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Loka Initiative ​History and Resources
Program Offerings

Partnerships and Public Outreach

Loka works to engage, inspire and involve the general public by hosting talks and events that showcase dialogue between senior scientists and senior faith leaders. These events, as well as Loka’s strategic goals, are developed through extensive partnerships across campus, academia, local and global faith communities, and environmental activists and professionals. Loka launched a bi-monthly newsletter showcasing faith and indigenous leaders who lead transformative environmental and climate work in order to help lift their voices and reach new audiences. Loka continues to expand its online community-building and information-sharing networks to support the work inspired through public outreach and convenings.


At the request of faith leaders and climate scientists who were gathered at the first Loka Symposium this spring, we will put together a book on eco-anxiety; examining the psychological and emotional conditions faced by those on the climate frontlines, including first hand narratives, and providing spiritual, psychological and scientific resources as methods to alleviate the symptoms.

Strategic Convenings and Training Workshops

Loka will provide focused training in the areas of climate change, nature protection, and sustainable living to faith leaders and communities of faith and support on strategic planning, communications and project design. Convenings will be organized by themes and in partnership with different traditions.

Non-credit online course

Loka will work with the Division of Continuing Studies to build an online course, broadly available to everyone, that integrates faith, culture, environment, public health, and mental well-being and examines the role religion can play towards improving environmental, social and personal wellbeing. Subsequent courses will offer participants the opportunity to design and improve project ideas and strategy plans.


Loka will establish an ongoing symposium that brings together senior faith leaders from different religious traditions, scientists, economists, academics, policy administrators, business leaders and representatives from the public sector from around the world to collaborate on solving social and environmental problems. The Symposium kicked off in May of 2019. Stay tuned for future dates.

The Meaning of Loka

"Loka" (लोकः), an ancient Sanskrit term, has many meanings but usually refers to “our world” as the basis for all life. The world evoked by Loka is a complex and interwoven one, where multiple environments, species and dimensions interact to constitute a whole. The term Loka can thus mean a “world” as large as a planet, but it can also refer to a single individual who constitutes an equally complex and interdependent “world.” Thus, each Loka or world is in a sense many worlds, overlapping and embedded within each other. Evocatively, the word Loka also means “vision,” the act of seeing that not only beholds a world but brings it into being.

History of the Initiative

The roots of the Loka Initiative lie in Dharamsala, India where in 2011, Richard DavidsonJohn DunneDekila Chungyalpa and Jonathan Patz first met while presenting at the Mind and Life Ecology, Ethics and Interdependence conference. The Mind and Life conferences are presided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. During that initial meeting, a dialogue began on how environmental protection efforts and climate action required a bridge to be built between faith leaders and scientists, scholars, policy makers and other experts in the secular world. Dekila went on to launch the Sacred Earth program at WWF, a faith-led conservation initiative working with Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims and mainline Christians in the Amazon, East Africa, the Himalayas, the Mekong and the United States.

In 2018, Richard Davidson, John Dunne and Dekila Chungyalpa reconvened several participants from that group, including His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, who visited the University of Wisconsin–Madison and participated in planning discussions around an education and capacity building platform based in UW-Madison. At that gathering, His Holiness said “science needs religious leaders to help convince people that environmental protection is an urgent moral issue and not only an economic or political one. Without science, people lack the knowledge on how to solve environmental or social problems. But if you can add religious support to scientific expertise, you are able to generate greater courage and commitment among people to address these issues. For this reason, science and religion must find ways to work together.”

At its core, Loka begins with the premise that science and religion can be sympathetic rather than adversarial in their commitment to solve environmental and social problems compassionately and effectively. Therefore, the initiative will provide opportunities for faith and indigenous leaders from all traditions and geographies to collaborate with scientists, academics, policy-makers, business leaders, students and the public in order to develop effective and robust faith-led projects that protect the environment and build climate resilience in their communities. Through Loka, faith leaders can access the programs and resources necessary to help inspire their communities to solve environmental and climate issues.

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