Get Thee to a Nunnery!

by kespeland on June 16, 2008

Monastic life may be the greenest around.

Gethsemani Abbey recently wrapped up its third Buddhist/Catholic summit; the theme this time was “Monasticism and the Environment.”

“Forty Buddhists and Catholics, most of them monastic men and women, gathered at this renowned Trappist abbey to reflect on and share with one another the environmental wisdom to be found in their monastic teachings and practices.”

That description comes from a Web site now available with MP3s of all the presentations. You can listen to Buddhist monks speaking about the environmental values found in ancient documents, a nun on the environmental practices of monastic communities, and an abbot on technology’s destructive effects.

It’s no surprise: many monastic communities are, and always have been, as self-sufficient as possible, producing their own food and consuming local goods (and consuming less in general). No nuns speeding down highways in flashy, gas-guzzling SUVs. No monks playing endless rounds of Super Smash Bros. Brawl on their personal Wiis. No siree. Instead, participants in this conference emphasize the simplicity of their lifestyles, and being content with less.

That monastics tend to live a bit more in harmony with the earth is nothing so new. But their statements are another example of the growing presence among environmentalists of religious voices. Evangelical Christians are calling for action on climate change. Unitarian Universalist churches have created a do-it-yourself program for member churches to lessen the environmental footprint of their buildings. There’s the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the Interfaith Climate Change Network, and much, much more environmental activism at work in faiths of all kinds.

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