University of California Press, 2010, pbk, 338 pp
Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain
Poets and surfer dudes, Monkey Wrenchers and mystics, Thoreau and The Lion King…with what sort of thread could you connect them ?
Bron Taylor does it by creating a bricolage, “…an amalgamation of bits and pieces of a wide array of ideas and practices, drawn from diverse cultural systems, religious traditions and political ideologies.” In a bricolage, he says, “…these various ideas and practice are fused together, like a bricklayer or mason piecing together a wall or building with mortar and stone.”
Since Taylor is Professor of Religion and Nature at the University of Florida you may expect this to be an academic sort of book, And in many ways that is how it presents. Particularly because, as the author struggles to follow protocol in the first chapter by defining his terms, he is faced with the task of defining such slippery words as ‘religion,’ and ‘spirituality’—a notoriously tricky task. Nonetheless he does a good job of presenting the concept of dark green religion and carefully explaining that choice of term.
His overall aim is to define and describe dark green religion which, reduced to one simplistic sentence, means a belief in the intrinsic value and sacredness of Nature, and to examine the influence of this strand of belief upon our contemporary culture, particularly in the West.
For me it was not so much the philosophical and historical underpinnings that made this book so interesting and informative, since I am familiar, as many GreenSpirit readers will be, with the work of many ‘green’ luminaries mentioned here—Spinoza, Emerson, Muir, Thoreau, Leopold, Carson, Goodall et al. It is the bricolage concept itself that I liked and the way Taylor shows so many diverse manifestations of dark green religion popping up all over the place. This makes it an optimistic as well as informative book. For, as he says, although this form of religion has no priesthood, no institutional basis nor governance and no officially adopted sacred text, it, “… is no phantom. Although unrecognized by the Parliament of World Religions, it is as widespread as most religions, more significant than some and growing more rapidly than many others.”
With the rise in popularity of Gaian values, what may in fact be emerging, Taylor suggests, is “…a kind of earth nationalism or civic earth religion. It seems clear that such an ideology, where it exists and is emerging, is grounded in a spirituality of belonging and connection to an earth and universe considered sacred.” To which I say yes and amen!
A good addition to my GreenSpirit bookshelf.