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

  • Introduction
  • Encyclopedias
  • Journals
  • Websites and Organizations
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Ecofeminism and Gender
  • Ecology and Justice
  • New Cosmology and Thomas Berry
  • World Religions
  • Engaged Projects
  • Climate Change
  • Food and Water
  • History
  • Religion and Science
  • Animals and Plants

Ecology Religion and Ecology
John Grim, Russell Powell, Matthew T. Riley, Tara C. Trapani, Mary Evelyn Tucker
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0103


Spiritual or religious ecology refers to attitudes, values, and practices regarding nature within the world’s religions and outside of those traditions. Spiritual or religious 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 an emerging 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 World Religions and Ecology at the Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions from 1996 to 1998. During this period and in the ensuing years, scholars 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 and of ethically using nature is seen as a complement to the empirical investigation of nature from a scientific perspective. This work has been encouraged by the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University where there is a joint master’s program between the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Divinity School. 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, and toxicities; and (5) drawing on the insights of artists and nature writers articulating the complexity of nature. This work in spiritual and religious 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.


Jones 2005 contains fourteen articles on ecology and religion by leading historians of religion and theologians such as Vasuda Narayanan, Christopher Chapple, Donald Swearer, James Miller, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, John Cobb, John Grim, and ethicists such as Baird Callicott. The effort of religious scholars to speak to the challenge of sustainability is the goal of Jenkins 2009, while Taylor and Kaplan 2008 represents many years of effort to draw together researchers and practitioners focused on environmental issues.

  • Jenkins, Willis, ed. The Spirit of Sustainability: Religion, Ethics and Philosophy. Vol. 3. The Encyclopedia of Sustainability. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire, 2009.

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

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

    This fifteen-volume encyclopedia, originally edited by Mircea Eliade, is the definitive work in the field of religious studies. The 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 covered the ecological worldviews and practices of the Abrahamic traditions, the Asian religions, and indigenous traditions. They also included articles on: environmental ethics; science, religion, and ecology; and ecology and nature religions.

  • Taylor, Bron, and Jeffrey Kaplan, eds. The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. 2 vols. New York: Continuum, 2008.

    This landmark resource covers a vast and impressively interdisciplinary range of topics related to religion and ecology. The Encyclopedia of Nature and Religion is an essential reference for scholars in the field and contains introductory entries covering an incredible scope of religious traditions, environmental movements, and key thinkers related to the field of religion and ecology.

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