Approaches to define our environmental practices and politics

2018 MSE Graphic


How do the stories we tell ourselves about our place in the natural world shape and define our environmental/ecological practices and politics? John Haught in “Science and Faith” (2012) identified three approaches to the discussion.
Conflict: A conflict approach argues that the natural sciences and religious faith are mutually exclusive and irreconcilable. Many people hold this point of view and yet we tend to act based on our beliefs and not based on accepted scientific outcomes. For example, the science behind climate change is very strong yet the societal behaviour change has been slow.
Contrast: A contrast approach argues that science and faith are distinct, with each concerned with different levels or dimensions of reality. They ask completely different kinds of questions, and so it makes no sense to place them in competition with each other. Science deals with questions of empirical fact and religion deals with questions of ultimate meaning. Once again, by separating the two belief systems it is challenging for people to translate the knowledge gained through science with behaviour which tends to be guided by beliefs.
Conversation: A conversational approach argues that natural science and religious faith are distinct ways of understanding the world, but that the two inevitably interact. Conversation promotes this interaction. Its object is to arrive at a synthesis in which both science and faith keep their respective identities while still relating closely to each other in a shared pursuit of intelligibility and truth. Conversation wagers that science and faith, as long as they are not confused with one another, can contribute to a richer view of reality than either can achieve on its own.

At the 2018 Muskoka Summit on the Environment, we will take a conversational approach to exploring how we restore our relationship with the natural world.

Dr. Terry Chapin, a Summit speaker and professor at the University of Alaska, has focused his research on the study of the resilience of regional systems in the face of directional changes in climate, economics, and culture.

He believes this is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity: How do we sustain the desirable features of Earth’s ecosystems and society at a time of rapid changes in all the major forces that govern their properties? This requires an understanding of the mechanisms that tend to maintain the system in its current state versus factors that cause changes to a new state. It also requires an integration of natural and social sciences because many of the drivers of change involve social-ecological interactions.

The Summit will encourage discussion between theologians, scientists, atheists, agnostics, economists and you. How do you see the natural world and how do we need to restore our relationship with it?

Summit speakers include:

  1. Stephen Scharper – Research Interests: Religious ethics and the environment.
  2. Meg Lowman – Research Focus: Canopy biodiversity and a champion of forest conservation around the world.
  3. John Smol – Research focus: The study of how ecosystems change over long-time frames in response to both natural and human-induced environmental change.
  4. Stuart Chapin (Terry) – Research focus: The study of the resilience of regional systems in the face of directional changes in climate, economics, and culture.
  5. James Gordon – Interests: Environmental concerns from an artistic perspective and real-life pragmatism gained from experience on the Guelph City Council.
  6. Dan Longboat – Teaching focus: encourages study with Elders and Traditional People. He recognizes the critical importance of language learning and support for culturally based programs.

Join the conversation by sharing your ideas in the comments below or on the MSE Event Page on Facebook.

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