Spiritual environmentalism is the application of spiritual practices and methodologies to raise awareness and initiate actions to reverse the effects of environmental degradation. It is a developing field that joins ecology and environmentalism with the awareness of the sacred within creation. The field is largely emerging through three individual streams of formal study and activity: science and academia, religion and spirituality, and environmental sustainability.
Spiritual environmentalism identifies the Scientific Revolution—beginning in the 16th century and continuing through the Age of Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution—as contributing to a critical shift in human understanding with reverberating effects on the environment. During the modern age, reason became valued over faith, tradition, and revelation, and industrialized society replaced agricultural societies and the old ways of relating to seasons and cycles. With the growing predominance of a global, mechanized world view, a collective sense of the sacred was severed and replaced with an insatiable drive for scientific progress and material prosperity without any sense of limits or responsibility. Spiritual environmentalism is a response to the values and socio-political structures of recent centuries with their trajectory away from intimacy with the earth and its sacred essence. It has been forming and developing as an intellectual and practice-oriented discipline for nearly a century. Spiritual environmentalism includes an array of people and practices that intertwine spiritual and environmental experience and understanding. Additionally, within the tradition itself resides a deep, developing spiritual vision of a collective human/earth/divine evolution that is expanding consciousness beyond the dualities of human/earth, heaven/earth, and mind/body. An important element in the work of contemporary teachers in the field is the call for humanity’s full acceptance of responsibility for what we have done—physically and spiritually—to the earth. Only by accepting responsibility will healing and transformation occur.
Nature is very spiritual—it represents beauty and sustenance. Sustenance represents survival. Hence, becoming one with nature is among the most spiritual experiences we can possibly undertake. Because nature and the environment are deeply interconnected, what we do to the environment will also have spiritual repercussions. Global warming is a classic example—we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—primarily carbon dioxide—on a global scale, or the consequences will be dire: temperatures will increase, sea levels will rise, natural habitats will disappear, and climates will change drastically. How much more evidence will it take? We will get a lot more than we bargained for if we do not do something significant about it well before this century is through. God wants us to grow and prosper; we simply cannot do so over the long term unless we sustain the environment. The technology and know-how are already available; let’s use them. Together, we can prevail over these challenges if we act now rather than later.
As human beings, we have a consciousness by which we can appreciate love, beauty, creativity, and innovation or mourn the lack thereof. To the extent that we can go beyond ourselves and ordinary biological instincts, we can experience what it means to be human and, therefore, different from other animals. We can appreciate the delicacy of dew or a flower in bloom, water as it runs over the pebbles or the majesty of an elephant, the fragility of the butterfly or a field of wheat or leaves blowing in the wind. Such aesthetic responses are valid in their own right, and as reactions to the natural world, they can inspire in us a sense of wonder and beauty that, in turn, encourages a sense of the divine.
Such consciousness acknowledges that while a certain tree, forest, or mountain itself may not be holy, the life-sustaining services it provides—the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink—are what make existence possible and so deserve our respect and veneration. From this point of view, the environment becomes sacred, because to destroy what is essential to life is to destroy life itself. —Wangari Maathai, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wangari-maathai/spiritual-environmentalis_b_762801.html
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