Ålesund, Norway, 4 - 8 May, 2022
Global Sustainability – Science and Religion in Dialogue
From the Brundtland-Report Our Common Future from 1987 to the UN sustainability goals, sustainability has become an important concept for public political debates on ecology and the future of our planet. What are the conditions required for the development of human lives and communities that enable them to be sustainable for generations to come? How can we develop our technology, our culture, our economy and our systems of political decision-making so that our local and global ecosystems can flourish and sustain humanity in a harmonious relationship with our environment? While such considerations originally concentrated on technology and politics, sustainability has long been identified as also comprising a cultural and spiritual crisis. Thus not only the humanities and social sciences, but also religion, come into the picture. Modernity began with the development of technological means for an emancipation of human beings from nature. In the wake of an accelerating development of consumerism and exploitation, nature served mainly as a means for human ends. But we now understand that nature is not only an economical resource, it is also important as a realm of resonance and meaning, in which we act as stewards and find ourselves as part of nature. This reveals there to be a spiritual and religious dimension of nature and our commitment to sustainability. While some have argued that Western Christianity has contributed to desacralizing and instrumentalizing nature, Church leaders and voices from other religions have argued that we should respect nature as God’s creation, and that humans are called to protect nature and the environment. Pope Francis, for example, in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’, wanted “to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development” of our ways to deal with “our common home.”
At our 2022 ESSSAT conference in Norway, in one of the most scenic environmental settings in Europe, we want to reflect on these issues. We want to bring science, humanities, social science, ethics and theology into interdisciplinary dialogue about questions of sustainability and about how religions, being a primary resource of values in any culture, might contribute to this task. Our main speakers will be drawn from the fields of Sustainability Science, Ethics, Sociology and Theology, and we invite everybody from within and outside the ESSSAT community to join our exchange of ideas and to contribute to our discussions and paper sessions.