The Ganga River in India is a goddess, who has a long history of protecting and caring for her followers. But as a source of water, how do followers balance their respect for the goddess amid the various ways they are supported by her? The practical needs of the surrounding population, like fresh water, electricity, and industrial development, meet the spiritual needs of absolution through water burial, redemption through bathing in her free flowing waters, and the broader desire to protect the goddess who provides for so many.
Environmental Anthropologist Dr. Georgina Drew explains how a river is many things to its surrounding inhabitants—they have religious concerns, economic concerns, and ecological concerns—but different people prioritize them differently. There’s no one perspective on how to use the river. Dr. Drew discusses how our cultural ideas, practices, and beliefs about the earth are central to how we impact it. Taking a humanistic, anthropological approach means viewing the partnership between the environment and ourselves, and how each impacts the other.
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For more information on Dr. Georgina Drew:
Dr. Drew’s university research page: https://researchers.adelaide.edu.au/profile/georgina.drew#my-research
Dr. Drew’s academia page: https://adelaide.academia.edu/GinaDrew
More information on Dr. Drew’s research:
Dr. Drew’s book about her research into the relationship between the Ganga as goddess and the Ganga as water source: River Dialogues: Hindu Faith and the Political Ecology of Dams on the Sacred Ganga (Critical Green Engagements: Investigating the Green Economy and its Alternatives)
River Dialogues was recently featured on the newsletter for the Forum on Religion and Ecology: http://us15.campaign-archive2.com/?u=5da421acac235473df472e31a&id=869e3e13e5
River Dialogues is part of a broader book series entitled “Critical Green Engagements: Investigating the Green Economy and its Alternatives”: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/series/series_detail.php?s=32
More information on topics discussed in this episode:
Julie Cruikshank’s book about how environmental features like glaciers play an active role in humans’ lives and belief systems: Do Glaciers Listen?: Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination (Canadian Studies Series)
Ganges: River to Heaven Documentary focusing on the complex relationships devotees have with the River Ganga: http://www.berkeleymedia.com/product/ganges_river_to_heaven/
The Anthropology and Environment section of the American Anthropological Association: http://ae.americananthro.org/