You are here: American University Centers Latin American and Latino Studies Religion & Climate Change

Religion and Climate Change in Cross Regional Perspective

Climate change is dramatically altering the planet and affecting human livelihoods in ways that elicit religious response. Building upon earlier CLALS work focused on forms of religious engagement with environmental conflict in Latin America, this project deepened understanding of the relationship between religion and the effects of climate change across multiple regions of the world. In the process it addressed three interrelated questions: the role of religion in ongoing public discourse on climate change, religious sources of environmental knowledge that inform community responses to climate change, and the ways that climate change also drives religious change.

A collaboration between Latin Americanists and Caribbeanist researchers along with scholars and practitioners focused on South Asia and the South Pacific, this project transcends the geographic barriers which too often constrain conventional area studies initiatives. Dialogues across regions and religions have given special attention to three features of climate change, with a focus on water: the effects of glacial melt in the Andes and Himalayas, climate-related stress upon urban water systems in South America and South Asia, and the vulnerabilities of small island archipelagos in the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

With generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation, this project was led by Evan Berry, an Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University. Project co-principal investigators included CLALS Director Eric Hershberg and CLALS Research Associate Professor Robert Albro

Book Release

Understanding Climate Change through Religious Lifeworlds, edited by David Haberman, presents a unique collection of essays that detail how the effects of human-related climate change are actively reshaping religious ideas and practices, even as religious groups and communities endeavor to bring their traditions to bear on mounting climate challenges.

Learn more about the book.

Workshops and Public Events

Subversive Agencies: Sacred Landscapes and Climate Change in the Anthropocene

November 14, 2018 | San José, CA

At the American Anthropological Association's Annual Meeting, CLALS Research Associate Professor Rob Albro participated in a panel that presented on findings from the Center's Religion & Climate Change project at the executive program committee meeting. The panel, "Subversive Agencies: Sacred Landscapes and Climate Change in the Anthropocene," explored religious responses to climate change and the ways in which religious and cosmological knowledge inform community responses to climate change. Several Religion & Climate Change project participants also presented on the panel, including Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, J. Brent Crosson, Georgina Drew, and Karine Gagne.

Parliament of the World's Religions

November 4-5, 2018 | Toronto, Canada

Former CLALS Affiliate Professor Evan Berry and CLALS Research Associate Professor Rob Albro were invited to participate in the Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto to discuss outcomes of the Religion & Climate Change project. The Parliament promotes global dialogue among the world's faiths, and offers an opportunity to engage faith-based actors and organization. Albro and Berry spoke with various religious leaders about project outcomes, and presented two public panels on diverse religious engagements with climate change and best practices in the area of faith-based engagement with climate change.

Workshop on Religion and Climate-Induced Displacement

June 1, 2018 | American University

This day-long meeting convened a small group of scholars, researchers and practitioners to identify the critical dimensions, and ramifications, of the relationship of climate change to population displacement and migration in Latin America, an issue we anticipate will be of enormous importance during the coming decades. While considerable evidence indicates that climate change increasingly will shape migration in the Americas, we note surprisingly little consideration of the challenges this will pose. This meeting explored how faith-based actors and organizations are thinking about, and responding to, the problem of climate-induced displacement at present across the region.

Eight men and women pose for a photo

Diplomacy, Religion and Resilience in Small Island Developing States

May 22, 2018 | Hogan Lovells, Washington, DC

Researchers convened a public event on climate diplomacy, co-sponsored by Sister Cities International, to address forms of collaboration around climate change, primarily among countries in the Caribbean. Panelists discussed the role of religious traditions and actors, as often overlooked stakeholders in shaping public perceptions and priorities regarding climate change in small island development states (SIDS), including the ways in which climate concerns are connected to other issues such as development, sustainability, and migration. It also considered the roles of faith leaders, and other religious actors, as they participate in often transnational climate advocacy networks, and contribute to established and new forms of climate diplomacy among SIDS nations. Panel participants included select ambassadors from SIDS nations and concerned with climate change.

Event brochure

Facebook Live coverage

Capstone Workshop

May 11, 2018 | American University

This day-long meeting convened a select group of previous workshop participants, and other scholars already familiar with the project, for a set of presentations and discussion with the goal of thinking synthetically about the project’s key findings. The workshop identified, in cross-regional terms, project outcomes, in the following areas: 1. religion as a part of the politics and public discourse on climate change; 2. religious sources of environmental knowledge, as these inform community responses to climate change; 3. and ways that climate change is currently driving forms of religious change. In addition, this workshop supported the preparation of project finding as major contributions to now emerging scholarship at the intersection of religion and climate change.

A man stands in front of a projector screen with an image of Pope Francis

Religion and Climate Change Adaptation: Resilience or Resistance?

April 19, 2018 | University of Leeds (UK)

The role of religions in shaping public understanding and action in response to climate change today should be taken seriously by civil society and policymakers. CLALS Affiliate and AU Professor Evan Berry spoke about religion and climate change at the University of Leeds. The presentation showcased diverse case studies to highlight how religious commitments can run at cross purposes to ecological sustainability.

Evan and Robin Trinidad speaking in a panal

Trinidad Workshop

October 2-3, 2017 | The University of the West Indies-St. Augustine

CLALS organized and co-sponsored a two-day workshop in Trinidad, focused on "Small Island Vulnerabilities in the Pacific and Caribbean," hosted by the Institute of International Relations at The University of the West Indies-St. Augustine, and co-sponsored by The Wilson Center's program on Environmental Change and Security, led by Roger-Mark De Souza. Together with our co-sponsors, CLALS also organized a public forum, also held at the Institute and featuring workshop participants, faith leaders, and the Director of the Caribbean's Disaster Emergency Management Agency, which addressed the question: "How is Climate Change Affecting Islands and What Can We Do About It?" Concerned with adaptation and resilience in the face of sea level rise, coastal erosion, and unprecedented weather events, the forum addressed what shared policy goals island states should embrace, giving particular attention to civil society - including religious actors - as a crucial catalyst for community responses to climate change.

Climate and Diplomacy panel

Religion and Climate Diplomacy in Small Island Developing States

July 10, 2017 | The Wilson Center

In July 2017 we co-sponsored a public panel discussion on "Religion and Climate Diplomacy in Small Island Developing States," hosted by the Wilson Center's program on Environmental Change and Security, which compared perspectives from the Pacific and Caribbean. With attention to religious leaders and faith-based civil society actors, this public forum focused on religion's role in addressing island vulnerabilities, and in facilitating constructive engagements between local or community stakeholders and national policy makers, amid concerns for economic livelihoods and sustainability in the adaptation to climate change. The forum addressed how religious actors identify climate as a basis of outreach and collaboration, other issues connected to climate in the course of such efforts, and the potential added value of religious voices as part of mitigation and adaptation efforts. To learn more, view the full video recording and read an article summarizing the event.

Workshop group gathers in well lit space

Lima Workshop

May 2-3, 2017 | Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya

CLALS organized and co-sponsored a two-day workshop in Lima, Peru, focused on "Mountains and Implications of Glacial Melt in the Himalaya and Andes," hosted by the Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya. Together with our co-sponsor, CLALS also organized a public forum, held at the university and which addressed "Latin America's Current Contributions to International Climate Change Negotiations," which featured multiple workshop participants together with Peru's top climate negotiator. This forum considered the range and impact of the region's contributions to moving forward international dialogue and cooperation around climate change over the previous decade.

Group of men and women gather outside on a sunny day in Delhi

Delhi Workshop

December 8-9, 2016 | Observer Research Foundation

Observer Research Foundation, one of India's premier think tanks. This workshop convened researchers from India, Latin America, the US, and Europe, to address the role of religion and religious actors in the response and adaptation to emerging water-related challenges made worse by climate change. Topics encompassed glacial melt and river health, emerging agricultural challenges, connections between climate change and the increase of rural-to-urban migration, conservation efforts and stresses upon urban water systems in the global South, including freshwater and wastewater management, for which India offers important material for study. The first of a projected three regional workshops, this meeting convened researchers working on related problems of religion and climate in South Asia and Latin America to identify and refine case studies and analytic approaches to climate change, as a transboundary problem eliciting religious response.

Together with the American Center in New Delhi, CLALS also organized a public policy forum entitled "Civil Society's Role in Combating Climate Change," which followed the workshop and featured AU professors Ken Conca and Evan Berry, together with a US Embassy representative and Indian officials experienced with climate change policy. This forum considered the role of civil society in shaping policy responses to climate change, as a moral call to action, and compared the US with India, while considering how civil society might serve as a catalyst for bilateral cooperation around present and future climate challenges.

Group of scholars sitting around a large table

DC Planning Meeting

March 31-April 1, 2016 | American University

In the spring of 2016, CLALS held an initial planning meeting, which included scholars from around the globe. Participants compared the role of religion in environmental mobilizations at the international and local levels, as well as religious responses to shared environmental changes across different geographical regions (including Latin America, the Caribbean, Oceania, and South Asia).