Sunday, 20 April 2008

Gary Gardner, Inspiring Progress: Religions’ Contributions to Sustainable Development; and EO Wilson,The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth

Bruce Boydston book review in Humanist 15 December 2006.

If you are dismayed by the stark divisions in our society, you can gain some satisfaction in the growing unity between some conservative Christians and the environmental movement for the purpose of saving the planet from humanity's unholy actions. More and more, religious leaders are discussing Christians' responsibility to protect the creation, arguing that our stewardship of the earth is a biblical imperative.

Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life; Richard Cizik, lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals; and journalist Bill Moyers, who has completed the PBS documentary Is God Green? are among those leaders, while old guards Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Richard Roberts ([now ex-]president of Oral Roberts University) argue that there is enough uncertainty on climate questions to suggest that evangelicals should stay out of the debate. (On the basis of this year's hot summer, Robertson did state that global warming is for real, which shows his lack of knowledge regarding the long-term evidence supporting global warming). More broadly, the National Council of Churches supports the Eco-Justice Campaign which states: "In Genesis, God places Adam in the Garden of Eden to serve and protect. Humans are called to be the serving and protecting inhabitants of God's creation."

Some Christians now go so far as to openly criticize the administration of George W. Bush for favoring big business to the detriment of the environment and the average citizen. This trend is likely to continue with the recent disclosure by former White House aide David Kuo that evangelical leaders were often ridiculed by the president's staffers. For their part, environmentalists are excited about the prospect of well-organized, highly-motivated, and well-financed religious groups joining the movement.

Two books are now available that document and support this trend: Inspiring Progress: Religions' Contributions to Sustainable Development by Gary T. Gardner and The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth by Edward O. Wilson, both published by W. W. Norton and both full of revealing information.

With Inspiring Progress, Gardner, who is the director of research at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington DC, has written a scholarly treatise complete with footnotes, appendix, and index. The appendix, listing organizations combining religion and environmentalism, will open anyone's eyes to the ecumenical nature of this trend: e.g. Evangelical Environmental Network, Evangelical Climate Initiative,,, Sikh Council on Religion and Education, Sokka Gakkai (Buddhist), Noah Project UK (Jewish). The ecumenical group Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) encourages energy conservation, the use of renewable energy, and advocacy for green energy to counteract climate change. IPL was formed in 1997 and now has nineteen state chapters with more than thirty denominations represented. [Gardner points out] that the 307,000 houses of worship in the United States could save half a billion dollars per year by implementing environmental changes, [and] substantially more savings can be achieved by congregants inspired to pursue green energy at home...

Humanist and Harvard professor E.O.Wilson is well known for his ability to make science both understandable and interesting... e.g. his Pulitzer prize-winning On Human Nature and The Ants... The Creation [begins with a letter to a creationist] "Southern Baptist Pastor." Even though Wilson -- an evolutionary biologist -- and the imaginary pastor have opposing views... they share a common goal to salvage the planet's biodiversity. Wilson eloquently appeals to the two mindsets in expounding upon the glory of nature and the ways humans can save it. [He pleads for immediate action and respect for life, as species are being extinguished at ever-faster rates.] "The depth and complexity of living Nature still exceeds human imagination."

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