Dr. Peter Schadler, Religion

Social Sustainability in Religion

My initial motivation for applying to participate in the Valley and Ridge Workshop was to learn more about sustainability in general, and social sustainability in particular. Social sustainability is still a somewhat contested concept, with more variation in definitions than environmental and economic sustainability, and I wanted to know more about what this was, and how I might include the concept in course I teach in the fields of Religion and History.

More specifically, my project seeks to introduce the concept of social sustainability to my students in a course I teach on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations. By looking at time periods and places generally characterized by more peaceful coexistence among these three, rather than hostility, I hope to bring to my students some ideas from the past about how we might proceed in the future. By considering what kinds of laws were passed, how religious authorities of the three groups generated what rules they did, and by thinking through what incentives were in place for cooperation when cooperation took place, I aim to help my students consider what conditions need to be in place to create a socially sustainable world. Similarly, by studying when and where relations in society deteriorated between these three religious traditions, we might hope to avoid similar repetitions of the past, and better create a more socially sustainable world.