- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 29, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019023086X
- ISBN-13: 978-0190230869
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism 1st Edition
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From the Publisher
Q&A with the Author: Mark Stoll
1. Was there anything that you found surprising when researching for this book? If so, what?
There were three things that surprised me:
First, I was surprised to find that nearly all the leading figures in the nineteenth-century conservation, forestry, and parks movements were no further that one generation removed from a Congregational Church in a New England town. This led me to discover the vital role the values and landscape of the New England town played in inspiring those movements.
Second, contrary to what the literature on the origins of environmentalism would lead you to expect, hardly any of these figures acknowledged any significant influence from those great environmental heroes Emerson and Thoreau. Their influence came later, and for Thoreau, much later. Nineteenth-century love of nature owed more to Calvinism than Transcendentalism!
Last, I was quite surprised that the great leaders in the Progressive conservation movement were nearly all raised Presbyterian: John Muir of the Sierra Club, President Theodore Roosevelt, Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot, and Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes, as well as the lesser known but quite important President Grover Cleveland and Secretaries of Interior John W. Noble and Franklin Lane. The “Presbyterianness” of the Progressive movement is very striking. They were all very moralistic, and sometimes censorious and preachy.
2. What led you to this particular field of study?
Originally, I was curious about John Muir’s religious and intellectual journey from his religiously strict childhood and youth to his adult career as founder of the Sierra Club and prominent voice for national parks. Also, my own religious upbringing and my environmentalist convictions and love of the outdoors got me interested in the ways religious background shapes ideas and attitudes towards nature. The more I explored the link between religious background to adult ideas about nature and environment, the more it impressed me as fundamental to so much of the history of environmentalism.
3. Do you think there are many misconceptions regarding the topic of your book? If so, what?
The most common misconception is that religion has nothing to do with environmentalism, or is hostile to it. Inherit the Holy Mountain shows how tightly the two have been bound together. So many important environmental figures had a minister as a close relative, or even once considered becoming a minister or missionary him- or herself.
4. What was the most challenging part of your research?
It was a challenge to understand what it means to grow up in various religious traditions, both in the past and today. What does it mean, for example, to have grown up Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist, Jewish, Methodist, Catholic, or black Baptist? A strong religious upbringing leaves distinctive traces in everything people do as adults, no matter what religious beliefs (or none at all) they adopt later.
It was also challenging to dig up the childhood religion of many important and interesting figures. Often biographers and memoirists have not thought it an important thing to record.
"Stoll is on to something. The book's argument is especially convincing in its interpretation up to the twentieth century and through the Progressive Era. Trying to identify religion's ethereal influence on human events is often a difficult task, and evidentiary smoking guns can be rare. Yet Stoll convinces through scrupulous interpretation of a mountain of creatively gathered circumstantial (and stronger) evidence ranging from sermons to his brilliant analysis of Thomas Cole's 1836 painting The Oxbow as a manifestation of Protestant doctrine and Puritan devotional practice affecting Hudson River school artists and their glorification of the environment."--Todd M. Kerstetter, Journal of American History
"[T]he religious focus developed in this important work serves to provide new depth and color to a series of portraits of America's environmental founding figures. Its imminent readability and wealth of documentary evidence will make a lasting impression on a wide range of readers."--Pacific Historical Review
"Stoll s book is an important contribution to our understanding of the religious roots of environmentalism and significantly undermines White s thesis by showing that Christianity is not hostile to preserving the environment but rather can form the foundation for a sound environmental ethic."--The American Historical Review
"Inherit the Mountain is a wide-ranging, thorough and wellpresented treatise on the religious roots of American environmentalism...Inherit the Mountain would enhance the general reader's knowledge of environmentalism's historic roots, [and] would serve particularly well as a textbook in undergraduate and graduate courses in religion and ecology."--Anglican and Episcopal History
"In Ecology in the 20th Century: A History (1989) historian Anna Bramwell gave the following short characterization of the (radical) environmentalist: 'As well as being saved, he is a protestant.' Bramwell did not elaborate on her provocative statement but now the gap has been filled by this splendid book by Mark Stoll."--Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis
"A thorough, richly detailed, well researched and written narrative of American environmentalism through the middle of the twentieth century...Anyone who reads this book will finish with a solid comprehension of the emergence and eventual respectability of environmental values in American culture."--Adirondack Explorer
"[A] wonderfully rich new study."--Christian Century
"A remarkable and eye-opening study in the history of ideas; [Stoll] demonstrates nothing less than the vivid impact of faith traditions on citizen action and public policy relevant to the environment in the United States...A superb and lush history of the environmentalist impulse seen through the lens of faith traditions."--Library Journal, starred review
"Thoughtful and fascinating, with carefully crafted prose and clearly organized evidence, this book provides a new lens on the history of both religion and the environment in America, showcasing not only the facts but also the motivations while providing new insights into the past and future." --Publishers Weekly
"This extraordinary book is a must read. It is a panoramic survey with a wealth of detailed information, insights, and revelations about this generally neglected subject...This book will be of special interest to art historians, conservationists, environmentalists, religionists, and many of other persuasions."--CHOICE
"Provides a ringing call for greater awareness and more attentive concern for the natural world as a central tenet of the Christian life." -- Los Angeles Review of Books
"Inherit the Holy Mountain is a tremendous asset in the study of environmental history in America in both its breadth and its detail. The book is documented scrupulously, endnotes with trails to a thousand other histories. Stoll's prose is accessible and precise, especially in its biographical details. Readers will likely want to jot down many names from the endless stream of persons involved in the evolution of American environmental thought for further study. Stoll's contribution to the field is an important one which should serve as a foundational text for American environmental studies in conversation with religious studies. His lucid arguments connecting Reformed Protestantism and its descendants to the modern postindustrial fight to save America's beauty and to restore Eden shine a needed light on the simplistic dichotomy of religion as enemy of earth and secularism as savior." --Association for Mormon Letters
"Just when it seemed that there was nothing new (and worthwhile) to say about the history of US conservation and environmentalism (nor about attitudes to wilderness and its preservation), the most intensively tilled fields in US environmental history, along comes this landmark publication. Inherit the Holy Mountain consolidates and extends Stoll's reputation as the foremost historian of religion and the American environment in the international community of environmental historians. Stoll is truly the Max Weber of American environmental history. He is a brave and stimulating scholar who works against the grain of conventional wisdom."--Peter Coates, Professor of American and Environmental History, University of Bristol
"Inherit the Holy Mountain includes passages of straight religious history and passages of straight political history, which track the emergence of an environmental or proto-environmental movement from appreciation of nature, and which also serve as background for the most distinctive feature of the book: the analysis of the lives and works of prominent (and not so prominent) figures. Particulary striking is the analysis of evocative works of art which begin most chapters. These discussions, as well as those of literature and religion, display impressive erudition and powerful synthesis. Stoll includes numerous condensed biographies, in order to demonstrate the social, religious, and sometimes ethnic backgrounds of his subjects. In both its breadth and its depth, Inherit distills a great deal of research; it offers an illuminating perspective on the history of environmentalism; and it is a pleasure to read."--Harriet Ritvo, Arthur J. Conner Professor of History, MIT
"An intellectually impressive work that draws on the author's deep knowledge and painstaking research. Inherit conveys a sense of a history once largely hidden and now revealed and illuminated--a history that has been right in front of us all along, but which we missed until now. First, the book shows how the very languages of conservation and its more recent modern variant, environmentalism, are strikingly consistent with the figures, tropes, and wordings of past Protestant treatises. Second Stoll reveals the Reformed Protestant influence on some unexpected people. Finally, Stoll reveals the intellectual and creative patterns that linked groups of people not only to Reformed Protestantism, but also to each other. Inherit is a major statement in the ongoing debate about the origins and development of American conservation and environmentalism. No scholar who writes about these tropics can ignore what he has to say."--Mark Fiege, Professor of History, Colorado State University
"Reading Inherit the Holy Mountain is an education in itself: by integrating religious history with environmental history, Stoll shows both why American environmentalism has been so deeply shaped, for good and ill, by the notion that 'Nature' can only be where 'Man' is not; and why this is only one element in a far richer and more various American tradition that has, in the past, found productive and effective ways to bring together social and environmental justice for the common good. Stoll's work makes a landmark contribution and offers something of a paradigm shift. His book, which culminates a lifetime's research, is a breakthrough for many of us across a range of American literary, cultural, religious and environmental studies. It deserves to be widely read and studied."--Laura Dassow Walls, Willliam P. and Hazel B. White Professor of English, University of Notre Dame
"His consistent inquiries and truly pioneering investigations have made Stoll the most prominent scholar on the relationship between religion and environmental thought. Through meticulous research and compelling prose, he has taken a topic largely ignored by decades of environmental history and presented a persuasive narrative. His compelling tale is based on impressive amounts of intellectual history -- tracing the lineage of key ideas imbedded in recent environmentalism -- and supplemented by impressive biographic accounts that infuse the argument with ample and convincing detail. In addition, he ventures into the artistic expressions of early environmental ideas. This element of his book adds a dimension seldom seen in environmental history and makes a novel and creative, and highly appropriate, contribution to the field."--Craig Colten, Carl O. Sauer Professor, Louisiana State University
"Mark Stoll is easily the country's (and, probably, the world's) top historian of religion and environmentalism. Some other historians have noticed religious influences on enviornmental thought. It is fair to say, though, that no one has thought as broadly and deeply as Stoll. Inherit the Holy Mountain is a deep, sustained analysis of religion and environmentalism. It pushes beyond Protestantism to examine other confessions, such as Catholicism and Judaism. One important aspect is its attention to waves of Protestant denominations leading enviornmental reform movements--from Congregationalists, to Presbyterians to 'everyone else.'"--Edmund Russell, Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Distinguished Professor of United States History, University of Kansas
"In this long-awaited study, Mark Stoll reveals the multiple threads of religiosity running through American environmentalism from the early days of the republic to the 21st century. Engagingly written and thoroughly researched, Inherit the Holy Mountain casts new light on an old subject, illuminating a hidden coherence and logic. The history of environmentalism in the U.S. will never look quite the same."--J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University
"Mark Stoll's Inherit the Holy Mountain is a fascinating, compelling, and enlightening journey through American history that interweaves religion with environmental preservation. Stoll skillfully narrates the nuanced roles of Calvinists, Congregationalists, Unitarians, and Presbyterians along with the voices of African Americans, Catholics, and Jews in conserving landscapes. Anyone interested in how and why American religious traditions have been so significant in setting aside forests and parks, saving wildlife, and mitigating urban pollution will want to read this book." --Carolyn Merchant, University of California, Berkeley, author of The Death of Nature; Ecological Revolutions; and Reinventing Eden
"Interweaving American religious and environmental histories, Stoll has produced a tapestry richly textured with denominational variations and particular landscapes. Wary of environmentalism's prevailing Transcendentalist aura, Stoll resurfaces the Congregational and Presbyterian conduits of so much of American conservationism. His is an impressive reexamination of the religious and artistic qualities of the American engagement with nature." --Leigh E. Schmidt, author of Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality
"Inherit the Holy Mountain provides an essential and long-overdue historical guide to the ways in which America's diverse religious cultures have impacted the development, or retardation, of conservation movements. Supplying an absolutely fresh perspective on American environmental politics, Stoll gives his readers reasons to lament the demise of the country's Calvinist heritage." --R. Laurence Moore, author of Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans
"A masterful portrait of America's religious traditions that illuminates already existing themes instead of imposing them. Stoll's book is a treasure to the Christian theologian and the environmentalist...Faithful Christians seeking to understand the historic ties between their faith and the green movement will find this text invaluable." --Themelios
"A masterful and exhaustive account of the environmental movement using religion as the lens through which to view its birth, its achievements and, he soberly concludes, its 'apparent irrelevance.'" - The Wichita Eagle
"All in all, Inherit the Holy Mountain admirably fulfills its stated aim of merging 'the narratives of American religious and environmental history'... In the process, it succeeds as well in explaining what science, landscape painting, and sociopolitical history can contribute to these conjoined narratives. Toward that end, the book interlards its commentary with an unusually welcome array of halftone illustrations, color plates, and appendix charts." --Reading Religion
"Mark Stoll's book sets out to trace the religious roots of American environmentalism, arguing that Calvinist teachings about God's presence in the world and the communal quality of salvation, embodied in the New England town, drove the beginnings of the movement in nineteenth-century America." --Journal of Mormon History
"Stoll's volume is a valuable contribution to the historical study of the interconnections between religions and environmental attitudes and behaviors. It should be required reading for all graduate students and scholars interested in the history of North American environmentalism, religion and ecology, or environmental humanities more broadly." --Journal of Southern History
About the Author
Mark Stoll is Associate Professor of History and Director of Environmental Studies at Texas Tech University.
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According to some contemporary voices, religion is largely detrimental to hope for humanity, whether that is related to peace, economics, or environment. The answer, according to some, is to get religion out of the public square. The sooner that is done, some argue, the better for all aspects of humanity and nature.
Mark Stoll, Associate Professor of History and Directory of Environmental Studies at Texas Tech University, presents a different understanding of the relationship between religion and environmentalism. Instead, what he shows is a deep connection between Christianity, particularly Protestant versions, and American Environmentalism.
To be fair, mostly Stoll finds examples of lapsed Christians who have become advocates for the environment. However, he is careful to show how the theological understandings, many of which linger long after Christ is rejected, point toward value of nature apart from humans. Beneath his argument is the subtle but important reality that materialism––the rejection of anything supernatural––tends to undermine environmentalism as much as the worst caricature of a Christian Fundamentalist who is anticipating annihilation of the earth and subsequent recreation.
Stoll begins with the early Calvinists who settled in the colonies, even before they were Christian. He points toward their desire for order, realization of the effects of sin on the created order, and value of creation as something given by God as necessary contributors to an environmental ethics. Creation was to be used by humans, but always with respect to the God who designed it and provided it.
When excessive logging took place in the early days of America, the Puritans and others set up rules to limit those activities in order to reduce erosion and improve environmental conditions for everyone. The early Americans, with their desire for law and order worked to establish parks for the good of all, common spaces, and farming communities built around small communities and small churches.
John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club, and Gifford Pinchot, a major proponent of the conservation movement, both grew up in the church. Though one favored preservation and the other conservation, both found value in nature because they had a sense of religious awe toward it. In other words, there was a connection in their minds between awe engendered in their youths toward God to the sense of awe they felt when they were surrounded by the sweeping grandeur of nature.
Most of the environmentalists through American history have been connected to some form of Calvinism, particularly Presbyterianism. However, Stoll shows that many other thinkers with a religious bent, such as Thoreau and some from Baptist tradition, contributed to individual appreciation and action toward environmentalism. According to Stoll, it has been African Americans, Catholics, and Jews who have recently emerged to become leading voices for environmentalist in recent years. It seems some of these traditions have a stronger interest in communitarian efforts.
Throughout the book Stoll uses discussions of artists, their methods, and the subjects they represented. Sometimes this seems to narrow the focus a bit, since I would prefer a more theological and sociological analysis, but Stoll is probably on to something with his analysis of art from a given era. It is the artists that apply their worldview to the scenes around them to interpret and explain what they are seeing to their audience. In many cases, due to their visual representation, their messages are conveyed more clearly than the ideas that are freighted by words, which tend to change meanings more significantly over time.
This book is a pleasure to read. It has explanatory power. There are still some loose ends that I have questions about, such as where the Fundamentalists are in all this and why Stoll thinks they went wrong. However, Stoll has combed through a large number of sources from a significant sweep of history to write a book that ties a lot of key concepts together. This is a book well worth the time and money to read.
Note: A gratis copy of this book was provided by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review. This review has been posted at www.ethicsandculture.com.
You can tell that the author really knows his subject because there are some surprise appearances here: American artist Charles DeMuth, featured now at the National Gallery of Art. was inspired by his own vision of nature and most of the early Secretaries of the Interior were Presbyterians. The most powerful message for me in the book is the love of the environment inspired by the Creation story; and how many men and women who shed their Christianity in adult life were able to keep the faith in nature.
I would recommend this book as strongly to someone like me who is new to thinking about environmentalism as to someone who is familiar with the people and the principles. Something for every one in this rich retelling of our country's natural heritage.