Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal (Aug 2022)

Environmental Stewardship: Confluence of Law and Religion?

  • Francois Venter

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 25


Read online

Why should we bear responsibility for the degradation of the environment? A wide range of responses is on offer to this question. Common to them all is they are all rooted in one or the other ontological and epistemic point of departure or set of premises. This raises the question of the relationship between law and religion and linkages of religion with environmental concerns. What emerges, perhaps against the volition of the scientific world, is that the foundational links between environmental law and religion are significant – even where environmentalists shirk from or even denounce religion. Justification of this view is found in concise survey of the essence of law and religion. The analysis leads to the notion of stewardship, a concept steeped in, but not exclusive to religion in its diverse manifestations. Examples of ecocentric religious attitudes – ranging from the traditions of the North American Anishinabek, aboriginal Australians and indigenous African culture to Buddhism and Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity in its principal manifestations – provide a broad picture of adherence to beliefs in human responsibility to take care of the environment. This widespread conviction of stewardship endures despite awareness of the human inability to create or sovereignly determine the course of nature (here termed "the hypothesis of incompetence").