Inaugural Conference on "Ecological Spiritualities"

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From April 27-30 2022, Harvard Divinity School’s Program for the Evolution of Spirituality hosted its inaugural conference on “Ecological Spiritualities.”  The conference featured presentations and workshops exploring the evolution of earth-based spiritual traditions and highlighting innovative spiritual practices that are emerging in response to the painful realities of climate change, mass extinction, biodiversity loss, and the disruption of local and global ecosystems.

Speakers joined us from across the globe. They included professors and students from a variety of theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary perspectives. We also welcomed proposals from spiritual leaders, environmental activists, farmers, and others whose work places them at the intersection of spirituality and ecology. Paper topics spanned from interspecies interdependence to textual analysis to Indigenous cosmologies to spiritual appropriation to race and environmentalism to issues in contemporary paganism.  We hope that this broad range of methodological approaches, religious traditions, and geographical regions continues to create space for open discussions and a fruitful opportunity for deep learning among scholars, spiritual leaders, and others who care about the intersection of spirituality and ecology.

Interested in a specific topic? Search below for the following keywords to find presentations that fit your academic interests:

All Abstracts

Adekogbe, Bosun. 2022. “An Ecological Examination of Musicality and Spirituality in Winners’ Mega Chapel, Nigeria"”.Abstract

Abstract: The study examines the ecological implication of loud musical practices and sensitivity to religious values. Data for this paper were gathered through participant observation in worship sessions in Winners’ Mega Chapel auditorium. Findings show that the worshippers are exposed to average noise levels of 90.29 dB (Threshold of Pain). The paper concludes that the musical and spiritual practices have become an environmental phenomenon in the society and, therefore, suggests standards for musical sound production to control environmental hazards for societal wellness.

Bio: Olatunbosun Samuel Adekogbe (Ph.D.) is a Lecturer 1 in the Department of Music, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile–Ife. My research empowers multidisciplinary study of music; noise pollution, wellbeing and sound producing environment. I completed my doctoral program in 2019 at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria and with research focusing on musical instruments acoustics and effects of loud sound on the congregants. My research afterwards has been mainly in environmental and climate, musicology and music, and I have published some high impact articles in these research areas.

Institution: Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile–Ife, Nigeria

Adhikari, Jagannath. 2022. “Kisan (Farmer's) Dharma: Ecological Practices Informed by Hindu-Buddhist Religions and Biodiversity Conservation”.Abstract

Abstract: Based on experiential knowledge gained while growing and working in a Hindu-Buddhist society in Nepal and research studies, this paper looks at Hindu-Buddhist cultural practices that eventually lead to conservation of biodiversity. In a study of a village, these practices, which are part of Dharma (religious merit), were found to have still helped conserve as many as 82 sacred plant species. As these religious traditions believe that plants and animals are part of one’s life, or could become so after this human form degenerates, they are to be worshipped and conserved. Implications for Covid-19 like pandemic are also discussed.

Bio: I am affiliated with Curtin University (Perth, Australia) as adjunct faculty, but spend more time in Nepal doing field studies and practical work in sustainable agriculture. I have written –both academic papers and opinion articles -in the themes of Hinduism and sustainable agriculture, food security and climate change.

Institution: Curtin University, Perth, Australia

Zinzendorf, Bro. Johannes. 2022. “"The Hermitage, A Harmonist Community"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: The Hermitage’s goal of recognizing the unity between earth and spirit by practicing harmony between them. That shared ground of being can transform our way of thinking by creating new perspectives to help heal the divisiveness and separation of these challenging times. Within this unity, the earth is both whole and holy. At the Hermitage, “we are one in the spirit and the earth is our family,” which is easy to say but often difficult to achieve. Still, one has to start somewhere.

  • Bio: Bro. Johannes Zinzendorf co-founded the Hermitage, a Harmonist community in central Pennsylvania. He has written articles for “Communities” magazine, and given presentations to the Communal Studies Association and the International Communal Studies Association. The Hermitage has been featured in The New York Times and a compilation of queer spirituality.

  • Institution: The Hermitage, Pennsylvania, USA

Zimmerman, Alexis (with Zachary Wooten). 2022. “"Leadership, Spirituality, and Environmental Activism: A Comparative Case Study of Rev. Sally Bingham and Ogyen Trinley Dorje"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: This paper will utilize a comparative case study methodology to explore the spiritual sources of environmental activism for two different leaders: Episcopal priest, Rev. Sally Bingham and Tibetan Buddhist leader, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. The analysis will draw upon the theoretical framework of Nature-Centered Leadership (Stober, 2013). As a comparative case study, the paper will contribute to the deepening understanding of the role between spirituality, leadership, and environmentalism. By examining the ways in which individuals from contrasting worldviews perceive nature, perceive themselves, and enact their perceptions, the paper will also offer potential steps regarding how to mobilize individuals for environmental activism. 

  • Bio: Alexis Zimmerman is a senior History and Religious Studies Dual Major in the Honors College at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Ms. Zimmerman’s academic interests focus on comparative and Asian philosophy, and she plans to attend a graduate program for Religion and Ecology.  

  • Institution: Honors College at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, USA

Agrawal, Rashi (with Shraddha Upadhyay). 2022. “"From Ecological Awareness to Being Ecology: Integrative Approaches to Environmental Activism Aided by Contemplative Practices"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Mainstream approaches to climate activism  are often secularized. In this paper, we intend to explore how contemplative spiritual traditions like Vipassana and Heartfulness offer an integrative ecological response. The consciousness that these movements bring to ecological activism is not facile but experiential. They do not ‘try’, but are in essence ecological, without being mechanistic, anthropocentric and propagative of self-other divides. They go beyond ‘understanding interdependence’, to ‘​becoming​ oneness’ or ‘being ecology’. We intend a textual and ethnographic study in the theory and practice of how this ecological consciousness is created, perceived and what it can offer to mainstream activism.

  • Bio: Rashi is a researcher at Sambodhian M&E firm, and works on issues of rural energy, health, and livelihood. She is an alumnus of the Young India Fellowship, Ashoka University, and has pursued her Bachelors in English Studies, Political Science and History. She has researched musical traditions in Sufism and practices Heartfulness.

  • Institution: Ashoka University, India  

Ajose, Toyin Samuel. 2022. “ "Music, Ori-Oke Spirituality, and Environmentalism Among Yoruba Pentecostals in Ibadan, Southwest Nigeria"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: The place of spiritual communities in environmentalism is of growing interest among league of scholars on global ecosystems. This article joins the conversation by examining how Yoruba Pentecostals through the agency of music advocate for a sustainable environment. Using ethnomusicological research procedures, I analysed and discussed selected prayer songs with themes on environmentalism used by Yoruba Pentecostals in selected prayer mountains (ori-oke) in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria. Through the lens of Spatial theory, this article argues that indigenous Yoruba Pentecostals have continuously and innovatively sustained environmental stewardship using music as an expressive art form. It further discusses the implications of this religious innovation in response to both local and global ecological crises.

  • Bio: Samuel Ajose currently serves as the head, department of music, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, His research focuses on music, spatial appropriation and sustainable environment in Nigerian Pentecostalism. Ajose is working on documenting and archiving endangered musics in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria in a project “Ibadan Sustainable Music Project”.

Institution: University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Aleknaitė, Eglė. 2022. “"Respect to Nature in a Lithuanian Contemporary Pagan Community: a Useful Cultural Resource with No Call to Action"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: The paper presents a conceptualization of nature and its use in public discourse of Romuva, a Lithuanian nationalistic reconstructionist contemporary Pagan community. Conceptualized as a cultured, pastoral landscape, nature is one of keywords of Romuvians’ identity and discourse, but their respect to nature does not translate to environmental activism. Nevertheless, such references to nature help to establish an image of Paganism as a nature religion and are employed in various circumstances as a cultural resource helping the community to compete in Lithuanian religious politics and to achieve a variety of political objectives.

  • Bio: Eglė Aleknaitė, PhD, is an anthropologist affiliated with Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania). Her research interests include contemporary religiosity, religious and cultural politics in Soviet and post-Soviet contexts. She has done research on contemporary Lithuanian Paganism and Shamanism and contemporary religiosity in general, as well as on folk music revivals.

  • Institution:  Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

Alhadeff, Cara Judea. 2022. “Performance of “Indigenous Wisdoms, Reclaimed Action: Love Lessons from Zazu Dreams””.Abstract
  • Abstract: As a resolution to current environmental crises, this interfaith, environmental-justice performance is intended to illuminate intersections between ancient Middle Eastern spiritual-pharmacopeia rituals in relation to their agricultural and architectural environmental-engineering practices. While encouraging individuals and communities to collectively resist industrialized convenience-culture and its self-destructive consequences, this action-based academic performance offers behavioral and infrastructural design shifts that embody Middle Eastern Semitic indigenous wisdom/spiritual intelligence. I explore principles found in ancient Judaic and Islamic texts and laws as antidotes to our consumer-waste culture: water politics/infrastructure, architectural heating/cooling, the sacred embodied in bioregional agricultural systems, medico-magical rituals, and zero-waste/creative-waste living.

  • Bio: Dr. Cara Judea Alhadeff has published dozens of books and essays on eco-justice, globalization, spirituality, philosophy, performance-studies, and ethnic studies. In numerous museum collections, her photographs/performances have been defended by freedom-of-speech organizations. Former professor at UC SantaCruz and Global Center for Advanced Studies, Alhadeff teaches, performs, and parents a creative-zero-waste life. See her websites, www.carajudea.com and www.zazudreams.com

  • Institution: The European Graduate School, Switzerland; Western Institute for Social Research, California, USA

Angeli, Maria A. 2022. “"The Five Elements in ‘Unity Singing & Circle Dance’ Practices: Living & Celebrating Ecological Spirituality"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Spirituality emerges as the core essence of ecology and every authentic ecological practice. “The five Elements in ‘unity singing & circle dance’ practices: living & celebrating ecological spirituality” strongly invite us to re-member and become members of a global community which employs singing and dancing while honouring the elemental kingdom of Mother Earth. Experiencing the song and the dance via the practice of unity singing & dancing we get effortlessly connected with the grace, wisdom and power of each unique ecosystem upon our planet & their everlasting dancing and singing. The symbols/vibrations/manifestations of the songs and the movements/dances invigorate our connection with the core elements of life itself, remind us the power of synergistic relationships as in Nature, invite our response and responsible spiritual balance, living our lives within them, respecting them and receiving holistic nutrition by them in every aspect of our small life within our home, Earth, our ecos (οίκος).

  • Bio: maria a. angeli is a Connection advocate, trainer, musician, peace food transitioncoach and one of Korogonas Ark’s community (Greece) founding members, honouring the emerging global narrative of the Story of Connection, through tools and methodologies which she provides to individuals and groups as well as applied spirituality invitations.

  • Institution:  Korogonas Ark’s Community, Greece

Anguiano, J.M. (with S. Anguiano). 2022. ““Evolutive Agriculture Method: a Decade of Research and Results in México””.Abstract
  • Abstract: The present study aims to show the methodological approach for the Mexican ancestral knowledge and the Steiner´s spiritual science, and together both worldvisions, collaborate as specific farming syncretism to building a bridge to lead the evolutive agriculture. The results shown an exponential increase in soil fertility and hence the crop yield and the healthy harvest, which provides nutraceutical foods; in thousands of hectares this method has been implemented, such as the forage production to dairy Farms, avocado orchards (Persea americana Mill); small grains, corn, berries, onions, tomatoes, hot pepper, melons, watermelons, citrus orchards, palm trees, among others. 

  • Bio: Jose Ma. Anguiano Cardenas has a PhD in biological and agricultural Sciences University of Nayarit, México. He has been driver and author of the Tonantzin evolutive agricultura, in various Mexican farms. In the spring of 2016, he presented at the Spirit of Sustainable Agriculture at Harvard Divinity School. 

  • Institution: University of Nayarit, México

Anguiano, S. (with J.M. Anguiano). 2022. “ “Evolutive Agriculture Method: a Decade of Research and Results in México””.Abstract
  • Abstract: The present study aims to show the methodological approach for the Mexican ancestral knowledge and the Steiner´s spiritual science, and together both worldvisions, collaborate as specific farming syncretism to building a bridge to lead the evolutive agriculture. The results shown an exponential increase in soil fertility and hence the crop yield and the healthy harvest, which provides nutraceutical foods; in thousands of hectares this method has been implemented, such as the forage production to dairy Farms, avocado orchards (Persea americana Mill); small grains, corn, berries, onions, tomatoes, hot pepper, melons, watermelons, citrus orchards, palm trees, among others. 

  • Bio: Javier Anguiano Soto, is a philosopher and psychologist. He is Manager in AGROTESO México. His job is around making strategies to continue the evolutive agriculture project on tropical fruits and soils. He has participated as a co-presenter in the 2016 Conference ¨The Spirit of Sustainable Agriculture¨ in Harvard Divinity School

  • Institution: AGROTESO, Mexico

Anthony, Carl C. (with Paloma Pavel, Brandon P. Holmes). 2022. “"The Universe Story: Climate Justice and the Next Generation" Performance and Panel”.Abstract
  • Abstract: We are witnessing a pivotal juncture within a greater universe story (T. Berry). The present eco-spiritual crisis is also an eco-spiritual opportunity. We have a choice of going towards ecological apartheid or fostering stronger, resilient communities rooted in our symbiosis with the natural world. We examine the climate justice movement from an eco-spiritual perspective in the context of racial equality and community building. Inspired by The Universe Story and the African American experience, this panel will craft a new eco-spiritual narrative for multiethnic American communities facing the triple pandemic of social and racial inequality, the COVID-19 health crisis, and climate change.

  • Bio: African American architect, regional planner, social justice activist, and author. Author of The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race (2017). Co-founder of Breakthrough Communities, a project dedicated to building multiracial leadership for sustainable communities. Former President of the Earth Island Institute and Program Officer of the Community and Resource Development Unit at the Ford Foundation. He directed the Foundation’s Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Initiative and the Regional Equity Demonstration Project in the United States. Co-founder of Race, Poverty and the Environment Journal, the first environmental justice periodical in the United States. Assistant Professor of Architecture at University of California, Berkeley. He has a professional degree in architecture from Columbia University, and in 1996 he was appointed Fellow at the Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

  • Institution:  University of California, California, US

Anthony, Carl C. (with Paloma Pavel, Brandon P. Holmes). 2022. “"Embodying Eco-Spiritual and Eco-Justice practice: Leadership Training for Environment and Climate Justice" Workshop”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Our 90-minute workshop begins with a brief introduction of The Universe Story, providing an eco-spiritual perspective and context. We follow this with a small narrative introduction exercise where people voluntarily share the story of their name, their place of birth, and locate themselves in the process. We then offer an 8-minute film which accompanies our book, The Earth the City and the Hidden Narrative of Race (Anthony). The African American experience from the rise of humanity in Africa is offered as an inspiration for participants to honor their own environmental justice journey and heritage. The perspective of personal narrative (Marshall Ganz, Harvard) provides a deepening of the process utilizing mindfulness practices inspired by the Presencing Institute (Scharmer, MIT). Finally, we explore the themes of eco-spirituality and eco-justice through the five-stage model of the Compass for Transformative Leadership. The interactive process of the workshop is enlivened by multimedia examples and music from environmental and climate justice movement building work (Anthony & Pavel). Our closing interactive meditation will be a collaborative dialogue with a member of the future generations about the eco-spiritual resources we must utilize to make a just transition in the 21st Century. This final exercise is adapted and inspired by the Work That Reconnects (Macy). Lastly, we will close with a dedicated ritual for inspiring action.

  • Bio: African American architect, regional planner, social justice activist, and author. Author of The Earth, the City, and the Hidden Narrative of Race (2017). Co-founder of Breakthrough Communities, a project dedicated to building multiracial leadership for sustainable communities. Former President of the Earth Island Institute and Program Officer of the Community and Resource Development Unit at the Ford Foundation. He directed the Foundation’s Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Initiative and the Regional Equity Demonstration Project in the United States. Co-founder of Race, Poverty and the Environment Journal, the first environmental justice periodical in the United States. Assistant Professor of Architecture at University of California, Berkeley. He has a professional degree in architecture from Columbia University, and in 1996 he was appointed Fellow at the Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Institution:  University of California, California, USA
Assadourian, Erik. 2022. “"Growing a Deeper Environmental Movement Via a Gaian Missionary Religion"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Is it possible to create an Earth-centric “Gaian” religion? Not magical but scientifically-grounded? Not deifying Gaia but recognizing that Gaia is sacred: the spiritual and physical ground of being for all beings? Erik Assadourian, former researcher with the Worldwatch Institute for seventeen years, and founder of Gaianism, will discuss his efforts to develop a community of practicing Gaians over the past year. He will explore the roots of this religion, its need, and efforts so far to develop it.  

  • Bio: Erik Assadourian was a researcher with Worldwatch Institute from 2001 until 2017. He directed or co-directed seven books, focusing on consumerism, eco-education, global security, and economic degrowth. He is an adjunct professor with Goucher College. In 2019, he created Gaianism.org and is working to grow a new Gaian religion. There is currently a local Gaian community in Middletown, CT, and in New Orleans. 

  • Institution: Gaian Guild, Connecticut, USA 

Baker, Shane. 2022. ““Encounters with Immanence: Ecodelic Experience, Temperament, and the Ambiguous Aspirations of Gaia"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: What role does affective orientation or individual temperament play in the personal affirmation or denial of ‘oneness with nature’? Applying the work of Dylan Trigg and Jane Bennett to what Richard M. Doyle calls “the ecodelic insight,” I wish to explore what makes one amenable or not to the animistic or pantheistic sensibilities of earth-based spiritualities. Curious about the ‘maturity’ of such sensibilities, I also ask: Does “Gaia” name a healthful desire for cosmic location, belonging, and ecological responsibility, or an untenable or even dangerous holism and fear of psychic fragmentation? 

  • Bio: Shane Baker is a PhD student in the Department of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he focuses on disenchantment narratives and postsecular ecologies. He dabbles in critical psychedelic studies, the (Pan-)American lineage of pantheism, and is perennially fascinated by the relationship between psychoanalysis and mysticism. 

Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
Barrywood, Kristal. 2022. “"Understanding Environmentalism in Pagan Paths and its Effects on Altruism in Rituals"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Pagans have long been linked to environmentalism in multiple studies and practicing Pagans generally believe that environmentalism is inherent in Pagan paths. Further projects deduced that the motives for environmentalism by Pagan individuals are altruistic in motivation. My research highlights the slightly paradoxical individualistic nature of the various Pagan paths which argue that environmentalism is only inherent by proxy of the people that practice the various paths and when utilizing ecological practices within rituals, motivations become more self-serving. This research also uniquely gains insight into path specific attitudes towards environmental policies and participation in advocacy by naming specific organizations. 

  • Bio: Kristal Barrywood is a doctoral student at the University of Alberta and a recent graduate from the University of Chicago with a MA in Liberal Arts. Her research interest on Paganism through the lens of Cultural Anthropology is reflected in her master’s thesis: “Inherent by Proxy: A Study of Intentional Environmentalism Within Pagan Rituals”. 

  • Institution: University of Alberta, Canada 

Barstow, Geoffrey. 2022. “"Challenging Buddhist Assumptions of Human Superiority"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Like many other world religions, Buddhism has classically privileged humans over other species, consistently claiming that human needs matter more than those of animals.  Unlike some religions, however, Buddhism asserts human superiority not because humans uniquely have a soul, but rather because of assumptions about the relative superiority of human cognition.  Contemporary science, however, demonstrates that many animals are more cognitively advanced than we had previously assumed.  In this paper I argue that this new awareness challenges Buddhism to reform its assumptions about human superiority over the rest of nature.  

  • Bio: Geoffrey Barstow received his MTS from the Harvard Divinity School and his PhD from the University of Virginia, and is now an assistant professor at Oregon State University. Heis the author of Food of Sinful Demons: Meat, Vegetarianism, and the Limits of Buddhism in Tibet, and the editor of The Faults of Meat: Tibetan Buddhist Writings on Vegetarianism.

  • Institution: Oregon State University, Oregon, USA

Berger, Helen (panel with Giovanna Parmigiani, Barbara Jane Davy Bron Taylor). 2022. “"The Earth is Our Mother: Contemporary Paganisms and Environmentalism: The Environmentalism of the Alt Right: Blood, Soil, and the Spirits of the Land"”.Abstract
  • Panel Abstract: This panel is an exploration of responses by Contemporary Pagans to the ecological crisis. Contemporary Paganism, which has many different forms, self-defines as an earth-based religion. What this means varies by group, form of practice, and region or country. Questions have been raised in the literature about whether venerating nature as divine has consistently resulted in practitioners being environmentally active in their lives and deeds. No single panel can explore all contemporary Pagan responses to the environmental crisis, but this panel provides one spectrum of responses that begins a dialogue about environmentalism, spirituality, and the veneration of nature.

    Paper Abstract: Alt-right contemporary Pagans provide an environmental agenda consistent with their doctrine of traditionalism, belief in the “natural” superiority of white men, and their celebration of the gods of the land. Their concern for the environment is real but it is intertwined with their agenda of hate. It raises important questions, which will be addressed in this paper, about the values that must be incorporated with environmentalism to ensure not only the survival of our species among others, but that will also stimulate the growth of social justice and inclusivity. 

  • Bio: Helen A. Berger is a resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. She is sole or co-author of four books and editor of a collection of essays on contemporary Paganism. She is currently researching contemporary Pagan responses to alt-right Pagans, focusing primarily on the US.  

  • Institution: Brandeis University, Massachusetts, USA

Bernard, Oluwabunmi Tope. 2022. “"Representations of Climate Change and Environmental Issues in Selected Yorùbá Sacred Orature Forms"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: The scholarly debates surrounding the current global crises of environmental degradation are not only epistemological, but also normative. While much of the attention has understandably focused on scientific approaches, these are not sufficient to comprehend the magnitude of the problem and offer effective solutions to it. My research examines sacred orature pertaining to Ifá, Ṣàngó, and Ọya among the Yorùbá of Nigeria as a supplementary epistemological and normative resource in responding to this challenge. This research will show that sacred orature pertaining to the selected deities, give useful insights and are a critical component of Yorùbá worldview on the environment. 

  • Bio: BERNARD Oluwabunmi Tope, PhD teaches Yorùbá language and literature at Obafemi Awolowo University. Her work focuses on Yorùbá literature, gender and sexuality, postcolonial and environmental studies. Her research won the prestigious UMAPS fellowship at the University of Michigan and A.G. Leventis fellowship at SOAS University of London respectively in 2020.  

Institution: Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
Bhutia, Kalzang Dorjee. 2022. “"Caring for the Valley of Abundance: Environmental History as a Resource for Emerging Environmental Ethics in Sikkim, India"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: This paper will delve into the distinctive ethics of care present in Sikkimese Buddhist traditions that have inspired activist and popular concern in response to state-led environmental exploitation in the eastern Himalayas. These ethics of care are articulated in ritual traditions that propitiate the deities and spirits resident in mountains rocks, lakes, streams, trees and fields of the state; sacred landscape literature; and folklore and daily practices in the villages of Sikkim that cultivate awareness of and respect for human-nonhuman relations. These historical presentations function as rich resources future initiatives to extend flourishing for humans and the environment in Sikkim. 

  • Bio: Dr. Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia (he/him) is an ACLS/ Robert H. N. Ho Research Fellow in Buddhist Studies and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is originally from west Sikkim, India, and completed his PhD in Buddhist Studies at the University of Delhi

  • Institution: University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Bilecky, Emma Lietz. 2022. ““In the World and of the World: Thinking, Caring, and Mapping with Soils"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: This paper explores the ways in which soils, the agents who form, re-form, and constitute them, and their cartographic representation shape religious identity and practice. The paper argues that in order to develop practices of creation care commensurate with multiple and interlocking existential and ecological crises, Christian churches and laypeople must draw new soil maps which replace logics of enclosure and extraction with caretaking and co-laboring. Focusing on the ChurchLands Initiative, the paper evaluates how layered, dynamic, and interactive soil mapping practices might serve antiracist, decolonial ends to ecologize and re-place Christian theological imaginaries.

  • Bio: Emma Lietz Bilecky is a fellow with Princeton Theological Seminary’s Farminary Project. She holds Masters of Theology Studies and Environmental Management from Duke Divinity School and the Nicholas School of the Environment. Her work focuses on the ways land and soil form theological subjectivities and seeks to become better compost.

  • Institution: Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, USA

Boudell, Jere A. 2022. “"Sacred Botany, Sacred Grief: Plants as Conduits of Hope and Sorrow in Modern Paganism"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: The Earth, and its inhabitants, are sacred to many modern pagans. The ecological grief that practitioners feel at experiencing the loss of the “green Earth” triggers its expression through ritual and magickal acts. Depending on individual practice, plants are often the focus of rituals as animistic impulse moves practitioners to include them as allies or as simply tools that have a specific function to perform. The drive to include plants in ritual expressions of both grief and hope in the face of environmental degradation creates a wide variety of sacred botanical practices that joins practitioners via a floral conduit to the Earth. 

  • Bio: Jere A. Boudell, Ph.D. is a plant ecologist who studies the impact of urbanization and climate change on plant communities and the restoration of degraded riverine ecosystems. Jere teaches a wide variety of courses ranging from plant biology to economic botany. She has been a pagan for over 35 years.

  • Institution: Clayton State University, Georgia, USA

Box, Gwyneth (with Lucia Moreno-Velo). 2022. “"Prayer Writing for the Modern World"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Do you ever pray? Are you dissatisfied with traditional liturgy, wishing for better tools to craft relevant prayers that tally with your own theological approach? Whatever your religion or spiritual path, prayer can be a powerful expression of belief and a wonderful way to connect with the Divine. Meaningful prayer that addresses real issues can also bring people together in a shareable, participative experience. Discover the patterning techniques of poetry that can make prayer more memorable. Take away not just a draft prayer, but also the tools to write prayers fitted to your needs and those of your community. 

  • Bio: Born into casual British Protestantism, Gwyneth grew up reading the King James Bible, Bunyan, and Harrap’s “Myths and Legends”. Now spiritually non-tribal, she recently co-authored a Gwenyth: Pagan prayer book. An award-winning poet, Gwyneth applies her language skills at her own design agency. She also leads workshops and mentors non-fiction writers. 

  • Institution: Unaffiliated

Braga, Thiago. 2022. “"Tea Art, Empirical Philosophy: Ethnographic Observations from Kunming, China"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: This paper draws on ongoing ethnographic research on the rising popularity of Tea Art in China,  probing  into  the  affective  dimensions  of  the  human  connection  with  tea  under  the  context  of Chinese  humanistic  thinking.  As  a  unique  platform  for  the  performance  of  a  practice-based philosophy — here understood as “reflective thinking upon life” — Tea Art points to the cultivation of  ecological  sensibilities  that  are  at  once  anchored  in  modernity’s  reaction  to  anthropocentric climate  change,  and  concepts  central  to  the  cosmology  of  Chinese  Philosophy.  Thus,  tea becomes  a  medium  for  the  reconfiguration  notions  of  nature  and  the  interconnectedness  of human life with its environment.

  • Bio: Thiago Braga is a PhD candidate at the University of California Davis department of anthropology. His  research  interests  lie  at  the  intersection  of  anthropological  theory,  cross-cultural  philosophy, and art history. 

  • Institution: University of California Davis, USA

Brown, Ras Michael. 2022. “"Grounding African/American Spiritualities: Ecology and Indigeneity in Early African American Religions"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: The ecological spiritualities of early African American religions arrived in the Americas already “old” with captives from West and Central African communities that lived religious cultures imbued with understandings of natural environments as realms of potent spiritual force. Central to these African American ecological spiritualities was a process through which African descendants transformed their varied ancestral religious and environmental cultures into shared earth-bound expressions of communal rooting that I identify as “groundings.” African-descended people also relied on a hermeneutics of indigeneity through which they remade their African nature spirits into Native spirits allowing these communities to access primordiality in their new land of captivity.

  • Bio: Ras Michael Brown is Visiting Associate Professor at Georgia State University. His interests focus on the intersections of religion and environment in African/Atlantic cultures. His first book, African-Atlantic Cultures and the South Carolina Lowcountry (2012), won the 2013 “Albert J. Raboteau Book Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions.”

  • Institution: Georgia State University, Georgia, USA

Burschel, Maria. 2022. “"Covert Hegemonic Masculinity, Spiritual Growth and Non-Violent Communication in EcoVillages and Intentional Communities"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Many Intentional Communities and Ecovillages aim to combine the three primary aspects of sustainable living: ecological, economical, and social. Social sustainability is built around power dynamics and balance, presenting itself in everyday interactions by reinforcing connection and solidarity between people; it is assumed that although imbalances may initially be covert, they will eventually become evident when conflict arises. Therefore, the success of social sustainability can be examined in the power dynamics displayed in situations of parental separation, gathered through ethnographic means. This paper examines the 'Doing of Separation' in 21 German families in the midst of separation by comparing how gender roles are treated in Ecovillages as opposed to mainstream society. In my research, I have found that while there are indicators for successful ecological and economical sustainability, social sustainability has proven to be rare, despite good intentions. Thus far, the results show that intentional communities which emphasize some form of spirituality may, in fact, enable gender specific inequalities, dependencies, and even emotional abuse.  

  • Bio: Dr. Maria Burschel is a German sociologist and Professor for Social Work at the IU International University. She worked as a social researcher for several projects at the German Youth Institute in Munich. Her focus lies in family research, divorce and separation, gender, community building, sustainability, and transformation. In her doctoral thesis she analyzed the Doing of Separation of parents in Intentional Communities as an indicator for social sustainability

  • Institution: Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Germany

Butcher, A. Allen. 2022. “"Partnership Spirituality: Revering as Sacred the Balance of Heaven and Earth in Binarian Monotheism””.Abstract
  • Abstract: Egalitarian religion provides a balance of divergent concepts of spiritual ideals and of cultural values. Partnership culture merges feminine and masculine religious expressions, Eastern and Western cultures, and the natural commons economics with monetary economics, providing different lifestyle options during one’s lifetime, reducing stress and conflict by providing choice. Revering as sacred the balance of opposites elevates women’s spirituality to parity with patriarchal religion in Binarian monotheism, emphasizing our environmental and social responsibility. Traditionally, “God is Love” and “Goddess is Wisdom,” and together they create a Partnership Spirituality. We say it is so, then for us, so it is!

  • Bio: A. Allen Butcher. Owner: Dry Gulch Ecovillage; School of Intentioneering. Former member: East Wind Community; Twin Oaks Community. Former boards-of-directors: New Destiny Cooperative Federation; School of Living Community Land Trust; Fellowship for Intentional Community; Cohousing USA. Self-published: Culture Magic and The Intentioneer’s Bible. University Southern Indiana: AS Business; BS Political Science.

  • Institution: School of Intentioneering, Colorado, USA

Camara, Bintou. 2022. “"Nalu Spiritual Revival in Guinea"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: This presentation focuses on the revival of the Nalu people's spirituality before and after colonisation, its coexistence with conventional religions, and the marginalization of the last practitioners. I will discuss my preservation project, which aims to highlight the Guinean indigenous educational systems and spotlight the richness of ancient cultural practice. By ensuring the preservation of the Nalu cultural heritage, we hope to prevent the extinction of an entire culture. I hope my work can help bring socio-economic growth to the native population of Guinea as well as to support sustainable solutions for the preservation and stabilization of the African spirituality. 

  • Bio: Bintou is a specialist in sustainability and African Indigenous knowledge systems. She recently founded a center for local and indigenous knowledge systems in Guinea, through which she conducts ethnographic research on the revival of Nalu cultural heritage, focusing on the documentation and publication of the Nalu’s endangered language and spirituality in collaboration with Wikitongues. Bintou has a master of science in negotiation and conflict resolution from Columbia University. She is intending to pursue a PhD in African studies with a primary field in governance and secondary field in Anthropology. 

  • Institution: Columbia University (MS), New York, USA; Nalu Tribe, Guinea

de Carvalho, Ícaro Célio. 2022. “"Agrifood System of Poultry Production”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Korin  is  a  Brazilian  company  that  practices  Nature  Farming  (NF),  an  agricultural method created by Mokichi Okada. He emphasized the harmony between humankind and nature forces. NF is a pillar of true civilization of healthiness, prosperity, and peace; comprehends  a  social-environmental  orientation,  and  animal  welfare.  Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and antimicrobials are not used in poultry production. Qualitative research explored farmers ́ perceptions, evidencing that aspects of multifunctionality of agriculture are recognized within the territory, consolidating a sustainable localized agrifood system. 

  • Bio: Ícaro  Célio  S.  de  Carvalho holds a PhD in Operations  Management  and Sustainability  (FGV/EAESP);  Master  in  Regional  Economics  and  Public  Policies (UESC);  Specialist  in  Public  Administration  (UESC),  and  Business  administrator (UESC). 

  • Institution: São Paulo School of Business Administration, Brazil

Chakour, Vanessa (with Àdhamh Broin) Ó. 2022. “"Reclaiming Scottish Gaelic Cosmology is Environmental Activism"”.Abstract
  • Abstract: Over centuries-long British colonization, and most dramatically during a period of time known as the 'Highland Clearances,' native Scottish Highlanders were separated from the land that had provided their stories, medicine, lore, and livelihood. Gaelic, a language born through interaction with land and in an age of ecological diversity, was gradually silenced to the point of near extinction. During a reign of terror lasting 150 years, Highland children experienced corporal punishment and routine humiliation in front of classmates by educational professionals for speaking their native tongue. As Gaelic incantations used to invoke the power of the natural world were systematically syncretized into Christian practice, their original meanings and associations with mythos and landscape became wrapped in liturgy. Experiences of dispossession left a multi-generational legacy of trauma among many families of Gaelic origin in relation to their homeland. To restore and revitalize Gaelic culture is an act of healing, decolonization, and environmental activism because the language exists within an animist cosmology that acknowledges interdependence with the living world.

  • Bio: Vanessa is an herbalist, rewilding educator and founder of Sacred Warrior (sacredwarrior.co) whose mission is to deepen relationships with ourselves and the environment. Her upcoming book, Awakening Artemis: Deepening Intimacy With The Natural World and Reclaiming Our Wild Nature​, will be published Fall 2021 with Viking in the US, Penguin in the UK and Ullstein Press in Germany.

  • Institution: Sacred Warrior, New York, USA

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