Spirituality and Sustainable Development: Who Cares?

Introduction complete e-Dialogue (pdf)

This e-dialogue on spirituality and sustainable development supported the research of one of RRU's graduate students, Jodi Mucha, in the Master's of Environment and Management Program.

We thank all the participants for their willingness to explore new ground with us, sharing their thoughts and ideas to produce an engaging and rich discussion.

The dialogue has been archived as a .PDF document. Panelist statements have been archived verbatim; however, given the software used was not synchronous, certain panelist statements have been reorganized to maintain the logical flow of the discussion.

The following documentation has been archived as part of the dialogue:

  • The complete dialogue, as a PDF document (599 KB)
  • A summary of the dialogue
  • Some readings on the subject area
  • The panelists, with their bios
Summary complete e-Dialogue (pdf)

"Technology is not the cause of our problems; unbalanced living is."

~ Paramahansa Yogananda (Yogananda, 1999, p.89)~

How does one integrate the tangible aspects of science with the intangible elements of 'feeling', 'sensing' or 'knowing'?" The environmental or ecological revolution is not only a protest against the destruction of natural habitats and life forms, but also a protest against the aridity and soullessness of our mechanistic modes of living (Skolimowski, 1999). In an article written for the Noetic Sciences review, Alan Atkisson shares his perception of the great paradox we are facing: "We cannot go on, and we cannot stop. We must transform…the only institutions that have demonstrated continuity over millennia are religions and spiritual traditions. So, while we must be intensely scientific, our future is also in need of a renewed sense of spirituality and the sacred" (Atkisson, 2001, p.10). Thus, ecological goals may be best achieved by ensuring that people live in nature intimately in ways that support diversity and harmony.

On June 17,19, 21, 2002, nineteen professionals in the area of spirituality and environmental management came together to participate in an e-Dialogue to explore the connections between spirituality and sustainability, and the ways to mobilize these connections for the benefit of both. This e-Dialogue was moderated by Ann Dale, Professor, Science, Technology and Environment Division, Royal Roads University.

Energy, love, connectedness, meaning and compassion were the common emergent themes that resulted from the question, "What does spirituality mean to you?". Overall, panelists felt there was a lack of compassion and personal 'sense of meaning' in western society. It was felt that these voids were the cause of our crisis on a personal, social and ecological scale and that much of our current malaise is a result of searching outside of ourselves to fulfill social, psychological and spiritual needs.

In dialoguing about compassion, meaning and connectedness, themes such as ethics, justice and 'caring sharing' emerged which invariably led to the issue of responsibility. Panelists felt that we each have a personal responsibility or obligation to act with compassion and caring, and to be nurturing in all relationships--that we have an innate responsibility to live in a 'conscious' state. It was emphasized that we currently live beyond our means of nature. And, that by encompassing a more spiritual perspective, we would likely take more action to live sustainable lifestyles. It was noted that spirituality may not be a prerequisite for achieving sustainability, but that sustainability needs spirituality to sustain it.

The golden threads connecting spirituality and sustainability included connection, sacredness, compassion, meaning and responsibility/reciprocity. It was determined that sustainability may be unachievable without a strong social dimension-or personal imperative--one which encompasses spirituality. As ways to mobilize the connections between spirituality and sustainability, engaging faith communities, fostering spirituality and collaborating toward a common purpose were brought forward. Overall, it was felt that love was the glue that binds all of the connections and is thus is essential for achieving any level of sustainability and world transformation.


Moderator complete e-Dialogue (pdf)
Ann Dale, Professor, Science, Technology & Environment Division, Royal Roads University.



Paul Allison, Craftsman Gardener and Horticultural Therapy Consultant, Royal Roads University

Paul was introduced to horticultural therapy by Christopher Underhill, President of the Horticultural Therapy Association in Britain, more than 20 years ago at a lecture. Since that time Paul's interest in people – plant relationships has grown into a passion.

Paul was involved in the early development of the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association and has been involved with numerous therapeutic garden projects throughout Canada, Japan and the United States.

Paul is said to have the hands of a gardener, the mind of a scientist and the vision of an artist, all firmly rooted in the heart of a naturalist. Paul is currently a craftsman gardener at Royal Roads University, and one can usually find him in one of our National Heritage Gardens.

Ann Cowan, North Growth Management Director of Programs, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, and Associate Dean of Continuing Studies, Simon Fraser University

Ann Cowan is the North Growth Management Director of Programs at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and also is the Associate Dean of Continuing Studies at Simon Fraser University.

During her 23-year career at Simon Fraser University, she founded the Writing and Publishing Program, which continues to offer a comprehensive professional curriculum through Continuing Studies at the Harbour Centre campus. She is the Associate Director and co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. Ms Cowan is a past board member of the Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC); the Canadian Association of American Studies, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP), and the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE).

She was named Woman of Distinction in the field of Education in 1998 by the Vancouver YWCA. In 1998 she became a by-fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge University, England where she spent a term. Ms Cowan moved to Vancouver from Ottawa in 1976, leaving a post at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Ann Cowan was educated at the University of Toronto and Carleton University and is married to scholar Peter Buitenhuis.

Elaine Dale, Departmental Assistant, Secretary of State (Federal Economic Initiative for Northern Ontario),
Industry Canada

Heather Eaton, Professor, Department of Theology, Saint Paul University

Professor, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Ontario

Heather Eaton holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in ecology, feminism and theology from the University of St. Michael's College, Toronto School of Theology, and a Master's of Divinity.

Dr. Eaton is interested in religious responses to the ecological crisis, particularly the relationship between ecological, feminist and liberation theologies, and is committed to interreligious responses to ecological crisis. She has taught courses in these areas at St Michael's College, Toronto School of Theology; Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University; and Saint Paul University. Dr. Eaton is involved in conferences, workshops, teaching and publishing in these areas.

Sue Freeze

34 years ago I made a decision to leave my teaching career behind me and pursue farm and ranch life, ever moving further into the bush, focusing on how to live in harmony with my surroundings and my livestock endeavours. Paralleling this, there has always been a commitment to being of service, whether at the local level or national level, such as developing an international caliber biathlon racing and training centre on our land which dedicated itself to youth development at all levels.

At the present time I have moved on from that and have a ranch in a semi-remote location where our focus is sheep and horses. I am currently exploring how to develop something here that brings together folks from all walks of life in an alive, dynamic environment with the intention of advancing and nurturing the concepts of responsible, compassionate living, and ultimately, sustainability. As for institutional affiliations, my choice to pursue life at the grass roots level has precluded activities which would have taken me in a direction that would have included such. Maybe that is yet to come.

Heather Hamilton, Executive Coordinator, Canadian Biodiversity Institute

John Hasell, Organizational Development Facilitator, John Hasell Ventures

John Hasell is an Organizational Development Facilitator whose purpose is to enable individuals and organizations to achieve their full potential. His personal mission is to be of use. John was educated in Britain and spent a number of years working in different parts of the world before coming to Canada in 1969 to start the Canadian Outward Bound Mountain School in B.C. where he was School Director for two years, before helping launch the second School in Ontario. He was Executive Director until 1976 when, after seven years on the staff of Outward Bound, he took two years off to do post-graduate work in Public Education at Simon Fraser University. He spent the next ten years as a senior manager with the B.C. Government in Recreation and Sport. He served for 17 years on the Youth Committee of the Vancouver Foundation and has spent an aggregate of 84 years sitting on Local, Provincial and National Boards.

This has given him a good background in both seeking and providing funding support, as well as the intricacies of Staff/Board Relations He knows the problems involved and appreciates the commitment required to achieve worthwhile goals in a prudent and ethical manner with limited financial and human resources. He understands the need for careful planning and determined execution if good things are to happen.

Kasitsa Jacobs, Kahnawake Environment Office

Lynn Katsitsaronkwas Jacobs is a young Mohawk woman from the community of Kahnawake. She works in her community with the Kahnawake Environment Office where she coordinates a sustainable housing project, conducts environmental health research, and is developing a culturally-relevant Environment Management System for the community. She is particularly interested in environmental education and advocacy, sustainability and self-sufficiency, and international Indigenous issues.

Katsitsaronkwas is currently working towards gathering an Indigenous youth voice for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa this Fall, and recently returned from a month-long tour across the country as part of a group of international indigenous youth facilitators - to speak with other First Nations youth.

Katsitsaronkwas holds a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Guelph and is currently working towards her Masters Degree in Environment and Management with Royal Roads University.

Rick Kool, Government Liaison Officer, Ecosystem Planning and Standards Section, Biodiversity Branch, Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection

Government Liaison Officer, Ecosystem Planning and Standards Section, Biodiversity Branch, Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection.

Rick completed an M.Sc. in Zoology at the University of British Columbia, Institute of Animal Resource Ecology, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Brigham Young University.

Rick's former positions include Executive Director of The Sage Foundation in Vancouver, BC, and Chief, Public Program Development & Public Program Developer, Royal British Columbia Museum. Rick has been actively involved in various capacities at the University of Victoria, Camosun College, and Royal Roads University. He is a member of the Advisory Panel, Biodiversity Exhibit for the World Wildlife Fund, serves on the Editorial Board for the Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, and was invited as a keynote speaker for the European Consortium of International Schools, Nice, France.

Nina-Marie Lister, Assistant Professor, School of Urban & Regional Planning, Ryerson University
Archived biography removed at the request of Dr Lister: Up to date bio can be found here: http://ryerson.academia.edu/NinaMarieLister/

Lesley Moody, Environmental Health Officer, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Health Canada

Lesley K. Moody is an Environmental Health Officer with Health Canada, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB). Currently, Lesley is serving nine FN communities in the Pacific Northwest of BC. Lesley began her career in environmental health in the area now known as Nunavut,caring for the needs and investigating issues relative to environmental health in eight Inuit communities along the West coast of the Hudson Bay including South Hampton Island and Sanikilauq.

The Miramichi River near Newcastle, NB is the place of Lesley's birth. She has trained and worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse in the Moncton City Hospital. Also, she worked as a full time community volunteer for five years, in community education and thinking enhancement initiatives, Lesley continued on a part time basis in this work for twenty seven years. In addition, Lesley completed a Business and Management course from Mount St. Vincent University, Halifax, NS. Upon arriving in BC, Lesley completed the Public Health Inspector program at BCIT in 1996, and on May 24, 2002 received a Master of Science in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University.

Lesley has authored or co-authored four papers on Botulism outbreaks in Nunavut, and BC. As well, she has presented a paper to UCCB, Sydney, NS on the subject of Bridging the Cultural Gap for Inuit students studying south of the sixtieth parallel.

Jenny Onyx, Associate Professor, School of Management, University of Technology, Syney, Australia

Jenny Onyx (PhD) is Associate Professor in the School of Management at University Technology Sydney (UTS), former Head of School of Management and now Director of the Centre for Australian Community Organisations and their Management (CACOM) and Editor of Third Sector Review. She has over 30 years teaching and research experience in Universities and the community.

She is particularly concerned with issues of social capital, sustainability and the Third Sector, and has published widely in the area, with over 100 publications. Her work on measuring social capital in particular has achieved international attention.

Michael Picard, Associate Faculty, Royal Roads University

Born in Ottawa, raised in Alberta, Dr. Picard took a BA with Honours in Philosophy at University of Calgary and completed a Masters and a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He held a scholarship in Germany and has taught philosophy in various capacities at MIT, Harvard, Western Michigan University, University of Victoria and Royal Roads University.

Dr. Picard is currently President of Pyro Philosophical Services, an educational and research company specializing in philosophy. He holds public participatory events such as Cafe Philosophy and Salon Philosophy (a reading group that study philosophical classics from both Eastern and Western traditions). He has appeared on radio and television, discussing various political and philosophical subjects, and has hosted a series of radio programs on philosophical problems.

Henry Regier, Professor Emeritus of Zoology, University of Toronto

Professor Emeritus of Zoology, University of Toronto

Dr. Henry Regier obtained an Honours BA, First Class, from Queen's University, a professional teaching certificate at the University of Toronto, and in 1961 completed PhD studies, on a transdisciplinary theme in eco-studies, at Cornell in the USA.

Dr. Regier has worked as a professor of zoology at the University of Toronto, and between 1989-94, he was director of the graduate-level, transdisciplinary Institute for Environmental Studies. He has been involved scientifically at all levels from local to global with the issue of climate change, e.g. he was a lead author for the fisheries chapter of Volume 2 of Climate Change 1995 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Regier also was chief of the stock assessment branch of the Fisheries Department of the FAO in Rome. Since the 1960s he has maintained interdisciplinary expert connections concerning human use of aquatic systems in North America, Africa and Europe. He has also served in expert and often organizational roles, mostly related to science, under the auspices of FAO (ACMRR, UNCLOS), ICSU (IBP), UNESCO (MAB), UNEP (Indicators), IIASA (Sustainable Re-Development), INTECOL (Ecosystem Science), IPCC (Climate Change), etc.

In 1996, the International Joint Commission presented him with a plaque of appreciation "for over two decades of extraordinary personal and professional service to the IJC, as in spearheading adoption of an ecosystem approach." He retired from the university in 1995 and serves as Professor Emeritus. He is also Adjunct Professor in Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo.

Patricia Roberts-Pichette, Former Director, Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN), and Executive Secretary, Canada's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program.

Patricia Roberts-Pichette, born and educated in New Zealand, received a Fulbright Travel Award to Duke University where she earned her Ph.D. in Ecology and Forestry. She then came to Canada where she taught Biology at the University of New Brunswick before being brought into Environment Canada to manage the secretariat for the Canadian activities of the UNESCO Program on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). In the position of Executive Secretary, she was instrumental in setting out the base position of the MAB Program in Canada, including its policy on biosphere reserves, which led to the creation of this country's first biosphere reserve (Mont-Saint-Hilaire). Downsizing of Environment Canada in 1979 meant it would no longer host the Canadian MAB secretariat. She therefore accepted a position first at the Canadian International Development Agency Multilateral Branch and then at FAO as the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR). In both of these positions she was involved in international agricultural research policy with a personal focus on sustainable production and genetic conservation.

On the completion of her assignment in TAC, Patricia returned to Americas Branch of CIDA from where she was seconded to State of the Environment Reporting Directorate as Director of Ecosystems Monitoring and Analysis. It was her responsibility to translate national recommendations into basic working methods and philosophy of a research and monitoring program that in 1994 became the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN). As she sees EMAN as a practical expression of MAB ideas in a Canadian context, she has worked to ensure that biosphere reserves became part of EMAN. With the creation of the EMAN Coordinating Office in 1994, she became EMAN's senior scientific advisor. It was her initiative that led to Canadian biosphere reserves joining EMAN in 1996 with the idea that they serve as models for sustainable use and management of natural resources as well as centres of research and monitoring.

Upon her retirement in 1997, Patricia continued as secretary of the Biodiversity Science Board she had helped create and volunteered to be "recycled" as Executive Secretary for Canada/MAB. In recognition of her contributions, Environment Canada created the "Patricia Roberts-Pichette Award" to recognize people for their enthusiastic leadership and commitment to advancing ecological research and monitoring in Canada.

Rick Searle, Associate Faculty, Royal Roads University, and Department of Geography, University of Victoria
Rick teaches Geography at the University of Victoria and Environmental Science at Royal Roads University. His practical experience includes work as an Environmental Consultant specializing in parks, outdoor recreation, and interpretation. As a freelance writer, his work has appeared in magazines including Equinox, Canadian Geographic, and Nature Canada. He recently published the first independent analysis of the commercialization of Canada's national parks: Phantom Parks: The Struggle to save Canada's National Parks. In addition, he is one of the environmental specialists with the New VI, and works as an independent video producer.

Jennie Sparkes, Parks Canada

Jay Violini

Jay is in the final stages of his MA in Environment and Management at Royal Roads University. Jay's other academic studies include a Diploma in Christian Studies from Regent College on the University of British Columbia Campus and a BA in Economics with a minor in Sociology from Wilfrid Laurier Univeristy in Ontario.

Prior to his arrival at RRU, Jay worked in the capactiy as an environmental consultant for a company in Oakville, Ontario. He has volunteer experience ranging from Big Brother's to working with Liberian war refugees in Cote D'Ivoire Africa. His other interests include spending time at the beach with his dog and spending time with friends.

Cory Waters, Executive Director, City Green
Carl Waters possesses strong project management and organizational development experience that includes over ten years of employment, consulting and volunteering with the provincial and federal government, local community housing and environmental non-profits. Mr. Waters designed and is project manager of the environmental audit and education project with the Anglican Church on Vancouver Island. Born and raised in Victoria, Cory received a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Victoria in 1996.

Suggested Readings complete e-Dialogue (pdf)

(Available online through EBSCOhost or http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journals, subscribed to by many libraries.)

Bohm, David. 1993. "Science, spirituality, and the present world crisis". ReVision, Vol. 15 Issue 4, p147, 6p. (EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier)

Brinkerhoff, Merlin and Jacob, Jeffrey. 1999. "Mindfulness and Quasi-Religious Meaning Systems: An Empirical Exploration within the Context of Ecological Sustainability and Deep Ecology". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 38 Issue 4, p524, 19p. (EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier)

Christian Science Monitor. March 1999. "Wildlife and Love's Demands". Vol. 19, Issue 81, p19. (EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier)

Cohen, Gary. 1996. "Toward a spirituality based on justice and ecology". Social Policy. Vol. 26, Issue 3, p6, 13p. (EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier)

Coward, Harold. 1997. "Hindu Spirituality and the Environment". Ecotheology 3, p50-60. (EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier)

Fredrickson, Laura and Anderson, Dorothy. 1999. "A Qualitative Exploration of the Wilderness Experience as a Source of Spiritual Inspiration". Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 19, p21-39. (Idealibrary)

Graef, Ven. Sunyana. 1990. "The Foundations of Ecology in Zen Buddhism". Religious Education. Vol. 85, Issue 1, p 42, 7p. (EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier)

Hawken, Paul. 1993. The Ecology of Commerce. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc, NY, 250p. (Book)

Miguel Ruiz, Don. 1997. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. Amber-Allen Publishing, US.

Oskamp, Stuart. 2000. "Psychological Contributions to Achieving an Ecologically Sustainable Future for Humanity". Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, No.3, p373-390. (http://www.findarticles.com).

Roazzi, Vincent. 2001. The Spirituality of Success-Getting Rich with Integrity. Namaste Publications, Inc, USA, 244p. (Book)

Skolimowski, Henryk. 1999. "The Cosmic Significance of Ecology Synopsis". Dialogue & Universalism, Vol. 9, Issue ½, p81,4p.

Taylor, Bron. 1999. "Earthen Spirituality or Cultural Genocide?: Radiacal Environmentalism's Appropriation of Native American Spirituality". Religion. Vol. 27, p 183-215. (IDEALibrary)

Taylor, Bron, 2001. "Earth and Nature-Based Spirituality (Part I): From Deep Ecology to Radical Environmentalism". Religion, Vol. 31, p 175-193). (IDEALibrary)

Tolle, Eckhart. 2003. Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Mediations and Exercises from the Power of Now. Namaste Publishing, US. (Book)

Vogel, David. 2001. "How Green is Judaism? Exploring Jewish Environmental Ethics". Judaism. Vol.50, Issue 1, p66, 16p. (EBSCOhost Academic Search Premier)

Williams, Kathryn and Harvey, David. 2001. "Transcendent Experience in Forest Environments". Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 21, p 249-260. (IDEALibrary)

Yogananda, Paramahansa. 1999. A World in Transition. Finding Spiritual Security in Times of Change. Self Realization Fellowship. California. 255p. (Book)

Royal Roads University
Science, Technology & Environment Division