F&ES SEMINAR SERIES Dekila Chungyalpa Why the Environmental Movement Needs Religion

Why the Environmental Movement Needs Religion
Dekila Chungyalpa
2014 McCluskey Fellow in
Most of the biodiversity-rich places around the world are deeply nested within the spiritual
identity of their people. A study from Oxford University concluded that almost all sacred
natural sites in Africa associated with traditional animist faiths contain high biodiversity values.
In terms of numbers alone – over 80% of the world population subscribes to a faith – and yet,
partnerships with religious institutions are rare in the environmental world unlike in other
sectors such as disaster relief, women’s education, and health. When they occur, they are often
confined to celebratory commitments rather than impact-based projects. Dekila Chungyalpa
worked with faith leaders in five priority landscapes for WWF from 2009 to 2014, to
demonstrate that such partnerships could scale up conservation impacts and mobilize mass
behavior change. Creating the Sacred Earth initiative, she worked with faith leaders on jointly
designed environmental goals in the Eastern Himalayas, the Greater Mekong, East Africa, the
Amazon, and the United States. Project impacts revealed that environmental advocacy by faith
leaders leads to attitude and behavior change and increased environmental activity by religious
institutions on the ground. She will present lessons learned from this experience and
challenges that such partnerships face going forward.
12:00-1:00 FREE EVENT in Burke Auditorium, Kroon Hall
Lunch will be provided – first come, first served