From the Dean’s Desk
In the lead article for this issue of Reflections, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim conclude by saying, “A many-faceted alliance of religion and ecology along with a new global ethics is awakening around the planet …This is a new moment for the world’s religions, and they have a vital role to play in the emergence of a more comprehensive environmental ethics. The urgency cannot be underestimated. Indeed, the flourishing of the Earth community may depend on it.”
Sobering, yet hopeful, words. Like exhortations resonate throughout this issue, which we have named GOD’S GREEN EARTH: Creation, Faith, Crisis. From the article “Green Discipleship” by ethicist Larry Rasmussen, to evangelical thinker Richard Cizik’s ruminations in a “New Moral Awakening,” to the appeal for grassroots activism by Sally Bingham in “Power, Light, and Hope,” we are told that planet Earth is in danger of spinning out of control — but that people of faith, uniquely positioned to bring together theory and practice, can help right the planet. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, reminds us that the planet belongs to all, and she poignantly recounts her grassroots Green Belt Movement’s successful campaign to plant millions of trees in deforested sections of Africa. And Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, speaks of “ethical duties” to rescue the ecosystem from ravages of the world economy, concluding with the affirmation, “We can save what is left.”
It is our hope that this issue of Reflections, along with the accompanying study guide on the Yale Divinity School website (www.yale.edu/reflections), can make a modest yet valuable contribution to assigning the task of religion in this age of environmental crisis. Perhaps, as Tucker and Grim suggest, the religious community can play as significant a role in elucidating the moral dimensions of this predicament as it did in the abolitionist and civil rights movements.
Talk is cheap, as they say, and I want to note that Yale Divinity School has taken some steps toward putting its own environmental house in order. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of our efforts are the solar panels that now grace the roof of one of our large dormitories, Fisher Hall. Sunlight harnessed by the panels is sufficient to provide about two-thirds of Fisher’s electrical needs. Automated light switches have been installed on Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, turning lights on and off based on room usage. And, starting with this issue, we will be printing Reflections on paper with guaranteed recycled content. Small steps, but a beginning.
We have also strengthened our ties with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. In April 2006 the boards of the Divinity School and School of Forestry & Environmental Studies met in a joint session, leading to a clarion call for stronger collaboration between environmentalists and the faith community. Subsequently, Tucker and Grimm were named to joint appointments in both schools as Research Scholars and Senior Lecturers in Religion and the Environment for five-year terms, beginning July 1, 2007.
I also want to note that GOD’S GREEN EARTH: Creation, Faith, Crisis marks the first issue of Reflections produced under the guidance of the journal’s new editor, Ray Waddle, an experienced writer who served as religion editor of The Tennessean in Nashville for seventeen years, all the while writing on a freelance basis for publications such as The New York Times, Christian Century, USA Today, and Religion News Service. We are pleased to have him on board. At the same time, we bid a fond farewell to Jamie Manson, who left in January to pursue her writing interests. Jamie brought Reflections back to life in 2004 after a hiatus of nearly ten years, and her efforts are deeply appreciated.
Finally, I wish to thank Willis Jenkins, the Margaret Farley Assistant Professor of Social Ethics, for serving as guest faculty editor on this issue. Willis’s research focus includes environmental ethics, religion, and sustainable development, and his input was vital.