Religion and the Environment: An Exploration of the Connections Among the Hindu and Christian Community in the Republic of Mauritius
A growing chorus of voices has suggested that the world’s religions may, individually and collectively, become critical actors as environmental problems intensify and the climate crisis unfolds. Religions affect societies at every level and they are key factors to take into account in designing environmental and climate change policies and communication strategies. However, empirical research on the issue remains divided and inconclusive. Findings offer few conclusive or consistent signs on whether religion is good, bad, or otherwise inconsequential with respect to how people express their environmentalism through their religious beliefs and attitudes. Wide heterogeneity in perspectives can also be observed both within religious groupings as well as across religious groupings. Understanding this heterogeneity might unveil crucial information about a community’s perception of environmental risk and locus of control and can be extremely helpful in planning sensitization campaigns to promote pro-ecological behavior. The research study which forms the basis of this chapter attempted to explore how this diversity of eco-theological linkages operates in the Republic of Mauritius by investigating the way and extent to which the religious beliefs and values of the two main faith groups in Mauritius (the Hindus and Christians, respectively) shape adherents’ perspectives on issues of climate and other environmental changes. It specifically analyzes whether there is any significant relationship between levels of religiosity and environmental concern, as well as qualitatively examining how participants make sense of and respond to environmental and climate change risks in light of their respective faith. The research was undertaken using a mixed methods approach that employed a combination of self-completion questionnaires and in-depth interviews. Quantitative data were analyzed by means of the SPSS statistical software while qualitative data were assessed by means of descriptive and thematic interpretations. The results indicate that, overall, the way that participants’ perspectives on ecological and climate change issues relate to their religious beliefs and values is much more nuanced and varied than a linear conceptual framework would otherwise suggest. Depending on the particular environmental variable measured, the religious beliefs tended to be sometimes of a stewardship and type at other times espoused the character of mastery over nature, both within and across the two faith communities studied. Importantly, participants do not seem to explicitly relate their ecological behaviors to their religious beliefs and do not act in a way that is congruous with their values in general. This study makes a refreshing contribution to our understanding of the religion-environment nexus in Mauritius and constitutes an important basis for further studies seeking to understand how to optimize and improve the overall effectiveness of public engagement campaigns.
KeywordsReligion Faith Culture Environmental attitudes Climate change
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