Religion and Ecology

[© Kieran Scott/Getty Images]

Whether or not we embrace a particular religion, we grow up in cultures that have formed around religious worldviews which shape our ways of understanding the world--our relationship to ourselves, to society and to nature. The human organism, in all its intricate complexity, is made up of the same elementary particles that form the Earth and the distant stars. Our lives at every level are intimately related to, and dependent on, the living environment. But it is becoming clear now that humanity's relationship to the natural world is in a state of crisis, one that threatens our very survival.

To comprehend the underlying causes of this crisis and to begin, as a global society, to reconfigure a more balanced and healthy way of living on the Earth, it is time to deeply examine our basic understanding of life and of the profound connection between our own lives and the broader community of life of which we are a part. It is from the exploration of this most fundamental question that the religions of the world have grown. Now, as humanity confronts new challenges, religious thinkers and leaders have begun to reinvestigate their own spiritual traditions to discover how these can enable us to bring human society back into more harmonious and sustainable relationships with the rest of the natural world.

This issue of the SGI Quarterly invites representatives of various faiths to discuss how their respective religious traditions view ecological ethics. It looks also at how individuals are taking action to bring about positive change. One common strand that emerges is a shared sense of responsibility: each faith tradition, in its own way, formulates an awareness that human beings have a unique responsibility to protect and support our environment. The perspectives here demonstrate that, despite the differences between faiths, in our concern for the fate of the Earth and the future of humankind, we stand on common ground.