In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Religion and Ecology

  • Introduction
  • Encyclopedias
  • Journals
  • Websites and Organizations
  • Environmental Ethics
  • New Cosmology and Thomas Berry
  • World Religions
  • Baha’i Faith
  • Nature Religions
  • Interreligious
  • Ecofeminism and Gender
  • Ecology and Justice
  • Grassroots Religious Environmentalism
  • Climate Emergency
  • Food
  • Water
  • Animals
  • Trees and Plants

Ecology Religion and Ecology
Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim, Tara C. Trapani, Leah Snavely, Russell Powell, Matthew T. Riley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0103


Religious or spiritual ecology refers to attitudes, values, and practices regarding nature within the world’s religions and outside of those traditions. Religious or spiritual ecology identifies ways of interacting with nature that inspire human responses of respect, protection, and appropriate uses of nature. This bibliography highlights the literature in the field of study called “religion and ecology.” This field is in dialogue with other approaches to environmental studies from the social sciences, such as social ecology, political ecology, cultural ecology, industrial ecology, and ecological economics. This field began with the Harvard conference series on Religions of the World and Ecology at the Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions from 1996 to 1998. During this period and in the ensuing years, historians of religion and theologians began a process of retrieving, reevaluating, and reconstructing religious traditions in light of the growing environmental crisis. This humanistic study of ways of valuing nature, being in harmony with nature, and of ethically protecting nature is seen as a complement to the empirical investigation of nature from a scientific perspective. This work has been fostered by the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. The field of religious or spiritual ecology has several approaches including: (1) identifying theological approaches to nature within the world’s religions traditions; (2) intersecting with the earlier field of environmental ethics that arose from within Western philosophy; (3) highlighting practices for religious environmentalism on the ground; (4) responding to specific issues such as climate change, environmental justice, food security, biodiversity loss, and toxicities; and (5) drawing on the insights of artists and nature writers articulating the complexity of nature. This work in religious and spiritual ecology is opening up the field of religious studies to a broader understanding of what religion is and how it functions beyond Western categories of interpretation. Monotheism in its various Abrahamic forms does not exhaust the nature of religion. Thus we can now see religion through the lens of religious ecology as a way of orienting humans to the universe, grounding them in the community of nature and humans, nurturing them in Earth’s fecund processes, and transforming them into their deeper cosmological selves. This gives fresh meaning to the Latin term religio “to bind back,” which suggests a return to an awareness of and a commitment to the fundamental wellsprings of life.


Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim curate fourteen articles on world religions and ecology in Jones 2005 to highlight this new field of study. They were written by leading historians of religion and theologians such as Vasudha Narayanan, Christopher Chapple, Donald Swearer, James Miller, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, John Cobb, John Grim, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and ethicists such as Baird Callicott. The effort of religious scholars to speak to the challenge of sustainability is the goal of Jenkins 2010, while Taylor and Kaplan 2005 draws together researchers and practitioners focused on environmental issues. Runehov and Oviedo 2013 looks at the growing field of religion and science.

  • Jenkins, Willis, ed. 2010. Berkshire encyclopedia of sustainability. Vol. 1, The spirit of sustainability. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire.

    This encyclopedic collection draws from appropriate religious, philosophical, and ethical resources to engage the theme of “sustainability.” In collaboration with the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, manifold scholars address issues related to ecological integrity, economics, value theory, social justice, and more.

  • Jones, Lindsay, ed. 2005. Encyclopedia of religion. 2d ed. New York: Macmillan.

    This fifteen-volume encyclopedia, originally edited by Mircea Eliade, is the definitive work in the field of religious studies. The Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology was invited to organize a new section for the second edition on ecology and religion marking the coming of age of this field as a scholarly discipline. In addition to an overview, these articles cover the ecological worldviews and practices of the Abrahamic traditions, the Asian religions, and Indigenous traditions. They also discuss environmental ethics; science, religion, and ecology; and ecology and nature religions.

  • Runehov, Anne L. C., and Lluis Oviedo, eds. 2013. Encyclopedia of sciences and religions. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer Reference.

    Covers the full spectrum of academic disciplines and religious traditions that contribute to the science and religion debate. In addition, it includes general topics and methods within the field.

  • Taylor, Bron, and Jeffrey Kaplan, eds. 2005. The encyclopedia of religion and nature. 2 vols. New York: Continuum.

    This landmark resource covers a broad interdisciplinary range of topics related to religion and ecology. A key reference for scholars in the field and contains introductory entries covering a wide scope of religious traditions, environmental movements, and key thinkers related to the field of religion and ecology.

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