Profane Energies / Sacred Narratives

How does religious thought inform and affect environmentalist activism? Join us for a lecture by Evan Berry (Department of Philosophy and Religion, American University), on the role of faith traditions in framing debates about climate change.

Profane Energies/Sacred Narratives

                 On Religion and Environmentalism

Wednesday February 15, 2017,  1 pm at 228 Battelle-Tompkins Hall

In the run up to COP21, the international convening that produced the Paris Agreement on climate change, religious leaders and indigenous communities were important contributors in framing a global moral call to action. Yet hardly one year later, climate politics again seem intractable; many religious groups, especially here in the United States, remain skeptical about climate science. In this talk, professor Berry draws from his work on  the relationship between nature and religious thought in order to elucidate recent cultural and political debates.


About our speaker

Evan Berry is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at American University and Co-Director of the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs master’s program. His research examines the intersections among religion, globalization, and climate change, and seeks to advance knowledge about the role of religious actors in contemporary environmental controversy. Beginning with the premise that religion and religious ideas serve to locate human beings in the natural order, his scholarship concentrates on the cultural particularities of environmental ethics—the ways that different religious perspectives generate divergent ecological orientations. Pursuing these questions through both ethnographic research and philosophical reflection, his current work includes a study of religious civil society groups actively engaged with the challenge of climate change. His book, Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism, was recently published by the University of California Press.






Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 10.03.33 AMEvan Berry’s recent book, Devoted to Nature, explores the religious underpinnings of American environmentalism, tracing the theological character of American environmental thought from its Romantic foundations to contemporary nature spirituality. During the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, religious sources were central to the formation of the American environmental imagination, shaping ideas about the natural world, establishing practices of engagement with environments and landscapes, and generating new modes of social and political interaction. Building on the work of seminal environmental historians who acknowledge the environmental movement’s religious roots, Evan Berry offers a potent theoretical corrective to the narrative that explained the presence of religious elements in the movement well into the twentieth century. In particular, Berry argues that an explicitly Christian understanding of salvation underlies the movement’s orientation toward the natural world. Theologically derived concepts of salvation, redemption, and spiritual progress have not only provided the basic context for Americans’ passion for nature but have also established the horizons of possibility within the national environmental imagination.



Follow Evan Berry:   @ecothought