The international conference “Towards Ecocultural Ethics: Recent Trends and Future Directions” at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Goa, India, was held October 9-11, 2014, and organized by the BITS Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of Philosophy at Goa University. The event brought together research scholars and teachers from departments of English language and literature, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, business, communications, political science, philosophy, and religious studies.
Three days of conversations and debates about ecology, culture and ethics began with my keynote address, “The Ecological Arts: Humanities, Technology, Science.” I was also a panelist at a featured conference session on ecological learning with a philosopher who teaches ethics at an Indian school of mining, a fisheries biologist employed by the Indo-German Biodiversity Program, a community activist from the capital city of Panjim, and an expert on the science and logistics of wastewater treatment. Another rewarding moment of the conference for me was a young research scholar telling me that my opening keynote inspired him to bring a group of tribal people to the BITS campus for his talk on the conflicts between tourism and fishing on Goa’s Zuari River.
The concurrent sessions highlighted the diverse landscape of the ecological humanities in India. Presentations on ecology and ethics, water studies, business and ecology, ecopolitics, Jainism, ecological justice and indigenous people, the Vedic tradition, Oikic studies, ecocinema, and representations of land and animals, to name a few, fueled lively conversations in the open halls and central green areas of the campus, as well as during afternoon tea breaks and evening meals. The conference concluded with a plenary address, “Melting Sneakers, Magic Rocks, and Miscarriages: Numbers and Narratives in US Environmental Law,” by attorney Rebecca Todd (who happens to be my wife) on her work with Lois Gibbs on the Love Canal resettlement controversy during the late 1980s, and with eloquent remarks on the value of the humanities by a distinguished visiting professor of electrical engineering, Dr. Raghubir Sharan, who sat in on the proceedings.
As a co-sponsor of this international conference, ASLE-US helped bring together over 160 people from across India–from Assam to Kerala, as well as from Egypt, Zambia, and Australia. BITS Goa has emerged as a center for the ecological and environmental humanities in India. In fact, the 2014 Tinai Eco-Film Festival will reconvene in 2015. For more information about upcoming events, contact Dr. Rayson Alex, the secretary of tiNai: An Organisation for promoting Ecocriticism (formerly OSLE, the Organisation for Studies in Literature and Environment-India) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the film festival web page at http://tinaiecofilmfestival.wordpress.com/.