Religion, Sustainability and Place: A Conceptual Framework

Authors: Steven Silvern*, Salem State University
Topics: Religion and Belief Systems , Cultural Geography, Sustainability Science
Keywords: religion, sustainability, place
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 48
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper introduces a session devoted to exploring how religious and faith groups promote sustainable relationships between people, place and environments. In this presentation, I provided the academic context and a conceptual frame for the presentations to follow. I begin with a review of the academic literature , noting that there are few studies linking the study of religion with sustainability and place. Religious and faith groups conceive of and advocate for understanding the sacredness of creation and the natural world; concerns that motivate an activist engagement with sustainability in practice. Place is ontologically central to this religiously informed conception of sustainability; conceptions of place influence sustainability concerns and activism of religious and faith groups. There is a tension in how these place conceptions are expressed and how they inform action. Building upon and utilizing the work of Doreen Massey and other geographers, I note that this is a tension between an inward-looking geography of concern --a more narrow and bounded sense of place--- and a geography of care and concern that extends beyond the local to the global. Thus, place can become part of a defensive posture, an exclusive place-based definition of sustainability that can be nationalistic or even xenophobic. Or the efforts of religious groups to promote sustainability may be informed by a more open and global sense of place, a cosmopolitan sustainability discourse that seeks to engage and cooperative with others in interfaith movements for environmental and social justice.

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