#45 Spiritual ecology at the heart of environmentalism

Image by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash

To say that eco-spiritualism is far too fundamentalist and primitive for modern societies is a comment made out of ignorance. Spiritual ecology had been successful in the past, and continues to be successfully realised within indigenous communities, not on the basis of religious belief systems but on the basis of mutual respect, harmony and community stewardship.

Centuries ago, the idea that humans could even be a separate entity to the rest of the natural world would be too alien to believe by ancient societies. Fast track to the modern world, and people are starting to realise that spiritualism and science can indeed go hand in hand and that the dualistic relationship humanity has with Nature is only a recent phenomenon.

Being part of a culture and religion which still has traces of ancient Indigenous spiritual and environmental wisdom present, Agrita has always felt drawn to the knowledge of the past which helped preserve the very landscapes that are now rapidly degrading. It’s this strong sense of historical nostalgia which has urged Agrita to delve deeper into the history of the Indian culture she so proudly embraces to see where India went wrong with environmental stewardship and justice, and how ancient eco-spiritual values can be revived to help solve India’s ecological and waste crises.

This episode discusses the importance of spiritual ecology in rebuilding our broken relationship with Nature on the basis of compassion, altruism and stewardship, giving an in-depth example of the evolution of spiritual ecology within India and how the abandonment of the concept, through colonisation and the urge to become developed, has resulted in major environmental problems the nation is facing now. Agrita argues that spiritual ecology can help in reimagining environmentalism in India, for both religious and secular communities, by decolonising conservation practices, protecting Indigenous communities/environmental practices and reconnecting heart to modern science.

Episode Structure:

  • Agrita’s personal journey in understanding the need for environmentalism to be decolonised
  • The reason why spiritualism was detached from material science as global economies shifted to secularism
  • An example of how eco-spiritual values are still present through frameworks such as environmental justice, but how these frameworks are still too human-centric
  • History of the modern environmental justice movement in the US
  • How Indigenous communities have been successful in preserving ancient spiritual and environmental wisdom to protect their ancestral lands
  • In-depth examples of the eco-spiritual practices and wisdom within the animist religion of Hinduism e.g. worship of celestial bodies in the solar system, devotion to water bodies and personification of water as mother and Goddess, worship of land and trees, vegetarianism
  • Answering criticisms of spiritual ecology and the potency of the discipline in strengthening the environmental movement in culturally-rich and religious countries like India
  • The strong role colonisation played in environmental degradation of Indian political and natural environments, with the example of the negative ecological/social consequences of the British railways in Punjab and southern India
  • Some examples of the current state of natural environments in India as a result of valuing colonial environmental values above indigenous eco-spiritual values
  • Examples of how Indigenous communities in India have been successful in maintaining biodiversity and the health of their lands
  • call for modern environmentalism to be decolonised and Indigenous environmental practices to be embodied into conservation/preservation work, both in Western and non-Western countries, to holistically address our ecological and climate crises

Episode Resources:

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