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Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion Chair Publishes Widely on Climate Change

Elizabeth Allison takes on recent natural disasters and the practice of a feminist ethic.

Kim Carfore November 12, 2017

Dr. Elizabeth Allison, chair and founder of CIIS' Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion (ESR) program, recently published three articles that encourage us to reconsider the ways in which our existing systems hinder our desire or ability to act on behalf of all of Earth's creatures and systems.

Her latest writing in HuffPost, "The Earth is Speaking. Loudly. Can we hear?" makes the case that our ancestors communicated with nature in an ongoing conversation, and asks us to consider whether in contemporary society we have entirely lost our ability to listen to Earth's messages.

Climate Change: The Earth Speaks

Allison suggests that the recent and multiple natural disasters--21 wildfires in California, Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, and the earthquakes in Mexico--are the Earth's way of speaking to us, demanding that we take climate change seriously. She emphasizes that "all living systems have limits, and when pushed beyond those limits, they begin to break down," so it should not be surprising that a planet composed of living beings would also behave unusually as the boundaries of its tolerance are reached.

She contends that we must approach the complex problems of a changing climate from an ethical, feminist framework in her second article, "Towards A Feminist Ethic for Climate Change," published in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. A feminist-care ethic requires that the "centrality of care" in relationships, which includes "compassion, love, and empathy," must be applied to all beings and Earth as a whole.

Practicing a Feminist Ethic

Allison emphasizes the "inextricable interconnections between the private sphere and the public sphere" as an indication of our ability to practice a feminist ethic in our personal lives as well as globally.

Her third article, "Spirits and Nature: The Intertwining of Sacred Cosmologies and Environmental Conservation in Bhutan," published in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, addresses the falsehood that environmentalism and religiously held beliefs are at odds.

She highlights the Himalayan nation of Bhutan's unique blend of cosmic-oriented consciousness with governmental regulations that has yielded a successful environmental-care program.

Allison suggests that perhaps, North American environmentalists who value scientific study can learn from the spiritually oriented Bhutanese approach.

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