Modern applied science and our current economic systems have failed us. They are responsible for the environmental crisis that is putting our future and that of our fragile, interconnected biosphere at risk. Equally, the world’s religious leaders have also failed us with their all-too-quick acceptance of the status quo and dereliction in working to protect the divine gift that is creation.
Most readers are already aware of the evidence for these claims: the greenhouse gasses we’re pumping into the air that are causing global climate change, the pollution that we’re dumping into our oceans that is causing underwater desertification and floating oceanic plastic wastelands larger than the state of Texas, and the mass extinctions that are already beginning to take place as a result of our abuse of the planet. Then there’s the still-present danger of errant nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands. I could go on, but there’s no need to. The problems are well-identified; diverse movements and organizations are already publicizing specific issues, hoping that our worse fears don’t come to pass. Their work is critical and urgent, but it is not nearly enough.
What’s needed now, as the damage spirals out of control, is to go beyond this focus on isolated fixes. It’s now time to band together to challenge the basic assumptions on which the modern industrial world was built. It’s time to consider radical alternatives, ecological alternatives.
For this reason, a large group of leaders from many different religions, and from no religion at all, has been gathering. All of us in this group care passionately about the Earth. We refuse to let our differing beliefs keep us from working together to address the crisis at hand. Our aim is ambitious and idealistic, perhaps impossible: we want to create an ecological civilization. The urgency of the looming environmental crisis compels us.
As of now, we’ve set up a platform for all who share our urgent concern. We call it Pando Populus. We’ve taken our name from the largest and oldest organism on the planet — a giant quaking aspen tree, spread over more than a hundred acres, thousands of years old, connected by a single root system.
The questions we are asking look toward radically new paradigms for religion, education, business, and human social organization as a whole:
– What will business and finance look like if the aim of creating a thriving ecosphere becomes the goal of the economy?
– How will the university be reshaped if it accepts responsibility for the future of the Earth rather than attempts to be value-free?
– What will religion be like if it begins to focus on world loyalty as opposed to sectarian or national loyalty, or escapism from the world altogether?
On June 4-7, 2015, more than 2,000 of us are convening in Claremont, Calif. to hold what we believe may be the largest transdisciplinary conference ever held on behalf of the planet. Nearly 1,000 presenters from multiple religions, some 30 countries, and as many as 80 areas of specialty will be participating.
Over the next seven weeks, as a prelude to the conference, this blog will highlight several cutting-edge artists, activists, religious leaders, and theologians who will be there, to give you a taste of what’s in store.
First up: Tucker Nichols, who makes art as a way of grappling with big ideas. His work has been featured in museums all over the world, in the pages of McSweeney’s and The Thing Quarterly, the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times, and on the Facebook campus, where he was a resident artist. His Art for Social Innovation will be visible everywhere at the Conference. We hope you’ll join us.
Philip Clayton is the Ingraham Professor at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California. Clayton has taught or held research professorships at Williams College, California State University, Harvard University, Cambridge University, and the University of Munich. His research focuses on biological emergence, religion and science, process studies, and contemporary issues in ecology, religion, and ethics. He is the recipient of multiple research grants and international lectureships, as well as the author of numerous books, including The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, Faith(2011); Religion and Science: The Basics (2011);Transforming Christian Theology: For Church and Society (2009); and In Quest of Freedom: The Emergence of Spirit in the Natural World (2009). He also edited The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science(2006).