Robin Hamon


This article argues that ecological hermeneutics, when taught in the biblical studies classroom, needs to draw on its roots in environmental activism. It recommends prioritising the urgency of the contemporary crisis alongside activist ways to respond to it over the teaching of the history and methodology of this approach. Singling out two topics, overpopulation and extinction of species, the article provides suggestions for resources on how to focus such teaching.


Environmental Activism; Ecological hermeneutics; Environmental humanities; Pedagogy

1. The Problem

One summer evening, when I was in my early twenties, I went to see rock band The (International) Noise Conspiracy play at a small venue in my home city. For readers unfamiliar with the band: aside from their music, they are perhaps best known for their left-wing and anti-capitalist ideology, which pervades their song lyrics. I remember that the band played in their typically passionate fashion that evening, stirring the audience, who shouted and screamed along to the noise as it reverberated around the walls of the bar. After the show, the audience dispersed out of the venue and, most surprisingly for me, some of this contingent walked into a McDonald’s to get food. Aside from appreciating the irony of this action, it struck me that in this instance there had been a failure of communication at some point. Had the band failed to communicate clearly its anti-capitalist message to its audience? Perhaps, the audience members visiting McDonald’s had failed to understand the message of the band? Perhaps, they had understood the message, but remained unconvinced by it? Perhaps they agreed with the anti-capitalist principles of the band up to a point, but were indifferent to changing their behaviour?

Years later, as a teacher of ecological hermeneutics at a time of global environmental crisis, I think about my experience with The (International) Noise Conspiracy and I wonder if I have done enough to avoid a similar failure of communication with my students. This is not to suggest that as a teacher, I am responsible for the actions that my students take as a result of my teaching. Instead, I wonder if, whilst I have taught the principles of ecological hermeneutics to students with passion and enthusiasm, I could have taught this topic in a manner that more effectively conveys the urgency of the present environmental crisis and the ways we might respond to it.

2. Proposing a Solution

In response to this situation, this article suggests how environmental activism may be introduced alongside the teaching of ecological hermeneutics. It advocates a change in the manner in which ecological hermeneutics is typically at present taught in universities, in order that students may gain both an understanding of ecological hermeneutics in the context of biblical studies, and the know-how of engaging in practical actions in response to the environmental crisis that motivates this reading approach in the first place. This article will, therefore, be of interest both to experts in ecological hermeneutics and to those teaching ecological hermeneutics as part of a wider syllabus.

Before proceeding, it is prudent to delineate the scope of this study and to provide some definitions. Whilst this special edition of JIBS is focused primarily on activism in relation to human rights and the abolition of discrimination, I consider it important for three reasons to contribute something on environmental activism. First, environmental activism, I believe, is inseparable from human rights activism, because human life and rights cannot be separated from the natural world: the natural world can survive without humans but humans cannot survive without the natural world. Human rights, consequently, depend on ecological wellbeing.  Second, issues of human rights and discrimination are about acknowledging minority voices, and indeed the voiceless, and I propose here an attempt to incorporate the non-human realm, which also has no voice. Third, this study serves as an aid to those wanting to incorporate environmental activism into their teaching of ecological hermeneutics, by offering ideas of potential topics to focus on, and signposting to resources. This is because it is increasingly becoming acknowledged that the rapidly unfolding environmental catastrophe has to be addressed by activating all means available, including the forum of the biblical studies classroom. I hope that the specific approach to teaching environmental activism that I advocate below may be of practical relevance to those exploring how to incorporate the teaching of activism into their own syllabus.

This study is based on my learning and teaching experiences in UK universities: the context, perspective, and reference points, therefore, are largely UK-centric. I anticipate, however, that the issues discussed here will be relevant and applicable to readers outside the UK, too, given that environmental issues and environmental activism are important globally, and that the teaching of ecological hermeneutics is undertaken in universities the world over. The examples of ecological hermeneutics that I provide in this study are based on scholarship of the Hebrew Bible, as this is consistent with my area of expertise.

For the purposes of this discussion, “environmental activism” is to be understood as any action taken with the intention of benefitting the physical world; it therefore includes, but is not limited to, actions such as signing petitions, making consumer choices, joining environmentalist organisations, and supporting environmentalist causes financially. This relatively broad definition of environmental activism is consistent with the definition employed by Justin Farrell in his quantitative study of participation in environmental activism.[1] I have chosen to use this definition here, because, whilst it is rather broad, it captures a range of actions and so, when applied in the context of teaching ecological hermeneutics, it underscores the validity of a wide range of responses to the current environmental crisis.

Finally, I use the term “environment” throughout this article to refer to the world in which we live. I am aware that from an environmental humanities perspective, this term holds anthropocentric connotations, suggesting a non-human realm that is separate from the human. This is, however, still the term favoured in the environmental sciences and in generalist literature, so I shall use it here so that it is recognised by the diverse readership of this journal.

2.1 The current teaching of ecological hermeneutics

In the context of biblical studies, ecological hermeneutics is the practice of interpreting biblical text in a manner consistent with contemporary ecological theory.[2]  In my experience, both as a taught postgraduate student and as a university teacher, ecological hermeneutics is typically taught as part of a level two or level three undergraduate, or Masters level, module[3] on the wider topic of critical approaches to reading the Bible. As such, one week of teaching is typically allocated to ecological hermeneutics, and students will receive one lecture and one accompanying seminar on the subject. In a lecture on ecological hermeneutics, typical content will cover: its origins, the various different approaches to ecological readings of biblical texts, and the current state of the sub-field. The corresponding seminar typically gives students an opportunity to discuss previous ecological readings of biblical texts and to practise ecological hermeneutics on selected Bible passages. 

This approach is highly effective in teaching students what ecological hermeneutics is, how it has been applied to biblical texts by scholars, and how they themselves might use it to interpret biblical texts. But, as I raise above, this approach runs the risk of ignoring (let alone responding to!) both the severity of the present environmental crisis and the environmental issues that motivate scholars like me to practise this interpretive approach in the first place.[4] With this possibility comes the danger that, ironically, we teach ecological hermeneutics in a manner that is disengaged from the wider physical world. In doing so, we fail to encourage students to contribute towards the alleviation of the present environmental crisis and, thus, miss a valuable opportunity.

2.2 Addressing the environmental crisis in the context of teaching ecological hermeneutics

Given that ecological hermeneutics is typically taught alongside multiple other narrative-critical or political reading approaches, such as feminist or gender or postcolonial or ideological criticism, it is not practical to suggest that students should have more lectures on ecological hermeneutics. Instead, in the time available, I propose that the typical content of an ecological hermeneutics lecture (described above) can be condensed, thereby creating more space to discuss contemporary environmental issues and practical responses to them. This is facilitated in that recent articles by David Horrell and Tina Dykesteen Nilsen and Anna Rebecca Solevåg offer summaries of the development of ecological hermeneutics; these materials can be set as preparatory reading, creating more time in the classroom.[5]

For some teachers of ecological hermeneutics, this approach may feel like a regressive step, as it reduces the amount of time dedicated to teaching the history and methodology of this interpretive approach. The purpose of this is to create more time to discuss the environmental crisis that gives urgency to this approach and to offer some practical advice on engaging in environmental activism. Not to be overlooked here, is that ecological hermeneutics has a historical, and continuing, association with environmental activism. Early practitioners of ecological hermeneutics attempted to establish that the Bible contains a message of responsible environmental stewardship and that those consulting this text for religious guidance should be moved to care for the natural environment.[6] More recently, too, this concern for environmental wellbeing is evident as one motivation for publications such as The Earth Bible series,[7] The Green Bible,[8] and Ecological Hermeneutics.[9] It is, therefore, not only important but appropriate that as teachers of environmental hermeneutics, we acknowledge the relationship between environmental hermeneutics and environmental activism and devote teaching time to discussing contemporary environmental activism.

So, what environmental issues should you discuss in the context of an ecological hermeneutics lecture? As Joseph Hong points out, the very practice of selecting or prioritising particular environmental issues over others is an act of interpretation that is likely to be informed by your own global and cultural perspective.[10] I have no defence (or apology) against the charge of selectiveness, but will suggest a list of environmental issues that may be of relevance to a range of teaching contexts in the areas of biblical studies and theology. The list below (footnote 11) is not intended to be exhaustive, but simply illustrative of the breadth of topics you might discuss in relation to the current environmental crisis.[11] Indeed, with the limited time available in a lecture or seminar, you may choose simply to present a list such as this, giving a few sentences explaining each issue and its consequences in relation to the environment. The purpose here is not to dwell on the complexity of all of these issues, but to raise awareness of their importance – and they are all important and all need to be addressed. Selection of one or a few topics from the list, may, indeed, be a way to address a sense of “crisis fatigue”: hence, while not all topics can be discussed fully, one or some are manageable. Similarly, it is not possible to address every aspect of the environmental crisis, but there are some things everyone can do. And, doing these things is active and activist.

For the benefit of those teaching ecological hermeneutics with no background in the environmental sciences, I offer examples on the topics of population and the extinction of species.

2.2.1 Population

Contemporary ecological theory proposes that humanity is not separate from nature, but rather an intrinsic part of the environment. The United Nations forecasts that the global population may reach 9.8 billion by 2050.[12] This population increase will take place in the context of global demographic “megatrends” such as population ageing, migration, and urbanisation.[13] How might a global population of nearly 10 billion respond to issues such as food scarcity, demand for medicines, the over-population of urban areas, environmental refugees, and overstretched public resources? Following current trends of resource consumption, the demand for human needs will be at the expense of the non-human world. But what capacity does our planet have to sustain human life? At current rates of resource consumption and using current levels of technology, as a global population we have already exceeded the earth’s capacity to sustain our needs; we need the equivalent of 1.75 earths to meet our 2020 resource demands.[14]

Genesis 1:26–29, one of the key verses for ecological hermeneutics, offers an interesting perspective from which to explore the current global population explosion through an engagement with biblical text. This passage features the instruction of God to the first humans to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28, NRSV). Does this verse suggest that the current population explosion is a result of humanity carrying out its divine mandate to reproduce and dominate the earth? And if so, does this verse release humanity from any obligation to respond to environmental and humanitarian crises arising as a result of population explosion? In short, the answers to both of these questions is, “no”.

As David Horrell outlines, an engagement with contemporary ecological hermeneutics demonstrates that Genesis 1:26–29 originates from a time and culture with a worldview and technologies that are vastly different to those of contemporary Western culture. This passage should be understood accordingly.[15] Indeed, Richard Bauckham argues that before the modern period, the world was considered fully adapted and ready for human use and that it was only when the modern technological domination of nature began that the meaning of this passage took on an environmentally deleterious meaning.[16] According to contemporary ecological hermeneutics, then, it is both illogical and anachronistic to attempt to reconcile a literal interpretation of Genesis 1:26–29 with the current global population explosion and the pressures that this exerts upon the finite resources of the earth. Such an engagement with ecological hermeneutics, therefore, holds the potential to inform both our methodology for exploring further Bible verses and how we might respond to the global population explosion in terms of activism. While there is insufficient space to expand upon these points here, I offer (below) many examples of environmental activism that are relevant to this topic.

2.2.2 Extinction of species

In the past half-billion years our planet has experienced six mass extinctions. We are in the middle of the sixth right now and we are witnessing the fastest rate of extinctions since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.[17] Whilst extinction is a natural process, the current extinctions are precipitated by human activities: natural habitats are being destroyed as humans repurpose land; global warming renders ecosystems uninhabitable to native species; and the introduction of exotic species contributes to the extinction of native species.[18] Why is extinction important? Because all life is intimately interconnected; the extinction of one single species can have severe consequences for all other species that depend upon it for food, shelter, shade, medicine. Extinction of species is already affecting human food supplies, and will continue to do so. Furthermore, the greater the biological diversity of an ecosystem, the more adaptable it is to changes in climate; as the current global trend is for temperatures to increase, ecosystems with less diversity will be more severely impacted, leading to further extinctions and environmental detriments.

In respect to ecological hermeneutics, the Flood Narrative (Gen. 6:9–9:17) is ostensibly the obvious starting point from which to begin exploring the topic of extinction of species in the Bible. Indeed, both the present extinction of species and the “extinction” depicted in the Flood Narrative can also, to some extent, be attributed to human actions (see Gen. 6:11–13). However, upon a close examination of Genesis 6:9–9:17 it becomes clear that the destruction of species that it depicts bears little relevance to current global extinctions. Ultimately in this passage, no species become extinct as a result of the flood, as male and female specimens of each species are preserved, precisely so that they can subsequently reproduce and regenerate (Gen. 8:15–17). Furthermore, it would be anachronistic to expect to find reference to the contemporary concept of extinction within the pages of the Hebrew Bible, given that the Western scientific identification and taxonomy of animal and plant species and understanding of the world is vastly different to that of ancient Israel.[19] Nevertheless, some notion of “sustainability” is evident: Deuteronomy 22:6–7 prohibits the capture of mature birds so that they can continue to produce offspring whilst Exodus 23:10–11 and Leviticus 25:2–7 specify that agricultural land should be given a year to “rest”. Although the latter two verses are related to the wider concept of the Sabbath rest, they imply some knowledge of sustainable farming practice. These verses, alongside less specific verses relating to the welfare and the importance of the environment, such as Job 12:7–10; Psalm 50:10–12, intimate the importance of the animal world and its connectedness to humanity and therefore, serve to demonstrate how an engagement with ecological hermeneutics might inspire practical responses to the present extinction crisis.

2.3 Environmental activism

Having underscored the severity of the current environmental crisis, you will be well placed to discuss what we can do in response to some of these issues. Environmental activism takes many forms, and the following is a list of ideas about how you can encourage students to reduce their own environmental impacts. In the typical teaching format, where one lecture and one seminar is allocated to the subject of ecological hermeneutics, some lecture time may be devoted to presenting these possible actions, with some corresponding seminar time allocated to allowing students to discuss how they might act in the light of this information.

There has been recent discussion in popular media that environmental activism should target corporations rather than focus on changing the habits of individuals.[20] The origins of this notion can be traced to the Carbon Majors Report 2017, which concluded that just 100 (oil and petrochemical) companies have been responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.[21] Whilst this is a compelling statistic, as individuals, our consumption of fossil fuels and other environmental resources should not be understood as separate from corporate consumption. Every time we upgrade our mobile phone, turn on the central heating, buy clothing, take a flight, our consumption of environmental resources is intrinsically connected to a wider network of corporate resource consumption. For this reason, the suggestions below suggest how individuals can participate in environmental activism in a way that changes their own behaviour, but has wider impacts on corporations and governments at local, national, and international levels.[22]

2.3.1 Political involvement

In UK politics there is a wide disparity between the environmental policies of the main political parties. Your vote therefore carries serious environmental implications and you should factor the environmental consequences of your vote into your decision making. Research the environmental policies of the individuals and parties running for election in your constituency. For UK voters, using a directory such as allows you to access public records of how your incumbent MP has historically voted in Parliament on specific issues; their voting history may help you decide whether to support them in future elections.[23] Look at upcoming bills in Parliament. If there are any environmental bills that you are concerned about, contact your MP by email and discuss whether they will vote in a manner that reflects your concerns.

The UK government website has a page dedicated to petitions; you can search all active petitions and sign any (environmental) causes of interest.[24] You are also able to circulate petitions electronically to family and friends, to increase support for causes. Petitions receiving more than 100,000 votes may be discussed in Parliament, and whilst there is a relatively low success rate for petitions, they take less than one minute to sign.[25]

2.3.2 Environmental organisations

There are now thousands of environmental organisations, ranging from local to international levels of focus and you can support these organisations in a range of activities: by subscribing to emails, signing petitions, supporting them financially, promoting causes via social media, volunteering, and employment. A range of organisations that may be of interest may be found in Appendix 1.

2.3.3 Home energy use

It is now possible for domestic gas and electricity to be supplied from 100% clean and renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind, hydro, biogas, and organic waste. These sources of energy do not rely on the combustion of fossil fuels or nuclear power, so they have zero carbon dioxide emissions and zero radioactive emissions. Note that some companies offer ‘green’ energy tariffs that provide a percentage of renewable energy that is supplemented by energy from nuclear and fossil fuel sources; if you decide to switch to a renewable energy provider be sure to check that their gas and electric is from 100% renewable sources.

2.3.4 Clothing

After the oil industry, the textile industry is the world’s largest source of pollution, exerting a tremendous environmental impact, including through cotton farming, animal skins, water usage, transportation, and manufacture.[26] It may not be possible to buy all your clothes from ethical manufacturers, but make informed decisions about where you are buying your clothes: how far have they travelled, which materials are used in making them, whose labour has been used, how long do you anticipate using the item? Try to buy ethical clothes and invest in quality pieces that will last years. Sustain Your Style ( and Ethical consumer ( both have directories of environmentally-friendly fashion retailers, with the latter offering information on a range of consumer products.

2.3.5 Travel

Personal travel has a tremendous influence on your carbon footprint (the volume of greenhouse gases that you are responsible for releasing into the atmosphere, expressed in equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide). You can estimate your personal carbon footprint at If you are a student, you will more than likely live close to campus and use public transport, rather than your own car. But maybe you commute to work by car and take one or more holidays by plane each year. Environmental activism can be as simple as paying to offset the carbon emissions of your flight (many airlines offer this as an option at checkout) or choosing to cycle instead of drive.

2.3.6 Food

How far has the food on your plate travelled? If you live in the UK, do you really need to eat fresh strawberries in December? To what extent do you eat seasonally? Do you eat local produce? Was your food farmed using practices that are not deleterious to the land? Are there any animal welfare implications of the food you are eating? Organisations such as the UK Food Ethics Council ( and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA; can help you think about the environmental impacts of your food more clearly, with the latter having a section of their website dedicated to students.

2.3.7 Consumer goods

Fridges, cookers, washing machines, televisions, mobile phones, laptops: these all require an inordinate amount of natural materials and energy to manufacture, transport, market, and deliver to your home. In the context of contemporary Western lifestyles, it is unrealistic to suggest that we can live without these products altogether, but we can make informed decisions about their reliability, longevity, and environmental impacts. Consumer guides such as Which? ( and Ethical Consumer (featured above) can help with this. It may also be appropriate to consider reconditioned or used items, which reduce landfill and the environmental impacts of manufacture.

3. Environmental activism in the seminar room

The information above can facilitate the incorporation of some material on the present environmental crisis and environmental activism into a lecture on ecological hermeneutics. Assuming that you have a corresponding seminar on the topic, I suggest allocating some time to discussing activism by using questions such as the following:

  • How concerned are you about the current state of the environment?
  • Does the Bible say anything about looking after the environment?
  • Do any biblical texts refer to environmental activism?
  • In respect to environmental activism, what types of practical actions appeal to you?
  • Do you think environmental activism is effective?
  • Will you do anything in response to the environmental crisis?
4. Summary

I established above that whilst ecological hermeneutics arose out of a response to urgent environmental issues, typically, the teaching of ecological hermeneutics in UK universities is far-removed from discussing these issues, let alone encouraging real-world practical action in response to them. This paper presents a possible solution to this problem. I advocate a shift in teaching style from exclusively describing and critiquing ecological hermeneutics as an interpretive approach, to encouraging students to think about ecological hermeneutics in the context of the wider environmental crisis and to reflect on the practical and tangible steps that they can take towards protecting our planet. This is not only because such action is vital and life-preserving but because it is (or can be made) relevant to the study of the Bible.

Whilst the approach advocated in this study may be critiqued for reducing the teaching time devoted to exploring the history and methodology of ecological hermeneutics, I hope to have made it clear that environmental activism has always been part of ecological hermeneutics and so the teaching of this approach should also reflect this connection. My hope is that this approach of promoting activism in the classroom will inspire practical steps towards alleviating the present environmental crisis also outside of the classroom.

Works Cited

Barr, James. Man and Nature: The Ecological Controversy and the Old Testament. Manchester: John Rylands Library, 1972.

Bauckham, Richard J. God and the Crisis of Freedom: Biblical and Contemporary Perspectives. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

Bookless, Dave. “Introduction.” Pages I-17-I-24 in The Green Bible (NRSV). London: Harper Collins, 2008.

Center For Biological Diversity. “The Extinction Crisis.” 29 December 2019.

CDP. The Carbon Majors Report. 9 February 2020. media/new-report-shows-just-100-companies-are-source-of-over-70-of-emissions.

Deist, Ferdinand E. The Material Culture of the Bible: An Introduction. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Farrell, Justin. “Environmental Activism and Moral Schemas: Cultural Components of Differential Participation.” Environment and Behaviour 45.3 (2013): 399–423.

Global Footprint Network. “World Footprint.” 29 December 2019. our-work/ecological-footprint/.

Hong, Joseph. “The Green Bible: A Model For the Asian Context?” The Bible Translator 61.4 (2010): 208–216.

Horrell, David G. “Introduction.” Pages 1–12 in Ecological Hermeneutics: Biblical, Historical and Theological Perspectives.  Edited by David G. Horrell, Cherryl Hunt, Christopher Southgate and Francesca Stavrakopoulou. London: T & T Clark, 2010.

Horrell, David G. The Bible and the Environment: Towards a Critical Ecological Biblical Theology. Abingdon: Routledge, 2010.

Horrell, David G. “Ecological Hermeneutics: Reflections on Methods and Prospects for the Future.” Colloquium 46.2 (2014): 139–165.

Horrell, David G., Cherryl Hunt, Christopher Southgate and Francesca Stavrakopoulou (eds.). Ecological Hermeneutics: Biblical, Historical and Theological Perspectives. London: T & T Clark, 2010.

Le Quéré, Corinne, Robert B. Jackson, Matthew W. Jones, Adam J. P. Smith, Sam Abernethy, Robbie M. Andrew, Anthony J. De-Gol, David R. Willis, Yuli Shan, Josep G. Canadell, Pierre Friedlingstein, Felix Creutzig and Glen P. Peters. “Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement.” Nature 10 (2020): 647-653.

Lukacs, Martin. “Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals.” The Guardian, 17 July 2017.

Margetts, Helen, Peter John, Scott Arthur Hale, and Taha Yasseri. Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action. Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016.

Maron, Dina Fine. “‘Wet markets’ likely launched the coronavirus. Here’s what you need to know.” National Geographic, 16 April 2020.

Naturewatch. “The Compassionate Shopping Guide.” 30 December 2019.

Nilsen, Tina Dykesteen and Anna Rebecca Solevåg. “Expanding Ecological Hermeneutics: The Case for Ecolonialism.” Journal of Biblical Literature 135.4 (2016): 665–683.

Sustain Your Style. “Fashion’s Environmental Impact.” 30 December 2019.

The Earth Bible Team. “Guiding Ecojustice Principles.” Pages 39–53 in Readings From the Perspective of Earth. Edited by Norman C. Habel. The Earth Bible, volume 1; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

The Green Bible. London: HarperCollins, 2008 

United Nations. World Population Prospects: 2019 Highlights. New York: United Nations, 2010

United Nations. “The 17 Goals.” 30 December 2019.

Wilkinson, Loren (ed.). Earthkeeping: Christian Stewardship of Natural Resources. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980.

Appendix 1: Environmental Organisations

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

An intergovernmental body of the United Nations that assesses the science relating to climate change and seeks to presents findings in a manner that are objective rather than prescriptive.

Naturewatch Foundation

The Naturewatch Foundation is an animal welfare charity that works to prevent abuse of animals and increase animal protection. Their Compassionate Shopping Guide, now in its 14th edition, is a thorough guide to cruelty-free products.[27]

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

The RSPB is a UK-based organisation whose scope is international and concerned with the preservation of all species. The organisation has ambitious international conservation plans that extend beyond 2030.[28]

World Wildlife Fund

A global environmental protection and restoration charity, working to establish green corridors for wildlife, restore major river flows, protect forests and oceans, and advocate global commitments to end the illegal trade in wildlife.[29]

The following are faith-based environmental organisations (FBO’s). The work of these organisations is particularly relevant to this discussion as they demonstrate a direct connection between ecological hermeneutics and environmental activism:

A Rocha

An international Christian organisation focusing on environmental conservation. A Rocha undertakes practical conservation work and provides education for individuals and resources for churches.


A Jewish environmental charity based in the USA that focusses on improving environmental sustainability, primarily through educating individuals and communities to choose ethically and sustainably produced foods.

Plant with Purpose

Plant with Purpose is a Christian organisation with the specific aim of supporting impoverished rural communities that have been impacted by deforestation; the organisation is currently active in eight countries.

[1] Justin Farrell, “Environmental Activism and Moral Schemas: Cultural Components of Differential Participation,” Environment and Behaviour 45.3 (2013): 406.

[2] Not all practitioners of “ecological hermeneutics” describe their work using this term, but this is the prevailing term and the one used throughout this study; David G. Horrell, “Ecological Hermeneutics: Reflections on Methods and Prospects for the Future,” Colloquium 46.2 (2014): 141.

[3] The undergraduate degree in England is usually of three-year duration. (In Scotland a standard undergraduate degree is of four-year duration.) English university modules at levels two and three are, consequently, upper-level modules. A module is elsewhere called a course, or a paper. Masters programmes tend to be taught (unless they are specified as Masters by Research) and come after the undergraduate degree. They are, therefore, often called “taught postgraduate” degrees.

[4] Indeed, in the last few years, there have been several taught MA courses dedicated to the topics of eco-theology, ecology, and spirituality, offered at a range of UK universities. From a brief survey of the modules included in these programmes, it seems that the same can be said for these courses.

[5] Horrell, “Ecological Hermeneutics”; Tina Dykesteen Nilsen and Anna Rebecca Solevåg, “Expanding Ecological Hermeneutics: The Case for Ecolonialism,” Journal of Biblical Literature 135.4 (2016): 665–674.

[6] Early examples of this include James Barr, Man and Nature: The Ecological Controversy and the Old Testament (Manchester: John Rylands Library, 1972); Loren Wilkinson (ed.), Earthkeeping: Christian Stewardship of Natural Resources (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980). Indeed, Wilkinson’s foundational Earthkeeping is structured with specific portions devoted to both ecological hermeneutics and practical advice on environmentally responsible living.

[7] See, The Earth Bible Team, “Guiding Ecojustice Principles,” in Readings From the Perspective of Earth, (ed. Norman C. Habel; The Earth Bible, volume 1; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000): 39–53.

[8] The Green Bible is a “speciality Bible” that presents the text of the New Revised Standard Version alongside a range of supplementary features that exhibit an explicit environmentalist ideology; The Green Bible. London: HarperCollins, 2008.

[9] David G. Horrell, Cherryl Hunt, Christopher Southgate and Francesca Stavrakopoulou (eds.), Ecological Hermeneutics: Biblical, Historical and Theological Perspectives (London: Bloomsbury: 2010).

[10] Joseph Hong, “The Green Bible: A Model For the Asian Context?” The Bible Translator 61.4 (2010): 213-214. See also, Dave Bookless, “Introduction,” in The Green Bible (London, Harper Collins: 2008); David G. Horrell, “Introduction,” in D. G. Horrell, C. Hunt, C. Southgate and F. Stavrakopoulou (eds.), Ecological Hermeneutics: Biblical, Historical and Theological Perspectives (London: T & T Clark, 2010).

11 Possible environmental issues to use as examples: agriculture, animal welfare, climate change, commercial fishing, deforestation, desertification, extinction of species, fossil fuel usage, mining, oceanic plastics, population / overpopulation, rainforest depletion, resource consumption, soil erosion, waste / landfill / recycling, and water supply.

[12] United Nations, World Population Prospects: 2019 Highlights (New York: United Nations, 2019): 1.

[13] United Nations, World Population Prospects: 2019 Highlights, iii.

[14] Global Footprint Network, “World Footprint,” 29 December 2019, ecological-footprint/.

[15] Horrell provides a helpful summary of the contrasting scholarly opinions on the interpretation of Gen. 1:26–26; David G. Horrell, The Bible and the Environment: Towards a Critical Ecological Biblical Theology (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014): 23–36.

[16] Richard J. Bauckham, God and the Crisis of Freedom: Biblical and Contemporary Perspectives (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002): 141.

[17] Center For Biological Diversity, “The Extinction Crisis,” 29 December 2019, programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/.

[18] Center For Biological Diversity, “The Extinction Crisis”.

[19] Ferdinand E., Deist, The Material Culture of the Bible: An Introduction (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000): 118–142.

[20] Martin Lukacs, “Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals,” The Guardian, 17 July 2017,

[21] CDP, The Carbon Majors Report 2017: 2, 9 February 2020,

[22] The writing of this article preceded the COVID-19 pandemic. The positive environmental impacts of the crisis have received considerable media attention; for example, the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions as a result of reduced travel as documented by Corinne Le Quéré, Robert B. Jackson, Matthew W. Jones, Adam J. P. Smith, Sam Abernethy, Robbie M. Andrew, Anthony J. De-Gol, David R. Willis, Yuli Shan, Josep G. Canadell, Pierre Friedlingstein, Felix Creutzig and Glen P. Peters, “Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement,” Nature 10 (2020). The pandemic has also raised awareness of animal welfare issues and illegal animal trading due to the suspected origins of COVID 19 in ‘wet markets’; Dina Fine Maron, “‘Wet markets’ likely launched the coronavirus. Here’s what you need to know.” National Geographic, 16 April 2020, However, the question of whether these impacts will exert a longer term legacy on carbon emissions, animal welfare and trading, and other related issues is yet to be answered.



[25] I was unable to find any official statistics on the success rate of UK petitions, though the figures provided in the volume Political Turbulence give some illustration; Helen Margetts, Peter John, Scott Hale, and Taha Yasseri, Political Turbulence: How Social Media Shape Collective Action (Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016): 81. Incidentally, the UK badger cull, an animal welfare and environmental issue was the most-signed petition during the period surveyed.

[26] Sustain Your Style, “Fashion’s Environmental Impact,” 30 December 2019,

[27] Naturewatch, “The Compassionate Shopping Guide,” 30 December 2019,

[28] 2030 is the target year for the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda of the United Nations. The aim of this agenda is to transform our world for the better and includes sixteen aims. Among them are clean water, affordable clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, and protecting life below water and on land; United Nations, “The 17 Goals”, 30 December 2019,

[29] Illegal trade in wildlife and animal welfare issues have come into sharp focus with the worldwide COVID-19 crisis of 2020, which is widely believed to have begun when in late 2019 live animals, crammed together at the congested wet market of Wuhan in China infected a human. As with the SARS outbreak of 2002, another coronavirus outbreak, there is a hypothesis that this virus originated in bats and was passed on to humans through an intermediary animal, possibly a pangolin. The near-extinct pangolin is illegally traded for its meat and the claimed medicinal properties of its distinctive scales.