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 www.religionandnature.com. See www.brontaylor.com for further information pertinent to my research, teaching, and activist interests.