Spiritual Ecology

Updated on November 8, 2016

Sponsel and spiritual ecology

What is spiritual ecology? What does Sponsel argue to be the relationship between science and religion in natural resource management?

Sponsell writes eloquently and wonderfully about the connection between spirituality and ecology, in a vein of thinking that I find resonates deeply with my own beliefs. The author wrote that the union of the two words spiritual and ecology was meant to signify the “…arena of spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and practical activities at the interface of religions and environment.” (Sponsel 181). He frames his argument for a spiritual ecology in terms of “when all else fails, try religion”, an argument meant to explain the need to try a new angle of approach to the environmental problems facing humanity.

This concept inspires ideas in me of the many different religious perspectives on nature and ways of interacting with nature of which I am aware, including indigenous systems around the world, but there is more than just the history of traditions in Sponsel’s writings. He emphasizes that it is ancient, yes, sacred, yes, but also influential: as in, it can impact the modern world. I think this is a strong line of reasoning, and as one of our earlier readings called for a “full court press” necessary to tackle the environmental hurdles facing us, the idea of using religion and more specifically the fostered spiritual connection to nature from which religion most likely first came is more important than any sports metaphor can hope to catch. It could really work in some places. Some places is better than no place.

Of the three examples of spiritual ecology Sponsel introduces, animism, Neopaganism, and Jainism, I find them all fascinating. I was struck by his writing on the longevity and overall product of animism as the formerly-universal human religion:

“Given the great antiquity and former universality of animism, together with its obvious ecological relevance through special respect for spirits and sacred places in nature, the cumulative environmental impact of animism must have been significant and largely positive.” (179).

One can see from this passage that Sponsel finds animism to be a particularly powerful form of the early spiritual ecology that could serve as a model for a more sustainable relationship to the earth.

The relationship between science and religion is deeply rooted in culture. As Sponsel quotes White, “Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny – that is, by religion.” (182). This is a wonderful quote to put the roots of science at the door of our religious persuasion, despite their status as old enemies in some circles.

Sponsel also notes the union of religions in ecumenical dialogue over the future health of the environment and how this can be alleviated. He writes that there are numerous approaches to solving the environmental crisis which are perceived as being inadequate or having ‘failed’, and he includes science among these approaches. This is where religion comes in. I tend to agree that a spiritual understanding of one’s connection to all life is essential to overpower the greedy consumerism the elites want us to operate by. This connection defies the utterly materialistic conception of reality and recognizes the spiritual facets of life.

Sponsel’s mentioned of Rappaport’s article on the Tsembaga is an apt display of the role science, and in particular anthropology, can play in illuminating the extent and nature of spiritual ecologies around the world, from which we can learn valuable principles (188).


In sum, the idea of spiritual ecology can be seen through many lenses, but the single continuous factor of any of those interpretations is that the natural world needs to be seen 'in the light of reverence'. A fine film by that same name depicts the struggles of indigenous people to whom the natural world is still sacred, fighting against the onslaught of 'progress' in the form of development and resource extraction.

One of the most poignant realizations such a depiction of other modes of life and ways of perceiving the natural world's spirituality is found in the difference between the ways the Native Americans view the geological formation known as Devil's Tower, as compared to the ways non-native Americans use t for rock climbing and recreation. While the former hold this column of rock in the middle of the Badlands as a sacred site and their cultural identity depends on them being able to treat it as such, the climbers see it more as a facet of a national park to which they are entitled entry due to their membership in the citizenry of the USA. AS things stand now, the rock is set aside for the Native american's religious ceremonies only for a few days each summer, though the rock, the land around it, the rest of the state, and the entire country were forcibly taken from those same Native Americans.

To many of you, these injustices will be things you know about, at least in general terms. But the application of spiritual ecology to this situation can help show the disconnect between the climbers and the land. Our civilization needs to reconnect to the spirituality of nature in a very real and urgent way.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)