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Why Conservation Needs Religion

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Abstract

Conservationists have been criticized for failing to protect nature in the face of mounting threats including overexploitation, species loss, habitat destruction, and climate change. Resource managers and scientists have yet to fully engage a major segment of the global population in their outreach efforts to protect the environment: religious communities. The world's religions have been recognized as a surprising driver of support for conservation of biological diversity, and numerous examples demonstrate religious and conservation groups working together to achieve conservation outcomes. However, many conservation organizations do not effectively engage religious groups. When conservation organizations do engage religious groups, efforts to do so are often ad hoc and such partnerships may wane over time. A more systematic approach is needed that directly engages religious communities, develops effective partnerships, supports and sustains dialogue aimed at finding common ground despite potentially divergent worldviews, and establishes supporting mechanisms to maintain the partnerships that are developed. Effective partnerships between religious and conservation groups represent significant untapped potential which can directly support conservation outcomes; such partnerships are likely to become increasingly important with dwindling support for conservation.
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... It plays a fundamental role in shaping people's perspective of the natural environment and instils in them ethics that guide human behaviour (Basedau et al. 2017;Hitzhusen & Tucker 2013). According to Mcleod and Palmer (2015): [R]eligions may also provide leadership in initiating conservation projects, provide guidance on pursuing conservation objectives, and may seek to persuade members that each has a moral obligation to contribute to conservation. (p. ...
... The place of humans in nature and the actions one needs to take towards the environment is defined through religion as it teaches virtues such as humility, moderation and anti-materialism. It helps one acknowledge the natural world as sacred and encourages its protection (Mcleod & Palmer 2015). , cited in Mbiti 1990) states that: ...
... These two intermingle to form one world where caring for the environment and the climate becomes an integral part of its development . The belief that certain natural sites are sacred has led to the protection of these habitats and inspires compassion towards ecosystems (Mcleod & Palmer 2015). For example: the belief that a certain forest is sacred means that it is protected from deforestation, thereby affecting the economic activity in that area ). ...
Book
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In this volume, African ecofeminist and ecowomanist theologies are used to reimagine human relationships with Mother Earth from paradigms of liberation. The main contribution of this volume is that it is written from a multi- and trans-disciplinary perspective to explore and reimagine human relationships to Earth from an African ecofeminist theological approach. The volume presents original and innovative research by the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (hereafter Circle) and friends of the Circle. It engages in critical conversations of re-interpreting and reimagining African cultural, religious, theological and philosophical perspectives on gender and the Earth in efforts to construct Earth-friendly relationships in the face of a growing global environmental crisis. The conversations include scholarly voices of African women and men in various fields such as Theology, Environmental Law and Policy, Tourism, Agricultural Science and Natural Resources and Economics. The theological and theoretical frameworks and principles applied in the various chapters are relevant resources for academic research and are used by theologians and scholars in other academic disciplines from multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary perspectives. Research areas focus on religion, gender and ecological justice in Africa and globally. Methodologically, contributors from fields such as ecology, gender, religion and theology explore the theme of Mother Africa and Mother Earth from their particular areas of specialisation and contexts. The majority of the chapters are theoretically oriented, with one chapter making reference to empirical ethnographic research. The targeted readers of this volume are scholars in the fields of gender, ecology, religion and theology. No part of the volume is plagiarised from another publication or has been published elsewhere before.
... Empirical evidence from Indonesia 'Effective partnerships between religious and conservation groups represent significant untapped potential which can directly support conservation outcomes.' (Mcleod & Palmer, 2015) ...
... This study aims to contribute to the understanding of fire prevention efforts by empirically evaluating the success of one particular intervention: the endorsement of fire prevention by a religious institution. Previous studies have argued that religion can help to communicate and legitimate conservation values, thereby shaping attitudes and conservation behaviour (Mcleod & Palmer, 2015;UNEP, 2016). In this study, I evaluate the impact of a fatwa, an Islamic religious ruling, on reducing fire incidence in Indonesia. ...
... Case studies provide some evidence for the potential of these partnerships. For example, in Bali, Indonesia, local Hindu leaders supported a WWF-led campaign to stop the use of sea turtles in religious ceremonies (Mcleod & Palmer, 2015) and in Tanzania, the WWF, ARC and Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science collaborated to reduce the use of dynamite in fishing (Palmer & Finlay, 2004). McKay, Mangunjaya, Dinata, Harrop, and Khalid (2013) further find that water conservation-themed sermons increased the stated intention to act among Mosque attendees in Sumatra, Indonesia. ...
Thesis
In many cases, transitioning towards sustainable agricultural production requires farmers to change their practices. These changes can include the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, water-saving, or the disadoption of excessive chemical input use or land burning. Policy makers interested in making agricultural production more sustainable need to understand what encourages the uptake of sustainable practices and what is effective in reducing unsustainable practices. This thesis seeks to understand whether and how information provision and endorsement can contribute to the transition towards more sustainable agricultural systems. The thesis consists of three self-contained papers. The first paper explores the potential of religious endorsement for inducing pro-environmental behaviour and encouraging the disadoption of fire as an agricultural practice, thereby preventing forest fires. The paper analyses the impact of a fatwa (an Islamic religious ruling) on reducing fire incidence in Indonesia. Results indicate that fire incidence decreased in Muslim majority villages following the issuing of the fatwa. For the post-fatwa period from August 2016 to December 2019, the average monthly effect amounts to around 2.2 prevented fire events per village. This is a considerable effect. The paper concludes that fire prevention efforts, and potentially other environmental conservation efforts, could benefit significantly from support by religious institutions and stakeholders. The second paper investigates the role of information provision and training for the adoption of organic farming practices in Java, Indonesia. We use a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to identify the impact of a three-day hands-on training in organic farming for smallholder farmers. We find that the training intervention increased the adoption of organic inputs and had a positive and statistically significant effect on farmers’ knowledge and perceptions of organic farming. Overall, our findings suggest that information constraints are a barrier to the adoption of organic farming, as information provision increased the use of organic farming practices. The third paper investigates whether urban and suburban Indonesian consumers are willing to pay a price premium for organic food. We use an incentive-compatible auction based on the Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) approach to elicit consumers’ WTP. We further study the effect of income and a randomised information treatment about the benefits of organic food on respondents’ WTP. Estimates suggest that consumers are willing to pay a price premium for organic rice, on average 20 percent more than what they paid for conventional rice outside of our experiment. However, our results also indicate that raising consumers’ WTP further is complex. Showing participants a video about the health or, alternatively, environmental benefits of organic food was not effective in further raising WTP. Exposure to the environmental benefits video was, however, effective in raising stated organic food consumption intentions.
... Religion also appeared to be one of the most important predictor variables in many responses within the perception survey, suggesting that religion could play a major role in conservation. As a creation of feelings and beliefs, religion is historically considered as a powerful instrument in nature conservation and the recognition of inviolability would be influential for protection of nature (McLeod andPalmer 2015, Kala 2017). Incorporation of religions in biodiversity conservation has provided positive impacts as it raises awareness and uplifts public concerns in Malaysia (Clements et al. 2009). ...
... Incorporation of religions in biodiversity conservation has provided positive impacts as it raises awareness and uplifts public concerns in Malaysia (Clements et al. 2009). In Indonesia, environmentalists worked with local Hindu religious leaders to ban the use of turtle meat in local ceremonies, utilising local TV channels to raise awareness of the endangered sea turtles (McLeod and Palmer 2015). In 2014, Islamic clerics in Indonesia successfully issued a religious decree (fatwa) to forbid wildlife trade under Islamic law resulting from a partnership between the ARC (Alliance of Religions and Conservation), WWF-Indonesia and the Indonesian Council of Ulema (McLeod and Palmer 2015). ...
... In Indonesia, environmentalists worked with local Hindu religious leaders to ban the use of turtle meat in local ceremonies, utilising local TV channels to raise awareness of the endangered sea turtles (McLeod and Palmer 2015). In 2014, Islamic clerics in Indonesia successfully issued a religious decree (fatwa) to forbid wildlife trade under Islamic law resulting from a partnership between the ARC (Alliance of Religions and Conservation), WWF-Indonesia and the Indonesian Council of Ulema (McLeod and Palmer 2015). Such approaches should be used consistently and regularly so that the environmental issues are presented, and people are reminded of such environmental importance (Azad 2012). ...
Article
Sarawak is known as the “Land of Hornbills”, having the Rhinoceros Hornbill as the state emblem and with hornbills also being closely associated with important cultural symbols and beliefs among various local communities. However, up to date there is limited understanding on the perception, awareness, and beliefs of local communities towards hornbills. This paper aims to describe the aforementioned factors in western Sarawak, in hope of acquiring the socio-cultural information needed to fill the gap, and to clarify misconceptions towards hornbill conservation efforts in Sarawak. Data collection was accomplished using Open Data Kit (ODK). A total of 500 respondents were approached in five administrative divisions in western Sarawak, namely Kuching, Samarahan, Serian, Sri Aman, and Betong. The questionnaire was carefully formulated to control acquiescence bias that might arise. Boosted Regression Tree (BRT) modelling was conducted to evaluate the strongest demographic predictor variables influencing the answers and word clouds were used to visualise hornbill species by the local community. Sarawakians acknowledge the importance of hornbills as a cultural symbol (95%) despite hornbills being used for food, medicine, and decoration. Whilst this study describes the perceptions of hornbills in local communities, a comprehensive assessment throughout Sarawak is recommended for better understanding of hornbill importance in other communities. Such socio-cultural information is vital to ensure the success of conservation efforts and for effective management strategies of hornbills within Sarawak.
... The success of marine resource management programmes often rely on support from influential local leaders (McLeod and Palmer 2015), which may 'bridge the gap' between local people and marine conservation objectives (Trialfhianty 2017). Frey and Berkes (2014) concluded that local leaders, associated with the 'LINI' NGO in Les Village, North Bali, made great contributions towards encouraging local fishers to stop using cyanide. ...
... Developing Bali as an ecotourism destination. The reviewed literature within Table 4 has highlighted that ecotourism has contributed towards successful marine conservation in Bali (McLeod and Palmer 2015, Trialfhianty 2017, NBRC 2019. Developing ecotourism within Bali is suggested as a tool which can be used to bring some of Bali's poorest regions out of poverty whilst simultaneously contributing to environmental conservation (Byczek 2011, Astarini et al., 2019. ...
Article
Bali, Indonesia sits within the coral triangle and is internationally recognised for its high coral reef diversity. The health of Bali’s marine ecosystems has declined in recent decades, and this is thought to be due to threats from climate change, destructive fishing practices, pollution, outbreaks coral eating invertebrates, coral disease and unsustainable tourism. As a response, multiple conservation strategies have been introduced by the island’s communities, non-government organisations and governments, with the aim of preventing further decline, as well as restoring already degraded coral reefs. This literature review provides an in-depth analysis of the tools used to conserve Bali’s coral reefs, and compares them to those used in other countries. In light of international ‘best practice’ in coral reef conservation, this review makes suggestions on how Bali could better conserve its coral reef ecosystems. These include (1) increasing its designation of official Marine Protected Areas (MPAS) and strengthening management of existing ones, (2) creating an MPA network, (3) substantially reducing marine plastic pollution, (4) continuing artificial reef construction in degraded habitats, (5) continuing to develop Bali as an ecotourism destination, (6) increasing engagement in global science to inform marine conservation decision-making, and (7) developing more marine monitoring programmes.
... Cultural and spiritual, non-materialistic values for raptors and other wildlife can be key to conflict resolution [22,26,62,104]. Little research has been conducted in this area [62,145], but such deep-held values are likely to be highly sustainable compared to reform ecology approaches. Indeed, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Convention on Biological Diversity and related National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans tend to encourage a predominantly monetary valuation of ecosystem services [66], which can be counterproductive in some cases, because it does not foment tolerance in the face of ecosystem disservices. ...
... For example, Dayer et al. [63] describe how the traditional knowledge among an indigenous Mapuche community in Chile that uses owls to predict weather conditions could be incorporated into community actions, including tourism, wildlife monitoring and intergenerational dialogue, to support conservation initiatives. Already, several religious groups are working to enhance environmental and wildlife-conservation sentiments among adherents [145,146]. For example, the Head of the Catholic faith has called on people throughout the world to experience an 'ecological conversion' that recognizes the inherent values of species [147]. ...
Article
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The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment proposed four categories of ecosystem services as regulating, provisioning, supporting and cultural. Of these, cultural services have been the most difficult to quantify despite playing a key role in developing society’s supporting services to ecosystems. By reviewing a series of case studies related to the cultural services derived from raptors, we examine relations between tangible ecosystem services and ‘knowledge’ and ‘beliefs’ as part of supporting services from human societies to ecosystems. We identified types of raptor regulating and provisioning services and patterns in service--knowledge-beliefs that defined positive or negative outcomes for raptor conservation. We also demonstrate how possible interactions between physical, experiential, physical-symbolic and representative-symbolic cultural services and between different stakeholders can create incentives or obstacles for conservation. Predictable patterns in service-knowledge-beliefs provide a framework upon which socio-cultural and ethnobiological aspects of raptor conservation may be combined with ecological research to support conservation initiatives. Based on these patterns we present examples of how cultural services might be employed to better promote raptor conservation while respecting the beliefs and traditions of stakeholders.
... Societal support is essential for establishing policies and implementing practices that conservation researchers identify for preserving and protecting biological diversity (e.g., Lemos and Agrawal), and members of faith communities constitute a significant segment of the global population that may be helpful and supportive (e.g., ACT Alliance, 2015; Mcleod and Palmer, 2015;Sayem, 2019;United Nations Environmental Programme [UNEP], 2019). In a study of 2010 censuses, surveys and population registries in 230 countries and territories, the Pew Research Center estimated that approximately 84 percent of adults and children are affiliated with a "religion" (a term used broadly to refer to organized world religions and various traditional, indigenous and folk religions including African traditional, Chinese folk, Native American tribal, and Australian aboriginal) (Pew Research Center, Religion and Public Life, 2012). ...
Article
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Recognizing the need to identify ways in which conservation researchers and practitioners can work constructively with faith leaders and communities to conserve biological diversity, the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group of the Society for Conservation Biology formally launched the Best Practices Project in March 2016 for the purpose of collecting recommendations from SCB members throughout the world. A survey of members in 2016, a forum at the 2016 International Marine Conservation Congress in Newfoundland/Labrador, a symposium, workshop and poster session at the 2017 International Congress for Conservation Biology in Colombia, and an e-mail request to RCBWG members in October 2017 yielded many recommendations that constitute Guidelines for Interacting with Faith-based Leaders and Communities: A Proposal by and for Members of the Society for Conservation Biology published by the SCB in May 2018. Members have been reporting the efficacy of following these guidelines in their projects, and five who worked with different faiths presented their experiences in the field during a symposium at the 2019 ICCB in Malaysia. Abridged versions of their presentations are shared in this article with focus on guidelines that proved most helpful for facilitating conservation-faith collaboration to achieve project goals. Discussed subsequently are ways in which conservationists and faith communities benefited from their joint efforts, reasons why conservationists should consider engaging faith communities in their projects, and impediments to collaboration that must be overcome. The SCB guidelines are listed succinctly, and conservationists are urged to consider using them in their projects.
... Abdullah & Keshminder [3] explained that using conventional methods such as education alone in solving problems is considered less efficient. Combining conventional methods with religious inclusion in solving environmental problems is more efficient [4][5]. Religion is considered to play a role as an agent in promoting pro-environmental behavior and the formation of individual attitudes [6] so that including the role of religion and education can provide efficient problem-solving. ...
Article
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Community empowerment is one of the effective strategies in conservation efforts. However, empowerment-based conservation still leaves some problems to be solved. The most significant issues in empowerment-based conservation are sustainability and human resource issues. This study sees the problem can be solved by integrating religious aspects in empowerment-based conservation efforts. Through its teaching about the environment, religion can instill values and shape the behavior of people and people who care about the environment. For demonstrating this possibility, this study reviews the literature available in discussions on the role of religion in environmental conservation, community empowerment, and conservation efforts. From the existing literature, religion instills values, shapes behavior, and ensures its sustainability. This is possible through features in religion, such as the message of responsibility in the concept of divinity, karma and reward/sin, or other features such as the ability of institutions to spread values that are intertwined with the emotional, cognitive, and even political aspects of society.
... Religion plays a role in influencing values, motivation, behavior, and policy changes in supporting environmental conservation (Ghazali et al., 2018;Mcleod & Palmer, 2015). A study by Hancock (2019) found that the integration of religious values such as the concepts of tawhid, caliph, and mizan with science increases the involvement of Muslims as environmental activists. ...
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