271 pages, no illustrations
Devoted to Nature explores the religious underpinnings of American environmentalism, tracing the theological character of American environmental thought from their Romantic foundations to contemporary nature spirituality. During the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, religious sources were the central conceptual ingredients of the American environmental imagination, shaping ideas about the natural world, establishing practices of engagement with environments and landscapes, and generating new modes of social and political interaction. Following a lineage of environmental historians who acknowledge the movement's religious roots, this study offers a potent theoretical corrective designed to clarify how such religious characteristics remained publicly vital components of the movement well into the 20th century. In particular, Berry argues that an explicitly Christian understanding of salvation grounded the environmental movement's orientation toward the natural world. Theologically derived concepts about salvation, redemption, and spiritual progress not only provide the basic context for Americans enthusiastic about the out-of-doors, they also establish the horizons of possibility for the national environmental imagination.
"This pathbreaking work changes the way we think about American environmentalism and its religious history. In particular, it challenges us to think about why we are 'devoted to nature' and how we are entangled with its processes. Berry has made a valuable contribution – clarifying our history so as to see a path forward."
– Mary Evelyn Tucker, Director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University and coauthor of Journey of the Universe
"In this fascinating study that fuses environmental history and religious studies, Evan Berry has profitably illuminated the religious roots of environmentalism in the early twentieth century. His provocative interpretations and claims deserve a robust pondering and will engender debate, no doubt."
– Bron Taylor, Professor of Religion and Nature at the University of Florida and author of Dark Green Religion
Introduction: Whither Religion?
1. Recreation and Soteriology
2. Congregating around Nature
3. Sacred Space and the American Environmental Imagination
4. Recreation and Spiritual Experience
Conclusion: The Mechanics of Religious Change
For Further Reading and Research
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Evan Berry is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at American University and Co-Director of the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs program. His PhD is from UC Santa Barbara.