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Religious Faith & Environmentalism Symposium

  • Penn Museum 3260 South St Philadelphia, PA, 19104 United States (map)

The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities presents a Symposium on Faiths and Environmentalism, September 24-25, 2015.

Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato Si" joins a global public debate about life on earth in an age dominated by the human species. Arguments over global warming that were once cast in strictly secular terms are now seen to raise urgent religious questions. Across all the major world religions, believers are wondering what actions their faith requires and how their beliefs might help guide decisions for the future of the earth, our species, and our societies.

Please RSVP to attend. Download our event poster here!


Thursday, September 24th at 5 PM in the Penn Museum's Widener Auditorium: Kickoff lecture by Thomas R. Dunlap, Professor of History at Texas A&M University, with response by Justin McDaniel, Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Reception to follow. For more on Professors Dunlap and McDaniel, please see below. 

Friday, September 25th at 12 PM in the Penn Museum's Widener Auditorium: Luncheon panel featuring scholars Carolyn Fornoff (Romance Languages, Penn), Brad S. Gregory (History, University of Notre Dame), Campbell Grey (Classical Studies, Penn), Mark Shiffman (Humanities, Villanova), Ilana Schachter (Penn Hillel), Bethany Wiggin (PPEH and German, Penn). Moderated by Mary Summers (Fox Leadership Program, Penn). Lunch will be served.

Thomas R. Dunlap is Professor of Environmental History at Texas A&M University, and is among the leading environmental historians and historians of science in the United States. His work focuses primarily on the history of wildlife conservation in the United States.

Dunlap is the author of Faith in Nature: Environmentalism as Religious Quest, which traces the history of environmentalism - and its moral thrust - from its roots in the Enlightenment and Romanticism through the Progressive Era to the present. Dunlap, who has a background in Chemistry and is a devout Catholic, explores the striking parallels between environmentalism and religion. Both concern themselves with moral conduct, and both seek to understand the order of the world and humanity’s place in that world.

His most recent publication, In the Field, Among the Feathered, tells the history of field guides to birds in America from the Victorian era to the present. His other books include Saving America’s Wildlife, and Nature and the English Diaspora. His first book, DDT: Scientists, Citizens and Public Policy, has recently been reprinted by Princeton Legacy Library.

Dunlap received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, after having received his MA in History at the University of Kansas, where he also conducted graduate work in Chemistry. Dunlap has consulted on a film about John James Audubon and the history of wildlife conservation for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He has also served as the expert witness in two civil actions on DDT. He was elected a fellow of the Forest History Society in 2007, and has three times received the Theodore C. Belegen Award for best article in forest and conservation history from the Forest History Society.


Justin McDaniel is Professor of Religious Studies and both Chair and Undergraduate Studies Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research and teaching focuses on Lao, Thai, Pali and Sanskrit literature, as well as South East Asian and Japanese Buddhism.

His work is highly regarded in the scholarly community. His first book, Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words, won the Harry Benda Prize in South East Asian Studies. His second book, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magic Monk, won the Kahin Prize, for distinguished scholarly works on Southeast Asia.

McDaniel is the architect behind the Thai Digital Monastery Project, where he is creating a monastic digital library for Thailand. In 2014 he was named a fellow of Kyoto University’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, and in 2012 a Guggenheim Fellow. He has also received Penn’s Ludwig Prize for Teaching. McDaniel received his Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard after completing a Masters of Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School.


Earlier Event: September 2
Lunch & Learn with Artist Stacy Levy
Later Event: September 30
Coffee & Discussion with Steven Mentz