Gratitude, Connectedness, and Awe: The Spiritual Side of Sustainability

By Jay McDaniel
Jesus, Jazz, and Buddhism
January 2012

A sustainable community can be a household, village, city, bioregion, or nation.  It is a community that is creative, compassionate, participatory, ecologically wise, and spiritually satisfying, with no one left behind. 

Such a community will support three desirable goals: social well-being, environmental well-being, and economic viability.  
 It can seem as if environmentalists focus on one of the three circles; that social workers and human rights focus on still another; and that economists focus on still another.  Relative to context, some circles will indeed take priority over others.  In the event of human rights violations, a focus on justice takes precedence over a viable economy and sometimes environmental concerns.  But we at JJB believe that the three circles are connected and that sustainability is an integration of the three. 

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Marin filmmakers shine at Wild and Scenic Fest

By Cari Lynn Pace
January 4, 2012

The 10th annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival, the largest film festival of its kind, combines stellar filmmaking, breathtaking cinematography and inspiring storytelling. Thousands of Bay Area residents will make this year’s pilgrimage to Nevada City, Calif., a picturesque former gold mining town in the Sierra foothills, the weekend of Jan. 13-15 to view an award-winning selection of more than 117 inspiring environmental films and passionate world adventures. Mill Valley’s award-winning filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia is one of the judges in this juried festival.

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Wonder Will Guide Us

By Peter Reason
Resurgence Magazine
January 2012

The humanist project of the Western world has been based on the proposition that man is the measure of all things. It is a perspective that has increasingly separated us from our cosmic and earthly context. The late Thomas Berry pointed out long ago in The Dream of the Earth: “We are in trouble because we do not have a good story.” We are between stories, he told us; our old story is ineffective and a new one has not yet been told.

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Small But Included in the Milky Way

By Jay McDaniel
Jesus, Jazz, and Buddhism
December 2011

Journey of the Universe

Many years ago, while I was driving with my son on a dark and starlit night on a country road, I turned and asked what he felt when he looked up at the stars. He paused for a moment and then said: "I feel small but included."

His phrase captures what I, too, felt that night, and what I feel as I watch the video above. The video is about the Milky Way as seen from the top of a mountain in Spain, with help from time-lapse photography. It gives you a sense of the grandeur of the Milky Way and also the beauty of life on our small planet.

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Interview with Mary Evelyn Tucker on WNPR/Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network

December 8, 2011
Interview with John Dankosky on "Where We Live"
WNPR/Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network
Listen to the interview:


Exploring Humanity's Place In the Journey of the Universe

Yale Environment 360
December 7, 2011

Mary Evelyn Tucker has been one of the innovators in the study of the connections between ecology and religion. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she talks about her work and about a new film she co-produced that points to the spiritual dimension of responding to the world’s environmental challenges.

As a pioneer in the field of religion and ecology, Mary Evelyn Tucker has long believed that science and policy alone are not enough to deal with the Earth’s most pressing environmental challenges. What’s also needed, she says, is a spiritual or religious framework for valuing the natural world, a sense that “there is something here that’s larger than us, something that’s given birth to all life forms and sustains us.” That is the essence of a new hour-long film she co-produced, Journey of the Universe, which is premiering on PBS television stations this month, and a companion book she co-authored with evolutionary philosopher Brian Swimme.

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Cosmic Consciousness: We are a Way for the Universe to Tell Its Story

By Carolyn Collins Petersen
The Spacewriter's Ramblings
December 7, 2011

Occasionally I’ve written about what I think of as the scientific history of the universe. That’s the story of the mechanics of the cosmos starting with the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago and tracing the creation of the first stars and galaxies and eventually the planets, and then on to life. It’s a compelling history and astronomers and cosmologists are still inking in the details as they learn more about things like dark matter, dark energy, and so on. I like the story, mostly. What I don’t like about it is that it seems to put humans at the top of the evolutionary chain that stretches back all those billions of years. And, that’s most emphatically NOT what cosmic history is about. There is bound to be other life out there, other planets teeming with biota of some kind–and each of those is also part of the evolutionary tree.

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Journey of the Universe (PBS) Examines Earth’s Miracles

By Bob Etier
December 6, 2011

In simply explaining the complexities of the creation of the universe, the composition of our planet, and the intricacies of evolution and life, Brian Thomas Swimme, on-screen narrator of Journey of the Universe, sells the concept of miracles. Every element of every explanation requires an explanation, and each explanation reveals miraculous events. So what is a miracle? Taken out of the spiritual realm, isn’t it just something that can’t be explained? It seems that traveling the reverse path of creation and being, from complex organism back to one-celled organisms and beyond, we arrive at the point where “something happened,” that unexplained (unexplainable?) something, that miracle that set everything in motion.

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PBS documentary on the great journey of the universe has Yale roots

By Joe Amarante
New Haven Register
December 2, 2011

Joseph Campbell meets Carl Sagan. That’s the way “Journey of the Universe” is being described by some familiar with the late thinkers’ work on PBS. The nearly hour-long film “Journey” will be shown on New York’s WNET-13 at 8 p.m. Dec. 7, and you have to appreciate its ambitious breadth.

Producer Mary Evelyn Tucker, who teaches at Yale, says the film is part of a 10-year project.

The documentary is companion to a well-regarded book, a website and an educational DVD series, which features 20 interviews with scientists, historians and environmentalists.

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Eyeopener: 'Journey of the Universe' on PBS

By Celia Wren
Commonweal Magazine
December 2, 2011

Painted stars splay across the ceiling of an old Greek church. A flower blooms in slow motion. Tree roots twine serenely round the rocks of an ancient ruin. The images in the nonfiction film Journey of the Universe are luminously beautiful—and so well meshed that their flow feels almost effortless. But a great deal of effort has gone into this hour-long work, which aims to knit modern scientific knowledge and religious and humanistic perspectives into a seamless, eye-opening chronicle of cosmic and earthly evolution.

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Journey Trailer on PBS YouTube Channel

PBS YouTube Channel
December 1, 2011

Reimagine the universe story and reframe the human connection to the cosmos in this dramatic and expansive film. Filmed on the Greek island of Samos, the birthplace of Pythagoras, JOURNEY OF THE UNIVERSE is hosted by evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme, whose stories awaken us to the beauty and complexity of our planet. Airing December 2011 on most PBS stations (check your local listings at Support your local PBS station now -- you make it possible for your PBS station to offer amazing performances and the opportunity to discover something new every day, whether on TV or online. To donate to your local PBS station, visit

Watch the trailer here:


Top Picks: Guitar lessons from James Taylor, Keira Knightley voices Tinkerbell, and more

Christian Science Monitor
November 25, 2011

James Taylor teaches guitar lessons on his website, Keira Knightley voices Tinkerbell in SyFy's two-part Peter Pan series, 'Journey of the Universe' space series on PBS takes viewers through the galaxy, and more top picks.

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Zygon Review of Journey of the Universe Book

Reviewed by James F. Moore
November 24, 2011

The new book written by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker is a thin volume that aims to narrate the story of the universe. This narration is primarily the story of the universe that contemporary science has told for us since the basic structure of the book is to follow the components of scientific research that put together create for us a whole, a full narrative. Thus, the story is a journey since the scientific story paints a picture of the universe that is constantly in motion. It is, therefore, a story that cannot have an end in the standard way since not only do we have much still to learn but we also know that all things are in motion through a whole set of intersecting processes. We have a sense that the universe has set out on an adventure as if the universe were itself a personality. Of course, we do not think of the universe in this way ordinarily, but perhaps this telling of the narrative is fashioned in this way since the story is integrated with bits and pieces of other universe narratives, mostly drawn from the religious, cultural stories of past and present.

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California college helps place humans in universe story

By Sharon Abercrombie
National Catholic Reporter
November 11, 2011

After two brief months of studying "big history," Andy Gramajo, 18, has a new perception of the human species.

"When compared to the universe, we are a pixel on a computer screen," he said. "I feel privileged to learn about the big bang and evolution."

Gramajo is among 250 freshmen who are participating in a unique educational venture at Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif.

Big history has become the school's First Year Experience for freshmen. It has brought together the social sciences, the arts, humanities and sciences to look at the place of human beings within the context of the universe story, explained Mojgan Behmand, English professor and program director.

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Interview with Mary Evelyn Tucker on CKUT 90.3 FM Montreal

October 18, 2011
Interview with Ryan Young
Listen to the interview (beginning around 9:20 min):  


Finding Our Place in the Universe on the Page and Screen

Yale Press Log
October 17, 2011

In our age of calculators, computers, and the fifteenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, most questions are pretty easy to answer. Why is the sky blue? What is the cube root of 1331? Who was Fredrick the Great of Prussia?

Still, in some areas, uncertainty lingers—even though we have more information at our disposal than ever before. Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker pose several of these lingering questions at the beginning of their book Journey of the Universe. “Where did we come from? Why are we here? How should we live together?” they ask, going on to offer an elegant response in the form of a history of the universe that draws on science and a broad religious and humanist tradition.

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Documentary film, retreat in Langley encourages new view of universe

By Patricia Duff
South Whidbey Record Arts & Entertainment, Island Life
September 28, 2011

Ancient matters of the universe matter even more today.

Although the universe is almost 14 billion years old, a forward-thinking evolutionary philosopher and a historian are telling a new story of its mysteries.

The documentary film, “Journey of the Universe, An Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth and Human Transformation,” will be shown at the Clyde Theatre in Langley at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. A workshop with the film’s creators, Dr. Brian Swimme and his collaborator, Yale University historian of religion Mary Evelyn Tucker, will follow from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Whidbey Institute in Clinton. An additional weekend retreat is the following weekend in Freeland.

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Environmentalism for the unscientific mind

By Janice Kennedy
Ottawa Citizen
September 20, 2011

It's like money. I'm quite happy with it, and I might be happier with more of it. Just don't discuss it with me. Talk of "portfolio," "net worth," "leverage," or any item in that alphabet soup of money management (RRIF, RRSP, TFSA, GIC ...) makes my eyes glaze over.

For me, that's what environmentalism is like.

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Who Are We? Where Are We? Where Are We Going?

By Winslow Myers
Huntington News
September 19, 2011

One way to say where we are is that the human population has become so pervasive on the Earth that it is rapidly shutting down the viability of the living systems that support us. Species are going extinct at ever more rapid rates. Because of the effects of our human presence, the Earth is coming to the end of a 65 million year explosion of life and diversity, the era geologists call the Cenozoic, an era that began with the demise of the dinosaurs. That is very hard for us to get our minds around, distracted as we are by other issues in the foreground of our attention — terrorism, presidential politics, the growing divide between rich and poor.

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Lecture by Brian Thomas Swimme at Dominican University

September 7, 2011
San Rafael, CA

Dominican University of California’s Institute for Leadership Studies in partnership with Book Passage presents Dr. Brian Swimme.

Watch the lecture here: