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In this episode of Inner Nature, Dekila Chungyalpa speaks with long-time friend Mary Evelyn Tucker about a much-needed paradigm shift that would allow us to better hold space for the mystery and sacredness of our deeply interconnected planet. The mystery we’re immersed in on this planet is extraordinary, yet conventional worldviews and strictly scientific understandings tend to be reductionist and incomplete, ignoring the mystery and the intangibles so vital to healing and wholeness. Woven throughout this conversation is a call for new ways of being and knowing that center awe, relationality, reverence, and Indigeneity alongside science, technology, and policy. Recognizing that creation stories lead to paradigms, and paradigms become practice, Dekila and Mary Evelyn invite us to question the stories we tell and identify the implications these stories bear on our social and environmental well-being. They root us in deep time, offer a new understanding of grief, and invite us to experience uncertainty and wonder. They ask: How might our outlooks and behaviors change if we begin to value the wild world in sacred terms instead of economic profit? What happens when we follow Indigenous leadership or when we humbly engage with those who think differently than us? And what is gained when we allow ourselves to be truly awestruck by what is unknowable in this universe?
Dekila Chungyalpa is a conservation scientist, daughter of a Tibetan Buddhist nun, and the founder and director of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Loka Initiative, a program that supports faith-led environmental action by building the capacity of faith-leaders and Indigenous tradition-bearers. Known as an innovator in the environmental field, Dekila began her career in 2001 working on community-based conservation in the Eastern Himalayas and went on to work on climate adaptation and free flowing rivers in the Mekong region for the World Wildlife Fund in 2004. In 2008, she helped establish Khoryug, an association of over 50 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries implementing environmental projects across the Himalayas. In 2009, she founded and led WWF Sacred Earth, a 5-year pilot program that built partnerships with faith leaders and religious institutions towards conservation and climate results in the Amazon, East Africa, Himalayas, Mekong, and the United States. She received the prestigious Yale McCluskey Award in 2014 and worked with the Yale School of Environmental Studies as an associate research scientist.
Mary Evelyn Tucker is a scholar of Confucianism and world religions and the co-director of the Forum on Ecology and Religion at Yale University. She teaches in the joint MA program in religion and ecology. She is also the co-creator of the multimedia project Journey of the Universe that includes a book, an Emmy Award winning film, a series of podcast Conversations, and free online courses. She has authored and edited many books, including Confucianism and Ecology, Buddhism and Ecology, and Hinduism and Ecology, Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase, and Ecology and Religion. Tucker was a member of the Earth Charter Drafting committee and the International Earth Charter Council. She won the Inspiring Yale Teaching Award in 2015 and has been awarded five honorary degrees. With her husband John Grim, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture.