East Asian Religions & Ecology


At first glance the fields of religion and ecology may seem and unlikely pairing, but a deeper consideration reveals the two have a great deal to contribute to one another and are indeed inextricably linked. Religions recognize the unity and interdependence of humans with nature. Ecological sciences affirm this deep interconnection with the natural world. This partnership can inspire work for the wellbeing of the Earth community

There is a need for broader literacy and deeper knowledge of the world’s religions and their ecological contributions. This specialization, “Religions and Ecology: Restoring the Earth Community”, contributes such a perspective. Each course celebrates the vitality of religiously-informed action for the Earth and recognizes the longstanding contributions of Indigenous peoples in offering visions and practices for ecological flourishing.
This course is part 4 of 5 of the “Religions and Ecology: Restoring the Earth Community” specialization that focuses on the ecological dimensions of religious traditions throughout the world.
The course you are about to begin is designed as a gateway to these aspects of the East Asian religions, philosophies, and practices of Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Shinto, and Shamanism. So much has emerged in the last several decades in this area, as you will see. While we have taught this course at Yale, we have adapted it for learners from a wide range of backgrounds.
This course is for lifelong learners curious to know more about world religions and ecology, environmental professionals eager to deepen the discourse of environmental protection and conservation, those working with non-profit organizations and NGOs on issues of ecological justice, and religion leaders and laity who wish to know how they can contribute to interreligious dialogue on environmental projects.

What you will learn

MODULE 1: Course Introduction
MODULE 2: Overview of Contemporary Ecological Issues and Religious Environmentalism

This module explores historical and contemporary ecological challenges in China arising from industrialization and modernization. Because of these environmental pressures, various sectors of Chinese society, including the government, are promoting the concept of “ecological civilization”, which we highlight here. We then explore the intersections of religion and ecology and its promises for East Asia.

MODULE 3: Introduction and Overview: Confucianism and Ecology

We encounter key ideas of Confucianism regarding the interconnection of self, society, education, politics, nature, and the cosmos. We focus on the Analects of Confucius and other significant Confucian texts to explore their ecological dimensions.

MODULE 4: Confucianism and Ecology into the Present

After a period of suppression during the Cultural Revolution, Confucianism has revived in China and has important cultural and spiritual influences today. This is seen by many Chinese as valuable for grounding humans in communitarian social and ecological ethics for the common good. We conclude this module with an exploration of selected Confucian perspectives on food, animals, and biodiversity.

What’s included