A collaborative, interdisciplinary, and immersive opportunity to deepen work and connections around humanity’s response to the climate crisis for researchers, contemplatives, and changemakers.

Program Overview

Climate change and its consequences—from deadly forest fires to species loss to sea level rise—are reminders of the urgent need to repair the human-earth ecosystem through holistic, ethically-responsible action. The 2021 Summer Research Institute (SRI), a live online event, explored how the union of contemplative traditions, indigenous wisdom, and science can lead to greater awareness of the interconnectedness of all life and reignite our collective responsibility as stewards of our planetary future.

 

Climate change and its consequences—from deadly forest fires to species loss to sea level rise—are reminders of the urgent need to repair the human-earth-ecosystem through holistic, ethically-responsible action. The SRI 2021 will explore how the union of contemplative wisdom and science can lead to greater awareness of the interconnectedness of all life, and the relationship between earth care and human health and cooperation.
 
The six-day program will begin with a focus on the historic and cultural roots of our current context. We will look at indigenous communities’ earth-care histories and contemporary courage. How have we lost the earth-honoring practices embedded in art, ritual, and storytelling, along with the power and wisdom of ancestor-insights? How can they still help us? We will examine histories of exploration, exploitation, and colonization and their contribution to today’s extinction crisis.
 
We will then look at the individual and structural influences in modern society that disconnect us from each other and the earth. Scientific insights will be shared on the mind, brain, behavior change, and social change, along with successful models that can inform our own goals and work. We will draw from contemplative wisdom and the deep knowledge of change leaders. We will explore models of radical inclusive interrelatedness, interweaving both creativity and new scientific insights.
 
With a firm grounding in contemplative and indigenous wisdom, SRI 2021 will look at the changes needed to nurture devotion to earth-care practices that minimize human impact, restore the natural environment, and nourish the human capacity for cooperative kindness, humility, and positive change. Our driving question will be how to re-awaken our relationship with the earth and all its inhabitants, while re-igniting our collective responsibility as stewards of our planetary future.
 
Topics to include:
  • Histories of exploitation and colonization and their contribution to today’s environmental crisis
  • The individual and structural influences in modern society that disconnect us from each other and the earth
  • Scientific insights on the mind, brain, behavior change, and social change
  • The role of contemplative practice, the arts and storytelling in nurturing climate resilience
  • Pathways toward collective action and movement building

The Online Speaker Series

To ensure broader access to SRI, we also offered a synchronous SRI Live Online Speaker Series. The Speaker Series was designed for a general audience interested in hearing the latest on the convergence of contemplative practice, science, and the climate crisis, but who did not have time to attend the full length of SRI, or who were in time zones that prohibited participation in the live, immersive experience at SRI. 

Participants in the Speaker Series had live access to, and recordings of, the plenary talks, panel discussions, and contemplative practice sessions from our 2021 SRI.

Please note: Attending the Speaker Series does not fulfill eligibility requirements to apply for the Mind & Life Francisco J. Varela Research Grants; only participating in SRI counts towards eligibility.


Program Sessions

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

A Conversation with Christiana Figueres: The Case for Stubborn Optimism

Christiana Figueres, Susan Bauer-Wu

Topics: Contemplative Wisdom | Environment | Social Change

Audio AvailableVideo Available

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

How to Give the Future a Chance: Mind, Earth, and Climate Change

Elke Weber

Topics: Environment | Social Change

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

The Timing of Climate Change

Kyle Whyte

Topics: Contemplative Wisdom | Environment | Social Change

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

Film & Panel: “Storytelling, Science, and Hope: Climate Feedback Loops Film & Panel”

Moderators: Nischal Neupane
Panel: Bonnie Waltch, Donald Perovich, Thupten Jinpa Langri, Nischal Neupane

Topics: Compassion & Empathy | Contemplative Wisdom | Environment | Stress & Resilience

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

Integrity and Moral Suffering in Relation to the Climate Catastrophe and Health

Roshi Joan Halifax

Topics: Environment | Mental Health | Stress & Resilience

Audio AvailableVideo Available

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

Panel Discussion: Science Forum: The Science of Social Change for Sustainability

Moderators: Elissa Epel
Panel: Christine Wamsler, Ed Maibach, Karen O’ Brien, Elissa Epel

Topics: Environment | Interconnection | Mindfulness | Social Change

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

Earth Democracy : Connecting the Rights of Mother Earth and the Well Being of All

Vandana Shiva

Topics: Environment | Interconnection | Self & Other

Audio AvailableVideo Available

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

Mindfulness, Co-benefits, and Behavioral Eco-Wellness

Bruce Barrett

Topics: Environment | Mental Health | Mindfulness

2021 Summer Research Institute Session

Altruism and Wonderment: Towards a Sustainable Harmony

Matthieu Ricard

Topics: Compassion & Empathy | Environment | Interconnection

                   

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