Earth Day: 5 Orthodox Christian Books That Deal With Environmentalism

By Jovan Tripkovic

April 22, 2024

Many across the world will celebrate Earth Day on Monday, which marks the 54th anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement.

The theme for Earth Day 2024 is the fight against plastic, aiming to increase awareness of the issue of pollution around the globe and its harmful effects on the environment.

Orthodox Christianity is well-known for its long tradition and strict theology. Few realize that Orthodoxy has also been a leader in the Christian environmental movement. For example, The tireless environmental mission of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox faithful, earned him the nickname “The Green Patriarch.”

Orthodox Christians believe the Earth has been facing a series of unprecedented ecological crises. According to, every hour, forests the size of 300 football fields are cut down. Data from the World Health Organization shows that an estimated 4.2 to 7 million people die from air pollution worldwide every year. The world produces around 400 million tons of plastic a year, with recycling rates lower than estimated.

In 2015, Pope Francis published the encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” which became the most prominent contemporary Christian document addressing environmental concerns.

However, the pioneer of Christian ecotheology comes from the East. Orthodox Christian literature on environmentalism is extensive, ranging from theological teachings about the environment to practical solutions.

Here are five books to read for insight into Orthodox Christian ecotheology.

Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology

Few realize that the Orthodox Church is the pioneer of Christian environmentalism. Even fewer are informed about the ecological vision of the church.

Orthodox Christianity portrays creation as God’s epiphany and the human person as a connecting link between creation and Creation. According to this vision, Christian love manifests through the right use of material things, such as natural resources.

Dr. Elizabeth Theokritoff, the author and a senior research associate at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, masterfully communicates this vision.

Within the environmental framework, the author discusses ancient texts, the Church Fathers, the Divine Liturgy and the lives of saints. “Living in God’s Creation” is a compelling read for anyone who wants to learn about Orthodox perspectives on ecology.

This book clearly demonstrates that environmental concerns have deep roots in Orthodox Christian tradition and teachings.

Greening the Orthodox Parish

This is a handbook for Christian ecological practice. This book provides guidance on the spiritual and physical steps that Orthodox Christians need to take in order to apply their theology to environmental issues.

“Greening the Orthodox Parish” includes a foreword by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who introduces the challenge of greening the church. In his commentary, he writes that the practical application of this book can lead to the creation of “green parishes” and “green priests” worldwide.

The book discusses theological foundations for environmental action and examines a series of environmental issues through Orthodox teachings and science. “Greening the Orthodox Parish” also includes writings by hierarchs and theologians.

The handbook includes practical solutions on how to green your parish and address environmental issues with your fellow parishioners This is accompanied by a useful checklist for pastors to ensure that the parish is using suitable methods for energy conservation.

The Orthodox Church Addresses the Climate Crisis

In this collection of essays, published by WWF Greece and the Volos Academy of Theological Studies, Orthodox Christian leaders, theologians and activists call for urgent action to address the environmental crisis.

“The Orthodox Church Addresses the Climate Crisis” focuses specifically on the Balkans, a region heavily dependent on fossil fuels while facing social and economic challenges. The church has a special role in the societies of the region. Taking that into consideration, it can be a driving force for environmental change in the Balkans.

The book includes essays from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Serbian Patriarch Irinej and Metropolitan John Zizioulas, among others. Essays explore a variety of topics, including the need for Orthodox stewardship, Orthodox green theology and potential solutions for climate change.

Finally, the book also provides a priestly call to action to combat the environmental crisis facing humanity.

Creation as Sacrament: Reflections on Ecology and Spirituality

In “Creation as Sacrament: Reflections on Ecology and Spirituality,” the Rev. John Chryssavgis explores the sacred dimension of the natural environment. He analyzes the significance of creation in the history and theology of the church.

The book deals with the sanctity of the environment through the lens of the unique Orthodox Christian ascetical, liturgical and mystical experience.

The environmental crisis humanity faces affects air, land, water, nature and wildlife, leading to the permanent deterioration of the image of God in creation. In this book, Chryssavgis discusses the possibility of restoring God’s image through the sacramental lenses of cosmic transfiguration, cosmic interconnection and cosmic reconciliation.

Chryssavgis serves as an adviser to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on environmental issues and as the executive director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He has authored and edited dozens of books on theology, spirituality and ecology. His expertise makes him a go-to person to talk to about the church’s teachings on environmentalism.

Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration

Finally, “Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration” is the book you want to read to gain knowledge of Orthodox Christian ecotheology.

In the series of essays, this book poses the question: Can Orthodox Christians offer spiritual resources to address the contemporary environmental crisis? “Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration” makes a case that they can.

This book is the most comprehensive addressing environmental issues from the Orthodox point of view. The book’s contributors include Orthodox theologians, philosophers and hierarchs. At the same time, the variety of contributors and topics makes this book attractive not just for theological and academic circles, but also a popular audience.

“Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration” is for everyone in search of a fresh approach to environmentalism and ethics.

These were the five Orthodox Christian books to read about environmentalism. Which one did you read? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments section below.