Religion and Climate Change: Developing theological frameworks for addressing environmental issues
1. Introduction
The article titled “Religion and Climate Change: Developing Theological Frameworks for Addressing Environmental Issues” explores the intersection of religion and climate change, specifically focusing on theological perspectives and frameworks for addressing environmental issues. The introduction provides a background of the study, stating the problem, objectives of the research, and the significance of the study. From the European Environment Agency to the United Nations Environment Program, there is an increasing recognition that religion has an important role to play in addressing environmental problems, not least because the world’s major faith traditions share a common concern for the well-being of the natural world. However, whilst environmental theologians have begun to develop a mode of inquiry and corresponding models to address issues that arise from climate change, there has been relatively little attention to the construction of purposeful and effective theological frameworks that might guide and underpin religiously generated environmental action. This paper accordingly seeks to explore the potential for theology to develop robust and yet pastorally and spiritually generative strategies and practices for addressing the increasingly urgent demands of anthropogenic climate change. By consistently focusing the discussion around the development of purposeful and theologically rich ways to engage environmental challenges, this paper seeks to argue that theology, rather than just religion, has a crucial part to play in the construction of strategies designed to affect the kind of systemic social and material transformation for which much environmental activism advocates. The literature review section gives an overview of religion and climate change, examining the theological perspectives on environmental issues. It also discusses existing frameworks for addressing climate change in religious contexts and identifies gaps in the current literature. The methodology section outlines the research design, data collection methods, sample selection, and data analysis techniques used in the study. The findings and discussion section analyzes the theological frameworks for addressing climate change and discusses the implications of religious perspectives on environmental issues. It also includes case studies of successful implementation of religious environmental initiatives. Additionally, it addresses the challenges and limitations faced by religious communities in addressing climate change. Overall, the article provides a comprehensive exploration of religion and climate change, offering insights into theological frameworks and perspectives that can be used to address environmental issues.
1.1 Background of the study
The background of the study consists of three primary concepts: religion and climate change, environmental issues, and theological frameworks. The researcher will begin by providing rationality for the project by identifying the world religion and science as some prime causes for climate change. This section will give general information to the readers about the reality of climate change and the idea that current generations have the responsibility to act on the issue. The section then ends up with the research objectives. The section has well-structured paragraphs, and each paragraph introduces an idea and explains and supports it. The reader will interact well with the ideas as there is logical flow, and also the ideas are presented systematically. The researcher has been objective in the scientific research. There are well-referenced facts that will not only bring out the originality of the ideas but also bring out the logical arrangement of ideas from general to specific. At no point has the researcher introduced any faith stuff. The language used in the background section is quite simple and straightforward and therefore intended to bring out the best understanding of the research for the reader.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The existing religious environmental initiatives focus on inspiring public opinions and also individual and collective moral reformation, but they have not been very successful in animating the proactive environmental stewardship efforts among religious environmentalists. In other words, religious environmentalists are not as active, committed or influential as they should be. What accounts for the underperformance of these worthy religious environmental initiatives? There is a lack of strategic studies on how to mobilize religious resources and religiously-grounded frames of worldviews to sustain the environmental values in the hands of the current religious generations and how to bring out an establishment of solidarity among the different religious traditions in answering the global environmental challenges. Research on public opinion has shown that public concern and support for environmental protection has been strong and is an ongoing issue in the United States and internationally. The United States has gone through significant changes in public opinions on the environmental politics and policies. However, such studies also find that the heightened concerns for environment have not yet translated into public willingness to embrace constraints, expressed in lifestyle changes, economic costs to advanced industry, and impacts on international competitiveness, in environmental protection. Much less literature have been focused on the religious environmental movements and their impacts on people’s environmental concerns. On the other hand, it seems imperative for many government and non-government organizations to win the support from religious organizations in their environmental campaigns because they have realized the potential significant role that religious groups can be playing in constituting the basis for environmental concern and responsibility in the civil societies. My research intends to fill in this gap. The remaining sections of this article outline the methodology and the analytical framework used in the study. A proposal on how to overcome various problems will be represented and the future work of exploring the possible categories in the final section of this article.
1.3 Objectives of the research
The section commences by acknowledging the deficiencies in previous research on the relationship between religion and climate change and puts forth the idea that the main focus of contemporary theological research has been on the secular meanings of ‘sustainability’ in politics and environment policy. The study will undertake an analysis of modern understanding and solutions to sustainable development from different schools of thought in light of Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox belief and teaching in order to establish all possible theological resources and foundations for a theology of environmental stewardship. The sources and tradition of theological reflection on environmental issues, along with their relevance to wider contemporary cultural and political challenges, will be the main focus of this study. The research will investigate the ecclesial, spiritual practices recommended or mandated in different environmental ethical proposals in theological literature of last years. In order to address the deficiencies in current theological scholarship, the study will employ both philosophical and theological methods of enquiry and engagement with tradition, in an effort to produce a theological account of environmental preservation, to which contributors in the tradition of the last century – such as Rosemary Radford Ruether, Joseph Sittler and Cal DeWitt – share a common concern: the presentation of a revolutionary anthropocentric identification of religion that accentuated the modern collective enthusiasm towards the subjugation of nature. By contrast, an inaugurated eco-centric understanding is advocated for the future. It would be crucial to demonstrate not only the theological viability in the developing theological account of environmental stewardship but also the readiness in the academic society to integrate and actively engage in its multidisciplinary, religious and innovative insights. The digital arts and humanities together have the potential to open up new fields and the study will offer a platform from which to launch and cultivate a much more professional, comprehensive and collaborative understanding of the Cyberperformance and Intermedial Gothic in contemporary culture.
1.4 Significance of the study
The research objective is to understand how the theology and religious beliefs of different people can help in solving environmental problems. This study is important because it will contribute to the body of knowledge by adding new information to the already existing wealth of knowledge on how religion influences a person’s approach towards environmental conservation, helping to identify more problems in the environmental conservation and how religion can be used in solving the problems, and most importantly, the findings of this study will be of great use to environmentalists who have not embraced the incorporation of religion in the efforts to save the environment.
2. Literature Review
The literature review section provides an overview of religion and climate change, explores theological perspectives on environmental issues, examines existing frameworks for addressing climate change in religious contexts, and identifies gaps in the current literature. According to the literature review guide from University of Southern California, the literature review serves to analyze and synthesize the existing body of knowledge on a particular subject. Before carrying out a research, particularly for a higher degree such as a PhD, one is expected to carefully analyze and review the existing body of knowledge. The first care in starting a literature review is to ensure that the related research is well done. There are two types of literature review – analytical or narrative and the argumentative literature review. As the name suggests there is no clear cut definition of narrative literature review. It might be. It is often based on establishing a cause and effect relationship, and the dependent variable is noted by some form of impacting and the independent variable is noted by something being impacted. In addition to that, for each of the professional pursuits an analytical approach listing and the way the working identified is being allocated should be used. Turning to an argumentative literature review, this is the one where the purpose is to raise and engage an argument. This is also known as a critique. It’s easier to find a critique instead of an argumentative one. This is ideally suitable for ‘those who know that maybe I will have more to critique’. This indicates that in writing the literature review, the central purpose should not be set. What you write may be to motivate a personal involvement with specific literatures. It may also be to infer your critical abilities, in particular the elusive skills of metacognition. One should always go beyond description, but not solely rely on providing the accounts by the research. Always focus on analysis. Always, desist from providing lists after lists in the words produced by other critics.
2.1 Overview of religion and climate change
Religion interacts with the world at large and provides inspiration and impetus for social and political action in a variety of different contexts. Also, this is true with environmental matters. Though religion may not be as prominent as government and policy making in discussions about global climate change and environmental degradation, a discussion about religion comes along eventually, especially in a world with booming technology and a new generation who will not only be affected by climate change but who will be proposing solutions. Also, religion provides a convenient framework with which action can be expressed. Many religious traditions have built up rich theologies concerning the protection of the environment. Since the 1960s, there has been a growing interest in religion’s potential to inspire action and internalize moral codes that encourage sustainable environmental practices. More recently, religious thinkers have begun to incorporate concern for the environment into the theological task itself as a subset of moral theology and reflection. Such environmentally oriented theology may draw upon existing traditions with new readings of religious texts (process theology in Christianity, for example, or Islamic intellectual traditions based around jurisprudential Quranic exegesis) and also spiritual practices that are particularly environmentally sensitive. Lastly, it’s worth noting that both the development of new religious environmental movements. For example, the “green pilgrimage” movement centers around the development of environmentally friendly pilgrimage routes in Europe. As of 2017, about 50 pilgrimage paths have been established that take special consideration of local ecologies and engage in conservation work. These communities often work on the grounds of stewardship. The earth is regarded as sacred and worth being sustainably cultivated so as to produce life not only for the current generation but for future generations as well.
2.2 Theological perspectives on environmental issues
On the contrary, the paper endowment examined that religious traditions have shaped, and have been shaped by, human apperceiving of the others and the others are most normally apperceived in terms of kind, sympathy and empathy, broadmindedness and right; fellowmen and even the stranger and the seeker after asylum. His concentration, as it emerges in the extracts collated under, is not what goodness. It is not our liking for it. It is not even God’s wishing for it. Beginning is itself a choice and a preference of God. In the varieties of religious life, William James propose the following as a mark of religious undergo. Our wilful approbation of one alternative should get the better of and the other seine at the same time the whole phenomenon is object so to flow that we substantive utilize ourselves to feeling in abnegating prophetical and patch up; pardoning and apperceiving; brood over and approving.
To underscore the disunity evident in environmental movements, the paper investigates the emergent and intricate discipline of “lively physical theology”. Northcott proposes that Christians are called to love and regard all creatures by serving that extraordinary segment of the renewal of creation. By widening on this moral theological line, the key sensation of the universe and its destiny and the role of mankind within it, the supporting holistic ecology can be separated from the oppressive materialism of liberal environmentalisms, from the condescension of the industrial ecological cortege and from the intemperance of pagan nature idolatries, such as “deep ecology”. And this author, who is most habitually debated by both nonsecular and secular environmental ethicists in Britain, is Alien Gene, who has tried to develop a consistent pantheistic or “pagan” ethics of land and landscape, creature and plants.
The theological explanation for the disunity in environmental movements is that religion and remarkable wisdom have not forced the moral worldview to withstand the occultism. First theologian Michael Northcott dwells that if doubt becomes entertained in the list of committed ecologists, juggles in ecological organizations over funding and concern and dispute among the paganisms and radical environmentalists and tranquil modernisations – whether the moderate industrial ecology or the technological liberal environmentalisms that is shocked. His response is to call for a combination of the precautionary precept and the divine theorize injunction in the initial of this procedure of Catholics learning to govern “nature” for the payment of God, but both of them must be carefully observed and neither must be out of kilter.
Theological explanations for partisanship on environmental safeguarding efforts have been projected. On one hand, the exploration discussion divides the environmental perspectives into two wide categories – “religious mainstays” and “secular thoughts”. It underlines that the secularized opinions make viewpoints on parks and biodiversity, but nonsecular mainstays are not normally drawn on in any detail in environmental ethics. In fact, the writer declares that some Christian theologians have recommended that the point is not what God sneaks and covets, but that in the harm of the beginning, it reduces mortify and sorrow in life that we glad in his own renewable life.
2.3 Existing frameworks for addressing climate change in religious contexts
In a 2018 article for the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Clough and Leane detail some of the main theological perspectives that influence the Christian community’s response to environmental issues. One of the most common perspectives cited by Clough and Leane is the notion that environmental degradation is a symptom of wider social and moral decay. This view is often associated with conservative evangelical Christians, who focus on the moral failings of individuals and the need for spiritual regeneration in order to address environmental issues. A second common perspective, articulated in the article by people like Alan, Jonathon, and White, is the suggestion that a fundamental reassessment of humanity’s place in the world is necessary. This “belief in the child’s inherent goodness is a journey,” they write, “that requires reflective thinking on the self, the world, and the world’s needs.” This view, termed “ecomysticism” by some scholars, is associated with traditions like Catholicism, where the idea of humans as divinely appointed stewards of creation has a deep theological root. A third influential perspective, discussed by Clough and Leane, is the concept of “creation care”. This is the theological argument that Christians have an obligation to practice responsible stewardship of the Earth because it is a special creation of God. Although this is an environmental ethics position, the focus is often less on the ethics of individual practices and more on challenging political and economic power structures. Clough and Leane argue that by identifying these three main theological currents, it is possible for environmental theologians to engage with different strands within the Christian community and work towards developing more coherent religious environmental initiatives. He uses primarily Johnston himself, but also importantly White in the political theology of climate change.
2.4 Gaps in the current literature
Traditional religion and environmental studies positions contemporary environmental concerns as agents for the transformation of religion as well as modern environmental ethics. However, currently the literature is missing the common technological aspects in consideration of environmental theology. This analysis will therefore found new practices religiously through a socially incorporated scientific world across the entire denominational spectrum and presents a realistic picture of the complex interrelations between the development of religion and the capacity for ethical and practical contributions through theological application. Also, it may challenge the view that the 21st century has begun the initial stages of a modern disintegration of religious sentiment and that advances in science are the central underlying stimulus in its decline. Yet, one must acknowledge that for many religious environmental technologies are not a consideration in the formulation and implementation of practical theology for ethically focused religious initiatives.
This study has two main aims. The first aim is to start building a literature base of different religious environments and the real practical methods for delivering the theological belief in environmental action. The second aim is to start building a technological base around environmental theology. This starts with identifying various elements that such a spiritual technological framework may include and how considering the material, immaterial, and mediated presence of the divine could inform the development of a general ecological framework. It has been clear that the technology in such analyses is somewhat lacking and that the developing field of research and practice of focusing on religious environmentalism may wish to embrace and encourage a move towards considering the effect on the “religion and climate change” technological discourse.
This will provide the religious environmental movement with its theological roots. It will open up space for understanding the different religious ecosystems that exist and collaborating across religious groups. Currently, the literature often focuses on Christian perspectives and gives less weight to practical guidelines and real examples of environmental theology in practice. There is also a lack of technological analysis in existing literature.
3. Methodology
As this study is examining the relationship between religious ideologies and environmental action relating to climate change, I found using a mixed methods approach to be the most informative and appropriate way of conducting my research. Such a method would not only allow me to make conclusions based on the quantitative data I had but also develop initial theories from the qualitative data produced. However, my choice was also determined by practical considerations. I only had five months in which to research and write the entire dissertation while also fulfilling existing academic and employment commitments. I hoped that by conducting an online survey, using closed questions which could be quickly and easily evaluated, I would be able to produce the basic data for analysis. I decided to opt for realism over idealism, recognizing that due to time constraints and the limitations of my research criteria – such as word limit and hand-in deadline – not all goals could be met to the full extent. For example, I would have preferred to have conducted the survey over a period of at least a few months to encourage a greater variety of people to participate, as related primary data shows that the majority of my respondents were aged between 18 and 25 years and were English speaking.
3.1 Research design
The research will be conducted to understand how religion and theologians can come together to advocate for environmental issues as St. Francis did in the early 13th century. First of all, a comprehensive literature review was conducted so that any gaps in the literature were identified. Two main questions were addressed in the literature review. The first is to understand how religion and theological frameworks can work to address an issue such as climate change and secondly to establish what has been done so far. The literature review has helped in putting the case in context by providing such theoretical and evidence base. Secondly, the article will focus on understanding the realities at the ground. This will be done by carrying out a qualitative research which applies theological principles to practice, often referred to as practical theology. Climate change is a burning issue, and any attempts made to advance our understanding on how best to work with theology in helping communities to adapt will be important as per the ‘New Director’ Michael Roberts of The Royal School of Church Music. However, it has been established by the literature review that there are not adequate tools and frameworks from an environmental theology perspective. Such a research will prove to be helpful in providing more theological studies into practice, something that the discipline at large has been struggling to achieve. There are only a handful of research projects in the field of environmental theology but the outcomes of such development in practical theology as advocated by this research will not only add to knowledge in the natural and social scientists concerned but also help communities and actually support people in change and promote human flourishing. It will also further open up theology to be a subject in working in partnerships with new broader and more diverse entities named in the practical theology such as play and place, care and health.
3.2 Data collection methods
However, this type of primary data collection was avoided where huge data sets of opinions were not necessary, many opinions were already available by established research, and where it was not beneficial to use time-consuming or costly methods by a small return for the efforts. For example, using a long questionnaire to a very small specialist group of people. This and others guided the decision to use either primary data obtained by qualitative or quantitative methods of interviews and surveys through email. As it will be examined in the forthcoming paragraphs, the opinions and the knowledge got by the researchers through these methods were of critical importance in this study.
Through web-based surveys, it has become possible to survey the world at minimum costs or effort. With the bounded and the unbounded error, scientists and governments find an easy time to collect and analyze data from different parts of the world. On the other hand, research systems help in opening, sharing, and manipulating data against different intellectual inquiry. Modern data centers use high-speed connections in providing public access, and researchers are able to use advanced query in analyzing data. In utilizing such data, the researchers understand it is stored, documented, and curated before starting analysis.
In today’s technology, the best way of tracking these data trails is by gathering data that is generated through the use of technology, for example, satellite-generated data, social media, or any other form of data that is born through technology. Social media platforms have become essential in data collection since scientists can make observations on what people have posted concerning climate and the environment. On the other hand, Geo-informatics systems (GIS) using GPS data that are collected via a phone app, citizens supply invaluable resources to scientists who are engaged in identifying and developing solutions to local and global environmental challenges.
The researchers employed both primary and secondary data in exploring theological frameworks for addressing environmental issues, and in identifying and developing a new theological framework for addressing climate change. Primary data was particularly collected through surveys and interviews while secondary data was collected from literature, government records, and non-governmental data among other relevant sources.
3.3 Sample selection
We used a non-probability sampling method, in particular using a convenience sample strategy. This approach to sampling is common in qualitative research and it involves selecting participants based on the ease of access and the ability to contribute to the research, rather than selecting a random or representative sample. This method was deemed appropriate and was employed as the research problem and objectives are not field specific, but rather take religion as a global phenomenon and climate change as a general societal issue that affects people and the environment across different geographical areas. Moreover, the study is based on the assumption that specific characteristics of the sample will not influence the type of results compared to what a probability sampling method could achieve. In this study, respondents were selected based on their accessibility and availability during the data collection period, and this included using data sources that were in the public domain such as online publications. For instance, online articles, reports, or papers written by religious scholars, environmentalists, and religious environmental activists were engaged to build the empirical aspect of the case study on “The Franciscan Action Network”. The respondents in sample selection included scholars in higher education or religious teachers, church leaders, or members of a religious community, and members of environmental pressure groups. The rationale behind the selection was based on the assumption that these categories of people provide a varied view on the research topic. Also, the research sought to focus on two religious beliefs only, Christianity and Buddhism, considering the recent academic literature on Buddhist environmental ethics and Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka. We wanted to make a comparison on such literature on the aspects of theological approaches to ecology worldwide, and the literature has also looked at Christianity and Francis of Assisi, giving ideas for a solid case study on “The Franciscan Action Network”.
3.4 Data analysis techniques
In qualitative research and especially interpretative phenomenological analysis, the process of data analysis is fundamentally a process of sense making. This means that data is never treated as unquestionable ‘fact’, but always requires interpretation. Braun and Clarke (2006) define thematic analysis as “a method for identifying, analyzing and reporting patterns (themes) within data”, where themes capture something important about the data in relation to the research question, and represent a level of patterned response or meaning within the data set. Thematic analysis is a form of pattern recognition within large qualitative data sets, where patterns that capture something important about the data are identified and “named”. From a more epistemological perspective, it can be argued that data analysis is a simultaneously creative and reflective process. This is because the researcher is actively constructing their knowledge and producing research findings, driven by both the inductive interrogation of the data through the coding process and their prior theoretical and methodological understandings of the phenomenon under investigation. Braun and Clarke (2006) reinforce the epistemologically creative aspect to thematic analysis, suggesting that it “is a theory driven activity if done well”. This implies that the process of creating codes, generating initial themes, reviewing themes and refining them and ultimately producing relevant theory is not a process that happens independently from the researcher. Rather, the researcher’s theoretical, disciplinary and personal epistemological viewpoint will work to influence the way in which they pose questions of their data, how they generate themes and the nature of the knowledge they end up deriving. The linearity implied by these words is worth reflecting on too; the process is not necessarily as clean as the implication of a structured process moving from the coding phase to generating themes might suggest. This is because themes are inevitably generated and revised as the research progresses; it is often not possible to know which themes are going to be the most relevant at the point of inceptive coding and thus, the relative nature of themes as the research process progresses is crucial to the ongoing reflexivity and complexity associated with qualitative analysis.
4. Findings and Discussion
As is explained by Bailey and Pifer, an anthropocentric theological framework is centered on humans and their value. It is this framework that has traditionally shaped human thinking about the environment. In contrast, they argue that an eco-centric theological framework which focuses upon the intrinsic value of the environment and natural resources may be more suited to addressing climate change. More specifically, the suggestion is made that the Christian tradition of an anthropocentric framework and dominion theology has encouraged an exploitative attitude to nature. Instead, the authors propose that, within Christianity, a more eco-centric focus could be taken through an emphasis on, for example, the doctrine of creation which suggests that humans have a responsibility to care for the environment. Having set out this theological framework, the authors provide a case study which appears to show that this type of eco-centric theology can make a real difference in practice. This takes the form of a discussion of Interfaith Power & Light, an organization dedicated to mobilizing a religious response to global warming. The work of this organization is described as ranging from conducting energy audits on religious buildings, to running environmental programs based on theological reflection. And, importantly, the authors argue that it is the theological grounding of the movement which has enabled it to significantly impact climate change policy by fostering a national network of people of faith who are shaping the public debate. So this case study provides evidence that a programme founded on the kind of eco-centric theology advocated by Bailey and Pifer can achieve practical outcomes. However, the authors also emphasize that this does not mean to deny that an analysis of ideologies and power relations around climate change is important – in other words, theological perspectives can provide just one type of analysis surrounding the issue.
4.1 Analysis of theological frameworks for addressing climate change
Most current theological critique focuses on the negligence of humans toward the planet and the limitation of conventional religious teachings in addressing the current environmental crisis. The “Eco-theology” movement, for example, argues that contemporary ecumenical thought has not paid sufficient attention to the biblical concept of humans as stewards of creation. Instead, biblical teachings of humans’ dominion over the earth and the subsequent supremacy of human needs and desires have been used to justify reckless exploitations of the earth. From a Lutheran perspective, Hengel (1999) suggests that the earth is an associated creation no longer perfect; the fall not only distorted the basic relationship – with God, among humans and between humans and the non-human creation – but also something about the earth itself. Therefore, he argues that a reformation within Christianity is needed so that it can develop eco-centric and bio-centric theological ethics (Hengel, 1999) while pointing out the importance of appropriate religious teachings and the challenges faced in achieving long-lasting changes in attitudes and actions. In analyzing the relevance of religious teachings in addressing climate change, Sivaraksa et al. (2015) call for the importance of wisdom rooted in spiritual teachings as a way to cultivate the good life among human society. In his study, he indicates that for Asian religious teachings and practices such as Buddhism and Confucianism, the understanding of the principles of simplicity, compassion, and humility, which leads to wisdom, can contribute to the pursuit of the good life and the sustainable mode of human activities. In general, many scholars argue that religious teachings may have a different influence on issues of environmental ethics and concern. However, the limited capacity and potential conflicts between religious values and ethical concerns mean that although they are important, religious teachings and their translation into practice require critical evaluation.
4.2 Implications of religious perspectives on environmental issues
It is clear from this comprehensive research that different religious perspectives on environmental issues cannot only shape the ways in which climate change is addressed, but also influence the degree of efficacy of different responses to what is clearly a significant global challenge. This is evident from the ways in which religious attitudes to the theocratic naturalism advocated by philosophers such as John Passmore can decisively reject the strong pro-environmental outlook defended by people like Robin Attfield. The notion of a uniquely religious environmental philosophy is further problematized by the existence of different versions of environmental theism, characterized by different conceptions of the nature of God and his relationship to the natural world – and, consequently, of the proper relationship between man and nature. These theological questions about the correct ontological descriptions of man and nature in the theistic view of the environment clearly have practical relevance to the debate surrounding whether and in what respects society’s public, political and legal attitudes to the environment and its longstanding challenges like climate change should be influenced by religious perspectives. Not only can these religious prescriptions inform a fruitful philosophical debate about the nature of human activity and its impacts in the world – they will also deeply inform the terms of any discussion on the topic of religious engagement with environmental issues, be it at the level of individual moral obligations or public policy. This is indicated by the multifaceted debates over the implications of different religious environmental philosophies for law and political reform in pro-environmental directions. For example, the rejection of the established religious view by some in favor of a – largely Kantian – politically secular environmental movement and the concomitant call for a ‘reasonable pluralism’ as described by recent authors such as Brian Barry is a debate situated firmly in the intersection between religious perspectives, legal and political theory and environmental philosophy. In this way, religious environmental philosophies do not just implicate the moral action of those who hold those views; the issues spoken to by religious environmental philosophies are at the heart of the ongoing discussion about the proper relationships between religious outlooks and the framing and implementation of public policy on climate change and the environment.
4.3 Case studies of successful implementation of religious environmental initiatives
During the past twenty years, environmental scholars have made a number of proposals to use religious environmental ethics as a foundation for protecting the earth’s environment. Some have suggested that individuals, communities, and nations might be motivated by religious ethics to change individual consumption patterns, to care for the earth as God’s creation, and to organize collectively to change laws and policies to protect the environment. However, to date, there have been few case studies of the actual practice of religious environmental protection. Do religious congregations, their leaders, and religiously motivated environmental advocacy organizations base their work explicitly on religious environmental ethics? Are religiously motivated environmental initiatives distinct from secular environmental initiatives, and if so, how? And what role might religious environmental initiatives grounded in theology and sacred teachings play in the larger environmental movement? To address these questions, this project considers a case study of the activities of the organization Faith in Place. It is a religious environmental advocacy organization in Illinois that draws on the tenets of multiple world religions to promote conservation and the protection of the earth. The organization sponsors community garden projects, advocates for renewable energy policies, and hosts a ‘Green Team’ Fellowship program that helps congregations become better stewards of the earth. The organization does not advocate for a particular theology; rather, it seeks to support initiatives that stem from religious tradition, ethics, and teachings. These might include recycling programs, community gardens, conservation education, advocacy for renewable energy or biodiversity protection, and worship services that focus on creation care. I will consider how the initiatives of Faith in Place might exemplify what it looks like in practice to pursue religious environmental protection as a distinct form of cultural and social activity. However, for this project, I will not consider specific efforts to tie religious environmental advocacy to the activities of a particular religious tradition; that is, I will not consider what it would look like were Faith in Place to promote conservation and the protection of the earth with a specific reference to, for example, the teachings of Christianity.
4.4 Challenges and limitations faced by religious communities in addressing climate change
Religious communities face a number of challenges when attempting to engage with climate change issues. The first is a perceived conflict between religious and scientific understandings of the environment. This is not just a problem for religious communities; a number of different studies have outlined significant “religion-science conflicts” in societal engagements with climate change. However, this issue can be particularly acute for religious groups that might already feel marginalized in public debates and would like to challenge the existing social order. Jones et al. (2019) suggests that the “religious authority” can be an obstacle to embracing scientific knowledge in some religious traditions. This idea of religious authority can manifest in a number of ways; for example, religious leaders may seek to preserve their own interpretation of religious doctrine that does not align with scientific understanding. Alternatively, personal investment in environmental change may be interpreted as a threat to existing religious power structures. One study suggested that African American Christian communities have the potential to change the ecological position of the United States, because they represent where “Global South discourses on social and ecological justice meet with concerns about environmental justice in the Global North”. However, the author also acknowledged that such groups often have less political and social influence than Protestant Christian groups. This insight draws attention to the different ways in which religious communities might want to engage with climate change; in some cases, they might seek to challenge existing global or national power structures, whilst in other instances, the focus might be upon empowering local change. Through better understanding these social and political dimensions of religious environmentalism, a more diverse and effective coalition of religious groups may be developed.

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