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Fighting Climate Change with Faith

Dekila Chungyalpa • Madison

Dekila Chungyalpa is on the forefront of a new movement to bring together two powerful tools in the fight against climate change: science and faith. Through the Loka Initiative at UW–Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds, Chungyalpa is encouraging religious leaders to work with each other as well as with scientists and policy-makers to change the way communities of faith talk about and act upon climate change. 

Chungyalpa came upon the idea for Loka (the word is ancient Sanskrit for one, or many, worlds) while directing a faith-led conservation program for the World Wildlife Fund in Asia. She noticed that many of the Zen Buddhist nuns and monks became interested in the science of climate change after seeing the impacts on their communities.

As an environmental scientist and a person of faith, Chungyalpa saw an opportunity to bring large groups of people from across the world together around shared ethics and values that can support climate action.

Drawing support from Center for Healthy Minds director Richard Davidson and Global Health Initiative director Jonathan Patz (both of whom frequently participate in Academy programs), Chungyalpa has initiated numerous conversations and partnerships between faith leaders and scientists from around the world. 

For Chungyalpa and her colleagues at the Loka Initiative, it’s about working together as allies to address a global issue, one that transcends local and regional boundaries. “Faith and science together make the perfect equation,” says Chungyalpa, “and that’s what we need if we want to see change happen within the next ten years.” 

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Alex Paniagua is the editorial assistant for the Wisconsin Academy’s quarterly magazine Wisconsin People & Ideas. He joined the Wisconsin Academy in 2019 after graduating from UW-Milwaukee with his BA in English literature. When he’s not writing, much of his time is spent reading, painting, hiking, or playing guitar.

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