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Chapter Twenty-Seven. Religion and Environmentalism

Joachim Radkau


(translated by Peter Engelke) One of the earliest themes of environmental history is the religious roots of environmentalism. Thus it is surprising that “religion and environmentalism” is among those subjects where research until now has made little headway. The literature leaves much to be desired. This is all the more surprising because recently religion has again found political significance and garnered a measure of attention which it had not received in some time. Hans-Ulrich Wehler, a German social historian for whom religion never was an important theme, writes with perceptible unease in the foreword to the last volume of his Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte that “the last one and a half decades” have seemingly “undertaken a breathtaking revaluation of religion.” But the renewed scholarly attention to religion still has its gaps. Religion has not yet received its due within environmental history. For a long time, there has been in the Anglo-American as well as in the German-speaking realm an ever-increasing wealth of literature on the actual or alleged affinities between religion and environmentalism; but in essence this involves for the most part a normative but not a historical-empirical approach. It is a literature of hope, not of sober analysis. Not only is there little progress in the literature; one can even recognize steps backward. In the massive opus by James ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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