Religion is a component of all cultures and frequently the guiding and controlling component through which societies legitimize themselves. Although not always obvious, religion is generally pervasive throughout cultures and is often the unifying principle of a society. Religions have played a substantial role in formulating views of nature and defining relationships of the roles of humanity in nature, thus, inextricably linking religious life and natural systems. It is increasingly recognized that religions can help make essential and substantial contributions to rethinking and responding to the world environmental crisis.
Religion and theology are “greening” and will continue to do so and the religious focus on the environment now appears to be an irreversible theme of theological inquiry and religious life. In this regard, there is an increasing call for growing cooperation between science and religion in addressing environmental issues. An understanding of religious concepts and how they are applied to governance and daily life is essential to the implementation of effective and lasting conservation management strategies. The knowledge of the activities and principles and practices of conservation biology is essential to those whose perspective is primarily informed by religion and theology.
The Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group is involved in helping to build bridges of information and understanding between these diverse but increasingly linked fields.
January 1st, 2016 – December 31st, 2019
Next revision and progress assessment scheduled for: Nov-Dec 2016
A world where religions have the principles of conservation biology at their finger tips and actively implement them in their daily lives, and where conservationists fully appreciate and support the richness of spiritual values and religious beliefs that drive environmental action and conservation.
To advance the interaction between faith and conservation in order to foster the conservation of Earth's biological diversity. To leverage science and empirical evidence in order to raise awareness within the conservation community of the importance of engaging faith traditions in nature conservation.
- Strategic Foci for 2016
- Strengthen the group, build and engage membership, and increase its influence both within and outside SCB
- Identify opportunities in the nexus of religion and conservation to influence policy
- Increase the application of science and collection of empirical evidence to understand and maximize the synergies between faiths and conservation
- Develop mutually beneficial relationships between faiths and SCB that help to actualize conservation of biological diversity
Strengthen the group and increase its influence both within and outside SCB
Implementation: Capacity Building Committee
The Group shall best further its activity and contribute to SCB, if it can rely on a pool of dedicated volunteers and members, and the importance of its mission is recognized within the Society. A stronger group will allow pursuing growingly ambitious goals, and facilitate involvement with other SCB initiatives.
- Increase the visibility of the RCBWG within SCB and the conservation community
- Develop a survey to gauge SCB members’ opinion of: the relevance of the faiths in conservation initiatives; the impact of the Group’s activity; and the importance of its mission. Use the survey both to adjust group activity for the future and stimulate participation in the Group from other SCB members.
- Publicize opinions, initiatives, and achievements of the Group through easily accessible media channels (e.g., SCB website, revamped RCBWG pages, etc.).
- Disseminate scientific advances in faith and conservation and stimulate scholarly debate through publications in peer-reviewed journals.
- Facilitate representation of the Group at the most prominent conservation meetings worldwide.
- Enlarge the membership pool of the Group
- Make an inventory of the current membership.
- Recruit new members within SCB using opportunities such as the abovementioned survey and other communication channels.
- Recruit new members outside SCB using the professional networks of current members and targeting other potentially interested organizations.
- Build capacity by activating group members, involving their expertise in group activities, and improving within-group communication
- Collect data on affiliation and expertise of group members.
- Create committees consisting of dedicated people with the right competences that will expedite work on single issues before reporting to the Group.
- Restore the mailing list and provide regular posts and create a periodic newsletter.
Identify opportunities in the nexus of religion and conservation to influence policy
Implementation: Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative
Religion has through history influenced policy decisions and can aid conservation goals by shaping policy.
- Scan the horizon for policy opportunities using the nexus of religion and conservation or by identifying environmental issues that intersect with religious interests
- Establish active collaboration with the Policy Committee and the Social Science Working Group of SCB to gain support in this process.
- Liaise with other networks and organizations that focus on impacting policy (e.g., INEB and IUCN’s new Specialist Group on Religion, Spirituality, Environmental Conservation and Climate Justice (ReSpECC), ARC, etc.) to exchange insights and build mutual support.
- Where possible, develop policy position statements on the above
Increase the application of science and collection of empirical evidence to understand and maximize the synergies between faiths and conservation
Implementation: Best Practice Guidelines Committee
SCB holds that the application of science to management and policy is essential for successful conservation. Lack of clear evidence and inadequate science-faith interface are among the primary hindrances to recognition of faiths’ contribution to conservation. Promoting evidence-driven approaches and knowledge integration will advance the practice of faith-based conservation and increase collaboration with other activities of SCB.
- Compile a set of guidelines and best-practices, based on the wealth of experience globally accumulated in the field, that can support scientists to hone communication with faith groups and successfully work with religious stakeholders. Promote active collaboration with other initiatives having similar goals (e.g., TNC-ARC’s SNAP Working Group, IUCN WCPA Specialist group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas)
- Review and analyze literature and existing guidelines and best-practices
- Collect additional first-hand insight through systematic interviews with practitioners and other experts, and a questionnaire to be submitted to the members of SCB
- Determine areas of difference and overlap between guidelines and best-practices directed at faith-based conservation and those targeting other groups or conservation approaches
- Organize a workshop to facilitate elaboration of a draft set of Guidelines specific to faith-based conservation
- Submit the Guidelines to the SCB members through a platform for online comments
- Incorporate comments and critiques
- Propose the adoption of the Guidelines
- Develop a methodological toolkit to define and assess, possibly quantitatively, ‘success’ of faith-based conservation initiatives. Promote active collaboration with other initiatives having similar goals (e.g., TNC-ARC’s SNAP Working Group, IUCN WCPA Specialist group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas)
- Elaborate possible methods, using: exhaustive reviews of the available reports from faith-based conservation projects; discussion with practitioners in the field; and collaboration with ‘hardcore’ conservation scientists.
- Test methods on suitable current or completed projects.
- Disseminate the results in specialized peer-reviewed literature.
- Integrate possible feedback and suggestions, and disseminate the toolkit among organizations that carry out faith-based conservation projects worldwide.