Faith & Climate Action
As a scientist can I talk about environmental issues with my faith community? Can science and faith come together on climate action and justice? The answer is yes, and it is more important than ever. Below are resources and solutions available for scientists and the general public to educate, communicate, mobilize, and take action on environmental issues with their faith communities.
A) There are virtually no formalized spaces for faith-based Earth scientists and professionals.
Approximately, 4 in 10 Scientists believe in a higher power in the United States. “Through their shared beliefs and community membership…these [faith-based] scientists can draw on their own experience to share insights on the relationship between science and their personal faith.” In the Earth Sciences, an area where faith and science can and does intertwine, many professional institutions and academic societies do not have a space for faith-based professionals and scientists to discuss, share, and communicate ideas related to faith and environmental issues. As the Earth Science community looks to ways to better engage and communicate environmental issues to the public, an untapped opportunity exists.
B) Some religious or spiritually affiliated groups are apathetic or skeptical to climate change. There are several reasons for this:
1) Mis/disinformation on environmental issues.
2) Climate Change is a multi-faceted issue that deals with economies, public health, social justice, etc. which can all lead to discord between personal autonomy and societal well-being.
3) Lack of “ethos” between scientists and the general public, such that the general public can not relate to a scientist. About 40% of Europeans and 44% of Americans have met a scientist in person, and ~20% are friends with one.
Only 35% of Americans occasionally talk about climate change – Yale, 2020
42% of U.S. adults are unsure what causes climate change OR believe it is mostly caused by natural changes, not human activities. -IPL, 2020
Only 43% of Americans say climate change will affect them personally – Yale, 2020
62% of Americans say their clergy leader rarely or never references climate change – PRRI, 2014
51% of Americans say Religious Institutions & places of worship can do more on climate change – IPL, 2020
72% of U.S. adults that attend religious services would participate in a community event on climate change if offered at their place of worship – IPL, 2020
The American Meteorological Society Committee on Spirituality, Multifaith Outreach, and Science (COSMOS)
I developed and chair the AMS COSMOS, a committee that seeks to 1) develop community and fellowship amongst members of any faith/spiritual background and 2) be at the forefront of important topics related to the weather, water, climate enterprise, and faith. Initiatives include:
- A public forum between faith leaders and earth scientists/ professionals on environmental issues.
- Earth scientists/professionals giving talks to their respective or local faith circles
- A workshop on seminar for Earth Scientists and professionals on communicating Earth Science for faith publics.
- Collaboration between spiritual/faith-based institutions and the AMS such as sharing exposure to faith/environmental topics, talks or workshops at the AMS annual meeting, and networking.
If you are interested or know someone (e.g., scientist, professional, faith community/organization) who would be, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Storytelling/Action-based Climate Science
Throughout my journey working with religious/spiritual communities regarding environmental issues, I found greater engagement, action, and awareness through:
I. Building collaboration, trust, and connections with religious/spiritual leaders
I find relational building with religious/spiritual leaders and faith-based environmental organizers best under a small, intimate, and in-personal environment. Learning about their communities, their community experience with environmental issues, and (if any) misconceptions or misunderstandings of environmental issues is a powerful relationship building and educational opportunity with them. This can also lead them to greater involvement on tackling environmental issues.
II. Getting to know the audience
Whether its your friend, neighbor, family, co-worker, or faith group, knowing one’s audience is valuable in understanding how to navigate and frame environmental issues with one’s audience. Is the audience in an area that is experiencing an environmental issue? What kind of skepticism or apathy could this particular audience have?
III. Personifying environmental issues
Graphs, charts, and symbols alone can only go so far in getting an audience engaged. Instead, complement the science with your story. Integrate one’s faith/moral/value-based journey in conversing environmental issues. Ask yourself: Why is “X” issue important to me? How can I personalize “X” issue in a way that engages my audience? The audience will feel a sense of trust, credibility, and relatability towards you.