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Faith in Nature

Environmentalism as Religious Quest

by Thomas Dunlap

Publication Year: 2004

Published by: University of Washington Press

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Foreword: Searching for the God in All Things

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pp. xi-xv

Is environmentalism a religion? Even to ask the question may seem outlandish. Those who follow more traditional faiths may think it nearly heretical to identify religious tendencies in an intellectual and political movement that is often so materialist and anti-metaphysical in its impulses. To worship the earth and its creatures instead of a...

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pp. xvii

Bill Cronon guided this book from its beginnings in a letter I wrote him after hearing the session on “The Trouble with Wilderness” at a meeting of the American Society for Environmental History. After a few letters he suggested I write a book about “environmentalism as a religion.” E-mails, drafts, and letters began to pile up, supplemented with...

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pp. 3-13

It was the manner in which some historians reacted to William Cronon’s “The Trouble with Wilderness” that first got me thinking, consciously at any rate, about the topic that turned into this book. Cronon had made an academic point: because of certain historical processes and events we give the name “wilderness” to areas of land with...

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1. Newton's Disciples

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pp. 14-41

The environmental movement began with a concern for what was happening at the time—with DDT in our body fat and organo-chlorines in our drinking water and the awful environmental news of the late 1960s, the discovery that economic development and population growth threatened wilderness and even the world’s...

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2. Emerson's Children

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pp. 42-67

As a reform, environmentalism followed conservation’s program of managing natural resources by science and held to preservation’s goal of saving wild areas for their beauty. As an expression of the human impulse toward religion, it went beyond arranging our use of nature to ask how we were related to it and what need we had for...

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3. Journey into Sacred Space

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pp. 68-94

"Wilderness,” like “nature,” has many, contradictory meanings, and Americans have used them all and added a few of their own. The European settlers arrived with biblical ideas of wilderness—as exile and the Devil’s haunts, the place where God met and led the people of Israel, the prophets took refuge from their enemies, and...

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4. Sacred Nature Enters Daily Life

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pp. 95-123

Environmentalism emerged as a movement when people applied an ecological perspective to their lives and society, seeing the world as webs of relationships rather than separate things. Environmentalism did not find its name until the late 1960s, but people’s ideas began to change in the years after World War II; formal and informal nature...

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5. In for the Long Haul: Living in the World

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pp. 124-147

Environmentalism began with crisis and a sense of commitment. People rallied against DDT, oil spills, dying lakes, and vanishing wildlife; they recycled cans and newspapers; they stuffed insulations in every crack; they joined organizations; and they published newsletters. Despite their efforts, aided by bell-bottomed jeans, sex, drugs, rock...

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6. Conclusion: "Quo Vadis?"

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pp. 148-172

The King James Version of the Bible translates “quo vadis?” as “Whither goest thou?” but there “What now?” might be better. At the start I asked you to suspend judgment and—as an academic proposition—view environmentalism as part of the human impulse toward religion. That perspective framed the discussion of...


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pp. 173-192


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pp. 193-198


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pp. 199-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780295989815
E-ISBN-10: 0295989815
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295985565
Print-ISBN-10: 0295985569

Publication Year: 2004