This is Chapter 27 of the new WorldWatch State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? report. It is reproduced here with permission.
Are Today’s Environmental Organizations Succeeding?
A Deeper Environmentalism
Missionary Movements and Their Potential
|Box 27–1. The Shakers’ Relevance in a Post-Consumer Era
While often dismissed as a failed experiment—as their community no longer exists today—at their peak the Shakers were a powerful religious, economic, and social force, growing to 6,000 members in 1840 even while practicing celibacy. At the time, the group was a leading producer of herbal medicines. And its members were celebrated architects and craftspeople as well as renowned inventors: they invented the circular saw, clothespins, and ironing-free cloth. Believing that God dwelt in the quality of their craftsmanship, the Shakers strove for perfection in crafting their simple but beautiful products. And this success drew many new adherents to their faith.
But the Industrial Revolution and the mass-produced goods it led to were the Shakers’ undoing. As markets for their high-quality, higher-cost products collapsed in the mid-1800s, so did their economic niche and their total number of adherents. The Shakers ofer an important lesson, however: strong community and a relevant economic niche can attract people and provide the foundation for broader inluence, even when certain elements of the philosophy are hard to stomach.
As access to cheap energy sources wanes, and with it mass-produced goods and globalized trade, many aspects of this model could once again lourish, providing one possible way to spread an ecocentric philosophy.
Source: See endnote 20.
The Rise of a Missionary Eco-Philosophy?
|Box 27–2. The Relationship Between Ecological and Religious Philosophies
Are ecological and religious philosophies incompatible? Not at all. Efective missionary philosophies can live beside other philosophies or incorporate those traditions into their practices: witness the syncretic relationship between Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan and the way Christianity incorporated folk religions as it spread.
An ecological philosophy may grow up alongside the dominant religious philosophies of today or even be absorbed by religious reformers, which could prevent the latter from losing their followers as ecological philosophies grow in attractiveness.
Indeed, the greening of religious traditions has already started at the margins, with more Christian sects drawing attention to green teachings from the Bible and designing programs to appeal to environmentally minded adherents. Buddhist monks are establishing sacred forests, Muslims are developing ways to celebrate Ramadan sustainably, and Hindus are finding ways to make ritual sacriices greener.
In Sri Lanka, the Buddhist movement Sarvodaya Shramadana has created a comprehensive path to both material and spiritual development—emphasizing community, basic economic security, and sustainability at the heart of their model. The movement, which literally means “awakening through sharing,” has focused on small community projects—building latrines, schools, and cultural centers—that improve village well-being and has simultaneously discouraged adoption of consumerism (or in Buddhist terms, attachment and desire).
Today this sustainable Buddhist movement has a presence in more than half of Sri Lanka’s 24,000 villages.
As these ideas incubate in coming centuries and the world undergoes dramatic changes, ecological philosophies may form independently and stay independent, they may be absorbed by today’s dominant philosophies (or come into conlict with those philosophies as they compete for members), or they may even absorb or replace older philosophies.
Source: See endnote 31.
Getting from Vision to Reality
1. Berg quoted in Bill Devall and George Sessions, Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered (Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 1985), p. 3.
2. Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, The Death of Environmentalism (Oakland, CA: Breakthrough Institute, 2004); Tom Crompton, Weathercocks and Signposts: The Environment Movement at a Crossroads (Godalming, U.K.: WWF-UK, 2008).
3. Shellenberger and Nordhaus, op. cit. note 2, pp. 7, 8.
4. Crompton, op. cit. note 2.
5. Michael Narberhaus, “Breaking Out of the System Trap: Civil Society Organizations,” Solutions Journal, August 2012.
6. Jennifer Washburn, University, Inc. (New York: Basic Books, 2006); National Film Board of Canada, Pink Ribbons, Inc., First Run Features, 2011; Christine MacDonald, Green, Inc. (Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2008).
7. MacDonald, op. cit. note 6.
8. Ibid., pp. 25–28, 58–60; David B. Ottaway and Joe Stephens, “Nonprofit Land Bank Amasses Billions: Charity Builds Assets on Corporate Partnerships,” Washington Post, 4 May 2003.
9. DARA International, Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet, 2nd ed.
(Washington, DC: 2012); Fiona Harvey, “Climate Change Is Already Damaging Global Economy, Report Finds,” (London) Guardian, 26 September 2012.
10. Anthony A. Leiserowitz and Lisa O. Fernandez, Toward a New Consciousness: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities (New Haven, CT: Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, 2008).
11. Arne Naess, The Ecology of Wisdom: Writings by Arne Naess (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2010); Devall and Sessions, op. cit. note 1.
12. Palmer quoted in Helen Grady, “Using Religious Language to Fight Global Warming,” BBC Radio 4, 25 January 2010.
13. Havel quoted in James Gustave Speth, “Foreword,” in Leiserowitz and Fernandez, op. cit. note 10, p. 5.
14. Naess, op. cit. note 11, p. 111.
15. Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 262.
16. Naess, op. cit. note 11, p. 111.
17. Stewart J. Brown, “The Social Gospel in Britain, Germany, and the United States, 1870–1920,” Ecclesiastical History Course 2D at University of Edinburgh, 1998; Roy Hattersley, Blood and Fire: William and Catherine Booth and Their Salvation Army (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
18. The YMCA Blue Book (Geneva: World Alliance of YMCAs, 2012); YMCA, “Mission,” at www.ymca.int/who-we-are/mission; Salvation Army USA, The Salvation Army 2012 Annual Report (2012); Hattersley, op. cit. note 17; The Salvation Army International, “About Us,” at www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/about.
19. Erik Assadourian, “The Living Earth Ethical Principles: Spreading Community,” World Watch Magazine, September/October 2009, pp. 38–39; Knights of Columbus, “Knights of Columbus Tops $80 Billion of Life Insurance in Force,” press release (New Haven, CT: 21 April 2011).
20. Box 27–1 based on Ken Burns’ America: The Shakers, Public Broadcasting System, 1985.
21. Brook P. Hales, “Statistical Report, 2011,” Ensign, May 2012; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “One Million Missionaries, Thirteen Million Members,” press release (Provo, UT: 25 June 2007).
22. Isaiah Thompson, “Idealists for Hire,” Philadelphia City Paper, 11 August 2010; Dana R. Fisher, Activism, Inc. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006); Green Corps canvas operations, winter 2001, author’s observations.
23. Uzma Anzar, “Islamic Education: A Brief History of Madrassas With Comments on Curricula and Current Pedagogical Practices,” March 2003. 24. Population and area from Muchiri Karanja, “Myth Shattered: Kibera Numbers Fail to Add Up,” Daily Nation, 3 September 2010, and from Mikel Maron, “Kibera’s Census: Population, Politics, Precision,” Map Kibera (blog), 5 September 2010; school calculation based on Map Kibera’s education database at www.mapkibera.org, viewed 11 December 2012, and on Mikel Maron, Map Kibera Trust, email to author, 11 December 2012.
25. Maron, email to author, op. cit. note 24.
26. Erik Assadourian, “The Living Earth Ethical Principles: Life of Service and Prepare for a Changing World,” World Watch Magazine, May/June 2009, pp. 34–35.
27. Erik Assadourian, “The Living Earth Ethical Principles: Right Diet and Renewing Life Rituals,” World Watch Magazine, November/December 2008, pp. 32–33; Sarah Catherine Walpole et al., “The Weight of Nations: An Estimation of Adult Human Biomass,” BMC Public Health, vol. 12 (2012), pp. 439–45.
28. Eduardo Porter, “Charity’s Role in America, and Its Limits,” New York Times, 13 November 2012.
29. Salvation Army USA, op. cit. note 18; Michael H. Shuman and Merrian Fuller, “Profits for Justice,” The Nation, 24 January 2005.
30. Friends World Committee for Consultation, Finding Quakers Around the World (Philadelphia: 2007); A. Glenn Crothers, Quakers Living in the Lion’s Mouth (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012); see, for example, American Friends Service Committee, at afsc.org/afsc-history.
31. Box 27–2 based on the following: Gary Gardner, “Engaging Religions to Shape Worldviews,” in Worldwatch Institute, State of the World 2010 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), pp. 23–29; Sarvodaya from Gary Gardner, Invoking the Spirit (Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 2002), pp. 38–42.
32. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2012).
33. Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1959).
34. “A Wild Love for the World,” Joanna Macy interview by Krista Tippett, On Being, American Public Media, 1 November 2012.
Map hands image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.