East Asian Religions and Ecology

Spring 2017
W 3:30pm - 5:15pm
Area V
MDIV Requirements: 
Non-Christian Religion
Permission Not Required
No Limit to Enrollment
Course Description: 

This course introduces the East Asian religious traditions of Confucianism, Daoism and East Asian Buddhism in relation to the emerging field of religion and ecology.  This overview course identifies developments in the traditions that highlight their ecological implications into the contemporary period.  In particular, it relates religious concepts, textual analysis, ritual activities, and institutional formations within the traditions to engaged, on-the-ground environmental projects. It investigates the symbolic and lived expressions in religious ethics, and practices that can be defined as religious ecologies.  Similarly, it identifies narratives in Confucianism, Daoism, and East Asian Buddhism that orient humans to the cosmos, namely, religious cosmologies. This interrelationship of narratives and religious environmentalism provides pathways into the study of religion and ecology.

At present the rapid modernization of East Asia is causing extreme environmental problems. This course will investigate Asian religions in relation to this ecological crisis.  Both the problems and promise of religions are acknowledged.  Religions are now widely seen as significant social, intellectual, and spiritual forces that both shape and are shaped by cultural worldviews.  Moreover, religions are containers of symbolic language that often evoke nature’s processes and reflect nature’s rhythms.   The multiform roles of religions, then, provide historical sources for reflection upon human behavior guided by values embedded in individual and social bodies, projected onto ecosystems, and molded into cosmological narratives.

For many years science, engineering, policy, law, and economics were considered indispensable for understanding and resolving environmental problems. We now have abundant knowledge from these disciplines about environmental issues, but still not sufficient will to engage in long-term change for the flourishing of the Earth community. Thus, there is a growing realization that religion, spirituality, ethics, and values can make important contributions, in collaboration with science and policy, to address complex ecological issues. We will examine those contributions, acknowledging both the problems and promise of religions.  In addition, we view religion and ecology amid the broader emergence of environmental humanities, namely, the examination of the roles of humans in nature through the lens of history, literature, philosophy, music, and art.

This course meets from March 8th - April 26th.

Background Expected: 

Prerequisite of  reading Ecology and Religion by Grim and Tucker if student has not taken “Intro” course

No prior background in East Asian Religions required

Course Requirements: 

This six-week flipped course (March 7th to April 25th) is offered for Yale students, both graduate and undergraduate. In particular, it will engage students in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the Divinity School, and the Department of Religious Studies.  A flipped course is a combination of in-person meetings with outside reading and video lectures. Two credits will be offered for the course.  If Yale Divinity School students wish to receive 3 credits for this online course, they can complete a 15 page paper on a topic approved by the instructors.

Students are expected to complete each week:

- 3 hours of viewing online lectures and videos

- 3 hours of reading books and articles

- online assignments posted to Canvas

- group discussions (online and in the classroom for one hour per week)

Basis of Evaluation: 

Evaluation and grades will be determined on the basis of the completion and quality of course readings, assignments, participation in postings, and group discussions online and in the classroom.

            The software program Canvas is equipped to record completion of online readings and assignments and allows for faculty evaluation of written work.  The following areas will be assigned for completion and grade evaluation each week:

- viewing online lectures and videos (3 hours viewing each week) for 10%

- reading online articles (3 hours each week) for 10%

- weekly writing assignments for 20%

-  weekly responses to other students’ posting for 20%

- attendance and group discussions in classroom (1 hour each week) for 15%

- students will complete a 5 page paper for 25%

If students wish to receive 3 credits for this online course, they can complete a 12 page paper on a topic approved by the instructors.