Mari Jyväsjärvi Stuart - December 2015 Meeting Topic

Mari Jyväsjärvi Stuart, University of South Carolina

The Power to Send Down the Rains:

Human Moral Virtue Shaping Weather and Climate in Hindu India

My current work focuses on ideas of “moral ecology” in Hindu India, the ways in which religious agents perceive a connection between the human moral condition and the condition of the environment. This notion is an ancient one in Hinduism, but recent research suggests that it is still being evoked as an explanatory framework, as India increasingly faces erratic weather patterns of unprecedented proportions connected to global climate change. In this paper, drawing on research among farmers and environmental activists in three states in India – Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Telangana – I discuss three explanatory models that Hindus resort to in making sense of weather extremes: scientific-political explanations, divine anger, and human moral degeneracy. The three explanations are, however, deeply interlinked, and suggest a richly complex underlying understanding of human moral agency as a force that can bring about visible, concrete results in the phenomenal world. Finally, I examine the role that Hindu religious practices and values play in providing meaning and spiritual resources in the midst of the climate crisis – or, in some cases, are in fact deliberately harnessed in order to promote environmentally responsible practices.