Explicit and Embedded Environmentalism

Challenging Normativities in the Greening of Religion

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology


The precise influence that religious outlooks have on environmental attitudes and behaviors is a matter of debate among scholars of religion and ecology. While some studies suggest that emergent ecofriendly interpretations of traditional religions offer a promising path for addressing the world’s ecological crisis, others advance more skeptical evaluations about institutional religions’ efficacy in advancing sustainability efforts. In this article I seek to shift the terms of this debate. Whether scholars suggest there is a correlation or insist there is not, these arguments envision environmentalism based on the model of the mainstream, white American environmental movement, assuming that religious environmentalism must entail explicit, concerted efforts to protect the earth. This assumption has led scholars to overlook embedded environmental expressions that are conveyed theologically rather than politically, especially among communities that do not identify with mainstream American environmentalism. By interrogating the assumption that religious environmentalism must involve concerted, political efforts, scholars of religion and ecology can better account for the ways religion influences environmental attitudes and behaviors among religious communities who are not affluent and white.

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