Invited Speakers

bauman-150-150Whitney Bauman
Whitney Bauman is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Florida International University. His teaching and research interests in Religious Studies fall within the broad field of “Religion and Ecology.” The driving question of his interests and commitments to the field is: How do religious beliefs, insights, doctrines, and practices shape the material-physical worlds around us? In his work, he analyzes how the “big questions” that allow us to explore and make sense of the world and the meaning of life have shaped the human relationship with the rest of the natural world. In doing so, he positions the human world–culture, thought, economics, ideas, etc.–as part of the rest of the natural world. Furthermore, he is interested in analyzing how these “big questions” are changed by forces such as global climate change and globalization. In the end, he understands these religious questions to be questions about ethics: how ought we to live responsibly as human beings vis-à-vis the rest of the natural world?

Natal photoJudy Natal
Judy Natal is a Chicago-based artist, Professor of Photography and Coordinator of the Graduate Program at Columbia College, author of EarthWords, published in 2004 by Light Work, and Neon Boneyard Las Vegas A-Z, published in 2006 by Center for American Places. Since 1997, Natal’s photographs have explored the visual narratives that landscapes and alterations to those landscapes hold. By 2006, her focus had progressively shifted toward interpreting landscapes that have been altered by scientists, engineers, designers, and utopians. Most recently, she has ventured into the world of robotics to examine our complex relationship to machines built in our own image, which ultimately raises questions of what it means to be human. Her work continues to describe important aspects of our contemporary world and contribute significant observations about mankind’s ideas of nature, our effect on our landscapes, and what the future might hold for us environmentally.

Larson photoBrendon Larson
Brendon Larson is an interdisciplinary scholar, educator, and speaker who explores how conservation-minded people are adapting to the diverse, concurrent, and human-caused ecological changes that Earth is experiencing. He completed an undergrad in biology at U.Guelph, a Master’s in botany at U. Toronto, and an interdisciplinary PhD in science and society at U. California-Santa Barbara. He is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability (SERS) at U. Waterloo. He has been a visiting scholar at Linköping University and Stellenbosh University (South Africa), and has given nearly 120 lectures, including 20 keynotes and invited plenary lectures, at conferences and workshops in fifteen countries on six continents. He has published over 60 articles in refereed journals and book chapters, often in high-impact journals including BioScience, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Global Environmental Change, Science, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution. In 2011 Yale University Press published his first sole-authored book, Metaphors for Environmental Sustainability: Redefining Our Relationship with Nature, which was awarded the 2011 Oravec Research Award by the National Communication Association. His current research focuses on stakeholder perceptions of assisted colonization and invasive species, and it is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and an Early researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.  He has served on the boards of World Wildlife Fund-Canada and Ontario Nature (as President) and is currently chair of the board of the Invasive Species Centre.

Northcott photoMichael Northcott
Michael Northcott is Professor at the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburg. His teaching and research is in the areas of Christian Ethics, ecology and religious ethics, and economy and ethics. He has published 12 books and over 70 academic papers. He has been visiting professor at the Claremont School of Theology, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Flinders University, and the University of Malaya. He has successfully supervised 28 doctoral students since coming to Edinburgh in 1989 with a majority of those students from Asia and North America. He welcomes enquiries from potential PhD students in Christian ethics, ecology and religion, the environmental humanities, and environmental and economic ethics. Professor Northcott leads a large AHRC grant on faith-based ecological activism in the UK entitled ‘Caring for the Future through Ancestral Time’. Additionally, he is a co-investigator on the Human-Business at Edinburgh Initiative investigating the ethical implications of current modes of representing economic value.

Pike PhotoSarah Pike
Sarah M. Pike, PhD, is Professor of Comparative Religion and Director of the California State University, Chico Humanities Center. She is the author of Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and The Search for Community (University of California Press, 2001) and New Age and Neopagan Religions in America (Columbia University Press, 2004). She has written numerous articles and book chapters on contemporary Paganism, ritual, the New Age movement, the Burning Man festival, spiritual dance, environmental activism, and youth culture. She is the current president of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture and a principal researcher in the Norway based research group, “Reassembling Democracy: Ritual as Cultural Resource.” Her ongoing research interests include ritual practices expressing and constructing relationships to nature and encounters between young people and the more than human world, especially in the context of contemporary Paganism and being “spiritual but not religious.” Her book on radical environmental and animal rights activism, ritual and youth culture, For the Wild: Ritual and Commitment in Radical Activism, will be published by the University of California Press in 2017.


Julia Adeney ThomasJulia Adeney Thomas
Julia Adeney Thomas is Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Notre Dame, where she brings critical theory to bear on questions of power in modern societies. Julia investigates concepts of nature in Japanese political ideology, the impact of the climate crisis on historiography, and photography as a political practice. Her book, Reconfiguring Modernity: Concepts of Nature in Japanese Political Ideology, received the John K. Fairbank Prize from the American Historical Association in 2002 and her essay on wartime memory in Japan, “Photography, National Identity, and the ‘Cataract of Times:’ Wartime Images and the Case of Japan” in the American Historical Review received the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians’ Best Article of the Year Award in 1999.  She brings her research interests into the classroom teaching courses that range from Neolithic Japan to politics and the environment, from comparative fascism to contemporary questions of photography’s relationship with suffering. Her current work also engages with Anthropocene narratives, science, and what it means to be human.

Sanders photoScott Russell Sanders
Scott Russell Sanders is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction. From 1971 until his retirement in 2009, he taught at Indiana University, from 1995 onward as Distinguished Professor of English. His writing examines the human place in nature, the pursuit of social justice, the relation between culture and geography, and the search for a spiritual path. His recent books include A Private History of Awe, a coming-of-age memoir, love story, and spiritual testament; A Conservationist Manifesto, his vision of a shift from a culture of consumption to a culture of caretaking; and Earth Works, a selection of his best essays from the past thirty years. His latest book is the novel Divine Animal, a story of healing. He is currently at work on a collection of short stories, a book about the meaning of wealth, and a collection of essays about the role of writing in an age of climate disruption.

Van Wieren photoGretel Van Wieren
Gretel Van Wieren is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Michigan State University where her courses focus on religion, ethics, and the environment.  She is author of the book, Restored to Earth: Christianity, Environmental Ethics, and Ecological Restoration (Georgetown University Press, 2013), and a paper based on a study (with Stephen R. Kellert) on “The Origins of Aesthetic and Spiritual Values in Children’s Experience of Nature” (Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2013).  Dr. Van Wieren is a participant in the Values Roundtable of the New Academy for Nature and Culture, an informal coalition of scholars who have come together to explore a new theory of values for environmental thinking. Her current book project is on religious responses to key issues in food ethics.