Religion and the Environment: An Exploration of the Connections Among the Hindu and Christian Community in the Republic of Mauritius

  • Vencatesen PoninEmail author


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.


Religion Faith Culture Environmental attitudes Climate change 


  1. Alvesson, M., & Sköldberg, K. (2009). Reflexive methodology: New vistas for qualitative research. SageGoogle Scholar
  2. Barker, D., & Bearce, D. (2012). End-times theology, the shadow of the future and political resistance to addressing global climate change. Political Research Quarterly, 66(2), 267–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biel, A., & Nilsson, A. (2005). Religious values and environmental concern: Harmony and detachment. Social Science Quaterly, 86(1), 178–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blake, J. (1999). Overcoming the ‘value-action gap’ in environmental policy: Tensions between national policy and local experience. Local Environment, 4(3), 257–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. DeWitt, C. B. (1995). Ecology and ethics: Religion of religious belief to ecological practice in the biblical tradition. Biodiversity and Conservation, 4, 838–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dunlap, R. E., Van Liere, K. D., Mertig, A. G., & Jones, R. E. (2000). Measuring endorsement of the new ecological paradigm: A revised NEP scale. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 425–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Durant, R., & Legge, J. (2005). Public opinions, risk perceptions and genetically modified food regulatory policy. European Union Politics, 6(2).Google Scholar
  8. Douglas Lee, Eckberg, & Jean Blocker, T. (1989). Varieties of religious involvement and environmental concern. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 28, 509–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gifford, R., & Nilsson, A. (2014). Personal and social factors that influence pro-environmental concern and behavior. International Journal of Psychology, 49(3), 141–157.Google Scholar
  10. Gore, A. (1993). Earth in the balance: Ecology and the human spirit. New York: Plume.Google Scholar
  11. Greeley A, A. (1993). Religion and attitudes toward the environment. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 32, 19–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hadaway, C., Kirk, P. L., Penny, L., & Chaves, M. (1993). What the polls don’t show: A closer look at us church attendance. American Sociological Review, 58, 741–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hand, C. M., & Liere, D. V. (1984). Religion, mastery-over-nature and environmental concern. Social Forces, 63, 555–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hayes, B., & Marangudakis, M. (2001). Religion and attitudes towards nature in Britain. The British Journal of Sociology, 5(1), 139–155.Google Scholar
  15. Kanagy, C. L., & Nelson, H. M. (1995). Religion and environmental concern: Challenging the dominant assumptions. Review of Religious Research, 37(1), 33–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Koenig, H., & Bussing, A. (2010). The DUKE University Religion Index (DUREL): A five-item measure for use in epidemiological studies. Religions, 1(1), 78–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kormos, C., & Gifford, R. (2014). the validity of self-report measures of pro-environmental behavior: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 40, 359–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mainieri, T., Barnett, E. G., Valdero, T. R., Unipan, J. B., & Oskamp, S. (1997). Green buying: The influence of environmental concern on consumer behavior. The Journal of Social Psychology, 137(2), 189–204.Google Scholar
  19. Morrison, M., Duncan, R., & Parton, K. (2015). Religion does matter for climate change attitudes and behavior. PLoS ONE, 10(8), e0134868.
  20. Palmer, M., & Finlay, V. (2003). Faith in conservation: New approaches to religions and the environment. Washington, DC: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  21. Posas, P. (2007). Roles of religion and ethics in addressing climate change. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, 2007, 31–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sponsel. L.E. (2007). Religion, nature and environmentalism in the encyclopedia of the Earth [Online]. Available from: Accessed on 07 Jan 2016.
  23. Steg, L., & Sievers, I. (2000). Cultural theory of individual perceptions of environmental risks. Environment and Behavior, 32(2), 248–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tomalin, E. (2004). Bio-divinity and biodiversity: Perspectives on religion and environmental conservation in india. Numen, 51(3), 265–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Truelove, H. B., & Joireman, J. (2009). Understanding the relationship between christian orthodoxy and environmentalism: The mediating role of perceived environmental consequences. Environment and Behavior, 41, 806–820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Van Horn, G. (2006). ‘Hindu traditions and nature: Survey article. Worldviews: Environment Culture, Religion, 10(1), 5–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wall, G. (1995). Barriers to individual environmental action: The influence of attitudes and social experiences. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 32(4), 465–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Watling, T. (2009) Ecological imaginations in the world religions: An ethnographic analysis. Continuum International Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  29. White, L. (1967). The historical roots of our ecologic crisis. Science, 155(3767), 1203–1207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law and Social SciencesLondon South Bank University Research Group, Sustainability: Policy, Practice and PedagogyLondonUK

Personalised recommendations