The Devil Wears Prada and Drives a Hummer

‘Buy, buy, buy. Sell, sell, sell,’ goes the mantra of the
capitalist. But our disposable lifestyle has gotten us into quite a
mess, and if there’s one thing all the talk about biofuels and wind
power confirms, it’s that we can’t buy more space on the planet to
fulfill our food and energy needs or sell our way out of the
environmental damages we’ve already inflicted. Many on the left see
the stereotypical conservative Christian consumer as the villain in
this story — Bush crystallized the image with his post-9/11 call
for Americans to open their pocketbooks and ward off economic
collapse. Giving the lie to that stereotype are the leagues of
religious groups looking inward — and to each other — to find an
escape from the consumerist trap responsible for the current state
of planet Earth.

At its core, sustainability is about values, and values are
impacted by religion, argues Gary Gardner, director of research
with the environmental and social sustainability research group
Worldwatch Institute. ‘It’s because I’m a religious person that I’m
an environmentalist. For me there is no incompatibility there at
all,’ Gardner explains in an interview with David Roberts for
Grist. The connection between faith and
environmentalism is also clear to Sierra Club executive director
Carl Pope, who writes in his column for
Sierra that ‘[o]ur shortsighted
global-trade rules affront the pious and environmentalist
alike.’ ‘In every major trade negotiation to date,’ he
continues, ‘both camps have suggested provisions to allow
subsistence farmers to remain on their land, to get lifesaving
drugs into the hands of poor people, and to protect the earth’s
ecosystems — all elements of a sustainable system.’

The increasing involvement of religious groups in environmental
activism is adding a new dimension of political clout to the
movement. But its impact goes farther than that. Gardner and others
argue that religion can get to the roots of reckless consumption in
a way that environmentalist lecturing can’t. In the recent book,
A Greener Faith, Roger S. Gottleib —
according to a
Discover review — stresses that
‘religious values offer an alternative to the gross consumerism
that has fueled our despoliation of the planet.’ For many, the
consumerism Pope calls a ‘fundamental spiritual crisis that
challenges all the world’s faiths,’ is best countered by a
renewed sense of spirituality that trumps unabated capitalism’s
empty promises of fulfillment.

Go there >>
How Does Your Gardner Go?

Go there too >>
Ways & Means: The Devil’s in the
Retail

Go there too >>
A Greener Faith

Related Links:

Related Links from the Utne
Archive:

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to
Utne magazine

UTNE
UTNE
In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.