F&ES Launches First Online Courses in Religion and Ecology

Course Overview

Across the world, the ecological and policy implications of climate change become more obvious with each passing year. But Professors Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) suggest that for the global community to adequately respond to the crisis it has to recognize another key element: Climate change is also a moral and social justice issue.
As communities worldwide face the consequences of rising seas, drought, and food shortages, religious leaders are adding their voices to the climate discussion. Indeed, these leaders are increasingly speaking on a range of environmental issues, from biodiversity loss to deforestation to toxic pollution.
The study of how religious traditions interact with the natural world — and how these communities can play a greater role in environmental stewardship — is a field that Tucker and Grim have helped develop for more than two decades in the classroom and through the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale.

Course Schedule

Introductions to Religion and Ecology
August 27 – October 10 (Students must start on Aug. 27), with weekly meetings at 4 p.m. each Wednesday.

Western Religions and Ecology
October 13 – December 5, with weekly meetings at 4 p.m. each Wednesday.

This fall, they will introduce this emerging field to the world of online education for the first time, offering a “blended learning” version of two of their courses — Introductions to Religion and Ecology and Western Religions and Ecology. [View the syllabi | Watch videos]

During the spring semester, they will offer the introductory course and East Asian Religions and Ecology. Over the next three years they will also teach online courses in South Asian Religions, Indigenous Religions, and Native American Religions and Ecology. The Introductions to Religion and Ecology class is a prerequisite for all the other courses.
“What religions can contribute is long-term and sustained change,” said Tucker. “The values that people hold are very complex — and certainly debatable — but can actually lead to change in behavior and policy. We saw that during the Civil Rights movement and with the transformations in India due to Gandhi.”
Grim added: “We recognize that religions can be problematic. However, religion and cultural values are among the factors that need to be part of the conversation, along with science and policy, in leading to a sustainable future.”
Tucker and Grim direct the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale and are senior lecturers and senior researchers at F&ES. They have coordinated many conferences on this topic, edited a ten-volume series, and published a new book, Ecology and Religion, with Island Press. They teach in the joint program between F&ES and Yale Divinity School.
Religion and cultural values are among the factors that need to be part of the conversation, along with science and policy, in leading to a sustainable future.
— John Grim
The online courses will initially be open only to Yale students for two credits each. Eventually the professors intend to make them available for a wider audience.
Tucker says the six-week courses, which will be introduced over the next three years, are uniquely suited for an online format. The curriculum explores the scriptural resources and ecological understandings of religious communities worldwide, from the major religions to local indigenous traditions.
The digital format will enable the instructors to incorporate interviews, videos, and other multimedia resources that are difficult to utilize in a traditional classroom setting.
While the main lectures will be viewable each week during the course, students will also be able to meet for discussion once a week with the instructors.
“So many students are studying ecological issues, but the science can sometimes be difficult to translate into policy,” said Matthew Riley, the Online Education Specialist in Religion and Ecology at F&ES. “Students are seeking ways to engage with communities across the globe, and courses like these provide them with the knowledge, skills, and cultural literacy necessary to communicate environmental values.”

– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842