Meaning-Making Practices and Environmental History

Toward an Ecotonal Theology

Authored by: Whitney A. Bauman

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415492447
eBook ISBN: 9780203803516
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634178


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In the introduction to this section (Chapter 30), Barrett and Jordan make a valid point in identifying the problem of trying to make meaning in a world that is constantly in flux from within meaning-making systems that assume some amount of stasis and universality. The problem of how to make meaning in a world that is now globalized, culturally and economically, and in the face of planetary environmental crises – such as global climate change – is a relatively new one for humanity. Furthermore, the critique of an idealized understanding of “nature” as static and/or wilderness is important in locating the ways in which cultures co/construct understandings of “nature.” This means that our understandings of “nature” can adapt and change according to how well they promote the well-being of the planetary community. Destabilizing concepts of nature is also important because it counters the multiple sites of identity oppressions that are coded as “natural:” sexism, racism, heterosexism, etc. Although I don’t think the authors’ sweeping critique of “religion and ecology” to date is entirely accurate – there are, for example, many thinkers in the field who have thought about “existential shame,” sin, and the tragic side inherent in life (such as the fact that something must die for something else to live), and who have thought of nature/ecology as “in flux” (e.g. McDaniel 1989; Ruether 1992; Wallace 1996; Gebara 1999; Keller 2003; Kaufman 2004) – I do think that the charge to rethink how and where meaning-making processes materialize in the world is very important. It is this task to which the rest of this chapter is devoted.

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