A Comparative Analysis Of World Religions

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Religion could help save the ecology of our planet. Religious values are core to many people in this world3 and we must speak to this core to realize the radical ethical changes required to save our planet.4 Laws designed to prevent environmental degradation must be crafted and implemented with recognition that, in the face of scientific uncertainty, religious values play an important role alongside the traditional cost-benefit analysis, typically claimed to constitute rational decision-making.5 In this article, we have chosen 2006]


to examine the religious path to an environmental ethic in order to offer “a framework that raises ethical issues and expects ethical conduct.” We hope that religious principles will serve as a “stepping stone[]” in bridging the gap between human-centered utilitarianism and the environmental moralist approach.8 Scientific uncertainty exists in many environmental decisions. Therefore, value choices must be made in the absence of known future consequences.10 Religious values, as well as other values informing policy decisions in the face of uncertainty, should be acknowledged so that they may be debated openly and honestly.11 environmental values relevant to their decisionmaking” including “certain ‘squishy’ values”); But see Bruce Yandle, Mr. Lomborg and the Common Law, 53 CASE W. RES. L. REV. 285, 292 (2002) (“For fundamental institutional change to enter the action agenda, calm and rational thought must have replaced fear, pessimism, and religious sentiments about environmental use.”). 6. Eric T. Freyfogle, The Land Ethic and Pilgrim Leopold, 61 U. COLO. L. REV. 217, 255 (1990). See also Robert W. Lanna, Catholic Tradition, and the New Catholic Theology and Social Teaching on the Environment, 39 CATH. LAW.

353, 354 (2000) (explaining that “[n] ot long after the modern environmental movement began nearly thirty years ago, a small number of theologians began exploring applications of Catholic tradition and social teaching to address the environmental challenges facing the world”); Larry B. Stammer, The Nation: Faith-Based Stance on Environment, L.A. TIMES, July 4, 2004, at A18 (reporting on a group of evangelical leaders from conservative Christian churches who have “agreed to work for faith-based environmental activism” and discussing how this may impact the Republican political agenda).

Holly Doremus, Environmental Ethics and Environmental Law: Harmony, Dissonance, Cacophony, or Irrelevance?, 37 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 1, 6 (2003). See also Thomas M.J. Möllers, A Call for Consideration of Human Modes of Behavior When Promoting Environmentally Correct Behavior by Means of Information and Force of Law, in LAW & EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY 315, 319-20 (1999) (noting that even when people realize the negative consequences of their actions on the environment they fail to act appropriately since “[c] atering for one’s own personal needs – not to say desires – clearly take preference over a communal attempt to protect the environment”). 8. See Doremus, supra note 7, at 7. But see Dan Tarlock, Environmental Law: Ethics or Science, 7 DUKE ENVTL. L. & POL’Y F. 193, 200 (1996) (“[f] rom an environmental perspective both religion and Enlightenment thinking share the same defect: humankind is the exclusive interest.”). 9. See Holly Doremus, Constitutive Law and Environmental Policy, 22 STAN. ENVTL. L.J. 295, 297 (2003) (“Uncertainty pervades every aspect of environmental law.”).

. Flatt, supra note 5, at 16. See also Todd Zywicki, Baptists?: The Political Economy of Environmental Interests Groups, 53 CASE W. RES. L. REV. 315, 350 (2002) (“Although environmentalism was once a science-based movement, it has increasingly abandoned its roots in science.”). 11. See Flatt, supra note 5, at 16 (arguing that there should be “an open and honest discussion of the actual value choices that our government and society want to make about our environment”). There are many voices seeking to be heard in the debate over environmental regulation. Compare Marc R. Poirier, “It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times . . . :” Science, Rhetoric and Distribution in a Risky World, 53 CASE W. RES. L. REV. 409, 426 (2002) (“Most if not all environmental policy decisions are inevitably moral and political in nature,


[Vol. 17:63 Indeed, like other religious activism in the United States that led to political movements such as abolition, the ban on the sale of alcohol, and the civil rights movement, the “environmental movement today continues to draw much of its strength from a religious inspiration.” Nevertheless, sometimes religious values and ideals are suppressed in public discourse about environmental law and policy choices because “many Americans are nervous about mixing religion and government.”

Deep concerns about environmental degradation in the modern world did not come to the general public debate until attention to the influential writings of Aldo Leopold,14 John Muir, and Rachel Carson16 converged in the 1960s and resulted in a flurry of environmental legislation in the 1970s. In addition to providing a despite their dependence on science to inform them.”), and Zywicki, supra note 10, at 342 (discussing the public interest versus private interest models of environmental interest groups and noting that “[t] o the extent that individuals pursue a religious preference, political preference, or preference for environmental protection over other social goals, it is still the case that they are pursuing their self-interest and self-gratification”), with James L. Huffman, Either You’re With Us or Against Us: No Room for the Skeptical Environmentalist,  CASE W. RES. L. REV. 391, 391 (2002) (noting that some have suggested that “radical environmentalism is more about religion than science”) (citing Robert H. Nelson, Bruce Babbitt, Pipeline to the Almighty, WEEKLY STANDARD, June 24, 1996, at 18), and Frank B. Cross, The Naïve Environmentalist, 53 CASE W. RES. L. REV.

477, 495 (2002) (arguing that environmentalists who “accept the litany” will be “logically compelled to pursue public policies of a radical and counterproductive nature” and should instead realize that “[t] he best policy for our environmental future is one of pragmatic pursuit of economic growth and environmental protection”). 12. Robert H. Nelson, Environmental Religion: A Theological Critique, 55 CASE W. RES. L. REV. 51, 52 (2004). See also John Nagle, Playing Noah, 82 MINN. L. REV. 1171 (1998). 13. Nelson, supra note 12, at 55 (noting that environmental groups have been supported by a moral energy “that has grown up out of the fourth great religious awakening” in American history). 14. See Holly Doremus, The Rhetoric and Reality of Nature Protection: Toward a New Discourse, 57 WASH. & LEE L. REV. 11, 29 (2000) (discussing the modern ideal of pure wilderness and noting that “[e] nvironmental historian Roderick Nash attributes the beginning of the wilderness movement largely to Aldo Leopold”). World Religions (noting that “Muir’s affection for nature rested not just on its beauty, but also on its ability to inspire a sense of the palpable presence of God”). World Religions (calling a modern era form of environmentalism “the ecological horror story” and explaining that “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book credited with inspiring the modern environmental movement, contains the prototypical example of this


rallying call for environmental preservation through legal action, these writings and others provided the foundation for environmental ethics as a new discipline.World Religions Professor Eric T. Freyfogle, a major legal scholar in this new discipline, wrote in 1990 that this “field hardly crystallized in 1970 is today rich and vibrant”19 and he quoted the leading Leopold scholar, J. Baird Callicott, who described this diverse field as “includ[ing] articles by and in criticism of animal liberationists, biocentrists, deep ecologists, strong anthropocentrists, weak anthropocentrists, nonanthropocentric holists, neo-pragmatists, ecofeminists, process philosophers and theologians, Taoists, Zen Buddhists, Christian apologists, Muslim apologists, natural and unnatural Jews.”20 Environmental ethics as a discipline seeks to define and incorporate ethical values into the human response to environmental issues. Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, as expressed in his essays in A Sand County Almanac, 21 is probably the most famous and most referenced view of an environmental ethic.

World Religions According to Leopold, a land ethic “reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land.”22 “In short, [Leopold’s] land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.” As Professor Freyfogle noted, “Leopold spoke to the reader as an individual and challenged the reader to develop an ethical attitude toward the land.”World Religions.

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