SCHARPER, STEPHEN Contact Areas of Interest
Scharper, Stephen (1) School of the Environment, 33 Willcocks Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3E8, t: 416-978-7433, f: 416-978-3884 (2) Dept. of Anthropology, UTM, Rm 118, 3359 Mississauga Rd. N., North Building, Mississauga ON L5L 1C8 t: 905-569-4912, f: 905-828-3837 e:
  • Environmental ethics
  • Environmental worldviews
  • Liberation theology and ecology
  • Religions and environmentalism
  • Ecological worldviews


BA (Hons) Toronto; MA (Theology), Toronto; PhD (Religious Studies), McGill
Associate Professor, School of the Environment and Department of Anthropology (UTM)

Stephen Scharper teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. His areas of research include religious ethics and the environment, religion and social movements, biotechnology, human rights, and globalization. He has a BA and MA from the University of Toronto, and a PhD from McGill. His publications include “Option for the Earth and Option for the Poor: Toward a New Environmental Ethic” and “Finding Our Place: The Ecological Impetus to a New Ontology.”

Research Projects

Water: From Resource to Elemental Foundation of Life.This research, with Tim Leduc, investigates the importance for environmental thought and policy of reflecting on water not just as a precious resource, but as a vital element, foundational to all life.

Cosmological Underpinnings of Urban Sustainability. This research has explored some of the cosmological and spiritual presuppositions that lie behind the integration of urban ecological thought and planning, involving the work of wildlife biologist Aldo Leopold and cultural historian and Passionist priest Thomas Berry.

Religion and Ecology: Exploring the Interconnection of Liberationist and Ecological Theologies (recently completed SSHRC project).This research was on the integration of liberation theology and newer religious approaches to environmental questions, such as the new cosmology of Thomas Berry. While much of the religious conservation around ecology has entailed ontological, doctrinal, and cosmological or “worldview” questions, there have also been religious responses that take issues of class, race, gender, poverty, and justice seriously. Indeed, many tensions have surfaced and continue to exist between these two broadly outlined ecological approaches. Thus, the question has emerged whether the ecological contributions of the world’s religions are chiefly in the realm of worldviews, doctrine, and cosmology, or in the realm of a political and economic critique.

This research probed this question by focusing on one of the most challenging religious developments of the past thirty years – that of the theology of liberation, a theology that takes poverty, and increasingly, ecological destruction, seriously. Early formulations of the theology of liberation, through its use of the social sciences and critique of structural economic and political systems such as developmentalism and modernization, yields an approach where questions of worldview and cosmology potentially unite with social, economic, and political critiques, leading to a possible integration of social, religious, and ecological concerns instructive for religious ecological engagement.

Selected Publications

Scharper, S. B. and Hilary Cunningham. Lifeform, Livelihood and Lifeway: Reflections on Urban and Planetary Futures. In The Future of Cities (working title). Ed. Donald Nonini. Forthcoming from Blackwell Publishers.

For Earth’s Sake: Toward a Compassionate Ecology. Toronto: Novalis, 2013. Stefanovic, I.L. and S.B. Scharper (eds.) 2012.

The Natural City: Re-Envisioning the Built Environment. University of Toronto Press. 356 pages. Scharper, S. B. and Hilary Cunningham.

Lifeform, Livelihood and Lifeway: Reflections on Urban and Planetary Futures. In The Future of Cities (working title). Ed. Donald Nonini. Forthcoming from Blackwell Publishers.

Scharper, S. B. 2012. From Community to Communion: The Natural City in Biotic and Cosmological Perspective. Included in The Natural City: Re-envisioning the Built Environment. Co-edited with Ingrid Stefanovic, 2012: 89-103.

Scharper, S.B. 2011. The power and the glory: a spiritual connection with energy can save us in many ways. Alternatives 5: 10-13.