Online Symposium: When God Isn’t Green
Editor’s Note: The Boston University Law Review Annex presents our online symposium on Jay Wexler’s When God Isn’t Green: A World-Wide Journey to Places Where Religious Practice and Environmentalism Collide. Professor Wexler is a professor of law at the Boston University School of Law and is well-known for his tweets @SCOTUSHUMOR. This symposium comprises blog-style posts responding to issues raised in Professor Wexler’s book.
Comments on When God Isn’t Green
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the symposium and provide comments about Jay Wexler’s great new book, When God Isn’t Green. Given that Jay is both a humorist and a serious legal scholar with a penchant for taking trips, it should come as no surprise that this book reads like a mix between a travel guide, a humorous ethnography, and an adventure memoir. In addition to raising important questions about conflicts between two important, competing issues, Jay provides vivid imagery of his trips overseas. I especially appreciated the image of Jay sitting at a bar drinking with a cat.
In this essay, I’d like to make three small points that struck me as I was reading the book. First, I’d like to situate the book within a larger body of scholarship about the cumulative impact of small harms. I’d then like to talk about how big (or small) the cumulative harms that he’s addressing in the book really are. I’ll conclude with a brief word on animal welfare.
Reconciling God and Green
Reviewing Jay Wexler, When God Isn’t Green: A World-Wide Journey to Places Where Religious Practice and Environmentalism Collide (2016)
Jay Wexler found the perfect excuse to travel the world and get his bosses to pay for it. Here’s his itinerary. He journeyed to Guatemala, where the harvesting of palm branches for Palm Sunday worship services was destroying the yellow-eared parrot; Mumbai, where idols immersed in rivers leach toxic chemicals into the water; the National Eagle Repository, where the federal government collects bald eager feathers to be used by Indian tribes in sacred ceremonies; Singapore, where Taoists burn joss paper to please and appease the ghosts of their ancestors; Taiwan, where Buddhists beliefs encourage the mercy release of animals to improve one’s kharma; and Barrow, Alaska, where Inupiat people hunt bowhead whales for a mixture of religious, ceremonial, subsistence, historical, and cultural reasons. The two common themes are “places where religious practice and environmentalism collide,”1 and lots of occasions to post on TripAdvisor.
When God Isn’t Green:
Some Thoughts on the Thoughts of Nagle and Schindler
What a pleasure it is to discuss my book with two such talented and creative scholars as John Nagle and Sarah Schindler, first at a live mini-symposium and now online.1 Even in the few short pages allotted here, Nagle and Schindler have raised so many interesting points that I couldn’t possibly address them all. In particular, Nagle’s suggestion that allowing wind farms to kill bald eagles but not allowing Native Americans to do the same “deserves a better explanation” and Schindler’s query about the relative ranking of religious practice and food consumption are so challenging and complex that I think it’s better to let them stand as is rather than hazard some half-baked theories of my own. Instead, I will focus my comments on three sets of issues that find their way into both Nagle and Schindler’s comments—namely (1) the cumulative nature of environmental harms; (2) the choice of regulatory and other options that government might choose from when dealing with religious practices that harm the environment; and (3) the worth of travel scholarship generally.