Ecology & Religion: Sustaining Visions for Earth's Future

Ecology & Religion: Sustaining Visions for Earth's Future

Academic Year:
2015 - 2016 (June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016)
Funding Requested:
Project Dates:
Overview of the Project:
Developing a 300/400-level Program in the Environment course in Ecology and Religion that a) explores world religious traditions for principles, teachings, practices and worldviews connecting humans to the natural world; b) exposes students to the teachings and practices of a variety of contemporary religious communities and individuals on environmental issues; and c) identifies in religious visions the ambiguous potential – a rigorous assessment of prospective goods and ills – for moving to a sustainable ecological future.

Continued in project objectives
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:

Project overview continued

The proposed course will

  • provide an academic approach to religion unusual for the University of Michigan.  Ecology and Religion will explore multiple religious traditions through their history, their religious philosophies, their ritual expressions, as well as their contemporary expressions as these religions understand and live out the connection between humans and the natural world; 
  • connect students with religious communities and practitioners from diverse settings.  Some practitioners will come from within the university community and will be encouraged to highlight the connections between their own religious expression and ecological concerns.  Others will be from religious communities in Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan.  
  • offer students the opportunity and freedom to explore religions both familiar and unfamiliar.  Especially in the contemporary world, where religion plays an outsized role in political and cultural contexts, it is critical to the university's mission for students to understand the varieties of religious thought and expression.  This includes varieties within the same tradition and of attitudes to the natural world that come to bear on issues in sustainability;
  • provide environmentally-related faculty and staff an opportunity to offer their own experience and reflection on the connections between religion and ecology. 


Project objectives

The project objective was to provide support for the development of a new course in Ecology and Religion in the Program in the Environment. Lack of such a course had been identified by an external review of the Program as a significant gap in the curriculum. Grant funding would allow me the opportunity to research the field, collaborate with other scholars, attend the conference, and develop an up – to – date course plan for teaching.

Project Achievements:

Two significant results of the grant have been a successful development of Env 304: Ecology and Religion which this fall will be entering its second iteration. In preparation, I was able to consult with colleagues at Ohio State University, Penn State University, and Yale University. I attended a conference on environment and religion in Edinburgh, Scotland and spent a week at an intentional religious community in Iona, Scotland, that incorporates ecological theology into its core mission. These experiences have helped shape the curricular plan for ENV 304. As a result, I have also been asked to teach a freshman seminar on Environment, Religions, Spirituality, and Sustainability in Fall 2017.

Yes, in part because I have received an additional grant from the Louisville Institute to conduct research and writing on the relationship of notions of the sacred and environmental thought/activism. This grant will continue to fund activities over the next year.
The project activities will be communicated to colleagues through conversations and collaborations, especially as I invite colleagues from the religious community and the academic community to participate in ENV 304 and 179.5.
Advice to your Colleagues:
It helped significantly to have an action plan in place at the beginning of the project. There was a clear set of activities that would further the grant project, and it was relatively easy to prioritize them sequentially to accomplish them over the grant period. A major component was attending an environment and religion conference, which I planned to do in early June 2015, but two days before the conference was to start at the Graduate Theological Institute at Claremont, California, circumstances prevented me from attending. CRLT was flexible in allowing me to attend a conference in May 2017.