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Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future Paperback – October 26, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“This ambitious work seeks to set forth a new religious tradition characterized by its central concern for the fate of the planet.”
(Nova Religio: The Journal Of Alternative & Emergent Religions 2011-05-04)

“Dark Green Religion is intelligent, well-written, and very much worth reading.”
(Worldviews 2011-05-04)

“Taylor aims to illustrate the existence of an ideological current in contemporary North American society that has nature as its focus, and to argue that this is socially and politically significant.”
(Emma Tomalin Environment & History 2011-11-01)

“Names levels of spirituality that are often unacknowledged, unattended to, or rejected, and demonstrates how a new global spirituality (DGR) is becoming a force for positive change on our planet.”
(Isle: Interdis Stds In Lit & Environ 2012-01-30)

(Choice 2010-05-01)

From the Inside Flap

“A love of green may be a human universal. Deepening the palette of green scholarship, Bron Taylor proves remarkably to be both an encyclopedist and a visionary.”—Jonathan Benthall, author of Returning to Religion: Why a Secular Age is Haunted by Faith

"This important book provides insight into how a profound sense of relation to nature offers many in the modern world a vehicle for attaining a spiritual wholeness akin to what has been historically associated with established religion. In this sense, Dark Green Religion offers both understanding and hope for a world struggling for meaning and purpose beyond the isolation of the material here and now."—Stephen Kellert, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

"In this thought-provoking volume, Bron Taylor explores the seemingly boundless efforts by human beings to understand the nature of life and our place in the universe. Examining in depth the ways in which influential philosophers and naturalists have viewed this relationship, Taylor contributes to the further development of thought in this critically important area, where our depth of understanding will play a critical role in our survival."—Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden

"Carefully researched, strongly argued, originally conceived, and very well executed, this book is a vital contribution on a subject of immense religious, political, and environmental importance. It's also a great read."—Roger S. Gottlieb, author of A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and our Planet's Future

"A fascinating analysis of our emotional and spiritual relationship to nature. Whether you call it dark green religion or something else, Bron Taylor takes us through our spiritual relationship with our planet, its ecosystems and evolution, in an enlightened and completely undogmatic manner."—Dr. Claude Martin, Former Director General, World Wildlife Fund

"An excellent collection of guideposts for perplexed students and scholars about the relationships of nature religions, spirituality, animism, pantheism, deep ecology, Gaia, and land ethics—and for the environmentalist seeking to make the world a better place through green religion as a social force."—Fikret Berkes, author of Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management

"Dark Green Religion shows conclusively how nature has inspired a growing religious movement on the planet, contesting the long reign of many older faiths. Taylor expertly guides us through an astonishing array of thinkers, past and present, who have embraced, in part or whole, the new religion. I was thoroughly convinced that this movement has indeed become a major force on Earth, with great potential consequences for our environmental ethics."—Donald Worster, University of Kansas

"In this exceptionally interesting and informative book, Bron Taylor has harvested the fruits of years of pioneering research in what amounts to a new field in religious studies: the study of how religious/spiritual themes show up in the work of people concerned about nature in many diverse ways. Taylor persuasively argues that appreciation of nature's sacred or spiritual dimension both informs and motivates the work of individuals ranging from radical environmentalists and surfers, to eco-tourism leaders and museum curators. I highly recommend this book for everyone interested learning more about the surprising extent to which religious/spiritual influences many of those who work to protect, to exhibit, or to represent the natural world."—Michael E. Zimmerman, Director, Center for Humanities and the Arts, University of Colorado at Boulder

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (October 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520261003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520261006
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Trained in ethics, religious studies, and social scientific approaches to understanding human culture, Bron Taylor's scholarly work engages the quest for environmentally sustainable societies. Appearing in articles, books, and a multi-volume encyclopedia, he examines a wide range of phenomena, especially grassroots environmental movements and organizations, and international institutions, with special attention to their moral and religious dimensions. An academic entrepreneur and program builder, he led the initiative to create an academic major in the Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, later initiated and was elected the first president of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, while also founding its affiliated journal. Recruited to fill the Samuel S. Hill Ethics Chair at the University of Florida and appointed in 2002, he played a leading role in constructing the world's first Ph.D. program with an emphasis in Religion and Nature. Most recently, he has been involved in an international think tank exploring ways to more effectively promote an environmentally sustainable future, and has published articles on surfing (oceanic not websites) as "aquatic nature religion." His most recent book is mysteriously titled Dark Green Religion: Nature Religion and the Planetary Future.

Personal Biographical Statement

Because our values are embedded in our own stories and these in turn grow from the broader narratives of our cultures, here is a brief personal biography, offered in the hopes that it will help those reading my published work to better understand and evaluate it.

Born and raised in Southern California, my earliest memories include being unable to bicycle home from a swimming pool because of air pollution-induced "lung burn," and the outrage I felt at the bulldozing for new homes of my childhood woodland playground near Los Angeles. Moving to the coast on my 13th birthday, I found cleaner air and discovered a love for the ocean. I studied at Ventura High School and Community College, and finished an undergraduate education at California State University, Chico, earning degrees in Religious Studies and Psychology.

My enduring interest in radical religions, as well as in environmental ethics, politics, and related policy issues (such as those related to biological and cultural diversity) was spawned during an undergraduate course on Latin American Liberation Theology. This course examined the religious ideas, social analyses, and political impacts of such movements. Through this course I began to understand the many connections between the violation of human rights and environmental degradation.

To pursue these issues I entered Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, focusing my studies on Liberation Theology and religious ethics, while serving as the Chair of its student-led Human Concerns Committee. Fueled by youthful idealism we campaigned for social justice, promoted divestment in South Africa, fought U.S. military involvement in Latin America, and sought to eradicate nuclear weapons. A prominent Rector and Rabbi, consequently, asked me to serve as the initial director of the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race. I agreed, and afterward, enrolled at the University of Southern California, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics.

Throughout my undergraduate and graduate years, I served as an Ocean Lifeguard (and eventually also as a Peace Officer), with the California State Department of Parks and Recreation. Working summers and most weekends along the Southern California Coast throughout the year, I learned a lot about about urban violence, human stupidity and courage, as well as public lands resource conflicts. I saw the California Brown Pelican disappear from the coast due to DDT poisoning, but then return a number of years later, when their numbers boomeranged after the pesticide was banned. All these experiences intensified my desire to bring ethical reflection down from the ivory tower into the morally muddy landscape of everyday life.

About the time I was finishing my dissertation exploring empirically the impacts of affirmative action policies on ordinary people, and using my own empirical data as grist for ethical reflection on these policies, I noticed that environmentalists had begun to deploy sabotage in their efforts to arrest environmental decline. I soon surmised that, like the liberation movements I had studied, the emerging, 'radical environmental' groups were animated by religious perceptions and ideals. Intrigued, I left for the woods to learn more. This turned into a long-term research trajectory exploring the many dimensions of and forms of contemporary grassroots environmentalism, especially the most radical ones.

This research drew me increasingly to the environmental sciences, in part as a means to evaluate the often apocalyptic environmental claims the activists I had encountered were making. I became increasingly convinced about the importance of a truly interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, if Homo sapiens were to grapple toward environmentally sustainable lifeways. Consequently, I led a faculty initiative to create such a program at the University of Wisconsin, where I took a teaching position in 1989.

In the last several years my research into the religious dimensions of contemporary environmentalism broadened yet again into an interest in the role of religion in all nature-human relationships. Thus, it drew me to the emerging field known as Religion and Ecology and to my editorship of the (now award winning) Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature,(2005) which has helped provide me with the background needed to develop a graduate program to explore these themes.

I am now editing the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture and was the founding President of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, both of which endeavor to explore the religion/nature/culture nexus, and which can be found at See for further information pertinent to my research, teaching, and activist interests.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Croken on April 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is truly a remarkable work that has connected many isolated dots that have long belonged together. At first glance, Edmund Burke, radical "eco-terrorists," the Little Mermaid, surfers, Alice Walker, Spinoza and Al Gore might seem to have little in common, but Taylor brings these and many other influential persons, places and things together into a loose but convicted community of phenomena that all share a common belief: the notion that nature has intrinsic value and is worthy of reverent care. "Dark green religion" may be a new phrase, but Taylor shows that it is an ancient force that has been rumbling in the depths of human consciousness for centuries. Now, in 2010, in the context of our growing incredulity regarding revealed religions and our increasing anxieties over the ecological crisis that confronts us, the elements that comprise dark green religion just might be poised to make their way to the forefront.

In his work, Taylor serves as an erudite and impassioned tour guide of the "deep roots and modern expressions" of this hitherto unnamed religion, providing, along with his powerful yet undogmatic analysis, an instructive compendium of ideas and actions that cogently legitimize dark green religion as a concept with significant explanatory power. Through this book we hear of 18th-century philosophers expressing sensations of oceanic unity, modern-day mainstream scientists reflecting upon the "being-ness" of trees, surfers earnestly scrambling to find words to explain the satori that occurs inside the tube of a wave, and Disney's Pocahontas imploring Western colonialists to stop and "ask the grinning bobcat why he grins." It is precisely this diversity of thinkers coupled with the synchronicity of their thoughts that makes Taylor's thesis so compelling.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By jd103 on November 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
In the opening pages of this book, dark green religion (DGR) is defined as the belief that nature is sacred, has intrinsic value, and deserves reverent care. It is then divided into four varieties based on two choices: naturalism or spiritualism, and animism or Gaian. These merge and overlap, and I didn't find the division served much purpose except to make the DGR term an inclusive one. They are however enjoyably explored by looking at the beliefs of people the author places in the different types.

A look at the growth of DGR in North America is done primarily through the works of Thoreau and Muir. Of Thoreau, Taylor writes, "He is properly considered to be the most important innovator of American environmental thought." Eight themes of DGR found in Thoreau's writing are explored with a twenty page appendix of Thoreau excerpts presented as evidence. Muir doesn't get his own appendix but his importance is stressed, especially in terms of his effect on environmental activism.

A chapter on radical environmentalism provided many names to explore as sources of ideas in a wide range of fields from ethics to anarchism and science to psychology. This is also the first book I've read with information about Bill Rogers, the ELF activist who apparently killed himself in jail in 2005. The info is less about him as an individual than about the photocopied material he included in a couple compilations he distributed. This chapter also has a powerful excerpt from Paul Watson. The full article is in The Encyclopedia Of Religion And Nature which Taylor edited.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Dowd on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Dark Green Religion" is an essential manual for any and all whose sense of ultimacy is deeply rooted in the natural world. It is also for those on the outside who may be curious about the rising tide of reverence for nature. Taylor coined the term "dark green religion" (DGR) to distinguish the nature-centric from those doctrinally committed to revering a presumed creative force distinct from its creation. DGR thus fosters a kinship with all creatures and a deep sense of ecological belonging; we are moved to act in behalf of this living planet and its evolutionary legacy because we relate to our fellow creatures as family and feel Earth as our larger body. In contrast, "green" religion peaks with environmental stewardship: a sense of duty to preserve and protect God's Creation or to preserve the natural resources crucial for the species that matters most.

The author is astonishingly adept at exploring the breadth of people and philosophies in this still-disjunct movement. He introduces a simple set of categories to ensure that both the scientifically inclined and the magico-mystics are recognized as valid participants within this emergent cultural phenomenon. The writing is smooth and engaging, sometimes eloquent: yes, it is a popular book; yes it is scholarly. Thoreau and Abbey and Carson and Hill will, of course, be encountered in these pages. But so will Disney's Lion King and Pocahontas. The within-chapter section heads make it very easy to dip in and out of this book, to savor it in installments, and then to return for later reference.

In the final chapter Bron Taylor draws some well-supported conclusions. Among them:

"Dark green religion is no phantom.
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