WPI Professor and Noted Religious Environmentalist Delivers Course and Public Lectures at Wake Forest

WPI Professor and Noted Religious Environmentalist Delivers Course and Public Lectures at Wake Forest

Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5609 Contact: Michael Dorsey
WPI Research Communications
508-831-5609; mwdorsey@wpi.edu
or Jacob McConnico
or Kevin P. Cox
Wake Forest University News Service

WORCESTER, Mass., February 28, 2006 -- At a time when many diverse religious groups are acknowledging the importance of addressing environmental crises like global warming and pollution, Roger Gottlieb, professor of philosophy at Worcester Polytechnic Institite (WPI) and a noted authority on religious environmentalism, is leading a course on this topic and delivering a series of public lectures at the Divinity School at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Gottlieb is teaching the course "Religion, Ecology and Religious Environmentalism" for approximately 16 students in the Wake Forest Divinity School over three weekends during the spring semester 2006. He is also delivering public lectures at Wake Forest (sponsored by the divinity school and the university's philosophy department) that explore the intersection of religion, spiritual life, the Holocaust, and the environmental crisis. The first took place on Feb. 25; the second is scheduled for March 25. Gottlieb said he will ask lecture participants "to consider how we have committed genocide and ecocide, and how, having done so, we can make sense of our belief in God or our spirituality."

[Locally, Gottlieb will deliver the keynote address at "A Greener Faith," a free forum on religious environmentalism and the future of the planet, sponsored by Massachusetts Interfaith Power & Light, at 7 p.m. on March 2 at the United Congregational Church in Worcester.]

The author or editor of 14 books and more than 50 articles on environmentalism, religious life, political philosophy, Marxism, the Holocaust, feminism and disability, Gottlieb said that during the past 20 or 30 years he has observed religions of the world make an unprecedented shift to take serious responsibility for and attempt to address the environmental crisis.

"The environmental crisis is a religious concern because most religions have some account of the human relationship to nature," Gottlieb said. "In so far as religions are concerned with suffering, the suffering of non-human beings, environmental degradation is creating an enormous amount of suffering for those beings.

"The environmental crisis is also extremely destructive for human beings," he said. "It causes illness and dislocation, and destroys cultures. We are hurting human beings. If it's a religious concern because I shoot somebody, surely it's a religious concern if I put chemicals in the air that give a person cancer."

Gottlieb edited This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment, the first large-scale text that deals with the religious dimensions of the environmental crises. He is editor of six academic book series, book review editor of Social Theory and Practice, and has a review column in the national magazine Tikkun. He is on the editorial board of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Journal of Socialist Ecology and Worldviews: Religion, Nature, Culture. His forthcoming book, A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future, is scheduled for release by Oxford University Press in April.

He said many religious groups have recently voiced concern about environmental degradation. Examples include the "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign launched by the Evangelical Environmental Network a few years ago and the recent announcement of a new push called the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which in February released the statement, "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action."

According to the Associated Press, the statement was signed by many leading conservative Christians including the Rev. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, the president of evangelical Wheaton College, the national commander for The Salvation Army, and heads of seminaries and mega-churches nationwide.

Gottlieb said he wants students in his course at Wake Forest, many of whom will enter a career in the ministry, to realize that, "A concern with the human relationship to nature and concern with the moral dimension of our environmental practices is as essential a part of religion as anything else-as conversations about God, conversations about family, conversations about community."

"This is an absolutely essential part," Gottlieb said. "If religious people are concerned about war and peace, if they are concerned about pornography, if they are concerned about drugs, they absolutely must be concerned about this as well."

To learn more about Gottlieb, see "Finding Happiness," a profile in the Winter 2005 issue of the WPI magazine Transformations

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1865, WPI was one of the nation's first engineering and technological universities. Its 18 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts. WPI's world-class faculty work with students in a number of cutting-edge research areas, leading to breakthroughs and innovations in such fields as biotechnology, fuel cells, information security, and nanotechnology. Students also have the opportunity to make a difference in communities and organizations around the world through the university's innovative Global Perspectives Program, at more than 20 project centers throughout North America and Central America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and Europe.

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