Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Religion, Ecology and Environmental Ethics


The world today is in the midst of a major ecological crisis that is manifested in extreme weather events; loss of biodiversity; depletion of fisheries; pollution of air, water, and soil; prolonged draughts; and mass extinction of species. Since the 1970s world religions have begun to grapple with the religious significance of the environmental crisis, examining their own scriptures, rituals and ethics in order to articulate religious responses to the ecological crisis. This course explores how certain religions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism—have addressed the ecological crisis for the past 50 years. Preserving the distinctiveness of each religious tradition, this seminar examines: the issue of religion as the cause of the environmental crisis; the resources for ecological responses within each tradition; the emergence of new religious ecologies and ecological theologies; the contribution of world religions to environmental ethics; and the degree to which the environmental crisis has functioned—and will function—as the basis of inter-faith collaboration. We will work to develop a shared vocabulary in environmental humanities, and special attention will be given to the contribution of religion to animal studies, ecofeminism, religion and the science of ecology, and the interplay among faith, scholarship, and activism.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Ariel Evan Mayse

"I am a native Californian with deep roots in the world of ecology; both of my parents were involved in the fight for sustainability and environmental activism. My current research explores the renaissance of Jewish mysticism in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the relationship between spirituality and law in Jewish legal writings from late Antiquity to the present. As an ordained rabbi, as well as a scholar of religious studies, in my teaching and research I consider how the legal and devotional teachings of religious tradition—rich legacies of spiritual, theological, and philosophical reflection—will help us formulate a response to global climate change and the impending environmental disaster, the greatest moral and existential crises of our day."