Monday, January 18, 2010

Environmentalism as a secular religion

Below is an interesting post that came over the H-Enviro list serve recently, inviting other scholars to put together a panel of 3-4 papers to be delivered at the upcoming American Historical Association (AHA) conference. The author of this post, Prof. Richard Deese (History, Northeastern University), raises some interesting questions.

One source I have read that addresses similar points is: Thomas R. Dunlap, Faith in Nature: Environmentalism as Religious Quest, Seattle, Wash., University of Washington Press, 2004.


From: RS Deese
Date: 1/12/2010 10:08 AM
Subject: AHA 2011 Panel Proposal: Environmentalism as "Secular Religion"

"There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible." ----Freeman Dyson, "The Question of Global Warming" New York Review of Books, vol 55, no. 10. June 12, 2008

In recent decades, the environmentalist movement has been branded as a "secular religion". I would like to put together a panel for the 2011 AHA in Boston that addresses this framing of environmental activism and explores the following questions, among others: First, to what extent is the label of "secular religion" merely a rhetorical device to undermine the scientific credibility of environmentalists, and to what extent is it an accurate description of the movement, or influential factions thereof? Second, what elements of religion, if any, are influential in environmental discourse, and what elements are not? And, third, are the religious dimensions of environmental thought and activism, if they are in fact significant, a liability or an asset in achieving the goals and objectives shared by most environmentalists?


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