Is there a spiritual presence in the environmental movement? To some environmentalist, nature was more than just an aesthetic beauty but also a religious experience. Bryan Walsh, from Time Magazine, mirrors the spiritual presence once held by the environmental movement and describes John Muir's, founder of the Sierra Club, legendary admiration for "the grandest of all special temples in nature" - Yosemite, Ca.
To individuals like Muir, environmental protection exceeded the need to create "complex economic policies like cap and trade and new technologies like concentrated solar power" and emphasized "saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism." Emerging activists around the world are unlocking the hidden potential in spiritual activism and re-sparking the environmental movement.
Spiritual activism is the synergy of spirituality and activism, which empowers these individuals to be "compassionate, positive, kind, fierce and transformative" leaders. Beth Green, founder of the Spiritual Activist Movement, was an energetic social revolutionist who participated in many efforts to alleviate the discrimination of women and the social and economic injustices in society. Her passions shifted and began to integrate spirituality to advocate for the three principles to change the current human consciousness geared to materialism. Her lessons can be adapted to ongoing grassroots initiatives aiming to mitigate social and environmental challenges.
Like Green, Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental activist, reestablished spirituality in her movements. She worked with the Green Belt Movement, which "focuses on planting trees, conserving the environment and fighting for women's rights." Her compassion and inspiration to help her community and the environment honed her spiritual activism. Maathai explained, "The environment becomes sacred, because to destroy what is essential to life is to destroy life itself."
Furthermore, similar to Green and Maathai, Los Angeles's Ron Finley seeks to empower his community by creating street gardens and "food forests" to bring healthy fruits and vegetables to families in need. His passion to help others is remarkable. He values all human life and seeks to revitalize a community from the ground up through community and environmental health education.
It's time for mainstream environmental movements to recognize the need of intersecting the principles of spiritual activism to their agendas to guarantee equal treatment to all members of society including the environment. The environmental movement is not only about nature and its possible economic incentives, as Walsh argues, but also about making spiritual connections with the environment and its members!