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Abstract

Beginning with the first wave of environmentalism in North America and Europe around the turn of the 20th century, this article briefly characterizes the emergence and globalization of the idea of sustainable resource management, and later sustainable development and sustainability, focusing specifically on the religious dimensions of these social movements. Religious ideation, language, imagery, and metaphor have been important in the ways that sustainability has been framed in the public sphere, particularly in the past one hundred years. Interestingly, it is through the medium of these spiritualized public discourses that disparate, affectively oriented sustainability narratives contact each other and sometimes cross-pollinate. Manifestations of sustainability and sustainable development discourse from the global North intersect the religious dimensions of sustainability discourse deployed by indigenous and other marginalized cultures, which have advanced their own understandings of such terms and their own constitutive values. In such cases, sustainability discourse is both decidedly religious and highly political.