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Welcome to the 2021 ISSRNC online conference - Religion and Environment: Relations and Relationality.
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Saturday, February 27 • 9:00am - 9:45am
Case Studies of Buddhism

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(LIVE conversation with presenters. Please watch the session video beforehand)

Dan Smyer Yü, Moderator

Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia, “The Forest as a Garden to the Forest as a Supermarket: The Vagaries of the Biography of Uncle Chilly”

In recent years, Dhale Kursani chilly has become popular throughout India for its distinctive flavour hit. It has moved from being considered as a Sikkimese, and more generally, Northeastern delicacy, to become a mass-distributed spicy commodity. Its exotic status does not acknowledge its history as an agent in Sikkim's multispecies landscape, especially as a forest being. In this context, Dhale Kursani is known as Akubari, Uncle Chilly, and in west Sikkimese Bhutia-language speaking communities his name is invoked as a descriptor for bad tempered people, but also a healer who is effective for dealing with stomach-related illnesses. Sikkimese practitioners of Green Medicine (Bhutia: nyoman), a system of knowledge that synthesizes Indigenous and Buddhist traditions, relate to the forest as a garden of healing, but also exchange, with specific guidelines that direct sustainable use for humans and spirits. Akubari was one of the forest's many powerful spirits, but the arrival of Indian Ayurvedic food company Patanjali had led him to be mass-planted in kitchen gardens and sold for export. This paper will trace the changing economies of value and scale around Uncle Chilly, and consider how these new forms of cultivation and consumption impact the networks of relatedness he centers.

Kira Cooper, “Mindfulness and the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Catalyst for Sustainability Transformations?”

The COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced concerns around humanity’s increasingly precarious relationship with the biosphere, specifically, by illuminating the consequences of extensive environmental degradation, including extreme privation and deepening inequities. Far from being an isolated emergency event, this pandemic arises from and compounds the global ecocrisis that threatens the long-term viability of Earth’s biocultural systems. As conventional approaches to solving these complex challenges fail, alternative pathways towards collective wellbeing are urgently needed. This paper considers the largely unexplored question of how mindfulness and sustainability could be linked in a mutually supportive, enhancing, and necessary relationship. For a world navigating the uncharted waters of a global crisis and beginning to plan for a post-pandemic future, even tentative answers to this question may help us identify useful alternative pathways to desirable transformations.

avatar for Dan Smyer Yü

Dan Smyer Yü

Kuige Professor of Ethnology, School of Ethnology and Sociology and the National Centre for Borderlands Ethnic Studies in Southwest China, Yunnan University


Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia

Grinnell College
avatar for Kira Cooper

Kira Cooper

PhD Candidate, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo

Saturday February 27, 2021 9:00am - 9:45am MST
Online (Live)