Thursday, Feb. 21, at the fourth annual David L. Dungan Memorial Lecture, Bron Taylor, author of the book Dark Green Religion: Nature, Spirituality and the Planetary Future, discussed a new environmental religion that was formed after Charles Darwin published his book On The Origin of Species.
Some themes used to define Dark Green Religion are: nature is sacred, living things have intrinsic value, respect, reverence, and that life forms share a common ancestor and kin with corresponding moral responsibilities.
Through his lecture Taylor discussed the similarities between conventional religion and this new Dark Green Religion such as holy texts, sacred objects and locations, prophets, rituals, extremists and pilgrimages. Taylor opened with stories of individual spiritual revelations brought on by nature and the lengths they went through to protect what they considered sacred.
Val Plumwood, an Australian philosopher, shared her story about her near death experience with a saltwater crocodile. She recalled seeing the crocodile’s eyes when she attempted to jump from her canoe. She came to terms with being the crocodile’s prey and in turn, part of the food chain. Plumwood said she felt a golden glow over her life after surviving the encounter.
She said “if this was a communion, it was an unwelcome one.”
Aside from individual spiritual experiences, Taylor’s main examples of social spirituality outside of accepted religions is surfing culture. While spending time in San Diego at an academic conference, Taylor skipped a lecture and went surfing. He commented that many surfers refer to the sport as going to church. While renting a surfboard , Taylor told the cashier that he was an ocean lifeguard before moving to Wisconsin to teach.
The young woman told him “no amount of money is worth being away from mother ocean.”
Taylor is a professor of religion and nature at the University of Florida and an affiliated scholar with the Center for Environment and Development at the University of Oslo, Norway.
He ended the lecture with two Symphony of Science videos by John D. Boswell.
Edited by Nichole Stevens