Research Institute for Spiritual Ecology (RISE)

Plants like the water lily and lotus rise above the muck and obscurity of a pond or other water body to reach the surface and become illuminated by the sunlight. Such plants symbolize spiritual ecology in general and this Research Institute for Spiritual Ecology (RISE) in particular. Since Earth Day on April 22, 1970, the environmental crisis has only become worse. Certainly the usual secular approaches to the ecocrisis have been important, but just as certainly they have proven to be insufficient. These now customary approaches include environment science and technology, environmental education and studies, environmental governance, law, and politics, and so on. Almost always these ordinary secular approaches treat only the superficial symptoms of the ecocrisis, not its deeper causes. Many profound thinkers consider the root causes to be essentially moral and ethical, and accordingly, also religious and/or spiritual. Only a most profound rethinking and transformation of culture, encompassing worldview, values, attitudes, behavior, and institutions from the individual to the social and global levels, holds any real promise of creating a more sustainable, green, just and peaceful relationship between humans and nature. Ultimately, religion and spirituality are the last hope to alleviate, or at least reduce, the environmental crisis. Spiritual ecology is an intellectual and practical response to this dire need for the survival and well being of planet Earth including humanity. Plants like the water lily and lotus symbolize and inspire this initiative toward creating and maintaining a more enlightened and viable human ecology.

Spiritual ecology encompasses a diverse and complex arena of intellectual and practical activities at the interface of religions and spiritualities on the one hand, and on the other, ecologies, environments, and environmentalisms. Although this arena has deep roots extending far back into history to personages such as the Buddha and St. Francis of Assisi, in modern times, especially from the 1990s through today, there has been an exponential efflorescence of activity in spiritual ecology. This includes not only a proliferation of publications like specialized textbooks, anthologies, and even journals, but also organizations, conferences, workshops, projects, courses, programs, and so on. In short, this is a most fascinating, progressive, promising, and exciting development that has already generated substantial intellectual and pragmatic accomplishments and is increasingly recognized and appreciated as such. (See the background papers in this web page).

The RISE is one of these projects. It is a natural outgrowth from two decades of teaching, research, and publications on spiritual ecology and sacred places with fieldwork in Thailand by its founder and director. Its primary mission is to serve as a catalyst for meaningful information exchange, including rigorous collegial discussion and debate. Its venue is exclusively the internet. Accordingly, this project is limited only by time and imagination, not by money. Available free to anyone in the world with access to the internet, this personal homepage contains an extraordinary wealth of information, including extensive bibliographies on spiritual ecology and related phenomena like sacred places, these associated in particular with two courses cross-listed between the departments of Anthropology and Religion at the University of Hawai`i, 444 Spiritual Ecology and 445 Sacred Places, as part of the optional Spiritual Ecology Concentration within the Ecological Anthropology Program.

Beyond relevant aspects of this homepage, RISE will also initiate and host a series of internet seminars, conferences, and workshops with a select group of the most relevant scientists and academics on specific topics such as Buddhist ecology and environmentalism in the East and West. Beyond stimulating, informative, penetrating, and insightful dialogues, such projects will also provide a context in which participants can further develop drafts of article or chapter manuscripts for future publication through the benefit of constructive comments, criticisms, and suggestions from interested colleagues.

In this respect, RISE serves yet another important function. Typically individuals travel long distances to meetings at considerable expense, and not only for airfare, lodging, meals, and registration fees, but also in terms of environmental impact. Imagine the ecological footprint of several hundred participants who travel long distances to attend a conference for just a few days each year. RISE provides an opportunity for intellectual activity focused on spiritual ecology that minimizes temporal, economic, environmental, and other expenses. Moreover, whereas most conferences allow only 15-30 minutes for the presentation of an individual paper and thereafter perhaps about 5-10 minutes for discussion, presentations and discussion in RISE events are not so severely constrai