FORUM2023

Proudly presented by the Temple of Understanding in collaboration with Marble Collegiate Church, New York City.

Program

Keynote Addresses

  • Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
  • His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche (The Sakya Trichen)
  • Dr. Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India and President of Navdanya International
  • Bill McKibben, Contributing writer to The New Yorker, Founder of Third Act

Perspectives on the Rights of Nature

  • Dr. David R. Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment
  • Matthew Fox, Author, spiritual theologian, Episcopal priest, activist for gender justice and eco-justice
  • Prof. Azza Karam, Member United Nation’s Secretary General High Level Advisory Board on Multilateralism: Professor of Religion and Development, Vrije Universitiet, Amsterdam; Secretary General Emerita of Religions for Peace International

Dialogues on the Rights of Nature

  • Prof. Ursula Goodenough, Professor of Biology Emerita at Washington University and author of The Sacred Depths of Nature (Oxford, 2023)
  • Dr. Robin Kimmerer, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York
  • Dr. Carol Wayne White, Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Bucknell University
  • Mari Margil, Executive Director of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights
  • Shrawan Kumar Sharma, Nepal Associate of Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights

Messages on Earth Democracy from around the world

  • Eric Fejo, Founding Chair, Durra Larrakia Daraniki, Australia
  • Jerome Foster II, White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council Member
  • Safaira Baba Tagivuni, Executive Director, Grace Trifam Ministry, Fiji
  • Dr. Wanjiru Kamau, Founder, African Immigrant & Refugees Foundation, Kenya
  • Bonifacio Machacca Florez, Q’ero, Peru

Prayers for our world offered by:

  • Prof Ephraim Isaac, Director of the Institute of Semitic Studies at Princeton University; Chair of the Board, Ethiopian Peace and Development Center
  • Dr Karan Singh, International Chairman of the Temple of Understanding
  • Carole Vandal, Wampanoag Tribal Elder, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Elected Commissioner-Aquinnah.

FORUM2023 Keynote Speakers

Opening Prayer: Chief Arvol Looking Horse

Chief Arvol Looking Horse was born on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. At the age of 12, he was given the responsibility of becoming the 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, the youngest ever. He is widely recognized as a chief and the spiritual leader of all three branches of the Sioux tribe. He is the author of White Buffalo Teachings and a guest columnist for Indian Country Today. A tireless advocate of maintaining traditional spiritual practices, Chief Looking Horse is the founder of Big Foot Riders which memorializes the massacre of Big Foot’s band at Wounded Knee. 

Opening Prayer: His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche (The Sakya Trichen)

His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche (The Sakya Trichen) served as the 41st head of the Sakya Order of Tibetan Buddhism until March 2017, when the throne holder duties were handed over to His Holiness Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, the 42nd Sakya Trizin, formally addressed as His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trizin Rinpoche.

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His Holiness the Sakya Trichen is a member of Tibet‘s noble Khon family, which founded the Sakya Order in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Just as His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the manifestation of all the Buddha’s great compassion, His Holiness the Sakya Trichen is the manifestation of all the Buddha’s transcendent wisdom.

In addition to his leadership of the Sakya Order for over fifty years, His Holiness Sakya Trichen is renowned throughout the world for the brilliance and clarity of his teachings and his fluency and precise command of English.

Receiving teachings directly from His Holiness carries a special lineage of blessings from the founders of the Sakya Order, as well as from Manjushri himself.

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva, a world-renowned environmental thinker, activist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer, and science policy advocate, is the founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India and President of Navdanya International.

Trained as a Physicist at the University of Punjab, she completed her Ph.D. on the ‘Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory’ from the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

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She later shifted to inter-disciplinary research in science, technology, and environmental policy, which she carried out at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India.

In 1982 she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE), an independent research institute that addresses the most significant problems of ecology of our times, and two years later, Navdanya (‘nine seeds’), the movement in defense of biodiversity and the contributions made to the climate, environment and society by small farmers.

The recipient of many awards, including the Right Livelihood Award (the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) and the Sydney Peace Prize, she has been named among the top five “Most Important People in Asia” by AsiaWeek.

She is a prolific writer and author of numerous books and serves on the board of the International Forum on Globalization, and member of the executive committee of the World Future Council.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is a contributing writer to The New Yorker and a founder of Third Act, which organizes people over the age of 60 to work on climate and racial justice. He founded the first global grassroots climate campaign, 350.org, and serves as the Schumann Distinguished Professor in Residence at Middlebury College in Vermont.

In 2014, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel,’ in the Swedish Parliament.

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Bill has also won the Gandhi Peace Award, and honorary degrees from 19 colleges and universities. He has written over a dozen books about the environment, including his first, The End of Nature, published in 1989, and the forthcoming The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at his Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened.

FORUM2023 Speakers

Dr. David R. Boyd

Dr. David R. Boyd is the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment (2018-2024) and a professor of law, policy, and sustainability at the University of British Columbia, jointly appointed at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.

Boyd is also the author of ten books and over 100 reports and articles on environmental law and policy, human rights, and constitutional law.

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His books include The Rights of Nature (ECW Press, 2017), The Optimistic Environmentalist (ECW Press, 2015), The Right to a Healthy Environment (UBC Press, 2012) and The Environmental Rights Revolution (UBC Press, 2011). https://www.ohchr.org/en/special-procedures/sr-environment

Matthew Fox

Matthew Fox is a spiritual theologian, an Episcopal priest and an activist for gender justice and eco-justice. He has written 37 books that have been translated into other languages over 70 times.

Among them are Original Blessing, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, A Spirituality Named Compassion, The Reinvention of Work, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, Christian Mystics and The Pope’s War.

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He has contributed much to the rediscovery of Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas as pre-modern mystics and prophets.

Fox holds a doctorate in the history and theology of spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris. The founder of the University of Creation Spirituality in California, he conducts dozens of workshops each year and is a visiting scholar at the Academy for the Love of Learning.

In joining the Episcopal church over 20 years ago, Fox has been working with young people to reinvent forms of worship by bringing elements of rave such as dance, dj, vj and more into the Western Liturgy. The Cosmic Mass has been celebrated over 100 times and in dozens of cities in North America.

Fox is recipient of the Abbey Courage of Conscience Peace Award (other recipients being the Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, Ernesto Cardenal and Rosa Parks), the Ghandi King Ikeda Award, the Tikkun National Ethics Award and other awards. His latest books are Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God; Stations of the Cosmic Christ; and The Lotus & the Rose: A Conversation Between Tibetan Buddhism & Mystical Christianity.

He is currently a visiting scholar at the Academy of the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, NM and resides in Vallejo, California. www.matthewfox.org

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She served for nearly two decades in the United Nations (in UNDP and UNFPA), where she Coordinated the Arab Human Development Reports, co-founded and Chaired the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion – with over 20 UN system bodies – and founded and convened its Multi-Faith Advisory Council, as part of the 750 global NGO database she coordinated.

During her tenure at the United Nations, Karam was a Lead Facilitator for the peer-to-peer “Strategic Learning Exchanges” on religion, development, and diplomacy.

Apart from the work in the United States, she has worked with other intergovernmental and international organisations such as the OSCE, the EU, and International IDEA in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and East and Central Asia, where she created and managed global programmes on Women and Politics, Democracy and/in the Middle East, and Applied Research on Democracy.

Karam has lectured and taught in various universities, including West Point Military Academy (from 2002 to 2018). She has published widely, and her work was translated into several languages (on political Islam, gender and women’s rights, Human Rights, democracy, conflict, peacemaking, and education).

She has received multiple awards, including for her work on/in the United Nations, as well as in/on Interfaith work and Culture. She was awarded an honorary Degree by John Cabot University in 2022. Born in Egypt, Karam is also a citizen of the Netherlands.

Speakers on Religious Naturalism
and the Rights of Nature

Prof. Ursula Goodenough

Prof. Ursula Goodenough is a Professor of Biology Emerita at Washington University who retired to Martha’s Vineyard in 2017.

She taught cell biology and evolution and engaged in research that focused on the sexual cycle of a green soil alga. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and served as president of the American Society for Cell Biology.

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She and many others are developing what is called a religious naturalist orientation https://religious-naturalist-association.org, and a new edition of her book describing her understanding of this orientation will be published by Oxford University Press in February. http://sacreddepthsofnature.com

She is the proud mother of 5 children and 9 grandchildren.

Dr. Robin Kimmerer

Dr. Robin Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer, and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York.

She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs that draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability.

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Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and the ecology of mosses. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people.

She is active in efforts to broaden access to environmental science education for Native students, and to create new models for integration of indigenous philosophy and scientific tools on behalf of land and culture. She is engaged in programs which introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community, in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge.

Dr. Kimmerer has taught courses in botany, ecology, ethnobotany, and indigenous environmental issues, as well as a seminar on the application of traditional ecological knowledge to conservation. She is the co-founder and past president of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Kimmerer serves as a Senior Fellow for the Center for Nature and Humans. Of European and Anishinaabe ancestry, Robin is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only the restoration of ecological communities but also the restoration of our relationships to land. Dr. Kimmerer is the author of numerous scientific papers on the ecology of mosses and restoration ecology and on the contributions of traditional ecological knowledge to our understanding of the natural world.

She is also active in literary biology. Her essays appear in Whole Terrain, Adirondack Life, Orion and several anthologies. She is the author of “Gathering Moss” which incorporates both traditional indigenous knowledge and scientific perspectives and was awarded the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing in 2005. She has served as writer in residence at the Andrews Experimental Forest, Blue Mountain Center, the Sitka Center and the Mesa Refuge.

Her latest book “Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants” was released in 2013.

Prof. Carol Wayne White

Prof. Carol Wayne White is Interim Director of the Griot Center (2022-23) and Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Bucknell University, specializing in Poststructuralist Philosophies, Process Philosophy, Religious Naturalism, Science and Religion, and Critical Theory.

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Her books include Poststructuralism, Feminism, and Religion: Triangulating Positions; The Legacy of Anne Conway (1631-70): Reverberations from a Mystical Naturalism, and Black Lives and Sacred Humanity: Toward an African American Religious Naturalism, which won a Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Titles.

White has published numerous essays, articles, and contributing chapters in the philosophy of religion and on religious naturalism; her work has also appeared in Zygon: The Journal of Religion and Science, The American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, Philosophia Africana, and Religion & Public Life.

White has received international awards and national fellowships, including an Oxford University Fellowship in Religion and Science, a Science and Religion Grant from The John Templeton Foundation, and an NEH Fellowship.

Dialogue Speakers on the Rights of Nature

Mari Margil

Mari Margil is the Executive Director of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (CDER). She works with civil society, governments, as well as tribal nations and Indigenous communities in the U.S., Ecuador, the Philippines, Nepal, and elsewhere, to advance Rights of Nature frameworks. She consulted with Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly, helping to draft the world’s first Rights of Nature constitutional provisions.

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Margil received her Master’s degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and is a co-author of The Bottom Line or Public Health (Oxford University Press 2010), Exploring Wild Law: The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence (Wakefield Press 2011), and Bearing Witness: The Human Rights Case Against Fracking and Climate Change (Oregon State University Press 2021).

Her writing has also been featured in publications including The Guardian, YES! Magazine, Earth Island Journal, Mongabay, Democracy Journal, World Policy Journal, and Common Dreams, and her work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. Photo credit: Hardy Wilson

Shrawan Kumar Sharma

Shrawan Kumar Sharma is the Nepal Associate of the USA-based organization Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights, leading the Nepal campaign on the rights of Nature. He is a politics and conflict analyst and has studied law and political science.

For two decades, he has been working with communities and national and regional political groups to build sustainable democracy in Nepal. In the past, he has worked on environmental rights, human rights, armed conflict resolution, and peacebuilding.

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Now, Mr. Sharma is linking the peace movement with the new legal, ideological movement of the rights of nature. He is the Executive Director of the Kathmandu-based NGO Center for Economic and Social Development (CESOD).

In the last decades, he has accomplished several research studies on armed conflict and peace, human rights, tourism, agriculture, infrastructure development, democracy, community building, the environment, and the impacts of armed conflict on the environment, as well as the consequences of the Maoist insurgency on wildlife, national conservation areas, and ecology.

Mr. Sharma is author and co-author of a number of books. Nepal: State of the State is one of the widely read books authored and edited by him. He is also an author of books on human rights and peace, democracy, and the environment. Failed Negotiation: Challenges and Opportunity is one of the most famous books authored by Mr. Sharma; it systematically explores the causes of failed negotiation between Nepal’s government and the armed Maoist insurgency in 2002.

Mr. Sharma is a columnist at the widely read online news portal “Onlinekhabar”, Himal Press (Nepali and English), and Rising Nepal (daily broadsheet). He writes on the rights of nature, environment, ecology, Himalayas and Himalayan glaciers, rivers, and the environment. He hosts a weekly television talk show on pressing issues of contemporary society and politics, including ecology, melting Himalayas and Himalayan glaciers, climate change, and global warming.

Messages from around the World on the Rights of Nature

Eric Fejo

Eric Fejo’s roots and history are directly tied to Larrakia. He was born at the old Darwin Hospital (above Cullen Bay) and grew up in and around the Greater Darwin Region; his mother was a Wurramunga woman and his father a Larrakia man. Like his grandfather and father, Eric has never lived more than twenty miles from his place of birth and is proud that this tradition has continued with two of his three sons.

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Growing up in Rapid Creek, Eric has walked all Larrakia Country with his father and father’s brothers; was told many stories; shown where all the best fishing & hunting spots are, and the best time of year to hunt. He spent childhood holidays at Nguiu (Bathurst Island), Elliot, Mulinjer (Newcastle Waters), and many other homelands throughout the NT.

Eric grew up with a solid understanding of his identity, being the eldest son, of the eldest son, of the eldest son. Growing up in a capital city of the NT and as a result of the circumstances of colonisation, he has strived to live in both worlds, balancing the world of the Westminster System and his Religious & Cultural responsibilities of bloodline.

Eric has worked with Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority for the past t wenty-five years as a Senior Custodian/knowledgeable man for Larrakia Country. He is grateful that through the passing of the 1976 Land Rights Act, Goondol was the first registered Sacred Site; and through the short space of time, less than 100 years, after a millennia of usage, the ADF has prudently allowed unrestricted/perpetual access of the Larrakia Elders to Goondol, and has been sensitive to Larrakia’s lore and customs.

He has been instrumental in contributing to this achievement and others, including through his cultural knowledge and kinship, being able to stop a nuclear waste dump being put on his mother’s country and standing by his father’s side in the 1995 Kenbi Land Claim (still the longest running land claim in Australian history).

Even today he’s fighting for cultural responsibility and duties taken away from him, evident by the Northern Land Council recently committing to reviewing Traditional Ownership of the Kenbi Land Claim which he played a major role in securing. He is today, the which was formally established on 14 July 2020.

Jerome Foster II

Jerome Foster II is a 21-year-old environmental justice activist, keynote speaker, youngest-ever White House Advisor in U.S. History, and Co-founder & Co-Executive Director at Waic Up. He served as intern for the late Honorable John Lewis at 16-years old and served as Board Member for the DC State Board of Education’s High School Graduation Requirements Task Force at 15.

He is Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director at Waic Up which is an international communication to community impact charity which is an expansion of OneMillionOfUs, which mobilized a movement of young people to vote in the 2020 Elections. www.jeromefosterii.com

Dr. Wanjiru Kamau

Dr. Wanjiru Kamau is a Kenyan-born educator and social activist with a philosophical grounding in multiculturalism and gender equity. She holds a doctorate in Counselor and Health Education from Pennsylvania State University and diplomas in both Mediation and Intercultural Communication.

Kamau has extensive experience in Counseling, Teaching, Consulting, and Diversity Training. She holds leadership positions, awards, and honorary appointments.

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Kamau is the founder of African Immigrant & Refugees Foundation (AIRF) a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate the effective transition of the African immigrants to the American society and to support their productive and sustainable integration into their new homeland.

Dr. Kamau’s publications are on Identity, women’s health and indigenous knowledge. She has produced two videos: Kuumithio Rites of passage and a Child of Two Worlds, and a Book The Tapestry of Menopause by Agikuyu women is in the press. Kamau is passionate about creating peace based on UBUNTU.

Bonifacio Machacca Florez

Bonifacio Machacca Florez is an Andean Master of Light, he is considered a Pampa misayoq (a special person who is able to talk with the spirits of the Andean mountains). He was born into the ancient Andean community named Qocha Moqo, which is one of the tribes of the Incan Q’eros Nation, in Peru.

He was trained since childhood by his grandparents and parents, who are healers using traditional Andean herbs and spiritual ways. When he was 24 years old, he was recognized as an Andean Master in the community.

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Bonifacio’s spiritual work involves making Andean offerings, reading coca leaves, “soul clearing” and many different healing activities. He is also responsible for making offerings and worshiping the sacred sources of life around his settlement such as the Huamanlipa, Huayruruni, Foqoni, kKuchiyoq and Calvario mountains, as well the Qata Cocha, Isla Qocha and Qochaqochayoq lagoons, which provide water to his community.

Prayers for Nature

Prof. Ephraim Isaac

Prof. Ephraim Isaac is an Ethiopian scholar of ancient Ethiopian Semitic languages and of African and Ethiopian civilizations. He is the director of the Institute of Semitic Studies at Princeton University and the chair of the board of the Ethiopian Peace and Development Center. Isaac is also a member of the Temple of Understanding Board.

Dr. Karan Singh

Dr. Karan Singh, the International Chairman of the Temple of Understanding , has devoted his life to public service and education in his native India. He has promoted the ideal of interfaith understanding for many years through his distinguished work as high government official, diplomat, scholar, author, and teacher. He is the author of several books including Towards a New India, Hymn to Shiva and Other Poems.

Carole Vandal

Martha’s Vineyard Commission, Elected Commissioner-Aquinnah. Retired educator, teacher, and assistant principal, 30 years devoted to educating Native American Children and others in American Indian culture, and Biology. Riverkeeper, environmental activist, wetland coordinator, and water protector, Native American Flutist, drummer, and singer. Devoted to the preservation of our ancestral island Noepe and Wampanoag culture.

FORUM Action List

  • Become informed and spread the word, talk with family, friends, and colleagues
  • Share the video recording of our FORUMS:
  • FORUM2022
  • FORUM2021
  • FORUM2020 Part 1
  • FORUM2020 Part 2
  • Share our videos of ECO JUSTICE FOR ALL Dialogues & Interviews
  • Join an environmental group, unite and take action
  • Take part in or organize a cleanup on a beach, river, creek, park, street, etc
  • Use your voice and your vote to push for credible climate action locally, nationally, and globally
  • Support legislation to curb plastic production and waste
  • Put pressure on corporations and manufacturers
  • Make your money count, support green companies
  • Invest money responsibly in renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • Walk, bike, or take public transport
  • Reduce, reuse, purchase items secondhand, repair & recycle properly
  • Cut down your consumption
  • Eat organic, non-GMO, eat more vegetables, and less dairy, meat, seafood, and fish
  • Cook more, buy more in bulk
  • Don’t waste food, create compost
  • Respect and protect green spaces, do not cut down trees
  • Plant trees and native vegetation, plant regenerative forests and food gardens
  • Cut back on flights, boat cruises, and unnecessary travel
  • Refuse any single-use plastics and avoid products containing microbeads
  • Carry reusable bags, produce bags, water bottles, utensils, coffee cups, and straws.
  • Save energy at home and at work.
  • Use less water. Use less hot water.
  • Adjust your thermostat for heating and cooling.
  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and electric appliances.
  • Turn off electronic devices when not in use.
  • Wash laundry with cold water and hang clothes to dry.
  • Host a viewing party for one of the many plastic-pollution-focused documentaries, like A Plastic Ocean, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic, Bag It, Addicted to Plastic, Plasticized, or Garbage Island.

Here are a few links we suggest for more information:

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