Weather, Religion and Climate Change is the first in-depth exploration of the fascinating way in which the weather impacts on the fields of religion, art, culture, history, science, and architecture.
In critical dialogue with meteorology and climate science, this book takes the reader beyond the limits of contemporary thinking about the Anthropocene and explores whether a deeper awareness of weather might impact on the relationship between nature and self. Drawing on a wide range of examples, including paintings by J.M.W. Turner, medieval sacred architecture, and Aristotle’s classical Meteorologica, Bergmann examines a geographically and historically wide range of cultural practices, religious practices, and worldviews in which weather appears as a central, sacred force of life. He also examines the history of scientific meteorology and its ambivalent commodification today, as well as medieval "weather witchery" and biblical perceptions of weather as a kind of "barometer" of God’s love. Overall, this volume explores the notion that a new awareness of weather and its atmospheres can serve as a deep cultural and spiritual driving force that can overcome the limits of the Anthropocene and open a new path to the "Ecocene", the age of nature.
Drawing on methodologies from religious studies, cultural studies, art history and architecture, philosophy, environmental ethics and aesthetics, history, and theology, this book will be of great interest to all those concerned with studying the environment from a transdisciplinary perspective on weather and wisdom.
Table of Contents
1. Being Alive in Weather Lands – Preliminary remarks
2. Inventing Weather – Conveying the mysteries of alteration in J. M. W. Turner’s painting
3. Atmospheres Agog – Weather, Culture, Religion
4. Weathering the History of Christianity – Justice, Witchery, and Moral Thunder
5. In Suspense – Meteorology beneath the stars
6. Weather as commodity or gift?
7. Under the Weather Roof – Shelter, Faith and Architecture
8. Atmosphere and Anthropocene – Critical considerations of a narrative and image in transit to the Ecocene.
Sigurd Bergmann’s previous studies have investigated the relationship between the image of God and the view of nature in late antiquity and late modernity, the methodology of contextual theology, and visual arts in the indigenous Arctic and Australia, as well as visual arts, architecture and religion, and religion in climate change. He has inititated the European Forum for the Study of Religion and the Environment, and among his many publications are Religion, Space and the Environment (2014), Religion in the Anthropocene (ed. 2017), and Arts, Religion and the Environment: Exploring Nature’s Texture (ed. 2018).
Taking inspiration from anthropologist Tim Ingold’s ‘weather worlds’, this fascinating book is a significant contribution to the environmental humanities that will be of interest to readers beyond the confines of theology and religious studies. Weaving in reflections on a rich collection of different art works, the author takes us inside pictorial, poetic and symbolic narratives on what it means to live in our weather. By doing so he both challenges the habitual complacency of detachment in the West, but also provokes new and innovative attitudes and practices in time and space. Rising to the surface like a deep subliminal current, Bergmann’s theology contributes a spiritual dimension that recrafts the multi layered narratives that it interrogates.
Celia Deane-Drummond, Senior Research Fellow and Director of Laudato Si’ Research Institute, Campion Hall, University of Oxford
Although we talk of the weather a great deal, we do not speak of the weather much in the study of religion. In this bold collection of essays, Bergmann invites us with his customary insight, generosity and erudition into the liveliness of the weather. Refusing the greying out of the weather, Bergmann’s analyses remind us that the weather is always colourfully intertwined with religious views and practices. This collection is a drenching gift and deserves to be read widely across the environmental humanities.
Peter Scott, The University of Manchester, UK
It was indeed difficult for me, while reading the book, to decide if Sigurd’s book is a book of theology, history, science or art! But soon I got to realize that it is in itself a piece of art. The reflections on contemporary environmental issues from a weather and theology perspectives are impressive. Indeed, there is an essential need to bridge the gap between science and humanities, including religious values and beliefs, especially when ae are facing an existential threat caused by our own consumptive behavior. Reading the book gave me the inspiration of our need of a fourth industrial revolution, not based on technology, but an ethical revolution that takes us back to our sacred values and beliefs. If we don’t do so, soon not only Fiji will face climate migration, but even vast areas of coastal zones around the world. In many sacred books, God used weather to bring mercy to humans who faced social injustice, as Sigurd elaborates in the book, but in our days, it seems our unsustainable behavior towards our only planet is bringing sever weather conditions, that will not be merciful and be harsh on those underprivileged. Thank you for an inspiring book.
Iyad Abumoghli, Director of Faith for Earth, UN Environment Programme
Both enthralling and scholarly, Weather, Religion, and Climate Change is a timely and welcome contribution to the discourse surrounding climate change that helps us to locate weather properly in our worldview and explore the existential questions concerning weather at a time of increased vulnerability to rising temperatures and extreme weather events. In his opening remarks, Bergmann describes the book as providing us "with an exploratory trajectory, where altering weather moves from and through arts and religion to history and science, and further on to architecture and our demanding efforts to re-interpret our human place in the universe." Employing a hermeneutical lens in the phenomenological sense, he skillfully presents a fascinating and rich palette of precedents to consider across many disciplines that encourage and invite the reader to intimately experience "what it means to be bodily alive in weather lands." Bergmann challenges us to strive for "a deeper weather wising in cooperation with modern science", in order to avoid the folly of thinking we can simply geo-engineer our way out of the climate change crisis. Instead, he calls upon us to embrace a spiritually inspired reverence for weather, anchored in wonder and awe, as a critical way towards relinquishing proliferation of a dysfunctional Anthropocene era in favour of a more functional Ecocene era where humans learn to live in mutual harmony with, and respect for, all of creation.
Roberto Chiotti, Founding Principal, Larkin Architect Limited
Sigurd Bergmann’s book is an insightful investigation into our consciousness of weather and the impacts and meanings of climate on human culture. The book reflects the emerging sensibility to the neglected and suppressed aspects of lived reality, and it illuminates the significance of embodiment and sensory experience, as well as the multitude of contextual, relational and temporal processes. Modern consciousness at large has focused on forms and objects, but the evolving new awareness arises from the recognition of complex, unfocused, peripheral and diffuse phenomena. This book also exemplifies the significance of overall views accross the entire human culture, as opposed to narrow specializations and categorizations.
Indigenous building cultures throughout history have built in harmony with local conditions, resources, climate and weather. However, our technological culture bypasses such specific conditions and continues to develop ways of building that eliminate climatic variables through ever more complex technical systems and increasing use of energy. Besides, the abstract formal ideals of contemporary architecture have suppressed the expression of the realities of location, climate and weather, as well as traces of aging and use. Even today’s ecological orientation in building has a technological bias, instead of seeking to collaborate sensitively with principles and conditions of nature.
Juhani Pallasmaa, Architect, Professor emeritus, Writer (Helsinki)
"This book is a major contribution to our understanding of weather through the lens of the humanities. Beautifully written and brilliantly argued, Sigurd Bergmann has created a masterpiece for us to reflect on for years to come. We are all in his debt."
Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim,
Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology
Weather both surrounds us and saturates our being. Throughout the ages and around the world, people have lived by it, become wise to it, depicted it, revered it, and brought it into their ways of building. To assemble this weather wisdom between two covers takes a prodigious effort of discipline-spanning scholarship, never before attempted. Not only has Sigurd Bergmann succeeded magnificently in the endeavour; he has also used the resulting synthesis to take down the claims of meteorological science to have got the measure of atmospheric phenomena. Instead of the Anthropocenic alternatives of total technological control or climate apocalypse, Bergmann offers the hope of an Eocene to come. With competing narratives of climate change, and the world on the brink of momentous transformation, this is a necessary book with lessons for us all.
Talk about the weather— wobbling between the mundane and the apocalyptic— summons in Bergmann’s extraordinary meditation an atmosphere of Earth-embracing creativity. Art and climate science here collude in the spiritual force of weather to effect a "new global space,"an ecocene of surprising adaptations.
Catherine Keller, George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology, Drew Theological School. Author of Political Theology of the Earth: Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public.