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Green Foundation Ireland / GEF Project

By Thu 7 Apr 2016December 18th, 2017Publications
Nuala Ahern

“Green Values, Religion and Secularism”

Six European Green foundations participated in conversations on religion, Green values and secularism with Green activists all over Europe.

Why did Green Foundation Ireland engage with this topic? It is distressing, for anyone with the eyes to see it, how completely human behaviour is destroying the earth and its creatures. This destructive behaviour is, I think, a blasphemous desecration of something sacred and precious. There is something deeply wrong and askew with our values, both sacred and secular, that people think they can ignore, deny, condone or applaud this destructive desolation. This moral failure has been obvious for most of the 20th century. It has been an abdication and abject failure of nerve in the face of the huge power that human beings now have at their fingertips to alter and destroy life on earth. The Greens have been a prophetic voice against this desolation, but one that has seemed to be crying in the wilderness for a long time.

However at last there is, in response to the crisis of climate change, recognition from the centres of power, both secular and religious, of the need for change. Laudato Si’ from Pope Francis is a welcome example, overdue of course, which is not to disparage those who have worked within these organisations, such as Seán McDonagh, who has had a long struggle to bring ecological awareness to the Catholic world.

Part of the difficulty is that people have become afraid to respond, feel they are not scientific or technically competent enough to discuss the crisis, and can have nothing to say that will be of use. That they can have a moral response is not somehow imagined or welcomed. We have become suspicious of morals and have had them too narrowly defined, yet our European values have always been about justice, wisdom, the art of living with restraint, what we would now call sustainably, and the courage to face the consequences our actions.

While the Green movement has done a lot of necessary technical and practical work at finding solutions to such problems as decarbonising our energy systems, and while such policy work is the necessary focus of political parties, the movement, with honourable exceptions, has been much slower to address seriously the issues of culture, ideologies, philosophies and values. They are of course very difficult to address. However unless we do so, then we will not move far enough fast enough. For as the debate around climate change has shown, it is not sufficient to have a scientific and rational understanding. Unless people are moved to action through heartfelt engagement, nothing much actually happens.

That is essentially why we wished to engage with this project, why it is so rewarding, and also why I decided to ask some of our elders here in Ireland, such as Seán McDonagh, Margaret MacCurtain, John Dillon and others not yet elders, such as Mary Condren and Dolores Whelan, all of whom are part of the Green movement or sympathetic to Green values, to give us their perspective on all of this. This is intended as a conversation on the topics within the Green movement and with others, and a conversation which is only beginning.

Green Foundation Ireland
April 2016



John Barry

Mary Condren

John Dillon

Margaret MacCurtain

Seán McDonagh

Trevor Sargent

Dolores Whelan

Mary White