Organizers gear up for Religion and Ecology Graduate Conference

Two Yale Divinity School annual conference organizers, Claire Barnes and Katherine Smith, spoke to The News about this year’s vision.

Alex Ori

11:58 p.m., February 17, 2022

Staff reporter

Matthew Weisenberg, collaborating photographer

Organizers are preparing for the sixth annual Yale Divinity School Graduate Conference on Religion and Ecology, which will explore the intersection between nature, theology and healing.

The conference will take place on February 25 on Zoom, with the theme “New Seeds, Strong Roots: Environmental Hope, Healing and Restoration”. Co-coordinators Claire Barnes DIV ’22 and Katherine Smith DIV ’22 looked to previous conferences when developing this year’s topic. Last year’s theme, “Creating a Green Place in the Midst of Crises: Training, Trust and Leadership,” aimed to place the climate crisis in the context of other social issues.

“Building on last year, we continue to tackle the climate crisis,” Barnes said. “Last year, crisis was more of an expansive term, it was plural. We were thinking not only of ecological crises, but also of human crises, like COVID-19 and racial injustice.

Last year’s conference explored the complicated definition of “crisis”. This year, according to Barnes, the event will continue to work with those definitions and look more at ways to move forward with restoration and hope for people and the environment in mind.

Barnes noted that the conference strives to create an interdisciplinary space for graduate students to come together, express their interests and share their research in religion and ecology, as well as receive feedback from others.

Alumni of Divinity School and Yale School of the Environment are encouraged to attend the conference. Barnes and Smith said they specifically hope to provide space for former students who have never had the chance to explore the intersections of ecology and spirituality.

It wasn’t until 2016 that the Divinity School introduced the Religion and Ecology concentration in its Master of Arts in Religion, so the conference will explore new topics for many alumni.

“The religion and ecology curriculum is relatively new at Divinity School,” Barnes said. “The discipline of religion and ecology has recently become more mainstream. Old timers might be interested in exploring what they didn’t have when they were here.

Yale Divinity School communications director Tom Krattenmaker noted a “growing sense of student and faculty interest” in the intersection of religion and ecology.

Presenters at this year’s conference will include Yale graduate students as well as speakers from different schools and countries. For example, Natasha Chawla, an Oxford University graduate student studying theology and religion, will talk about the different attitudes towards nature among religious groups during the Industrial Revolution.

Other presenters come from Emory, Cambridge University and Lady Doak College in Madurai, India.

Smith wanted to take a leadership role in the conference because of his desire to create an interdisciplinary dialogue on an “important and timely” topic in ecology. She hopes attendees will leave the conference with renewed energy.

“It is no secret that there is heaviness in our current times, and I hope this conference will provide respite and an opportunity to spark new thoughts and new hopes,” she said. declared. “I want everyone to experience what our conference theme explores: hope, healing and restoration.”

The Divinity School was founded in 1822.


Alex covers campus politics. She is a freshman at Trumbull College majoring in English.