the balancing act


The Ordination of a Tree: Engaging the Rights of Nature

Presented November 16, Thursday 10-11am ET

  • Susan M. Darlington, President-retired, Deep Springs College, Professor emerita of Anthropology and Asian Studies, Hampshire College, author “The Ordination of a Tree”
  • Alberto Saldamando, Rainforest Action Network Board member, Indigenous Environment Network
  • Hans van Willenswaard, Thailand/The Netherlands, Right Livelihood College Bangkok, INI Books

“Thai Buddhist monks wrap orange clerical robes around trees to protect forests. ‘Ordaining’ a tree is a provocative ritual that has become the symbol of a small but influential monastic movement aimed at reversing environmental degradation and the unsustainable economic development and consumerism that fuels it” (from Susan M. Darlington’s book: The Ordination of a Tree. SUNY Press, 2012)

How do we engage our spiritual practices, religious views and moral values to protect our world? Our speakers will discuss “Earth Stewardship” and a new 21st century governance paradigm, highlighting the rights of nature and especially the rights and voices of Indigenous Peoples.

Susan M. Darlington received a B.A. in anthropology and history from Wellesley College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan. Her research, based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in northern Thailand, examines the work of Buddhist monks engaged in rural development, environmental conservation, and other forms of social activism. The broader questions she addresses in her research and teaching include understanding the changing social, political, and historical contexts of religion, environmentalism, and human rights, and the creative use of ritual for social change. Sue has written many articles and a book, The Ordination of a Tree: The Buddhist Environmental Movement in Thailand (SUNY Press, 2012). Sue taught anthropology and Asian studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, for 30 years. She served as the first female president of Deep Springs College in eastern California from 2020 to 2023.

The Ordination of a Tree: The Thai Buddhist Environmental Movement: “Forest Monks,” episode of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, PBS, aired 1/15/2010:

Alberto Saldamando (Xicano/Zapoteca) is an internationally acknowledged expert on Indigenous and Human Rights and has represented indigenous Peoples, communities, organizations and individuals before international human rights fora including UN Human Rights Commission now the Council’s human rights mechanisms, the International Labor Organization, the OAS Commission on Human Rights, and the OECD Specific Instance procedure. Alberto began his work with the Indigenous Environmental Network as Counsel on Indigenous human rights and Climate Change at Copenhagen COP 15, and serves as head of delegation to IEN’s COP delegations. Prior to that he served as General Counsel to the International Indian Treaty Council for 18 years and is very proud of his very active participation during the negotiations on the Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples (2007), the establishment of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, and the initial mandate of the now Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples. Alberto was accredited as an expert by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (2014) and was elected by Consultative Status NGOs to the International steering committee for the World Conference Against Racism (1998 – 2001). He serves on the Board of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN). He is bi-lingual in Spanish and English.

Hans van Willenswaard is a cultural worker (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences) born in theNetherlands. He initiated a Department of Development Studies at Zeeland University of Applied Sciences after he had completed the Rural Development Programme (RDP) at Emerson College, U.K. Hans moved to Thailand in 2000 to join the network inspired by Right Livelihood Laureate Sulak Sivaraksa and met Wallapa, his wife. Ajarn Sulak, as he is known among his students, is the Co-Founder of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB). Together with Wallapa, Hans set up and co-managed a publishing house, bookshop and Green Market Network in Bangkok with a growing network in Southeast Asia. In collaboration with partners in Bhutan, Hans and Wallapa initiated an informal studies and action-research network which is now Right Livelihood College Bangkok. Hans is Co-Editor together with Justin Sobion of Reflections on Earth Trusteeship. Mother Earth and a new 21st-century governance paradigm.

ECO JUSTICE FOR ALL interviews and dialogues are ongoing programs produced by the Temple of Understanding, incorporating our outreach in the area of environmental awareness and advocacy. We present a diverse range of perspectives, from scientific to spiritual views, on the climate emergency and offer a variety of solutions that we can all do easily and effectively in our everyday lives. World religious and spiritual visionaries, Indigenous leaders, scientists and social scientists, environmental activists, artists, musicians and writers, youth and elders, local and global people, all come together to address the urgency of the climate crisis through these ongoing interviews and dialogues.

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