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Spiritual Ecology (Sponsel, 2013)

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Course Title

Spiritual Ecology


Les Sponsel
University of Hawai`i at Manoa


Anthropology, Religious Studies

Subject(s) Religion and Ecology

Spiritual ecology refers to scientific and scholarly studies of the vast, complex, diverse, and dynamic arena at the interfaces of religions and spiritualities on the one hand, and on the other environments, ecologies, and environmentalisms. The term spiritual ecology is used simply because it is more inclusive than religion, referring to individual as well as organizational ideas and actions in this arena, and because it parallels the names of other major approaches within ecological anthropology like historical ecology and political ecology.

This advanced course pursues a systematic and thorough holistic survey and critical analysis of spiritual ecology in anthropological and cross-cultural perspective. Spiritual ecology is a most exciting and positive new interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary frontier for research, teaching, and practice that has been growing exponentially since the 1990s. Here the anthropological method of cultural relativism will be applied by suspending judgements on different religious beliefs and actions, although some criticisms will be considered, particularly from the “New Atheists” in the last class meeting.

The instructor will discuss his own research and publications on various aspects of this subject, including his continuing long-term fieldwork on the relationships among Buddhism, sacred places, ecology, and biodiversity conservation in Thailand drawing on his forthcoming book Natural Wisdom: Explorations in Buddhist Ecology and Environmentalism.


See PDF here.