evident in the complex reciprocal obligations surrounding life-taking and resource-gathering which mark a community's relations with the local bioregion. The religious views at the basis of indigenous lifeways involve respect for the sources of food, clothing, and shelter that nature provides. Gratitude to the creator and to the spiritual forces in creation is at the heart of most indigenous traditions. The ritual calendars of many indigenous peoples are carefully coordinated with seasonal events such as the sound of returning birds, the blooming of certain plants, the movements of the sun, and the changes of the moon.
The difficulty at present is that for the most part we have developed in the world's religions certain ethical prohibitions regarding homicide and restraints concerning genocide and suicide, but none for biocide or geocide. . . .
Responses of Religions to the Environmental Crisis
How to chart possible paths toward mutually enhancing human-earth relations remains, thus, one of the greatest challenges to the world's religions. It is with some encouragement, however, that we note the growing calls for the world's religions to participate in these efforts toward a more sustainable planetary future. There have been various appeals from environmental groups and from scientists and parliamentarians for religious leaders to respond to the environmental crisis. For example, in 1990 the Joint Appeal in Religion and Science was released highlighting the urgency of collaboration around the issue of the destruction of the environment. In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a statement of “Warning to Humanity” signed by over 1,000 scientists from 70 countries, including 105 Nobel laureates, regarding the gravity of the environmental crisis. They specifically cited the need for a new ethic toward the earth.
Numerous national and international conferences have also been held on this subject and collaborative efforts have been established. Environmental groups such as World Wildlife Fund have sponsored interreligious meetings such as the one in Assisi in 1986. The Center for Respect of Life and Environment of the Humane Society of the United States has also held a series of conferences in Assisi on Spirituality and Sustainability and has helped to organize one at the World Bank. The United Nations Environmental Programme in North America has established an Environmental Sabbath, each year distributing thousands of packets of materials for use in congregations throughout North America. Similarly, the National Religious Partnership on the Environment at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City has promoted dialogue, distributed materials, and created a remarkable alliance of the various Jewish and Christian denominations in the United States around the issue of the environment. The Parliament of World Religions held in 1993 in Chicago and attended by some 8,000 people from all over the globe issued a statement of Global Ethics of Cooperation of Religions on Human and Environmental Issues. International meetings on the environment have been organized. One example of these, the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders held in Oxford in 1988, Moscow in 1990, Rio in 1992, and Kyoto in 1993, included world religious leaders, such as the Dalai Lama, and diplomats and heads of state, such as Mikhail Gorbachev. Indeed, Gorbachev hosted the Moscow conference and attended the Kyoto conference to set up a Green Cross International for environmental emergencies. . . .
Expanding the Dialogue of Religion and Ecology
More than two decades ago Thomas Berry anticipated such an exploration when he called for “creating a new consciousness of the multiform religious traditions of humankind” as a means toward renewal of the human spirit in addressing the urgent problems of contemporary society. Tu Weiming has written of the need to go “Beyond the Enlightenment Mentality” in exploring the spiritual resources of the global community to meet the challenge of the ecological crisis. While this exploration is also the intention of these conferences and volumes, other significant efforts have preceded our current endeavor. Our discussion here highlights only the last decade.
In 1986 Eugene Hargrove edited a volume titled Religion and Environmental Crisis. In 1991 Charlene Spretnak explored this topic in her book States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Post-Modern Age. Her subtitle states her constructivist project clearly: “Reclaiming the Core Teachings and Practices of the Great Wisdom Traditions for the Well-Being of the Earth Community.” In 1992 Steven Rockefeller and John Elder edited a book based on a conference at Middlebury College titled Spirit and Nature: Why the Environment Is a Religious Issue. In the same year Peter Marshall published Nature's Web: Rethinking Our Place on Earth, drawing on the resources of the world's traditions. An edited volume on Worldviews and Ecology, compiled in 1993, contains articles reflecting on views of nature from the world's religions and from contemporary philosophies, such as process thought and deep ecology. In this same vein, in 1994 J. Baird Callicott published Earth's Insights which examines the intellectual resources of the world’s religions for a more comprehensive global environmental ethics. This expands on his 1989 volumes, Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought and In Defense of the Land Ethic. In 1995 David Kinsley issued a book titled Ecology and Religion: Ecological Spirituality in a Cross-Cultural Perspective which draws on traditional religions and contemporary movements, such as deep ecology and ecospirituality. Seyyed Hossein Nasr wrote a comprehensive study of Religion and the Order of Nature in 1996. Several volumes of religious responses to a particular topic or theme have also been published. For example, J. Ronald Engel and Joan Gibb Engel compiled a monograph in 1990 on Ethics of Environment and Development: Global Challenge, International Response and in 1995 Harold Coward edited a volume on Population, Consumption and the Environment: Religious and Secular Responses. Roger Gottlieb edited a useful source book, This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. Single volumes on the world's religions and ecology were published by the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
The conferences and volumes in the series Religions of the World and Ecology are thus intended to expand the discussion already under way in certain circles and to invite further collaboration on a topic of common concern – the fate of the earth as a religious responsibility. . . .
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