Religion and Conservation Biology
Religion is a component of all cultures and frequently the guiding and controlling component through which societies legitimize themselves. Although not always obvious, religion is generally pervasive throughout cultures and is often the unifying principle of a society. Religions have played a substantial role in formulating views of nature and defining relationships of the roles of humanity in nature, thus, inextricably linking religious life and natural systems. It is increasingly recognized that religions can help make essential and substantial contributions to rethinking and responding to the world environmental crisis.
Religion and theology are “greening” and will continue to do so and the religious focus on the environment now appears to be an irreversible theme of theological inquiry and religious life. In this regard, there is an increasing call for growing cooperation between science and religion in addressing environmental issues. An understanding of religious concepts and how they are applied to governance and daily life is essential to the implementation of effective and lasting conservation management strategies. The knowledge of the activities and principles and practices of conservation biology is essential to those whose perspective is primarily informed by religion and theology.
The Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group is involved in helping to build bridges of information and understanding between these diverse but increasingly linked fields.
Successful completion of a position statement on the Religious Practice of Releasing Captive Wildlife for Merit has been approved by the SCB Policy Director John Fitzgerald and the SCB Policy Committee.
As part of the Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative's (RCRC) first initiative, the group looked into the conservation impacts of releasing wildlife as an act of compassion as practiced by Buddhists, Taoists, and Daoists, especially in Asia.
The manner in which ‘animal release’ is practiced raises concern for biodiversity that conflicts with the ritual’s aim of compassion. Members of the RCRC including Stephen Awoyemi, James Schaefer, Andrew Gosler, Tom Baugh, Kwek Yan Chong and Eric Landen contributed to writing the position statement on this matter.