Several national and international meetings have also been held on this subject. For example, environmental groups such as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have sponsored interreligious meetings, such as the one in Assisi in 1986. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in North America has established an annual Environmental Sabbath and distributes thousands of packets of materials for uses in congregations throughout the United States and Canada.

The Parliament of World Religions, held in Chicago in 1993 and attended by some 8,000 people from all over the globe, issued a Global Ethics of Cooperation of Religions on Human and Environmental Issues statement. The subsequent Parliaments held in Capetown and Barcelona had the environment as a major theme. The Parliament planned for December 2009 in Melbourne also has a major focus on the role of religions in contributing to a sustainable future.

International meetings on the environment such as the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders have been held in Oxford (1988), Moscow (1990), Rio (1992), and Kyoto (1993). These included religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama as well as diplomats and heads of state such as Mikhail Gorbachev, who hosted the Moscow conference and attended the Kyoto conference to set up an International Green Cross for environmental emergencies.

Moreover, the Tehran Seminar on Environment, Culture, and Religion was held in Iran in June 2001 and one on "Environment, Peace and the Dialogue of Civilizations and Cultures" was organized in May 2005. Both of these were sponsored by the Iranian government with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme. Gorbachev has held several Earth Dialogues on "Globalization: Is Ethics the Missing Link?" held in Lyon, France in 2002, in Barcelona, Spain in 2004, and in Brisbane, Australia in 2006. The International Union for the Conservation organized the first panel on "Spirituality and Conservation" at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in 2009.

Since 1995 the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has convened symposia on "Religion, Science, and the Environment" focused on water issues in Europe, the Amazon, and the Arctic. Similarly, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) based in England has been convening conferences and activating religious communities. In the United States, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRP) has organized the Jewish and Christian communities on this issue. The time is thus propitious for encouraging the contributions of particular religions to solving the ecological crisis, especially by developing a more comprehensive environmental ethics to ground movements focused on sustainability.

Conclusion: The Need for Interdisciplinary Dialogue.

Clearly religions have a central role in the formulation of worldviews that orient us to the natural world and the articulation of ethics that guide human behavior. The size and complexity of the problems we face require collaborative efforts both among the religions and in dialogue with other key domains of human endeavor. Religions, thus, need to be in conversation with sectors -- science, economics, education, and public policy -- that have addressed environmental issues.

Thomas Berry has observed that assisting humans by degrading the natural world cannot lead to a sustainable community. The only sustainable community is one that fits the human economy into the ever-renewing economy of the planet. The human system, in its every aspect, is a subsystem of the Earth system, whether we are speaking of economics or physical well-being or rules of law. In essence, human flourishing and planetary prosperity are intimately linked.