My name is Laura and I am a graduate student in the Environment & Community program at Antioch University Seattle. As the title of my blog reveals, I am embarking on an exploration of the connections between environment and spirituality. I am doing this for a class where I developed my own syllabus, but I am also considering this as a master’s thesis topic.
The basis of my inquiry is my understanding that traditional cultures, in general, understood that humans are part of nature, and that, as we know from the scientific field of ecology, all life is connected in an intricate web of interdependence. Traditional, indigenous religions reflected this understanding through nature spirits and place-based divinities, a moral and ethical code that stressed relationships to nature, and a sense of oneness with the universe that encompassed connection to nature. Western and American cultural patterns, based in later Greek philosophy, Calvinism, and American frontierism and technicism, view nature and humans as belonging to separate, disconnected spheres.
Additionally, the modern American environmental movement is largely based in science and utilizes emotional appeals but tends to stay clear of spiritual ones – except for specifically religious environmental organizations. It is my belief that this sense of human disconnection from nature is at the root of our current environmental crisis. In my study, I plan to explore modern-day human connection to nature and what role religion or spirituality has in an experience of connection or lack thereof.
Through the course of the quarter, I will record what I am learning in interviews, talks and lectures, small group discussions, research, and texts that I am reading. I will also explore my own connection with nature and reflect on that experience. While I do have my own religious and spiritual perspectives, which I expect will be revealed in the weeks ahead, I am choosing not to declare them here – as it is my interest to look for commonalities and ways to bring people together, rather than to drive us further apart.