Conference Report: Society for Conservation Biology

July, 2008; Chattanooga, Tenn

In July of 2008 conservation biologists from throughout the world gathered in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology (http://www.conbio.org/) . The 2007 meeting had been held in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and the 2009 meeting is scheduled for Beijing, China. The Society is a large, robust organization with 15,000 members and still growing. As one might expect from a gathering of mostly biologists, the sessions and workshops primarily featured papers on subjects such mollusks, wood storks, and a number of other species found in swamps, forest, and deserts.

Humanity, however, is often a critical aspect in the conservation of any species or habitat. For this reason, the Society hosts working groups on economics, the social sciences, and within the past several years, even religion. In July of 2007 Green Institute Fellow Tom Baugh began the development of a Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group (http://www.conbio.org/workinggroups/Religion/) within the Society for Conservation Biology. Although it remains small, the group has grown steadily and now numbers about 200 members from a dozen or more countries.

Recognizing the pervasiveness of religion throughout societies and cultures, and the roles religions have played in formulating views of nature and defining relationships of humanity in nature, the Working Group seeks to bridge the gap between conservation science and religion. Religion and theology are ‘greening’ and will continue to do so and the religious focus on the environment now appears to be an irreversible theme of theological inquiry and religious life. An understanding of religious concepts and how they are applied to governance and daily life is often essential to the implementation of effective and lasting conservation management strategies as is an understanding on the part of religions of the principles and practices of conservation science.

The Green Institute was pleased to help fund Tom Baugh’s participation in the Chattanooga meeting with the hope that this important work at the intersection of religion and conservation science will continue.