From Abstractions to Actions
Re-embodying the Religion and Conservation Nexus
Keywords:Catholicism, environmental values, faith-based conservation, multilevel Governance, practice, religion and ecology, ritual, sacred natural sites, value-action gap
As the biodiversity crisis worsens, hopes rise that a substantial contribution to environmental care may come from the world’s religions. Such hopes largely rest on the expectation that the pro-environmental pronouncements of religious leaders, and their doctrinal underpinnings, will reach and affect a majority of believers. In this article, we discuss this argument, based on findings from fine-grained ethnographical and biological work among rural Catholic communities in Italy. We suggest that straightforward views of the link between religious doctrines and environmental care are problematic for three main reasons: postulating a deterministic link between values and behaviors that is disproven in reality; underplaying the inner heterogeneity of religions; and overlooking difficulties in value-transmission within religions. Accordingly, we suggest greater attention to concrete environmental outcomes, ritual, and the bodily dimension of religions, as a fundamental step toward a practice-oriented understanding of the nexus between religion and environment.
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