Publications

My doctoral research sought to reveal ways that ancient narratives about craft-work might illuminate present quandaries in business, engineering, and design surrounding excellence, creativity, property, and more. Along these lines I have an abiding interest interplay of ethics, design, technology, and economics. Since 2013, my research has taken on the contemporary context more directly and placed my interest in environmental ethics in the foreground, using ethnographic methods to investigate how moral community and political mobilisation are being generated by British churches and (by comparison) other environmental community groups in response to environmental change. Publications and PDFs are below for your perusal. You can also find and follow my recent publications at Researchgate, Amazon.com, ORCID, or ResearcherID, and if you must Academia.edu.

The historical roots of the ecological crisis

In this chapter, I analyse the provenance and legacy of the influential journal article published in Science: “The historical roots of the ecologic crisis” (White 1967). I argue that White’s analysis is significantly embedded in his late-modern scholarly context and fails to transcend some embedded prejudices, not least of which his tendency to portray religion not as a complex lived phenomenon, but rather in forms which are reduced to simple binaries. I go on to explore the modern conceptual legacy surrounding the use of “crisis” in the interpretation of historical events and documents, particularly in relation to the environment and suggest that the concept of “crisis” comes with its own intellectual baggage and cannot be invoked as a purely neutral observation. I note several ways that the text of the bible resists such framings, particularly given the array of other-than-human voices which convey prophetic speech. As a metaphor, “crisis” may mobilise our attentions, but it also can serve to obscure the more complex dynamics at work in the present moment and in biblical texts. I conclude by arguing that biblical hermeneutics would be well-served if to were to dispense with the hand-wringing over “anthropocentrism” which was a hallmark of White’s generation of scholarship and instead turn to focus on more complex creaturely entanglements and hybrid geographies.

Contemplating Extinction

A short piece, in a collection with authors involved in XR, on the complexities of mourning extinction. I suggest that white privileged activists (such as myself) need to emphasise rituals of contemplation and find new conceptions of solidarity.

Mapping the Field of Religious Environmental Politics

I probe the complexities of political engagement with religious environmentalism which arise from the many different organizational iterations these groups may take.

Re-Enchanting Political Theology

For this Special Issue which confronts the ways in which the question of pluralism represents both haunting and promise within modern political theology, I explore the presence of pluralism in the context of the environmental crisis and religious responses to issues such as climate change. Following Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm, I suggest that models of disenchantment are misleading—to quote Latour, “we have never been modern.” In engagement with a range of neo-vitalist scholars of enchantment including Rosi Braidotti, Karen Barad, Isabelle Stengers, Jane Bennett and William Connolly, I explore the possibility of a kind of critical-theory cosmopolitics around the concept of “enchantment” as a possible site for multi-religious political theology collaborations and argue that this is a promising post-secular frame for the establishment of cosmopolitical collaborations across quite profound kinds of difference.

Religion and social values for sustainability

Discourse on social values as they relate to environmental and sustainability issues has almost exclusively been conducted in a secular intellectual context. However, with a renewed emphasis on culture as defining and shaping links between people and nature, there has been an increasing level of scholarly attention to the role of religion and spirituality in defining and understanding social values. In this article we explore the intersection of religion and social values for sustainability. First, we consider this nexus as it has been explored in existing scholarship. We acknowledge a body of research that has suggested that many religions are broadly associated with self-transcendent values. However, the degree to which they are translated into pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour varies according to context. Second, we argue that while there is much potential support for human values for sustainability within religious traditions, it is essential that religion is seen as a complex, multi-scalar and multi-dimensional institutional phenomena. Consequently, analysis of the relationship between religion and social values must account for the context of narratives, histories and practices. Third, using this lens, we show how religious perspectives can contribute to operationalising theories of systemic change for sustainability. Finally, we outline key principles for further sustainability research seeking to advance knowledge on the relationship between religion and social values.

Christian climate care: Slow change, modesty and eco-theo-citizenship

This qualitative study draws on in‐depth interviews and documentary analysis conducted between 2014 and 2016 to investigate the nature of pro‐environmental behaviour of members within the Eco‐Congregation Scotland network. We argue for an integrative analytical frame, that we call “eco‐theo‐citizenship,” which synthesises strengths of values‐, practice‐ and citizenship‐based approaches to the study of pro‐environmental behaviour within the specific context of religious envi- ronmental groups. This study finds the Eco‐Congregation groups studied are not primarily issue driven, and instead have an emphasis on “community‐building” activities and a concept of environmental citizenship which spans multiple politi- cal scales from local to international. Primary values emphasised included “envi- ronmental justice” and “stewardship.” Analysis of the data indicated that groups in this network are distinctive in two particular ways: (1) group focus on mobilis- ing values and environmental concern towards “community building” can produce what looks like a more conservative approach to climate change mobilisation, pre- serving and working slowly within institutional structures, with a primary focus not on climate change mitigation per se but on the consolidation and development of the community and broader network; and (2) these groups can often under‐report their accomplishments and the footprint of their work on the basis of a common religious conviction which we have termed a “culture of modesty.

What are the ethical implications of the science-and-religion debate?

What are the ethics of the modern debates between science and religion? In this chapter I suggest that there are actually a range of different ways that the debate between religion and science might be described as ethical. I note several ways that science and religion are brought into relationship in professional scientific ethics and suggest that within the space of professional scientific ethics there has been a tendency to sideline or absorb religious ethical perspectives. I then turn to more constructive “big issue” ethics and examine two specific cases: embryonic stem cell research and climate change in order to highlight ways that science and religion can sometimes be reduced to stereotypes: that scientists work with the real world and religion deals with ideas (and not reality!). I argue that looking more closely at the range of perspectives represented by scientists and religious leaders in both cases presents a much more complex case and that this in turn commends a kind of ethics which should be jointly pursued by both science and religion.

Introduction: Unexpected Encounters with Deep Time

The fractured timespace of the Anthropocene brings distant pasts and futures into the present. Thinking about deep time is challenging: deep time is strange and warps our sense of belonging and our relationships to Earth forces and creatures. The introduction to this special section builds on scholarship in the environmental humanities concerning the ongoing inheritance of biological and geologic processes that stretch back into the deep past as well as the opening up of multiple vistas of the futures. Rather than understanding deep time as an abstract concept, we explore how deep time manifests through places, objects, and practices. Focusing on three modes through which deep time is encountered—enchantment, violence, and haunting—we introduce deep time as an intimate element woven into everyday lives. Deep time stories, we suggest, engage with the productive ways in which deep time reworks questions of narrative, self, and representation. In addressing these dynamics, this introduction and the accompanying articles place current concerns into the larger flows of planetary temporalities, revealing deep time as productive, homely, and wondrous as well as unsettling, uncanny.

Temporality and Christian Environmental Activism

In this book, Michael and I share some results from fieldwork (2014-2016) with members of Eco-Congregation Scotland particularly towards testing for ways that conceptions of time have an impact on the way that Scottish Christians respond to an issue like climate change.

The evolution of Society for Ecological Restoration's principles and standards---counter-response to Gann et al

In response to our recent article (Higgs et al. 2018) in these pages, George Gann and his coauthors defended the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) International Standards, clarified several points, and introduced some new perspectives. We offer this counter-response to address some of these perspectives. More than anything, our aims are in sharpening the eld of restoration in a time of rapid scaling-up of interest and effort, and support further constructive dialogue going forward. Our perspective remains that there is an important distinction needed between “Standards” and “Principles” that is largely unheeded by Gann et al. (2018). We encourage SER to consider in future iterations of its senior policy document to lean on principles rst, and then to issue advice on standards that meet the needs of diverse conditions and social, economic, and political realities.

On principles and standards in ecological restoration

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) has long debated how to define best practices. We argue that a principles‐first approach offers more flexibility for restoration practitioners than a standards‐based approach, is consistent with the developmental stage of restoration, and functions more effectively at a global level. However, the solution is not as simple as arguing that one approach to professional practice is sufficient. Principles and standards can and do operate effectively together, but only if they are coordinated in a transparent and systematic way. Effective professional guidance results when standards anchored by principles function in a way that is contextual and evolving. Without that clear relation to principles, the tendency to promote performance standards may lead to a narrowing of restoration practice and reduction in the potential to resolve very difficult and diverse ecological and environmental challenges. We offer recommendations on how the evolving project of restoration policy by SER and other agencies and organizations can remain open and flexible.

Hybrid Encounters in Reconciliation Ecology

Over the past century, environmental scientists have developed a range of conservation approaches. Each of these, from management to restoration has embedded within it certain dualisms which create exclusive spaces or agencies for “human” and “nature.” I begin with a critique of these binaries as they occur in philosopher, Florence R. Kluckhohn’s influential model and in more recent narratives about the “Anthropocene,” and then turn to examine some of the novel features of “reconciliation ecology” as it has recently been deployed in the environmental sciences. Though this model is beginning to see wider use by scientists, it has not yet been explored within a religious framework. Taking up Miroslav Volf’s suggestion that reconciliation involves a “double strategy” I highlight ways that reconciliation can (1) provide a viable model for promoting an “embrace” of the other and (2) better integrate the past history of negative human biotic impacts.

Changing Uses of Old and New Media in World Christianity

Through a series of case studies we analyze different ways in which “old” and “new” media are being used in world Christianity. Cases considered include Russian Orthodox attitudes towards television, colonial engagement with media and Christianity in Africa, use of television by Pentecostal preachers in South America, film production in Nigeria by independent Pentecostal or Charismatic churches, the use of radio in El Salvador, portrayals of Jesus in Indian film productions, and receptions of television in India. Through these and other studies, we investigate the dynamic use of media by Christians around the world who have appropriated different media in both creative and traditional ways to teach, evangelize, perform, and communicate their forms of Christianity. This dynamic use of media is evolving, remarkable, and yet also consonant with the diverse texture of Christian communities across the world.

The Theology of Craft and the Craft of Work: From Tabernacle to Eucharist

An important reconceptualisation is taking place in the way people express creativity, work together, and engage in labour; particularly with the rise of the maker movement and craft work. But is this a new phenomenon?

Time for Business: Business Ethics, Sustainability, and Giorgio Agamben's 'Messianic Time'

Contemporary business continues to intensify its radical relation to time. The New York Stock Exchange recently announced that in pursuing (as traders call it) the ‘race to zero’ they will begin using laser technology originally developed for military communications to send information about trades nearly at the speed of light. This is just one example of short-term temporal rhythms embedded in the practices of contemporary firms which watch their stock price on an hourly basis, report their earnings quarterly, and dissolve future consequences and costs through discounting procedures. There is reason to believe that these radical conceptions of time and its passing impair the ability of businesses to function in a morally coherent manner. In the spirit of other recent critiques of modern temporality such as David Couzen Hoy’s The Time of Our Lives, in this paper, I present a critique of the temporality of modern business. In response, I assess the recent attempt to provide an alternative account of temporality using theological concepts by Giorgio Agamben. I argue that Agamben’s more integrative account of messianic time provides a richer ambitemporal account which might provide a viable temporality for a new sustainable economic future.

Theology and Economics: A Christian Vision of the Common Good

This volume brings together a prominent group of Christian economists and theologians to provide an interdisciplinary look at how we might use the tools of economic and theological reasoning to cultivate more just and moral economies for the 21st century.

Radical or Realist? The Ethics of Work in John Chrysostom

Introduction

Labour

Enhancing Student Learning Through the Use of Blogs

The Righteousness of Industrialism: Understanding the Legacy Behind The Present Moment in Technological Ethics

Several prominent moral theologians have suggested that the current environmental crisis is a consequence of disordered accounts of human work and labour. Though this has inspired abstract speculation about the modern transformation of labour, few analyses anchor such reflection in the concrete historical experience of Christian labourers or probe for theologically construed responses in context. In this paper, I will seek to identify a framework which can better represent the complex relation between Christian moral reflection and industrialisation as it developed in the nineteenth-century by offering brief but sustained analysis of two test cases: the Luddite revolts (1811-1812) and the Great Exhibition (1851). Contrary to the narrative which holds that the industrial transformation of labour emerged while theological reflection was increasingly marginalised by secularisation, I will seek to draw attention to the presence of theological reflection in two different means of historical response, the protest and promotion of industry.

On Dwarves and Scientists: Probing for Technological Ethics in the Creative Imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien

The presence of technology in contemporary life has become so pervasive that sociologist, Jacques Ellul has described this age as a “technological society”. J.R.R. Tolkien lived in the midst of the ascension of this technological society at the turn of the twentieth-century, and though he is well recognized for the quality of his fiction, the specific treatment of technology in his works has not been fully appreciated. In Tolkien’s work this topic may not be immediately obvious, especially given that technology is typically conceived in a narrow economy: freestanding and utterly contemporary. An example of this attitude might be the affirmation of a computer as “technology”, but not the edge of a chef’s knife. Tolkien casts his vision of technology with a more encompassing definition, treating it as the making of things by creatures. This paper seeks primarily to substantiate the presence of this technological theme, so defined, in Tolkien’s work. Accomplishing this will require attention to two fronts: to Tolkien’s theory and practice. In unpacking the theoretical basis for his technological commentary, I will first justify the use of “fairy stories” for broader ethical reflection and will draw attention to Tolkien’s specific commentary regarding the use of this genre. I will further examine Tolkien’s specific attention to the topic of technology, and will clear him of charges that he is anti-technological. I will spend the latter half of the paper explicating specific ways, in practice, that Tolkien deploys the concept of sub-creation in his mythical stories. My analysis in this paper will be limited to ways in which the narrative of the Dwarves in his fiction serves as an analogy for the scientific enterprise. Ultimately, I will suggest that in Tolkien’s account the products of technological synthesis (making), are in themselves morally ambivalent. I choose “ambivalent”, rather than “neutral”, because, as will be developed more fully below, there is always a moral context for technology, either good or bad - but never neither.