Ed Bernbaum

Edwin Bernbaum, Ph.D., is an author, lecturer, and scholar of comparative religion and mythology whose work focuses on the relationship between culture and the environment. His book Sacred Mountains of the World won the Commonwealth Club of California’s gold medal for best work of nonfiction and was the basis for an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution and the American Museum of Natural History. He is also the author of The Way to Shambhala, a study of Tibetan myths and legends of hidden valleys and their symbolism. He has conducted seminars and lectured widely on mountains, leadership, culture, and the environment for organizations and audiences such as the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Geographic Society, the Wharton School, and the American Museum of Natural History.

As Director of the Sacred Mountains Program at The Mountain Institute, Edwin Bernbaum initiated and directed projects to develop interpretive materials with National Parks such as Mount Rainier, Yosemite, and Hawai’i Volcanoes based on the cultural and spiritual significance of different features of mountain environments in American and other cultures around the world. He also started a project that used the cultural values of sacred sites in Central Asia as a basis for developing conservation programs and sustainable livelihoods in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.  More recently, he has worked with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) on a project to nominate Mount Kailas in Tibet, the most sacred mountain in the world for over a billion people, along with ancient pilgrimage routes leading to it from India and Nepal as a trans-boundary UNESCO World Heritage Site. As co-chair of the IUCN Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of protected Areas (CSVPA), he is currently working on a project to integrate the cultural and spiritual significance of nature into the management and governance of protected areas around the world.

A past president of the Harvard Mountaineering Club, Edwin Bernbaum instructed at the Colorado Outward Bound School and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal. He has done research for the National Geographic Expeditions Council on the links among sacred mountains, mythology, archeology, and the ancient Olympics in Greece. He designed and has co-led leadership seminar treks to Mt. Everest for mid-career business graduates of various programs at the Wharton School and has done leadership programs in the United States for the Wharton Executive Education Program. Peak Paradigms, his program of lectures and seminars, draws leadership lessons from celebrated mountains around the world, including Mt. Everest, Mt. Fuji, and Mt. Sinai. He is featured in “Beyond the Mountaintops: Extraordinary Mountaineers, Extraordinary People,” an exhibit at the American Mountaineering Museum on eight climbers who have pioneered advances in climbing and humankind.

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