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                Ecology and Spirituality in America: Exploring Possibilities for Cultural Transformation

Project Directors | Statement of Purpose | Project Fellows | Graduate Research Fellows | Events | News | Faculty Publications

“There is a profound sense emerging around the globe that we are at a critical moment of transition and transformation. Our present economic mode of unlimited growth and unrestrained development is perceived by many as no longer viable. The increasing social gap between the rich and the poor is seen as no longer acceptable. The mindless ravaging of resources and the conscious abuse of human rights is viewed as no longer tolerable. How to realign our priorities and values within the human community and the earth community remain our fundamental challenge.”
---Mary Evelyn Tucker, “Reflections on the Earth Charter,” Forum on Religion and Ecology, Harvard University(1999)

“If the environmental crises facing the world today were simply a matter of information, knowledge, and skills, then we would be heading out of these dangers. For more than 30 years the world’s major institutions, scientists, and governments, and some of the largest nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), have compiled and analyzed details of how we are abusing the planet...Yet the crises are still with us. The simple fact is that knowledge on its own is not enough...Ultimately, the environmental crisis is a crisis of the mind...We see, do, and are what we think, and what we think is shaped by our cultures, faiths, and beliefs...[And] if the information of the environmentalists needed a framework of values and beliefs to make it useful, then where better to turn for allies than to the original multinationals, the largest international groupings and networks of people? Why not turn to the major religions of the world?”
--Martin Palmer, Faith in Conservation: New Approaches to Religions and the Environment, The World Bank (2004)

Project Directors

Beth Conklin, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies
David Wood, Professor of Philosophy

Statement of Purpose

The starting point for our project is concern about a consumer culture in which individuals try to satisfy non-material needs through material consumption. We seek to understand how patterns of ever-increasing consumption driven by desires for personal empowerment, social status, and spiritual and social connection might be redirected into forms more satisfying to individuals and less harmful to the environment and local and global political economies. In essence, we see consumer culture as an eco-spiritual problem. Our goal is to explore how contemporary American values, public discourses, and social and material practices might be reframed and reoriented to transform the dynamics of consumer culture from an eco-spiritual problem into an eco-spiritual resource.

Project Fellows

Brooke Ackerly, Assistant Professor Political Science
Florence Faucher-King, Associate Professor of Political Science
Jonathan Gilligan, Sr. Lecturer Earth & Environmental Sciences
Richard King, Associate Professor of Religious Studies (A&S) and Associate Professor of Religion and Culture in the Divinity School
Michael Vandenbergh, Associate Professor Law
Gay Welch, Sr. Lecturer Religious Studies, University Chaplain and Director Religious Affairs

Graduate Research Fellows

Elizabeth Covington, Graduate Department of English, (2005-2006)
Kyle Galbraith, Graduate Department of Religion, (2005-2006)
Katy Attanasi, Graduate Department of Religion, (2004-2005)

Upcoming Events

Ecology and Spirituality Conference on Consumption, April 18-19, 2008.

Ecology and Spirituality Speaker Series: Social and Environmental Justice - Perspectives from and for Global Feminism, April 23-26, 2008.

Ecology and Spirituality Conference, Giving Voice to Other Beings, May 2-4, 2008.

Past Events

Religious Environmentalism: Promises and Challenges, a lecture by Roger S. Gottlieb of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, was given on 11/15/2007. Link to video.

The CSRC's Ecology and Spirituality research group and the Department of Economics co-sponsored Reconciling Biophysical Sustainability & Social Equity, a public lecture with Herman Daly, author of For the Common Good and professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Thursday, September 27, 6:00 pm in Furman Hall room 114.

Massachusetts v. EPA: A Case Study in Science, Law and Public Policy: Ecology and Spirituality co-sponsored a talk by Jonathan Martel, Partner at Arnold & Porter LLP on Friday, February 9 at noon in the Flynn Auditorium (pdf).

An Inconvenient Truth: The Ecology and Spirituality Group co-sponsored showings of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth Wednesday, October 25 5:30-8 p.m. at St. Augustine's Episcopal Chapel and Sunday, October 29 at 5 p.m. at West End Church. Ecology and Spirituality CSRC Fellows also participated in a Global Warming Film and Discussion Series, Mon. Nov.27-30. A showing of the documentary at 7 p.m. was followed by discussion at 9 p.m. at Sarratt Cinema. Register Article.

Building Toward a Sustainable Future: An Evening with William McDonough, architect, environmentalist, capitalist, designer, teacher and visionary presented a public lecture Tuesday, September 26, 7 p.m., Benton Chapel, Vanderbilt University. Co-sponsored by: Link to podcast.

The Nashville Forum on Christianity and the Environment took place on Saturday, September 30, 2006 at the Scarritt-Bennett Center (Fondren Hall), from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (pdf). A gathering of community Christian leaders shared information, ideas, and resources. This free event was sponsored by the CSRC Ecology and Spirituality Project. Brochure Information (pdf).

Nuclear Power is Not the Answer to Global Warming: Dr. Helen Caldicott lectured and read excerpts from her most recent book on Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 7 p.m. in Ingram Hall, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University. Book signing and refreshments followed (pdf).

Roundtable on Consumption, Law and Environment:
This discussion took place Thursday, October 19, and Friday, October 20, 2006 at the Law School. This event, co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt Law School Regulatory Program and the Vanderbilt Center for the Study of Religion and Culture, focused on identifying and exploring the most promising areas for research on consumption, law and the environment. Event summary (pdf).

Strange Bedfellows or Born-Again Lovers? The Emerging Alliance of Religion and  Ecology: Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-founder and co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology, presented a lecture on November 15, 2005 at 4 p.m. in Benton Chapel (pdf). Until recently, Mary Evelyn Tucker served as Professor of Religion at Bucknell University (specializing in Asian Religions and Religion and Ecology). Dr. Tucker also directed a series of twelve conferences on Religions of the World and Ecology at Harvard's Center for the Study of World Religions.

Dark Vibrations: Ecofeminism and the Democracy of Creation: Dr. Catherine Keller gave the CSRC Annual Spring Lecture on April 7th, 2005 (pdf). Her lecture was co-sponsored by Vanderbil Divinity School as the 2005 Howard L. Harrod Lecture (pdf).


Greening Vanderbilt! Do you have an idea (or maybe ideas) for making Vanderbilt more eco-friendly? Log on to for more information.
Ecology and Spirituality Full Proposal (pdf)
Ecology and Spirituality Faculty Project Profiles (pdf)
Ecology and Spirituality Bibliography (pdf)

Greening Vanderbilt: Renewing our Mission for the 21st Century: In the Register, David Wood, principal investigator of the CSRC Ecology and Spirituality research group, calls Vanderbilt to redefine its mission in light of the pressing ecological issues of our time. [October, 2005]

Faculty Publications

Brooke Ackerly, Universal Human Rights in a World of Difference , Cambridge University Press, 2008.

David Wood, "Specters of Derrida: On the Way to Econstruction," in Ecosophy, eds. Lauren Kearns and Catherine Keller, Fordham University Press, 2007.

Beth A. Conklin, "Environmentalism, Global Community, and the New Indigenism," in Inclusion and Exclusion in the Global Arena , ed. Max Kirsch, NY: Routledge, 2006.

Beth A. Conklin, "Environmentalism and Global Community: Lessons from the Amazon to Evangelicals," Proceedings of the Southern Anthropological Society, 2006.

Florence Faucher-King, "Les verts et la question de la démocratie interne," in Florence Haegel (dir.), Les partis et le système partisan français, Presses de Sciences Politiques, 2006.

David Wood, "On Being Haunted by the Future," Research in Phenomenology, 2006.

David Wood, "On the Way to Econstruction," Environmental Philosophy, Spring 2006 (this is an abbreviated version of the previous article).

David Wood, "Green is the Color of Money," Vanderbilt Register. Link to article.