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Monastic communities and nature conservation

Monastic communities and nature conservation: Overview of positive trends and best practices in Europe and Middle East

Christian monastic communities have been in place for more than ten centuries in most of Europe and Middle East, being the more resilient and oldest self-organized communities of this part of the world with a continuous positive impact in land management.  This can be explained, in part, because monastic communities are based on principles which are deeply coherent with environmental sustainability.

Monastic communities use a variety of tools and strategies to communicate their values to society. They use both traditional channels and new technologies, depending on the context and circumstances, although they usually aim to exclusive audiences. Traditional religious tools, like retreats, seminars, counseling, publication of books, articles, sacred art (icons, etc) are often combined with modern tools, like symposia, web pages, DVD, CD, guided tours, interpretation centers, etc. Although few monasteries have explicit communication goals related to nature conservation, overall the values they communicate have a positive impact on increasing respect for nature and adopting simpler lifestyles to their audiences.

Lately, there is an increase of positive trends and best practices in Europe and Middle East including many of the following activities: organic farming and husbandry, environmental coherence, sensitizing visitors, including spiritual principles in planning and management of protected areas, including spiritual principles and connecting spirituality and nature in education activities, new monastic buildings made with environmental criteria, increasing interest in reducing fossil fuel use (to zero), building or adapting hermitages or places for retreats in nature, efficient water management, developing best practices in animal husbandry, restoring old medicinal gardens and old herbal pharmaceutical remedies and processes. Moreover, these last year there has been the creation of new monastic orders going back to the Christian roots, emphasizing harmony with nature, simplicity, and life in nature, e.g. Little Sisters of the Lamb, and also an increasing  dialogue between science and theology.

Author

Josep- Maria Mallarach