Claiming Earth as Common Ground: The Ecological Crises through the Lens of Faith


Can religious people save the environment? Can the environmental challenge save religion?

Our planet is in trouble, and it will take an amazingly large and powerful force to shift into a more sustainable way of living. Spiritual leader and environmental activist Andrea Cohen-Kiener tells us that people of faith have the numbers, the passion and the mandate to do it—and that nothing else is strong enough to counterbalance "business as usual."


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Claiming Earth as Common Ground: The Ecological Crises through the Lens of Faith

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Can religious people save the environment? Can the environmental challenge save religion?

Our planet is in trouble, and it will take an amazingly large and powerful force to shift into a more sustainable way of living. Spiritual leader and environmental activist Andrea Cohen-Kiener tells us that people of faith have the numbers, the passion and the mandate to do it—and that nothing else is strong enough to counterbalance "business as usual."

In this urgent call to action, Cohen-Kiener gathers insights from ecology coalitions, emerging theologies and spiritual and environmental activists to rally and inspire us to work across denominational lines in order to fulfill our sacred imperative to care for God's creation. Cohen-Kiener and contributors clearly outline the shared values of our faith traditions that drive our commitment to care for the earth. Acknowledging the challenges in working together to implement positive change, they present steps—both big and small, for individuals and groups—for reversing our direction from consumption to sustainability.

Contributors include:

  • Rev. Woody Bartlett, founder, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light
  • Rev. Tom Carr, National Council of Churches Working Group on the Environment
  • Rev. Donna Schaper, senior minister, Judson Memorial Church, New York City
  • Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Religious Witness for the Earth
  • Eboo Patel, executive director, Interfaith Youth Core
  • Dr. Lowell “Rusty” Pritchard, national director of outreach, Evangelical Environmental Network
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The people and ideas captured here are at the heart of transforming our tired and broken relationship with the planet we live on. It's a vital book."
Bill McKibben, author, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

"An exquisite interweaving of stories and insights … inspires us, as the Prophet Muhammad said, to move from knowledge of tongue to knowledge of heart."
Imam Jamal Rahman, Interfaith Community Church, Seattle; coauthor, Getting to the Heart of Interfaith: The Eye-Opening, Hope-Filled Friendship of a Pastor, a Rabbi and an Imam

“A stirring theological and spiritual exploration of one of the most pressing moral issues of our day—our relationship to God's creation. Deep, yet easy to read; stirring yet hopeful. [It] will touch your soul as well as your heart, head, hands and feet!”
Rev. Jennifer Butler, executive director, Faith in Public Life

“Beautifully, passionately written.… Does a brilliant job of explaining why we no longer have the 'luxury’ of allowing our various religious beliefs to separate us, but must use our shared earth as a reason to bring us together. This is not a harangue; it’s a love story.”
John Lionberger, author, Renewal in the Wilderness: A Spiritual Guide to Connecting with God in the Natural World; founder, Renewal in the Wilderness

“There are few things more significant than finding common ground among religious communities for caring for our planet. This book is a valuable contribution in this direction.”
Mary Evelyn Tucker, PhD, Forum on Religion and Ecology,Yale University; author, Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase

“Excels beyond the boundaries of any tradition in teaching the process of healing our wounded earth as both intimate—embodied in our every act—and macrocosmic—rooted in God’s beneficence and magnificence.”
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center (; author, Torah of the Earth: Exploring 4,000 Years of Ecology in Jewish Thought

“Unique … carries you through the nittty gritty of what it means to act as a person of faith on environmental concerns. [Offers] a wealth of ideas for affecting change in your own community using the powerful assets of faith.”
Rev. Bud Heckman, director for external relations, Religions for Peace; author, InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook

At Wisdom's Table

Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener of West Hartford, CT is interviewed by Sister Rosemarie Greco, DW, Wisdom Correspondent for the Conference of Churches on WRCH radio, 100.5 FM. The program, "Rich Answers" is aired each Sunday from 5:30–6:30am. The Wisdom segment usually airs close to 6 am. The program has a listening audience of 60,000 people.

Andrea's book, Claiming Earth as Common Ground, was discussed in this interview. Its focus is the ecological crisis through the lens of faith and it clearly outlines the shared values of our faith traditions that energize our commitments to care for the earth. The book is informative, inspirational and concludes with suggested action to be taken to support and improve the environment of the cosmos.

Claiming Earth as Common Ground, ($16.99) is available through or

Catholic Library World - Ann Lynch

The author begins with the premise that the ecological problems we face today are in part symptoms of a spiritual crisis; therefore, religion can save the environment and the environment can save religion.

She calls for seeing beyond denominational boundaries to create a project that allows going forward together to fulfill the common imperative to care for God's creation. As she develops the rationale for cooperation, she includes the work of collaborators from several faith denominations.

This book is an easy-to-read interweaving of stories and facts for those who have avoided the more scientific treatises on the ecological crisis facing the world today. Its connection with the basic tenets of all religions touches the depths of spirituality.

Through the reflections of the author, who is Jewish, several Episcopal priests, a Baptist minister, a Muslim environmental consultant, a Catholic farmer and greenhouse manager, a resource economist and national director of outreach for the Evangelical Environmental Network, readers travel through the United States and Israel learning of interdenominational programs doing things from changing light bulbs in housing projects to baking matzo with wheat made from ancient seeds in Israel.

The chapters of green conversion and the new Sabbath are a must-read for all. They focus on the need for time apart, taking time to be in nature, to recharge, to take time to be people of prayer, to steep ourselves in the life of God.

The appendices give a checklist for reducing one's ecological footprint creating a sustainable civilization based on Joanna Macy’s theoretical foundations, thoughts for discussion and action and a format for an eight-week study session, based in each one of the chapters.

Read the Spirit

To help you meet some of those hopes, we're publishing two lists of recommendations: TODAY, we've got 10 terrific new books to help guide us in the new year.



By Andrea Cohen-Kiener

There are dozens of good books linking faith and the natural world, but if you're looking for a single "good read" for 2010, pick up this sturdy paperback. I call it sturdy, because this volume is built to be useful: For instance, it comes with a study guide to help discuss the book with your small group in eight weeks.

Veterans in this movement will recognize names like the Rev. Sally Bingham, the founder of Interfaith Power and Light, who wrote the Foreword. But, the real usefulness of this book is its breadth. Eboo Patel even contributed a Muslim perspective and you'll find Tariq Ramadan's viewpoint mentioned as well. This is the kind of bold expansion we need in the global community to confront what this book correctly calls "A Spiritual Crisis."

U.S. Catholic Magazine - Megan Sweas


Claiming Earth as Common Ground is a great discussion-starter for any parish group. With question guides for each chapter, action steps and further resources, the book is designed to be very practical. "The time for platitudes is past," writes author Andrea Cohen-Kiener. She and contributors from other faiths delve into the "nitty-gritty" issues of race, class and theology that prevent groups from making progress on environmental issues.

But this book isn't just about religious people saving the environment. "The environmental crisis is the manifestation of a spiritual problem," says Cohen-Kiener. Confronting this crisis might also save religion.

-Megan Sweas, Associate Editor, U.S. CATHOLIC

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594732614
  • Publisher: Skylight Paths Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Cohen-Kiener is director of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network (Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light) and spiritual leader of Congregation Pnai Or of Central Connecticut. As a teacher, rabbi and community organizer, she has practiced the art of bringing a spiritual perspective to problem solving for over three decades.

Rev. Sally Bingham is an Episcopal priest and founder of the Regeneration Project, a nonprofit organization that created a national Interfaith Power and Light Campaign to unite all faiths in efforts to prevent the catastrophic effects of global warming.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Rev. Sally Bingham

1• The Making of an Environmental Activist: Waking Up to the Problem
The Terrible Contradiction
Too Good to Be True!
The Spiritual Challenge of a Mountain of Garbage
Agents for Transformation
The Ultimate Common Ground

2• The Makings of a Movement: The Interfaith Imperative and Its Obstacles
The Mountain of God
Obstacles on the Path
God of the Pews or God of the Cosmos?
Leaving Base Camp
The One about the Rabbi and the Evangelical
Getting above the Tree Line

3• The New Wealth: Spirit Matters
What Is Enough?
Old Models for New Wealth
A Living Vision
Tools We Bring to the Table
Transforming Business as Usual
Imagine the Alternatives

4• Working Beyond Class and Race:Yes, We Do Need to Do This Together
We Need to Talk
Getting Beyond "Over There"
Finding Common Cause
Working Together
The Great Light bulb Swap of '06 by Rev. Woody Bartlett
Getting to the Table

5• How Big Is Your God? Theology Meets Earth-Care Activism
Digging Deeper
The Big Context by Rev. Tom Carr

6• The New Eden: Reclaiming the Garden
Seeds of Possibility
Wheat Sheaves and Matza Tales by Elisheva Rogosa
Communion Agriculture by Andrea Ferich

7• The New Sabbath: Less Is More
Unnamed Hungers
Green Sabbath by Rev. Donna Schaper, PhD
Creating New Sabbath Rituals

8• Eco-Conversion: A New Paradigm for a New Earth
Seeing with Green Eyes
Conversion to Eco-Justice by Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, PhD
The Power of Witnessing
Going Forward

Appendix I
Many Small Steps
Appendix II
Creating a Sustainable Civilization: Joanna Macy’s Theoretical Foundations
Appendix III
Thoughts for Discussion and Action: Format for an Eight-week Study Session
Appendix IV
Interfaith Ecological Resources
About the Contributors

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