By S. Shmee Giarratana June 1, 2020

As we close the 2020 Spring semester at CIIS, the graduate program of Ecology, Spiritualty, and Religion (ESR) is going to miss the rich discussions among our students! The mid-term transition to virtual classrooms inspired us to enliven our broader learning community with more online engagement. Our virtual group meetings have become a place to relate to the rapidly changing global landscape through a lens that considers cultural heritage and worldview. Fortunately, the conversations don’t end when summer begins. Many around the world are engaging in Religion & Ecology, and our PhD candidates and alumni are among those generating responses to the heightened existential challenges we face.

Alumnus of ESR, Charlie Forbes, MA (class of 2019) invites us into deeper engagement with contemporary ecological challenges through his weekly podcast Torah for the Earth. This collection of audio essays aims to relate messages contained within the weekly parashah (a section of the Torah read during prayer services) with contemporary, ecological challenges. Charlie shared that he is guided by his interest in exploring the scriptural foundations of religious traditions and their relationship to environmental teachings and practices. In January 2020, Charlie offered his insights at the 4th Annual Yale Graduate Conference in Religion and Ecology, on the panel Lawful Ecological Relationships. His talk, titled, “Torah for the Earth: Ecological Commentary on Parashat Vayeitzei,” illustrated that an understanding of the natural environment is fundamental to Jewish thought and philosophy, and integral to an appreciation of Jewish religious life.

Torah for the Earth is one of three podcasts from Deep Water Initiative (DWI), the educational non-profit that Charlie co-founded with ESR doctoral candidate Chantal Noa Forbes. DWI is dedicated to building the academic field of Religion and Ecology through educational film and transformational media programs. The Religion & Ecology podcasthosts conversations with thought-leaders in the field of Religion and Ecology and functions as a platform for creative expression through original music and soundscape recordings.

The Old Way with Chantal Noa Forbes invites forward the voices of folks whose work promotes and educates the public about Indigenous traditions, customs and former ways of life that are of ecological importance to our present times. The series of interviews is an extension of Chantal’s dissertation research on human relationship to the more-than-human world in San Bushmen heritage cosmology, epistemology and ontology of Southern Africa. Exploring these themes through open discourse engages community-based learning while bridging ideas across the field of Religion & Ecology.

Chantal presented her research at the 4th Annual Yale Graduate Conference in Religion on the panel Humans as Animal. Her presentation, titled “Becoming-Animal as Primal Theology in Primal Religions: The San Bushmen and Becoming-Animal in the Hunt,” discussed the connection between the spiritual and religious environmental heritage of the San Bushman and the process of becoming-animal during chase or persistence hunt play. Chantal was also scheduled to share her ideas at the Regional Meeting of the American Academy of Religion Western in her talk, titled “The Chasing Hunt: transcendence, immanence, and the zone of proximity in the Kalahari Desert.” Connect with Chantal’s research further through videos of public presentations featured on her website.

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