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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Many environmentalists draw upon religious teachings to argue that humanity ought to transform its relationship with the natural world. They maintain that religious systems teach that the earth is sacred and has an intrinsic value beyond its use value to humanity. However, whilst many cultures have religious practices or teachings associated with the natural world, such traditions of nature religion ought to be distinguished from religious environmentalism. This paper suggests that religious environmentalism is limited because it is a product of Western ideas about nature, in particular a 'romantic' vision of nature as a realm of purity and aesthetic value. Although in India, for example, people worship certain trees, this is not evidence of an inherent environmental awareness, if only because such practices are very ancient and pre-date concerns about a global environmental crisis. Moreover, many people in developing countries, such as India, are directly dependent upon the natural world and cannot afford radically to alter their behaviour towards nature to accommodate religious environmentalist goals.


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