Religion and World-Making: Techno-Environmentalism from Earthrise to Astrobiology
In the mid-1960’s, environmentalists petitioned NASA to release a photo of Earth taken from space. NASA complied in 1967 and the image graced the cover of the Whole Earth Catalog, a countercultural do-it-yourself rag for tech enthusiasts seeking harmony with nature. The image evoked widespread feelings of unity and solidarity; humans grasped their dual obligations to care for Earth—and ultimately to escape it. In Religion and World-Making, Lisa Sideris explores the paradox inherent in high-profile ventures—Biosphere 2, de-extinction projects, astrobiology, and others—in which technology is a vehicle for journeying back to nature and a means of transcending natural limits altogether. While these initiatives tour their ecological agendas, they also entail technological powers and theological assumptions that set humans apart from nature. Understanding techno-environmentalism’s mix of spiritual and scientific rationales, and its conflicting impulse to preserve and transcend natural conditions, is key to making sense of the Anthropocene.
Lisa Sideris is professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. Her research concerns the value and ethical significance of natural processes and how these values are addressed in religious and scientific worldviews. She is author of Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection (Columbia University Press, 2013), and Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (University of California Press, 2017), among many other publications.