How Covid will change ecology and religion

Published at: 12.01.2022 17:22

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COVID-19 pandemic has changed the tone and tenor of everyday life by touching many aspects of a global society. This includes ecology and religion. Social distancing measures have already impacted the environment on a global scale. Coronavirus pandemic continues to cause deaths and disrupt billions of lives globally. So people may turn to religious groups, family, friends, co-workers, or other social networks for support. Research shows that more and more people are becoming religious in the USA than in any other country. Nearly three-in-ten Americans (28%) report stronger personal faith because of the pandemic. 

Mary Evelyn Tucker is the co-founder, co-director of the Yale forum of ecology and religion. She shares her thoughts about what the future of ecology and religion might look like in a post-covid world.

  • This moment of transformation (Ms. Tucker) that you and others have identified is clearly impacting religion in many ways. But what I want to suggest and move towards is the emergence of engagement with the world’s religions in significant areas. I want to speak specifically on the environment because all of these traditions have had their ways of weaving humans into natural settings. We have the science. We have a lot of ecological knowledge, policy papers, law, alternative technologies. There is a missing link of a moral force to say that these systems must be protected for the life of the whole. For the well-being of the earth community- people and planet.
  • Covid is a clear example of humans stepping out of the bounds, of what ecosystems, what life forms, what animal forms can bear. So, we have overstepped, overshot. But this moral force that’s emerging still needs expression. That’s why we are drawing on theologians and historians of religion. Also, the explosion of books and articles, and studies here is very important. 

Do you see that link between religion and ecology being made in a positive way? Any examples? 

The UnitedNations’ environment program has created faith for the earth. And this programis trying to identify all of these engaged projects around the world. They aretrying to link this moral force to policy and to science. Also, at UnitedNations’ environment program there is an extraordinary effort that is about2-years old now called the “Interfaith Rainforest Initiative”. Within thecatholic church, we do have this moment with an extraordinary Pope – PopeFrancis. As we know – he came out 5 years ago with a statement, an encyclical,called “Laudato C” which means “praise be” for all the beauty of creation. Hereally brought this together in what he calls “integral ecology”.

Integralecology has this conjunction of eco-justice of people and planet, and thephrase that is used in this encyclical is “cry of the Earth, the cry of thepoor”.  This is why has had an enormousimpact.

In this moment that Covid has given us, do you think people are making that connection between ecology and religion? 

I think people are making this connection with the help of scientists and epidemiologists and Centers for Disease Control etc… That the environment impinges on human health and we can’t have healthy people on a sick planet. Here is why religions have this possibility of reaching people in the mosque, in the synagogue, in the temple, on the ground. I also think that on another level, you could say on a personal level, this Covid period has really caused people to go into contemplation, reflection, meditation, yoga, tai-chi. All the things that keep us healthy. So, it is a moment of extraordinary reflection I think that people are going into this part of themselves that nourish life because we are at such a feeling of “end-times”. We might be pressed back, but transformation renewal is arising. 

What are your hopes, what do you hope this moment of CoVid will teach us? 

I do think that the world will never be the same, clearly. There are new forms of religiosity; spirituality, forms of more comprehensive compassion, and more inclusive ethics for other people, those who are suffering. So, that sense of empathy and compassion, which shows that we are unified as people, but also somehow mysterious. All religions understand this. Unified as an earth community with these extraordinary systems which nurture us. River systems, forest systems, savannahs, all of those places, the mangroves, the oceans are places that nourish us. One of the things that have inspired me is the Confucian tradition. 

Religion can play important role in addressing climate change and environmental health. The normative teachings of various traditions—including BuddhismChristianity, and Islam—can address the ethical crisis of climate change, as countries least responsible for global warming disproportionately suffer diseases linked to environmental change. In this interview with Ms. Tucker, we went through some important questions about the connection between religion and ecology and how to maintain the environment. Everything around is nourishing us, everything has its own energy, take care of the place that you live in. 

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