Faith in Nature

Environmentalism as Religious Quest

Thomas Dunlap
Foreword by William Cronon

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: History / Environmental History; Environmental Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 223 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
  • Contents

The human impulse to religion - the drive to explain the world, humans, and humans' place in the universe - can be seen to encompass environmentalism as an offshoot of the secular, material faith in human reason and power that dominates modern society. Faith in Nature traces the history of environmentalism - and its moral thrust - from its roots in the Enlightenment and Romanticism through the Progressive Era to the present. Drawing astonishing parallels between religion and environmentalism, the book examines the passion of the movement's adherents and enemies alike, its concern with the moral conduct of daily life, and its attempt to answer fundamental questions about the underlying order of the world and of humanity's place within it.

Thomas Dunlap is among the leading environmental historians and historians of science in the United States. Originally trained as a chemist, he has a rigorous understanding of science and appreciates its vital importance to environmental thought. But he is also a devout Catholic who believes that the insights of religious revelation need not necessarily be at odds with the insights of scientific investigation. This book grew from his own religious journey and his attempts to understand human ethical obligations and spiritual debts to the natural world.

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title 2005
Thomas Dunlap is professor of history at Texas AandM University. His books include DDT: Scientists, Citizens, and Public Policy; Nature and the English Diaspora; and Saving America's Wildlife.CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title 2005

"A fascinating look at what we fall in love with when we fall in love with the world outside. In an age where our species is suddenly bigger than anything else, it raises profound if subtle questions about how we understand who we are."
-William McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"Faith in Nature offers many intriguing insights into modern American environmentalism and its advocates. Its most enduring insight-and its most controversial and the point of the book-centers on its argument that environmentalism is a religion."
-Jon Butler, Yale University

"Environmentalism and its various antecedents represent one of the most sustained and creative efforts over the past two centuries to translate core religious values so as to demonstrate their continuing relevance to a modern age that often seems relentlessly secular, materialist, and irreligious. Faith in Nature offers a generous and thought-provoking sketch of how this environmental religious tradition has emerged over time, and where it might be headed in the future."
-William Cronon, from the Foreword

Foreword: Searching for the God in All Things by William Cronon
1. Newton's Disciples
2. Emerson's Children
3. Journey into Sacred Space
4. Sacred Nature Enters Daily Life
5. In for the Long Haul: Living in the World
6. Conclusion: "Quo Vadis?"

"A gracefully written and thoughtful book that traces the moral and spiritual aspects of American environmentalism."

"This is a fascinating and provocative study that engages the reader in an alternative way of understanding the meaning and purpose of American environmental movements..This is an insightful interpretive treatment that is not only well written but of considerable depth and substance. ."

"This is an important book for the times in which we live."
-American Forests

"Dunlap has succeeded in opening- or perhaps re-opening- an important debate, and his book will serve as a valuable point of reference as that debate unfolds."
-Agricultural History