My teaching and research interests in Religious Studies fall within the broad field of "Religion and Science" with a special focus on "Religion and Ecology/Nature." The driving question of my interests and commitments to the field is: How do religious beliefs, insights, doctrines, and practices shape the material-physical worlds around us? This question assumes that some sort of "religious sentiment" is part of what it means to be a human being in the world. In other words, even if one considers oneself atheist or outside of any established religious tradition, as humans we still seek to value the world, to make sense of the world, and to ask questions about the meaning of life. These tasks have largely been left to "religions" in the recorded history of human beings. Thus, even if one does not adhere to or practice a given tradition, it is undeniable that these religions have shaped the cultures in which we live and the answers to these big questions in life. In my work, I analyze how answers to these "big questions" have shaped the human relationship with the rest of the natural world. In doing so, I see the human world-culture, thought, economics, ideas, etc.-as part of the rest of the natural world. Furthermore, I am interested in analyzing how these "big questions" are changed by forces such as global climate change and globalization. In the end, I understand these religious questions to be questions about ethics: how ought we to live responsibly as human beings vis. a vis. the rest of the natural world.
This work has been at the heart of my education. After being turned on to "Religion and Ecology" in a course at Hendrix College entitled "Religion, Animals, and the Earth" I went on to complete a Master of Theological Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School. My thesis there, "The Illusion of the Isolated Self" propelled me into questions of how theological and philosophical anthropology shape human-earth understandings and relations. After completing my Master's, I worked on the Science and Religion Course Program at the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. Also during this time, I began working for a group at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley called the Theological Roundtable on Ecological Ethics and Spirituality or TREES. All of this work became the basis of my dissertation at the Graduate Theological Union, "From Creatio ex Nihilo to Terra Nullius: The Colonial Mind and the Colonization of Creation." After the completion of my dissertation, and before joining the FIU faculty, I worked as a Program Associate for the Forum on Religion and Ecology.
These interests are also reflected in my book projects, articles and edited volumes including: "Religion and Ecology: Developing a Planetary Ethic (Columbia University Press 2014), and co-authored with Kevin O’Brien, Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty: Tackling Wicked Problems (Routledge 2019); 3rd edition of Grounding Religion: A Fieldguide to the Study of Religion and Ecology, co-edited with Kevin O’Brien and Richard Bohannon, (Routledge 2023). He is also the co-editor with Karen Bray and Heather Eaton of Earthly Things: Immanence, New Materialisms, and Planetary Thinking (Fordham University Press 2023). His next monograph is entitled, A Critical Planetary Romanticism: Literary and Scientific Origins of New Materialism (Columbia University Press, Forthcoming 2024).”
Areas of Expertise
Religion and Science, Religion and Nature
Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty: Wrestling with Wicked Problems
This book offers a multidisciplinary environmental approach to ethics in response to the contemporary challenge of climate change caused by globalized economics and consumption. This book synthesizes the incredible complexity of the problem and the necessity of action in response, highlighting the unambiguous problem facing humanity in the 21st century, but arguing that it is essential to develop an ethics housed in ambiguity in response.
Environmental Ethics and Uncertainty is divided into theoretical and applied chapters, with the theoretical sections engaging in dialogue with scholars from a variety of disciplines, while the applied chapters offer insight from 20th-century activists who demonstrate and/or illuminate the theory, including Martin Luther King, Rachel Carson, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
This book is written for scholars and students in the interdisciplinary field of environmental studies and the environmental humanities and will appeal to courses in religion, philosophy, ethics, politics, and social theory.