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Forum on Religion and Ecology: Spotlights
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Forum on Religion and Ecology: Spotlights

Author: Sam Mickey

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A series of interviews from the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, focusing on people and organizations working at the confluence of religious and ecological perspectives. Interviews cover four main areas: 1) new and forthcoming publications, 2) engagement in practice, activism, and advocacy, 3) teaching and curriculum, and 4) perspectives from environmental humanities. Our Vision is a flourishing Earth community where religious and spiritual traditions join together for the shared wellbeing of ecosystems, life forms, and people on our common planetary home.You can watch the video recordings of this podcast here: https://fore.yale.edu/Resources/Multimedia/Video/FORE-Spotlights-Archive/
109 Episodes
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This episode of Spotlights features Amber X. Chen, a freelance journalist from Southern California whose work focuses on environmental justice. She contributed to several publications, including the climate and culture magainze Atmos, where she recently wrote a piece about the relationship between psychedelics, climate change, and environmental justice, "Tripping for the Planet: Psychedelics and Climate Change." She discusses the problems and promises that psychedelics hold for the climate action toolkit, noting the particular importance of prioritizing the Indigenous communities for whom sacred plant medicines are part of their culture. You can read the full story here: https://atmos.earth/psychedelics-plant-medicine-climate-activism/
This episode of Spotlights features Michael S. Northcott, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He talks about his new book, God and Gaia: Science, Religion and Ethics on a Living Planet (Routledge, 2023), which explores the overlap between traditional religious cosmologies and the scientific Gaia theory of James Lovelock. The book engages with traditional cosmologies from the Indian Vedas and classical Greece to Medieval Christianity, including case material from Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and Great Britain. He discusses how it is possible to repair the destabilizing impacts of contemporary human activities on the Earth community, particularly by drawing on sacred traditions and honoring the differential agency of humans and nonhumans.  
This episode of Spotlights features Sam Mickey and Kimberly Carfore in conversation with a topic Sam has been researching recently: contemplative posthuman design, which is a way of bringing design thinking into dialogue with contemplative studies and the ecological sensibilities of posthumanism. It is a design approach that works with contemplative practices to envision ways of harmoniously integrating humans with the more-than-human world. Sam draws connections between these ideas and the work of the contemporary German philosopher, Peter Sloterdijk.
This episode of Spotlights features Kimberly Carfore, PhD, co-chair of the Religion and Ecology unit of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). The annual meeting of the AAR happened at the end of November. Dr. Carfore talks about the various panels hosted by the Religion and Ecology unit this year, including a panel on Dr. Christopher Carter’s book The Spirit of Soul Food, which was featured on this podcast earlier in the year. Dr. Carfore also gives a preview of what the Religion and Ecology unit is putting together for the 2023 meeting of the AAR. Overall, they are continuing their efforts toward a more decolonial, international, and multicultural approach to studying the intersection of religion and ecology.
This episode of Spotlights features Rowan Deer, PhD, author of Radical Animism: Reading for the End of the World (Bloomsbury, 2020), which brings together literary, philosophical, and scientific perspectives to rethink animism for the Anthropocene. She discusses the way her book juxtaposes authors like Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, and William Shakespeare with the Copernican Revolution, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious. She also discusses the the role of deconstruction in her writing, correcting some common misunderstandings of deconstruction and Jacques Derrida.More information about her book is available on the publisher's website here.  Some other pieces of interest include her article on fungi and language, "Mycorrhizal Metaphors," available open access at Ecozona.Another relevant essay is "Reading in the Dark," published by Orion Magazine.
This episode of Spotlights features our host, Sam Mickey, discussing eco-anxiety, which is generally defined as a chronic worry, distress, or fear concerning ecological devastation. Struggles with eco-anxiety have increased in recent years, and they have been exacerbated by the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic. Sam reflects on two recently published anthologies that he edited with Douglas A. Vakoch, Eco-Anxiety and Pandemic Distress: Psychological Perspectives on Resilience and Interconnectedness (Oxford University Press, 2022), and Eco-Anxiety and Planetary Hope: Experiencing the Twin Disasters of COVID-19 and Climate Change (Springer, 2022). You can find more resources for understanding eco-anxiety at the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology website: https://fore.yale.edu/Resources/Eco-anxiety-Resources
This week's episode of Spotlights features a short behind-the-scenes look at a team meeting for the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, with some brief remarks about the Forum from Tara Trapani, Elizabeth McAnally, Sam King, Anna Thurston, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and John Grim, including a final comment from our host, Sam Mickey. We hope you enjoy this little glimpse into our team meeting and get a better understanding of the way the Forum functions as a watershed for so many activities, projects, and resources that make up the field and force of religion and ecology.
This episode of Spotlights pays tribute to the French philosopher and social theorist, Bruno Latour (1947-2022). His work has been widely influence for science and technology studies, philosophy, and ecological thought. Religion also figures into his work, although it is not as well known as his writings on science and ecology. Several good overviews of his life and thought have been published since his passing. Here is one from The Guardian.
This week's episode of Spotlights features Daniel Scheid, PhD, the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor of Theology at Duquesne University. We talk about his work with comparative theology and ecological ethics, including questions of interreligious dialogue, the cosmological context of religion and ecology, and the enduring value of Catholic Social Teaching. We also talk about his book where many of these questions are raised, The Cosmic Common Good: Religious Grounds for Ecological Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2016). 
This episode of Spotlights features Andreas Karelas,  the founder and executive director of RE-volv, a nonprofit organization that empowers people around the country to help nonprofits in their communities go solar and raise awareness about the benefits of clean energy. He is also the author of Climate Courage: How Tackling Climate Change Can Build Community, Transform the Economy, and Bridge the Political Divide in America. Andreas talks about new developments in renewable energy, particularly in light of the Inflation Reduction Act in the USA. Signed into law in August 2022, the IRA includes almost $400 billion in spending on energy and climate change. Along with the IRA, Andreas discusses some new projects he is working on, including a partnership with Green The Church and Interfaith Power & Light, aimed at accelerating the deployment of solar energy in underserved communities by assisting BIPOC houses of worship around the country go solar. 
This episode of Spotlights features André Daughtry, an award-winning speculative social documentarian who explores contemporary expressions of the spiritual, mystical, and theological in the contexts of pluralistic democracies. He talks about his latest project, WILDERNESS, a speculative documentary photography, film and performance project that engages an integral ecological approach to sustainability and spirituality, specifically in relationship to Indigenous populations and their respective cosmologies and traditions. Captured in the Cauca region of southern Colombia, WILDERNESS attempts to share experiences that can bring us back to place.Go here to learn more about this project and watch a visual travelogue that sets the tone, "Sketches for WILDERNESS": https://www.blackmountaincollege.org/andre-daughtryYou can also learn more about André's work here.
In this episode of Spotlights, Sam reflects on the another successful season of podcast interviews for the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. We have released nearly 100 episodes, featuring a wide variety of scholars, activists, and artists who engage with the sort of issues addressed by the field and force of religion and ecology. We'll take a short break from new episodes for a few weeks, and we'll be back with more interviews and conversations toward the end of August. In the meantime, we hope that you are abiding in what Wendell Berry calls "the peace of wild things."
This is a clip from the episode of Spotlights featuring Jason Wirth, PhD, professor of philosophy at Seattle University, Soto Zen priest, and the founder and co-director of the Seattle University EcoSangha. He discusses his idea of "deep social ecology," which integrates the insights of two ecological philosophies often considered to be in opposition to one another: deep ecology and social ecology. You can learn more about it be reading his article, "Deep Social Ecology." You can find the full episode here.
This episode of Spotlights features Jason Wirth, PhD, professor of philosophy at Seattle University, Soto Zen priest, and the founder and co-director of the Seattle University EcoSangha. We talk about his capacious engagements with Continental philosophy, Buddhism, ecological thought, indigenous lifeways, and more. We discuss some of his books, including Nietzsche and Other Buddhas: Philosophy after Comparative Philosophy (Indiana 2019), Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth: Reading Gary Snyder and Dōgen in an Age of Ecological Crisis (SUNY 2017), and Schelling’s Practice of the Wild (SUNY 2015). Incidentally, our conversation took place on a US National Holiday, July 4 (Independence Day), so our conversation naturally includes some political reflections, touching on topics of democracy, freedom, anarchy, and deep social ecology.
In this week's episode of Spotlights, Sam Mickey talks about the life and thought of a deeply influential figure in the field and force of religion and ecology, Thomas Berry (1914-2009). Sam draws on the book about Berry's life and thought, Thomas Berry: A Biography, by Mary Evelyn Tucker, John Grim, and Andrew Angyal (Columbia University Press, 2019), and he concludes with a reading from one of Berry's books, The Great Work (Bell Tower, 1999), ending with the following quotation:“We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.” (Thomas Berry, “The Dynamics of the Future,” in The Great Work, 175).You can find more information about these and other publications at the Thomas Berry website here.
This clip is an excerpt of the Spotlights episode featuring Rabbi Ellen Bernstein. In this clip, she discusses her work with Shomrei Adamah (Keepers of the Earth), the first national Jewish environmental organization, which she founded in 1988. While Shomrei Adamah, the organization, closed in 1996, it touched the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of people, and its message continues to reverberate through its books and educational materials, and through the work of a new generation of Jewish educators, naturalists, environmentalists, farmers and artists. The Shomrei Adamah leadership believed that holiday celebrations, and in particular, Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish New Year for the trees, could provide opportunities for educating and organizing masses of people to care for the earth.Details for the full episode are available here. 
In this week's episode of Spotlights, our host Sam Mickey presents some brief reflections on Father's Day, which is celebrated in North America and many other places on the third Sunday of June. Along with giving some historical context about the meaning of Father's Day, Sam gives some personal reflections about the important role that his father (Robert Mickey) had and continues to have on his lifelong interests in religion and in the natural world.
This clip is an excerpt of the Spotlights episode featuring Rabbi Ellen Bernstein. In this clip, she discusses her ecological interpretation of the Bible, specifically the ecological implications of the first chapter of the book of Genesis. She wrote a wonderful book on the topic, The Splendor of Creation: A Biblical Ecology (Pilgrim Press).More information about the book can be found on the publisher's website.Details for the full episode are available here: https://fore.yale.edu/blogs/entry/1654586300
This week’s episode of Spotlights features Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, a leader and pioneer in the field of religion and ecology. She discusses her work with Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth, the first national Jewish environmental organization, which she founded in 1988. She also talks about some of her work as an author and ecotheologian, focusing on the intersection of Judaism, Bible and ecology, including her ecotheology of Genesis 1 in The Splendor of Creation (2006), her ecologically centered Passover Haggadah in The Promise of the Land (2019),  her ecological interpretation of the idea of dominion, her ecological guide for the Jewish New Year of the Trees (Tu B’Shvat) (1988), and more.You can learn more about her work on her website, http://www.ellenbernstein.org
This week's episode of Spotlights is a short tribute to the memory of Rosemary Radford Ruether, who passed away on May 21, 2022, at the age of 85. She was a scholar of feminism and a Catholic theologian, well-known for her foundational work in feminist theology, including important work with ecofeminism and the field of religion and ecology. Obituaries and tributes are continuing to come out. Some noteworthy ones are from the National Catholic Reporter, NPR,  and a tribute by Mary Hunt.
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