Planning an Action Project – Your Thoughts?

A Spiritual Perspective on Environmental Sustainability:

A Call to Action

Brainstorming on “A Call to Action”

Below is a list of some preliminary ideas of what a call to action might look like.   Please add to the list by posting your ideas in the comments box below.

When designing this course, Mary Jo had the idea that the process of environmental action could benefit from a spiritual, ethical, moral or religious perspective, that the integrity of the process could be improved through these perspectives creating processes that were more sustainable in the long term.

In our seminar on February 4 we took the last 20 minutes to brainstorm what an action infused with spirituality would look like. (The purpose of brainstorming is to capture many ideas without evaluating them.)   Mary Jo thought that finding action projects would be easy, but figuring out what adding the spiritual perspective would look like would be hard. However, we brainstormed many such ideas.

One idea that came out of the brainstorming was that we questioned the assumption about the benefit of a spiritual perspective in environmental action. Was this perspective exclusionary?   Effective environmental action can come without an explicit spiritual view. This merits further discussion. Another idea was that spirituality leading to environmental action was in one direction, but it can also go in the other direction with studying and being in nature leading to a spirituality.

Some ideas that were identified include:

  • Making our own environmental declaration
  • Creating a book or pamphlet by compiling ecological songs, prayers, quotes and poems
  • Earth day—poetry slam, songs etc. event
  • A series of earth week seminars on practical environment ideas, composting etc.
  • Tying into the New York City Peace and Planet Initiative on 4/24 to 4/26
  • Reach out to other spiritual groups to collaborate on a project
  • Having an electronic recycling booth during earth week where we might have some literature available.
  • Taking some actions that involve town and gown collaboration

 Please add your thoughts in “comments”!

Resources for the Project:

Implementing a Civic Action Project

Best Practices for a Group Project


About jgerber123

I teach sustainable food and farming at the University of Massachusetts and try to live in a way that doesn't exploit people or the land.

Posted on February 7, 2015, in Action Project. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Since there will be lots of other activities around Earth Day by many groups, I really hope we can figure out a way to do something unique that grows out of our discussions on the intersection of spirituality and environmental sustainability.


  2. This note was provided by Melissa Perot… “I personally do not find a visible action on earth day, (everyday is earth day), necessary for this discussion group to be fruitful indeed the challenge is being met each time we meet and share different perspectives, just as bees visit different sources of nectar to create honey and promote life in far more ways than just it’s product, sweet as it is. They just get on with their various jobs and live in community. The ‘action’ suggestion that I prefer is the first one, especially if it were in the form of questions. I like it because it requires ongoing inner work without any ego building expression or finite product. At this later stage in life my spiritual path leads me more to questions, that seem to reinforce humility and gratitude to nourish the natural world, than answers and actions that litter my life and are in need of recycling.”


  3. That’s an intriguing idea, Melissa… You’re suggesting that instead of a “Declaration of our Common Ecological Commitment” (sort of like the UN Declaration on Human Rights, or the Cornwall one we briefly discussed last Wed), a group of us might try to work on framing a positive set of “Universal Questions about our Common Ecological Commitment.”…

    Maybe the premise is something along the lines that, just as the Declaration of Independence lays out a set of assumptions / facts for everyone to see, we’re suggesting that anyone who lives on the same planet should think through these questions… “universal questions”.

    Do I understand your idea correctly? And if anyone else has questions to add, feel free to start jotting them down. Maybe next week when we have time set aside for planning we can think more about it together.


  4. Melissa’s comment about “answers and actions” littering her life and “in need of recycling” combined with the comment of someone in last week’s session about the difficulty of getting people to come to a particular event on campus strike me as something worth talking about. What is an action, and how can an action be most effective? Perhaps we should take a step back and try to put into words what our “goal” is (I apologize if this was done during the first class session, which I missed).

    Do we want to introduce people to the idea that spirituality and ecology can be connected (declaration, seminar)? Do we want to reach out to people who might already connect the two, and give them tools to use in their own faith or eco communities (pamphlet, book of songs, poetry)? Do we want to have an ecological goal, knowing that our own focus is spirituality (battery recycling event)?

    Personally, I am most excited about involving people that might not otherwise see this connection. Sometimes all it takes its one powerful event, or moment, or declaration from one individual, to change someone’s perspective. I agree with the commenter from last class that getting people to come to an Earth day event is going to be our biggest obstacle, and otherwise, we are just “preaching to the choir” so to speak…and I would tend to agree with Melissa that that sort of action can be clutter/in need of recycling.

    What about a “food and faith” potluck — where people bring food from their religion/culture (free food still attracts college students to events, right?). We could invite clergy from local churches/synagogues to be involved. Maybe each of us, and any clergy that came, could get up and speak about an event, passage, perspective, from our own religion/spirituality/lack thereof that informs our internal environmental ethic.

    Also, last week’s discussion about Catholicism and ecology reminded me of a (fabulous) book I read called Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology about a group of nuns that run a small sustainable farm on the principle of caring for Creation. Rather than approach our “action” for the class in a broad sense, maybe we could pick one religion-ecology connection to highlight. We could go on a class field trip perhaps and visit an Eco-monestary like this one ( for instance, and present a slideshow/video of our visit on Earth day…along with a potluck. 🙂


  5. Aimee BarnHeart

    Hello, Lisa! I like your idea of a potluck or some kind of event that involves the sharing of food from different cultures–or just foods that different people enjoy. I saw an article in YES magazine about the importance of sharing food, and there was a section with before dinner prayers from over 12 faiths. This would be a great way to get both local towns people and students together. I know a lot of people in the area who have homestead farms and who can their own food and are involved in co-housing and other environmentally sustainable ways of living… maybe we could get them together with the farms studies students and local faith leaders for a meal and conversation about the importance of food both spiritually and environmentally.

    Making connections and fostering community is one way to create a more sustainable world. As a local and someone who was also a student at Umass, I think it is really important to build a connection between the two groups. I feel students will be more respectful and responsible of the town and the local environment if they are connected to the people from the town, and students have so much to offer the town as well! If we can find a way to build a connection, we can share resources and develop mutual respect.

    Thank you for sharing your idea! I think it is a great one!


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Aimee BarnHeart

    p.s. I also think a trip to the monastery sounds amazing! And I would love a chance to go there!


  7. Here is an idea to consider. Why not invite the interfaith community in Amherst/Northampton to explore how we might use Daniel Greenberg’s organization, Earth Deeds, to help “account for the true costs of our impacts and efficiently channel money to sustainability projects that are creating sustainable communities and ecosystems.” See:

    A recent article states “Climate Change Kills More People Than Terrorism”. See:


  8. I will be there tonight though a big part of me is resisting this aspect of the course. Why? I agree that last week’s class seemed to connect some at a different level but I did not ‘feel’ the connection myself. Part of my hesitation may be that ‘outsider’ sense that I have always lived with and have only come to appreciate with time. Part maybe the sense that when it comes to ‘actions’, I have ‘been-there-done-that’ or have been doing what little I can ever since I arrived on this continent some 50+ years ago and saw the lack of respect for the natural world here and experienced the violence of the majority who lived here despite the shadow of Native American understanding of man’s relationship to the earth or the harboring of Amish communities on the fringe of an East Coast Megalopolis. Tonight I will listen. This weekend I will join a retreat at Woolman Hill on Inward Activism and Outward Prayer which may speak to my confusion concerning this issue and help me find a harmonious hum if not join a chorus of gratitude for the power of the natural world and humility in the face of human insignificance in the greater scheme of life over billions of years. For me the earth is not ours to fix or ‘heal’, it evokes both gratitude despite all it’s inherent conflicts, and humility despite the extraordinary development of mankind’s abilities as a species. I continue to express my ‘belief’ in nature’s dominance in small acts of attention, caring and sharing, informed by a non-violent approach to life to help reinforce relational systems that invite integration, as does this course. I question if any ‘action’ is called for beyond that. Would such an ‘action’ serve to strengthen the integration of different belief systems, ages/stages, race/class that has been achieved thus far or does Action tend to splinter as much as it bonds?


  9. During Craig’s lecture we discussed the hierarchical nature of the Catholic leadership structure. It seemed that most people viewed this as a negative aspect in regards to grassroots action. I think the preexisting structure present in most organized religions can be a powerful tool for bringing people together to work towards a common goal. If we each agreed to sit down and talk to one or two religious leaders about our project (whatever it ends up being) and got them on board, their endorsements could be much more powerful than just a flyer or email sent out into the community. Speaking to just a few dozen leaders might capture the attention of hundreds of people. I’m not sure precisely what the project should be, but I think connecting different religious and spiritual groups in the community in an ecological effort would have an impact that would resonate well past a single event.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I really enjoy reading everyone’s ideas! As someone who isn’t religious, I definitely think we should collaborate with environmental groups on campus for the event that we decide on. If we did the electronic recycling (which would be very popular), it would be a perfect way to lure people in to learning more about the role of spirituality in environmental sustainability.


  11. I feel that using something to lure people in, such as offering people food (being a broke college student I am always going to events for free food) and the electronic recycling (would draw people from many backgrounds) is a very good place to start. Offering both of these would gather lots of people. We could have handouts and have people to talk with everyone that comes by. Perhaps even having people sign a pledge which relates to environmental sustainability and spirituality would get more people to think about it past Earth Day


  12. I agree with the food idea. Food is always a great incentive to bring people in and teach them about environmental issues. I also think taking a group hike is a great way to appreciate nature a less advocate way. I think a book or website article of all of our favorite nature poetry would be amazing because it would allow people to see the beauty a lot of us see in nature everyday and maybe rethink their choices because of that appreciation. Posters would also be a nice idea. Such posters that make people rethink their decisions such as taking long showers and using an unnecessary amount of paper towels.


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