Leslie Sponsel

Leslie E. Sponsel, PhD

Professor Emeritus

Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution

For more information, see: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/sponsel/

Research Institute for Spiritual Ecology (RISE)

General Interests
Current Research
Courses Taught

Selected Publications

More Information
Contact Information


B.A. in Geology (geomorphology), Indiana University, 1965
M.A. in Anthropology (biological and cultural), Cornell University, 1973
Ph.D. in Anthropology (biological and cultural), Cornell University, 1981

Previously visiting instructor or professor at Indiana University, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), Mount Royal College (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), Cornell University, University of Massachusetts (Amherst), Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigations (Caracas), and Prince of Songkla University (Pattani, Thailand).

Joined the faculty at the University of Hawai'i on August 1, 1981, and retired on August 1, 2010. Hired to develop and maintain the Ecological Anthropology Program.

General Interests

  • Ecological anthropology, environmental anthropology
  • Spiritual ecology
  • Buddhist ecology and environmentalism
  • Sacred places in nature (especially in relation to biodiversity studies and conservation)
  • Anthropology of nonviolence, peace, violence, and war; and nonkilling anthropology and nonkilling societies
  • Cultural change, human rights, applied anthropology, advocacy anthropology, and professional ethics
  • Mainland Southeast Asia (Thailand, Buddhism) and Amazon (Venezuela, Yanomami)

Current Research

Annual field trips in northern Thailand involve a long-term research project focused on exploring the possible ecological interrelationships among sacred caves, Buddhist monks, bats, forests, biodiversity, and conservation.

With the publication in June 2012 by Praeger of my book Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution I turn to developing the related Research Institute for Spiritual Ecology (RISE) and its website. For details of the book, see the publisher’s description.

In addition, published journal articles and book chapters based on decades of previous research will be revised and integrated for a succession of books on the topics of Buddhist ecology and environmentalism; ecological anthropology; anthropology of violence, war, nonviolence, peace, and human rights; Amazon, Yanomami, and the Darkness in El Dorado controversy; and other subjects (see list of publications in CV).

Selected Publications (last five years)

Journal Articles

2010 (March), “Ecological Anthropology at the University of Hawai`i – Manoa,” AAA Anthropology News 51(3):35-36.

2010 "Religion and Environment: Exploring Spiritual Ecology," Religion and Society: Advances in Research, Simon Coleman and Ramon Sarro, eds., New York, NY: Berghahn Books 1:131-145.  

2012 (November), “Spiritual Ecology,” AAA Anthropology News 53(9):24-25.

2013 (September), “The Ecological Imperative for Spiritual Ecology for the 21st Century,” Kosmos http://www.kosmosjournal.org/voices-of-people/the-ecological-imperative-of-spirituality-for-the-21st-century.

2013 (October 1), "Leslie Sponsel on Spiritual Ecology, Connection, and Environmental Change," Anthropology and Environment Society Engagement Blog   http://www.aaanet.org/sections/ae/index.php/leslie-sponsel-on-spiritual-ecology-connection-and-environmental-change/.  http://fore.research.yale.edu/news/item/leslie-sponsel-on-spiritual-ecology-connection-and-environmental-change/.

2013 “L`anthropologie de la paix et de la non-violence,” [“The Anthropology of Peace and Nonviolence”], with Brigitte Rollet, invited for Diogenes 2013/3, n. 243-244.

2014 (April), “Indigenous Sacred Places: Threats and Responses (Review of “Standing on Sacred Ground”),” AAA Anthropology News/Society for the Anthropology of Religion Section” Anthropology News 54(3).

2014 (April), invited Feature Article - “Bibliographic Essay: Spiritual Ecology: Is it the Ultimate Solution for the Environmental Crisis,” CHOICE 51(8):1339-1342, 1344-1348.

2014 (Summer), “Spiritual Ecology: The New Revolution in Consciousness,” invited for Sufi Journal 87:18-23 (http://www.sufijournal.org/les-sponsel).

Book Chapters

2010, “Into the Heart of Darkness: Rethinking the Canonical Ethnography on the Yanomamo,” in Nonkilling Societies, Joam Evans Pim, ed., Honolulu: Center for Global Nonkilling, Chapter 6, pp. 197-242.
2011, “The Religion and Environment Interface: Spiritual Ecology in Ecological Anthropology,” in Environmental Anthropology Today, Helen Kopnina, and Elleanore Shoreman, eds., New York, NY: Routledge, Chapter 1, pp. 37-55. 

2011, "The Master Thief: Gold Mining and Mercury Contamination in the Amazon," in Life and Death Matters: Human Rights,Environment, and Social Justice, Barbara Rose Johnston, ed., 1997, Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press (Second Edition), pp. 125-150.

2012, “The Role of Spiritual Ecology in Nonkilling,” in Towards a Nonkilling World: Festschrift in Honor of Prof. Glenn Paige, N. Radhakrishnan, et al., eds., Trivandrum, India: Gandhi Media Centre, pp. 168-194. http://www.nonkilling.org/pdf/nksocieties.pdf

2014, “Spiritual Ecology as an International Environmental Movement,” in Occupy the Earth: Global Environmental Movements, Syra Buryn Kedzior, ed., Advances in Sustainability and Environmental Justice 15:277-296, New York, NY: Emerald Group Publishing Limited

2015, “Sacred Caves of the World: Illuminating Darkness,” in The Changing World Religions Map, Stan Brunn, and Donna A. Gilbreath, eds., New York, NY: Springer, 1:503-522. 

2015, “Teaching Buddhist Ecology and Environmentalism,” invited for Teaching Buddhism, Gary Delaney DeAngelis and Todd Lewis, eds., New York, NY: Oxford University Press, (with Poranee Natadecha-Sponsel)(in press).

Encyclopedia Entries

2011, “Ethics,” invited for Oxford Bibliographies Online: Anthropology, New York, NY: Oxford Bibliographies Online, http://www.oxfordbibliographiesonline.com.

2013, “Buddhist Environmentalism” and “Spiritual Ecology,” invited for Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion, David A. Leeming, ed., Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag.

2013, “Human Impact on Biodiversity: Overview,” invited for Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, (revision and update for Second Edition), Simon Asher Levin, Editor-in-Chief, Waltham, MA: Academic Press 4:137-152.

2015. “Advocacy in Anthropology,” In: James D. Wright (editor-in-chief), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Oxford, UK: Elsevier (Second Edition) 1:223–228 [invited update of previous entry for new edition].

2015, “Peace and Nonviolence, Anthropological Aspects” revision of previous entries invited for Second Edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, N.J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, eds., Oxford, UK: Elsevier Press (in press).

2015, Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, Helaine Selin, ed., The Netherlands: Springer, Third Edition online, “Amazon: Environment and Nature” and “Buddhism: Environment and Nature” (in press).

Books (Monographs)

2012, Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution, Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publishers.

Book Reviews

2012 (June) “Sacred Natural Sites Conserving Nature and Culture, Bas Verschuuren, et al., eds.” Quarterly Review of Biology 87(2):149.

2013 (September) “Sacred Species and Sites: Advances in Biocultural Conservation,Gloria Pungetti, Gonzalo Oviedo, and Della Hooke, eds.” Quarterly Review of Biology 88(3):239-240. 

2014, “Religion and Sustainability: Social Movements and the Politics of the Environment, Lucas F. Johnston,” invited for Journal of Ecological Anthropology 17(1):

2014, “The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman, Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert,” invited for Tipiti: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 12(2):172-177 (Article 13) http://digitalcommons.trinity.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1193&context=tipiti.

Reprinted Publications

2010 "A Theoretical Analysis of the Potential Contribution of the Monastic Community in Promoting a Green Society in Thailand," (with Poranee Natadecha-Sponsel) in Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds, Mary Evelyn Tucker and Duncan Williams, eds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, 1997, pp. 45-68.  Reprinted in Roger S. Gottlieb, ed., 2010, Religion and Environment, New York, NY: Routledge, Chapter 40.

2014, “Ecological Noble or Ignoble?,” in Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution, Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012, Chapter 3, pp. 21-30. Reprinted in Religions and Environments: A Reader in Religion, Nature and Ecology, Richard Bohannon, New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 93-99.

Courses Taught

150 Human Adaptation
152 Culture and Humanity
200 Cultural Anthropology
215 Physical Anthropology
307 Contemporary Theory in Anthropology
340 Primate Behavior and Ecology
345 Aggression, War and Peace
399 Directed Reading or Research
410 Ethics in Anthropology
415 Ecological Anthropology
422 Anthropology of Religion
423 Social and Cultural Change
435 Human Adaptation to Forests
443 Anthropology of Buddhism
444 Spiritual Ecology
445 Sacred Places
481 Applied Anthropology
482 Environmental Anthropology
620H Human Ecology
699 Directed Reading or Research

Syllabi and extensive resource guides for my 2008-2010 courses are available on the College of Social Sciences website. Also see my homepage.

At UHM I can still offer 399 and 699 Reading or Research courses as well as serve on M.A. and Ph.D. committees. I continue to teach, mainly one course a semester in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UHM.

As in the past, I continue to be readily available to serve as an external faculty member on graduate student committees at other universities or as an external reviewer for M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations that focus on aspects of spiritual ecology and sacred places.

More Information

Curriculum Vita



Research Institute for Spiritual Ecology (RISE)

Contact Information

Dr. Leslie E. Sponsel
Professor Emeritus
Department of Anthropology
University of Hawai`i
2424 Maile Way – Saunders Hall 321
Honolulu, HI 96822-2223 USA

Office Phone: (808) 956-3770
Fax: (808) 956-4893
Email: sponsel@hawaii.edu