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The Loka Initiative

The Integration of Faith and Ecology

The Loka Initiative is an education and outreach platform for faith leaders and religious institutions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Our mission is to support faith-led environmental and climate efforts locally and around the world by helping build capacity of faith leaders and culture keepers of Indigenous traditions, and by creating new opportunities for projects, partnerships and public outreach.

Resilience in the Anthropocene (RITA) Summit

Aug. 8-10, 2023

We are excited to share our speakers and panels for the upcoming Resilience in the Anthropocene Summit online from August 8-10, 2023! Over the three days, we will focus on:

🌱 Understanding the psychological and emotional impacts of the environmental and climate crises through an intersectional and justice lens.

🍃 Learning from contemplative practices, clinical and counseling psychology, nature based and Indigenous wisdom traditions to cope and even thrive in uncertain times.

🌿 Collaboratively designing a new framework of inner, community, and planetary resilience that sustains us all.

Please visit for more detailed event information and register for free to join us!

In the News

Program Updates

Winter 2022: Creation at the Crossroads 3.0

Loka, in partnership with A Rocha and Care of Creation and the World Evangelical Alliance, brought together 20 Evangelical church pastors, representing the next generation of Christian leaders, to connect and empower them to become stewards and advocates of creation care and climate action in the third convening of this project.

If you are curious how this project got started, here is a short movie: On God’s Green Earth featuring Reverend Ed Brown, Dekila Chungyalpa, and Dr. Katherine Hayhoe.

As part of the four day closed-door convening, the Loka Initiative organized a public event at Upper House, a Christian center for study and gathering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that was a conversation between Reverend Dave Bookless, Director of Theology for A Rocha International, Dr. Jonathan Patz PhD., Climate Health expert and Chair of Health and the Environment at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and Dr. Janel Curry, Executive Director of the American Scientific Affiliation and conflict management expert, moderated by Loka Director, Dekila Chungyalpa.

Fall 2022: Collective Trauma Summit

Collective Trauma Summit

Loka Director, Dekila Chungyalpa, participated in the Collective Trauma Summit, organized by the Thomas Hübl Institute, which was attended by almost 100,000 people and featured over 50 speakers and gathered together people from diverse backgrounds including Indigenous knowledge carriers, neuroscientists, artists, and psychologists. The theme of the summit centered around creating a global healing movement and how to address collective trauma on an individual, community and societal level. Dekila spoke on the importance of building resilience towards ecoanxiety and climate distress especially in the context of trauma caused by neoliberalist systems.

Fall 2022: Compassionate Leadership Summit 2022

Compassionate Leadership Summit 2022

The Center for Healthy Minds (one of Loka’s founding partners and host organization) and Healthy Minds Innovation organized an event in Dharamsala, India with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s office that brought together a group of transformative young leaders and changemakers from around the world to be in dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dekila, along with Richie Davidson, the founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds, and Cortland Dahl, Chief Contemplative Officer at the Healthy Minds Initiative, served as mentors for the event.

Summer 2022: Sacred Wisdom Sacred Earth Documentary

The Loka Initiative initiated a new film project with Bravebird, an Indigenous and woman-led film making company in Madison, to create a documentary on Indigenous wisdom and traditional ecological knowledge in Wisconsin as follow up to Sacred Wisdom Sacred Earth.

What religious resources do faith leaders draw on to do environmental work? (Part 1 of 2)

Upcoming Events

Resilience In The Anthropocene Summit (RITA)

August 8, 8:30AM to August 10, 5:00PM

Join The Loka Initiative for the virtual RITA Summit coming up in August 2023. Registration is free.

Recent Events

The Meaning of Bhumisparsha; Where Buddhism and Environmental Justice Come Together

July 9, 1:30PM to 3:00PM

Loka Initiative is thrilled to announce an in-person/virtual talk on July 9 led by two Buddhist teachers who are redefining American Buddhism.

“Wisdom of Winter; Rest, Regeneration and Rebirth”.

December 21, 5:30PM to 6:30AM

Program Offerings


      Loka convenes, organizes, and builds networks that help communities of faith design and build their own environmental and climate efforts. We provide focused training in the areas of environmental protection, climate change, and sustainable living to faith leaders and communities of faith and support on strategic planning, communications and project design. Convenings are informed by what our faith partners inform us are their priorities. Loka currently works closely with Evangelical church leaders in the US and around the world, with Indigenous elders and knowledge holders around the world and from Indian tribes of Wisconsin, and with Tibetan Buddhist monastics in the Himalayas.

      • Sacred Wisdom Sacred Earth: In 2021, in partnership with several Indigenous-led organizations, Loka co-hosted the Sacred Wisdom Sacred Earth convening, an online event that had almost 1,000 registered participants. The 3-day convening focused on 5 themes: Food, Water, Medicine, Sovereignty and Spirit and was an entirely Indigenous-led event, with the goal of sharing Indigenous ecological and spiritual knowledge as means of sustenance for all Indigenous peoples and all humanity. As an outcome of the SWSE convening, Loka entered a partnership with Bravebird, a local, Indigenous and female-owned film production company in 2022, and with a core team of Native and Indigenous leaders at and around UW-Madison, began creating a documentary storyline that focuses on Indigenous wisdom available to us in Wisconsin. At this extremely crucial time in our Earth’s history, we believe that Indigenous wisdom holds many truths for shifting the way we live in relation with the Earth and to address the environmental and climate crisis. The film presents Indigenous wisdom starting in Dejope, the Ho-chunk name for Madison, and expanding to the surrounding Great Lakes area, listening to and learning from elders and knowledge holders on how to center our relationship with Mother Earth as the most important aspect of building kinship and reciprocity in our lives and our movements. For more information on this project, please contact Kristin Klingman, Loka SWSE program assistant, (Anishinaabe, LVD), and MFA Candidate at UW Design Studies.


          Loka is committed to developing an interdisciplinary program that focuses on building resilience in the face of eco-anxiety and climate distress. Known as Resilience in the Anthropocene or RITA, this program has 3 projects that are currently in development, with an anticipated launch in 2023:

          • Research led by Dr. Christy Wilson Mendenhall ( and team on how eco-anxiety and climate distress impact subgroups and what coping methods can be of benefit

          • An online course in partnership with the Division of Continuing Studies that will help participants better understand how environmental and climate issues affect us and our future, investigate different emotional and psychological impacts caused by our awareness and concern for the environment, and introduce mainstream therapy techniques, contemplative and nature-based practices, and community building exercises as coping mechanisms, while also guiding participants through exercises and values-based criteria that help them identify the most effective building blocks for their resilience and wellbeing.

          • An interdisciplinary online summit that brings together scientists, scholars, lived experience experts, and community members to better understand resilience within the fields of Psychology, Sociology, and Environmental Science.

          For more information on these projects, please contact M. Vikas, Loka RITA program assistant, and a PhD candidate at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


            Loka works to engage, inspire, and involve the public by bringing the forces of religion and science together on environmental and climate solutions at 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. As part of this work, Loka launched a quarterly newsletter showcasing faith and Indigenous leaders who lead transformative environmental and climate work in order to help lift their voices and reach new audiences. You can sign up for the newsletter here:

            Loka continues to expand its online community-building and information-sharing networks to support the work inspired through public outreach. We hosted our first symposium in 2019 that brought 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. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Loka pivoted its planned events online. We are currently tentatively planning our next symposium for the summer of 2024.

            Eco Anxiety Resources

            2019 Loka Symposium Slideshow

            What Faith Leaders Are Saying

            Huda Alkaff
            ​Founder and Director, Wisconsin Green Muslims​
            Huda Alkaff

            "We believe that people of faith have a great responsibility to stand up for environmental and climate justice, and to address the concerns and calamities of the poor and marginalized communities. They have the lowest ecological footprints, yet they are most impacted by natural and unnatural disasters. It is a moral issue."

            Gary Besaw
            Former Chairman, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (Bear Clan)
            Gary Besaw

            "At the core, Indigenous knowledge is about protecting the needs of future generations. We don’t need all these modern conveniences and financial profits if it means destroying the environment. The price is too great for future generations to bear."

            Rev. Sally Bingham
            Episcopal, Founder of Interfaith Power and Light
            Rev. Sally Bingham

            “All of us, Christian or not, must recognize our responsibility and obligation to protect Creation from the catastrophic effects created by climate change.”

            Rev. Ed Brown
            Evangelical, Lausanne Catalyst for Creation Care
            Rev. Ed Brown

            “The environmental crisis is a moral crisis, and demands a response from God’s people.”

            Rev. Ambrose Carroll
            Founder and Director, Green The Church
            Rev. Ambrose Carroll

            "Green The Church taps into the unmatched power of the African-American church as a moral leader and a force for social change — one with the potential to bring millions of new people into the climate movement."

            His Holiness the 17th Karmapa
            Head of Karma Kagyu Lineage, Tibetan Buddhism
            His Holiness the 17th Karmapa

            “The environmental emergency that we face is not just a scientific issue, nor is it just a political issue. It is also a moral issue and religious leaders must help lead the way forward.”

            Juanita Cabrera Lopez
            Executive Director, Mayan League
            Juanita Cabrera Lopez

            “We are asking that our Indigenous knowledge systems be valued and integrated into climate discourse, policy development and actions. Those knowledge systems, of which elders, spiritual leaders and ancestral authorities are the custodians, are key to relearning how to care for the earth.”

            Mary Evelyn Tucker
            Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Scholar in Religion and Ecology, Yale
            Mary Evelyn Tucker

            “We're in this exciting moment of expansion of an ethical and moral sensibility that's grounded in religion and draws on science to give us that sense of the intricacy of ecosystems.”

            Phra Paisal Visalo
            Abbot, Wat Pasukato
            Phra Paisal Visalo

            “As a Theravada monk, I believe it’s the duty of all monks to care for the environment.”

            Pamela Ayo Yetunde
            Community Dharma leader, Co-Founder of Center of the Heart
            Pamela Ayo Yetunde

            "I think the environmental movement relies on the intellectual. But, what we need is to access the feeling, that connection, that resonation with wildlife, a mountain or a stream. We need to learn to create more empathy for one another, not more cost benefit rationales."

            In the News

            News Archive

            Remedies for Fatalistic Indifference

            Loka Director Dekila Chungyalpa interviews Pamela Ayo Yetunde in a discussion that explores the power of radical non-discrimination as a catalyst for change at every level.

            Mind & Life Podcast: The Human Earth Connection

            Loka Director Dekila Chungylapa shares her views of nature, the climate crisis and her unique collaborations with faith leaders through the Loka Initiative on this Mind & Life podcast.

            Center for Humans & Nature Article: At the center of all things is interdependence

            In this Center for Humans & Nature article, Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of the Loka Initiative, explores the central Buddhist concept of interdependence, the awareness that we exist not only in interdependence with one another but with all of nature

            Tricycle Podcast: Becoming a Buddhist Climate Scientist

            On this Tricycle Podcast, Dekila Chungyalpa, director of the Loka Initiative, talks about her work with religious and Indigenous leaders, scientists, and policymakers to design community-based environmental and climate programs. She also discusses how she relies on Buddhist Buddhist teachings on emptiness, impermanence, non-attachment and compassion to sustain her during times of eco-anxiety and distress.

            Dekila Chungyalpa on uniting faith leaders to bolster climate activism

            Loka Director Dekila Chungyalpa is interviewed on the Go Simone podcast. She shares the back-story of the Loka Initiative and how it supports faith leaders with education, tools and resources in support of conservation and climate activism.

            COVID-19 Preparedness Guidelines for Monasteries, Nunneries and Centers

            Khoryug has prepared a small booklet and a poster (both in Tibetan and English) on Covid-19 preparedness guidelines for monasteries, nunneries and centers.

            Innovators in Diversity and Inclusion Names to Madison Magazine's 2019 M List

            The Loka Initiative has received a 2019 M List award from Madison Magazine, and was selected for the initiative's innovative contributions toward diversity and inclusion.


            For more information, please contact the Loka Initiative.

            Dekila Chungyalpa

            Dekila is the founder and director of the Loka Initiative. She is an accomplished environmental program director, with 20+ years of experience in designing and implementing global conservation and climate strategies and projects. Known as an innovator in the environmental field, Dekila has expertise in faith-led environmental and climate partnerships, biodiversity landscape and river basin strategy design, and community-based conservation. She began her career in 2001 working on community-based conservation in the Eastern Himalayas and went on to work on climate adaptation and free flowing rivers in the Mekong region for the World Wildlife Fund in 2004. In 2008, she helped establish Khoryug, an association of over 50 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries implementing environmental projects across the Himalayas under the auspices of His Holiness the Karmapa. In 2009, Dekila founded and led WWF Sacred Earth, a 5-year pilot program that built partnerships with faith leaders and religious institutions towards conservation and climate results in the Amazon, East Africa, Himalayas, Mekong, and the United States. She received the prestigious Yale McCluskey Award in 2014 for her work and moved to the Yale School of Environmental Studies as an associate research scientist, where she researched, lectured and designed the prototype for what is now the Loka Initiative. Dekila is originally from the Himalayan state of Sikkim in India and is of Bhutia origin.

            Contact Dekila

            Paul Franz

            Paul is the education specialist of the Loka Initiative.

            Contact Paul

            Kristin E. Klingman

            Kristin is the program assistant of the Loka Initiative.

            Contact Kristin

            Mirtha Sosa Pacheco

            Mirtha is the outreach program coordinator of the Loka Initiative.

            Contact Mirtha

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            Compassion is Action

            University Partners

            Loka is an interdisciplinary collaboration among different programs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It is housed in the Center for Healthy Minds in collaboration with:


            Loka’s program offerings would not be possible without the generous support of our major donors. We thank them for helping further our vision and mission.

            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 Davidson, John Dunne, Dekila 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 had recently launched the Sacred Earth program at WWF, a faith-led conservation initiative working with Buddhists and faith leaders in Asia, Based on that dialogue, she expanded the program to work with 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.



              Calvin B. DeWitt, "Caring for Creation: Responsible Stewardship of God's Handiwork"

              John D. Dunne, "Mind and Life book: Ecology Ethics and Interdependence"

              Pope Francis, “Laudato Si”:

              Dina Gilio-Whitaker, “As Long as Grass Grows”,

              Katharine Hayhoe, “Saving Us; A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World”

              Jessica Hernandez, “Fresh Banana Leaves; Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science”

              Justine Huxley, "Y, Spirituality, and Social Change"

              Winona LaDuke, “Recovering the Sacred”:

              Barry Levy, Jonathan Patz, "Climate Change and Public Health"

              Ogyen Trinley Dorje, 17th Karmapa, "Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society"

              Paul Robbins, John Hintz, Sarah A. Moore, "Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction"

              E.O. Wilson, “The Creation; An Appeal to Save Life on Earth”


              Climate Change Information

              Global Warming FAQ from Union of Concerned Scientists

              IPCC Global Warming of 1.5 ºC

              Global Weirding with Katherine Hayhoe

              Wildfire Patterns in the U.S. statistics from NASA

              Changes in Monsoons statistics from NASA

              Society for Conservation Biology

              Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications and Guidance


              100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming from Drawdown

              Cities Leading Solutions for Climate Change from C40

              Faith-Based Resources

              The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale

              Interfaith Power and Light


              The Center for Earth Ethics


              Alliance of Religions and Conversations

              Journey of the Universe Film and Course Information

              PoWR: Faith for the Earth speech by Rabbi David Rosen (Nov 2018)

              Interview with Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam on climate change

              A Rocha

              Green The Church

              Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals

              Mayan League

              One Earth Sangha

              Lausanne World Evangelical Alliance Creation Care Network

              Laudato Si’ Action Platform