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Yale University

Introduction to Religions & Ecology

Yale University via Coursera


At first glance the fields of religion and ecology may seem and unlikely pairing, but a deeper consideration reveals the two have a great deal to contribute to one another and are indeed inextricably linked. Religions recognize the unity and interdependence of humans with nature. Ecological sciences affirm this deep interconnection with the natural world. This partnership can inspire work for the wellbeing of the Earth community

There is a need for broader literacy and deeper knowledge of the world’s religions and their ecological contributions. This specialization, starting with this course, contributes such a perspective. Each course celebrates the vitality of religiously-informed action for the Earth and recognizes the longstanding contributions of Indigenous peoples in offering visions and practices for ecological flourishing.

This course is part one of the "Religions and Ecology: Restoring the Earth Community" series of classes that focuses on the ecological dimensions of religious traditions throughout the world. The course you are about to begin is designed as a gateway to the other classes. It describes the nature of religion as well as the emergence of the field of ecology. In addition, it highlights concerns for forestry issues, the climate emergency, global ethics, and environmental justice.

This course is for lifelong learners curious to know more about world religions and ecology, environmental professionals eager to deepen the discourse of environmental protection and conservation, those working with non-profit organizations and NGOs on issues of ecological justice, and religion leaders and laity who wish to know how they can contribute to interreligious dialogue on environmental projects.


  • MODULE 1: Course Introduction
  • MODULE 2: The Emergence of the Field of Religion and Ecology
    • We explore the origins of the field of Religion and Ecology and the contemporary context of the Anthropocene, the geological era in which humans exert a dominant influence on climate and the environment. We also discuss the problems and promises of religions in addressing the ecological challenges of our time.
  • MODULE 3: Religious Ecology: Orienting, Grounding, Nurturing, Transforming
    • We first explore the nature of religions as symbolic systems. We then consider religious ecology and religious cosmology as ways in which humans envision their place within the Earth and the Cosmos. To conclude, we explore how religions can orient, ground, nurture, and transform humans in relationship with the planet.
  • MODULE 4: Views of Nature in the West
    • We explore views of nature in the West by first examining the transition from the Animism of the early Mediterranean world to the Monotheism of the later Abrahamic traditions. We then consider the legacies of Enlightenment rationalism and the ways in which the Romantic and Transcendentalist movements responded through their emphasis on emotion, intuition, and spirituality in the natural world. We conclude by exploring how modern science offers a new story for understanding nature within an expanding and evolving universe.
  • MODULE 5: Ecology, Conservation, and Ethics
    • We explore the emergence of the scientific field of ecology and the movement from holism to biometrics in understanding natural systems. We also consider the legacies of figures such as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson in shaping the American environmental movement.
  • MODULE 6: Emergence of the Moral Force of Religion and Ecology
    • We explore the global emergence of religious ecological engagement in recent decades. We then focus on religiously-inspired efforts to protect forests before hearing from different voices on the climate emergency.
  • MODULE 7: Building on Interreligious Dialogue: Global Ethics and Environmental Justice
    • We examine how interreligious dialogue and environmental movements gave rise to the Earth Charter, the first comprehensive global ethic integrating ecology, justice, and peace. We then consider the emergence of the environmental justice movement and its implications for marginalized communities around the world. This includes an exploration of the Ecojustice Hub on the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. To conclude, we consider our shared challenges ahead and the prospect of creating ecological cultures.
  • MODULE 8: Course Conclusion

Taught by

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim


4.9 rating at Coursera based on 41 ratings

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