Dr. Jodie Vann, Religion

Religion, Nature, and the Environment

The nature of religion is changing. In the U.S. and other highly developed countries, fewer people (particularly young people) are affiliating with traditional religions, and instead identify as “none”, “other”, or “spiritual, but not religious” (SBNR). Even though people are less traditionally religious, their ideologies and worldviews continue to impact their lives in important ways. In the Dickinson community, we have agreed that environmental concerns and sustainability efforts are valuable and worth our extensive efforts. In my efforts to bring this initiative into conversation with my expertise and teaching, I developed a new course on Religion, Nature, and the Environment. The course explores how various global worldviews imagine and engage with creation, human nature, animals/plants, foodways, sacred places, seasonal rituals, and modern environmental concerns.  

The V&R workshop helped me to organize my ideas, and craft a plan for the semester. The elements of experiential and place-based learning were particularly helpful in devising both intellectual and practical aspects of the course. My main goal in this course is to equip students to speak across ideological difference to address shared concerns. They can only do this by understanding how worldview (religious and otherwise) impacts the ways in which others conceptualize and engage with the world around us. It is essential that students are able to weave together religious, social, cultural, economic, environmental, and other perspectives, and the Valley and Ridge workshop helped me to design a plan that will intentionally cultivate such skills.