Is Sustainability Like a New Religion?

“Is Sustainability a New Religion?”
GreenSource Knowledge Paper Series: #3
Event Circle Interviews on by Willi Paul

“A religion is a system of human thought which usually includes a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power, deity or deities, or ultimate truth. Religion is commonly identified by the practitioner’s prayer, ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things, but more generally is interwoven with society and politics. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience.”

Given the above definition and the feedback of the thought leaders on, sustainability has many characteristics of a “religion.” But it is still too early to draw any firm conclusions. Consider the following summary points gleaned from the interviews as we move ahead:

  • Sustainability is more fluid, more of a movement, a dream. Sustainability is change and Less formalistic than say Christianity. More individualistic.
  • Sustainability = End of one world and the beginning of another – a Planetary paradigm shift.
  • Sustainability is a road map to the sacred and is Improving life conditions.
  • No. Good Science is better!
  • Sustainability unites all Earth people.
  • The notion of balance with the earth and cosmic laws makes sustainability a spiritual quest.
  • Sustainability is a set of beliefs that guide behavior.
  • Nothing is truly sustainable, though the term has been a quite useful concept.

Source Material
Select Event Circle Interviews:

Interview with Divina Klein and Douglas Mackar of La ForzaDIVINA:

I don’t think at all that endeavor to create sustainability and a life that is more harmonious with nature has anything to do with religion whatsoever, on the contrary. While most religion is so self-centered on the human relationship with the divine and does not provide practical solutions for the environmental problems that are right in front of us, the era of sustainability has brought forth strategies to restore and support the natural world. I am sure the future is going to be about a much different way of living, back to the roots, back to nature, back to self-sufficiency, so in that sense it is going to be the end of a world.


I don’t think this is an era of sustainability at all. In an ecological sense, the Native Americans lived a life of sustainability. Generations providing for themselves, that’s an era of sustainability. People fool themselves into believing they are living a sustainable life. I see it more as an era of realization that a sustainable life is necessary. I think “the end of the world” is just a metaphor for the end of a limited mind state. If you live in a box, and all you know is the world in that box, then of course you’d think it would be the end of the world if it was “prophesized” that the box was going to be removed, when in reality, a whole world of possibilities is suddenly emerging around you. The metaphor of the end of the world is sound, but it’s too easy to misinterpret. To paraphrase Chief Seattle, There is no death, just a changing of worlds. That can relate to the world around us as well as our physical body. I love change. I’m a student of change. What’s next is whatever we create. We are all creators of our own reality. As a collective of conscious individuals we have more power than we even imagine. Now we must not only imagine, but recognize that power and use it to create the world we’ve always dreamed of. Quiet the mind. Listen to nature. Live the dream. It’s so simple that it’s easy to overlook, to try too hard. What’s next is mastery of the self. What’s next is change.

Interview with Rajeev Kapur, Chief Wala,

I like to call it a movement. The economy is creating a generation of young adults who will be trained on sustainability. This movement is causing Gen X and Boomers to pause and rethink about the ways in which they are doing things and how they are using their resources on a daily basis regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. We are on an unstoppable journey now.

Interview with Gay Browne, Founder of

No, but I wish sustainability had more of an addictive quality. Instead of being an afterthought or a way to feel less guilty, it would be great if all the companies started out with the goal to create the best product they can without toxicity and high carbon footprint. Triple bottom line is a buzz word, but a good analogy.

Interview with Chris Deckker, founder of Earthdance

For me the purpose of “religion” is to create a roadmap to understand the sacredness of life. Once you realize that all life is sacred you naturally move towards living in a more sustainable way – i.e.: you strive to live in balance.

Interview with Drupal engineer and San Francisco Musician / Artist / Writer Cheth Rowe

The era of sustainability is unlikely to last as long as, say, the era of Christianity, nor does it offer as much in the way of a supreme Creator—its industrial creators are reviled not deified—but it is clearly a belief system, which may be enough to earn the label of religion. I do believe mankind needs something to believe. Here at the end of the age of Christianity we are looking. If neither Islam’s 72 virgins nor establishing new human outposts on Alpha Centauri seem reasonable, then one must be a post-collapse citizen of planet Earth.

Interview with Hessia Fernandes, Co-Founder,

No I don’t think so. I define religion as a system of human thought linked to a set of beliefs and practices where gods and deities are often the core focus of prayers. They are different religions across the world which follow different set of practices and beliefs. I actually think that Sustainability is bigger than that as it is essential and it is truly universal. People can go through life by being atheists but people will understand (if they haven’t yet) that they cannot live without a sustainable planet. Also the set of practices of sustainability are the same throughout the world and they show that people, countries, races are totally interdependent. Sustainability truly unites people.

Interview with Anca Novacovici, Eco-Coach, Inc.

I hope sustainability is not a new ‘religion, because many religions discourage ‘nonbelievers’ from becoming involved. I would like to believe that sustainability is facilitating a transition to a new paradigm shift where different groups see it as important, albeit for different reasons. For instance, there are individuals who see it as important because of national security, to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, while others are interested in helping God’s creatures, and still others do it in order to decrease the rate of cancer, asthma, allergy and other diseases.

Interview with Joe Laur, Senior Manager,

Well, I hate the word sustainability- it’s like the word love- depends on who’s speaking it. I like resilience, regenerativity. I’ll settle for green. Religion literally means to reconnect- the same root as ligament. If it can reconnect us to what’s divine and irreplaceable in nature, each other, and in ourselves, it coils serve as a spiritual path. In the original Hebrew, there’s a phrase- “The fullness of the earth is God’s glory” That’s not too bad.

Interview with Andrew Vaucrosson, President of

It depends to which aspects of religion you are referring. We would not wish people to think that belief in the value of sustainability is a matter of faith alone – the need to adopt a sustainable lifestyle is demonstrated all around us and supported by large amounts of scientific evidence. Equally, unlike some religious beliefs, sustainability is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end – improving living conditions both locally and globally in a way that can be afforded economically, socially and environmentally. However, if you mean that like many religious beliefs we feel it should underpin all aspects of daily life and should be evidenced in consideration for those around you and good stewardship of our planet, then yes.

Interview with internationally renowned author, lecturer and alchemist Dennis William Hauck

It does have a religious feel to it for some people. I think it is the idea of being in balance with the earth and cosmic laws that makes sustainability have this spiritual connotation to it. Of course, the alchemists all the way back to Egypt would have insisted it be treated as a spiritual quest. They saw Nature as the one great truth to which we have direct access, and revered her and tried to server her. They were and remain primarily Philosophers of Nature.

Interview with Berkeley performance artist and body healer Francesca Genco

If by “religion” you mean a set of beliefs that guide behavior, yes.

Interview with Adriana Paredes, COOPERHAF

Actually, the word “sustainability” can be used in many ways in different discourses, even as a justification for continuing using energy. That’s why I do not like to use word. The main feature of COOPERHAF consists in dealing with a more complex definition of housing. Our project goes “beyond” the house because draws attention to the importance of alternatives that may reduce vulnerability and poverty. Diversification is one of the strategies that are discussed together with the families in order to reduce seasonal income variability. Seasonal migration to other agricultural areas may be one option.

Furthermore, production for self consumption is also important because it guarantees that food supply for the family if crops suffer failure. Moreover, the project emphasizes the importance of the investment in a garden because it deals with the self – esteem of families. So, we look for the social reproduction of family farmers who contribute with the 70% of our national consumption (food) in Brazil. It is a national issue.

Interview with Composer Alan Tower, Founder of Green Music Network

No, not really. Both of those words, those concepts, I don’t think will continue to resonate on a deep level as our species evolves (unless it can’t anymore because the lungs of Gaia can’t breathe, or the blood of Gaia can’t support fish, unless Gaia just can’t support us anymore). To me “sustainability” is a not so interesting general word, what might it even be in real terms? The Sun becomes a red giant in 5 billion years. The Earth then vaporizes. Its got half of its life to go and then we go. Nothing is truly sustainable, though the term has been a quite useful concept.

I remember telling a bunch of recreation professionals (I used to be one) at a conference talk in the late 80’s to keep their eye on this new notion of “sustainability”. They had not come across this at the time. I said it was going to be the key concept of our modern age. Well I think it has been a very useful one for a time, but may have seen its day. There is something out there, I don’t have a clue what it is, that is deeper with more life power that will supplant sustainability as an idea form to catalyze a generation. Bring it on. Religion, oh sheesh, that would take a few more pages.

I am launching a group to develop a physical space, A Resonance Institute – for research, workshops and concerts. The vision behind it is: Where science, art, earth and spirit meet for direct experiences of resonance as a way of life

If I had one, I guess the above would my religion. I hope lots of amazing people join me.

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