Ethics for a Small Planet

New Horizons on Population, Consumption, and Ecology

By Daniel C. Maguire & Larry L. Rasmussen

Subjects: Religion, Ethics, Environmental Studies
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Paperback : 9780791436462, 151 pages, January 1998
Hardcover : 9780791436455, 151 pages, January 1998

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents




Rosemary Radford Ruether

More People: Less Earth The Shadow of Man-Kind

Daniel C. Maguire

Introduction to Next Journey

Larry L. Rasmussen

Next Journey: Sustainability for Six Billion and More

Larry L. Rasmussen



A radical new look at the religious, economic, and political roots of terracide and how things can change for the better.


This book offers an original assessment of the crisis caused by the combined impact of overpopulation, overconsumption, and economic and political injustice. It summons religious scholarship into urgent dialogue with the other disciplines and with the world's policymakers. The authors seek a new understanding of religion and its power since, for good or for ill, the world's religions will be players in the crises relating to population and the threat of ecocide. Two-thirds of the world's people affiliate with these religions and the other third cannot escape the influence of these symbol-filled cultural powerhouses.

Ethics for a Small Planet offers complementary studies by two major social ethicists on these issues. Daniel C. Maguire indicts our male-dominated religions for the problems they have caused for our ecology and reproductive ethics. He raises the controversial questions of whether the very concept of God is a problem and whether Christianity's notions of afterlife and a divinized male have done more harm than good. Larry L. Rasmussen also recognizes that the problems of our planet are largely male-made and rich-dominated. He writes that Europeans packaged a form of earth-unfriendly capitalism and shipped it all over the world with missionary zeal. He ably scans the long history that led to the current manic rush to push the earth beyond its limits, and goes on to suggest moral norms and policy guidelines for sustainable communities and genuinely shared power.

Both authors argue that there are positive and renewable moral energies in the world's religions and that unless religion, understood as a response to the sanctity of life, animates our ethical debates, the prospects for the world are grim. The sense of the sacred is presented here as the nucleus of the good and the only force that can bring about the lifestyle changes and power reallocations that are necessary to prevent terracide.

Daniel C. Maguire is Professor of Social Ethics at Marquette University. He has written several books, including most recently, On Moral Grounds: The Art/Science of Ethics and The Moral Code of Judaism and Christianity. Larry L. Rasmussen is Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, including most recently, Earth Community, Earth Ethics and Moral Fragments & Moral Community: A Proposal for Church in Society.


"This book does not simply repeat the same cliched arguments regarding environmental concern and overpopulation, but questions propositions proposed as ideal elsewhere. It makes the general case for population control and environmental protection not only compellingly but briefly. " — Christine E. Gudorf, Florida International University