Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

"Ecological Thinking": A Bridge between Scientific and Religious Perspectives on Environmental Protection

Stephen Woolpert.

Reorienting modern culture to make it compatible with the cycles of nature challenges us to alter essential features of our present way of thinking. Formal education must be transformed so that it can provide an integrating context for total life functioning. Instead we tend to operate with a splintered and fractionated world view. I recently completed research on a particular habit of mind or way of knowing that I call “ecological thinking”. Ecological thinking is grounded in our ontological interconnectedness with other beings and other manifestations of reality. Ecological thinking is holistic both in temporal and spacial terms. It emphasizes relationships, processes and contexts. It is an integrative set of skills, spanning the natural and social sciences and the humanities.
My research identifies specific pedagogical practices and specific learning outcomes related to ecological thinking, based on evidence from a course about the relationship between scientific and religious approaches to environmental protection. The course tested the effectiveness of practical methods of teaching and assessing students’ ability: 1) to understand ecological systems and humans’ relationship to them, and 2) to demonstrate an affinity for the living world and a sense of wonder in the presence of its beauty, mystery and bounty.
There is at present no discourse community that brings together faculty who attempt to teach ecological thought. This portfolio on ecological thinking, once subjected to the scholarly processes of public presentation and peer review, will help stimulate the emergence of a community of scholars interested in this subject.


Stephen Woolpert  (United States)
School of Liberal Arts
Saint Mary's College of California

Stephen Woolpert received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University in 1977. He has been a member of the faculty at the University of Maryland and Saint Mary's College of California. He teaches courses in Environmental Politics and Law, American Political Thought, Minority Politics, Political Psychology, and Constitutional Law. He is the author of numerous articles and conference papers on the psychological aspects of politics. He was senior editor and contributing author of the anthology, "Transformational Politics: Theory, Study, and Practice", which was named the "Outstanding Book on Ecological and Transformational Politics" by the American Political Science Association in 1998. He was named "Professor of the Year" at Saint Mary's College in 2003, prior to being appointed Dean of the School of Liberal Arts.

  • Ecological Thinking
  • Pedagogy and Assessment

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)