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The Environmentalist Turn in Religions: Practices and Discourses – Innovation and Tradition (2/2)

Panel Chair: Carrie B. Dohe | Tuesday, August 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Anthropogenic climate change and overuse of natural resources are the major crises facing humanity today. Given the global scope of these problems, individuals and communities around the world seek to contribute to their solution. This includes religious actors, an increasing number of whom have been transforming their respective teachings and traditions to align with ecological thinking and sustainable practice. In this panel, scholars researching Christianity in Germany, Islam in Chicago, and Chinese popular religion in Taiwan investigate the mechanisms and agents of religious innovation. They examine transformation processes towards more sustainable structures and behavioral patterns in various normally secular venues and through different means: campaigning in the public sphere; grocery shopping; and transportation. These presentations also discuss how traditional religious ethics are mobilized or modified to formulate and stimulate new religiously-grounded environmental ethics and practices.

Jens Köhrsen

Religious Involvement in Environmental Action: An Empirical Case Study

The presentation addresses the religious involvement in sustainable transitions, i.e. transformation processes towards more sustainable and eco-friendly socio-technological structures and behavioral patterns. Based on academic debates about religion and sustainability, three main ways in which religion can contribute to sustainable transitions are identified: (a) campaigning and intermediation in the public sphere; (b) “materialization” of transitions in the form of participation in projects related to sustainability transitions; and (c) dissemination of values that empower environmental attitudes and actions. The three potential dimensions of religious involvement are studied for the empirical case of the energy transition in Emden, a northern German city. The empirical case-study is based on a completed research project which was conducted in 2012/13. It shows how and to which extent the Lutheran, the Reformed, and the Catholic Church contribute to the local transition process.

Jacob F. Tischer

Environmentalism in Taiwanese Popular Religion

Growing consciousness about environmental issues in Taiwanese society has directly reflected on popular religious institutions, which are usually run by lay people and both value-traditional and technologically innovation-friendly. I aim to explore the relationship of power and interests behind their adoption of environmental-friendly practices (or the failure thereof) with reference to three case studies: One revolves around a temple that has sealed its incense burner (the temple’s spiritual centre) and encourages its visitors to “pray with their hearts instead of burning incense”. This has met with criticism from community members whose livelihood depends on selling sacrificial items such as incense and paper money. Another is the case of a female deity which has since 1987 been protesting the construction of a nuclear power plant in the vicinity of her temple – successfully so far. Thirdly, I will look at the promotion of pilgrimages on bicycle by some popular temples.

Mohammed Aslam Parvaiz

Restoring Natural Order - The Islamic Approach

Though not appreciated by ritualistic and traditional Muslims and clergy, there is a certain strand of Muslim thinking which sees the essence of the teachings of Islam in a way of keeping human beings in tune with nature. To emphasize this approach Islamic Foundation for Science & Environment (IFSE) has developed an interface with people of Madrasa system as well as religious leaders.It has devised a curriculum for Madrasa graduates, which is being taught at “Darul Umoor”,Srirangapatnam,Mysore,since2001. This is a one year residential program for Madrasa graduates The Foundation is official Consultant to Islmic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Academy of India on matters related to environment., produced a booklet on Islamic interpretations for Environmental conservation. In a two year program for students of standard IX, Qur’an is taught with Scientific and Environment oriented interpretations. One class has completed this two year program in this academic session. Besides, public lectures are regularly arranged on these lines.

Sigurd Bergmann


Sigurd Bergmann will respond to the issues raised in these papers.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)