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Facilitating Religious Environmentalism: Ethnology Plus Conservation Psychology Tools Can Assess an Interfaith Environmental Intervention

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Reliance on a limited number of methodologies may be distorting scholarship in religious environmentalism. This article describes a religious environmental educational intervention, uses a qualitative ethnological approach to describe the response of local congregations to this intervention, and uses a quasi-experimental, quantitative psychological methodology to assess the impact of this intervention on the behavior of religious congregational leaders. This article reports the impact of the Living Ocean Initiative, a ten-month interfaith envi­ronmental outreach intervention that engaged forty-nine diverse religious congregations and their leaders in California 2006-2007. This study indicates the value of studying religious environmental interventions, and suggests that carefully designed interventions may be able to increase religious environmentalism. It found that religious leaders were more inclined to engage in personal pro-environmental behavior within their congregations than pro-environmental behavior in the political realm. This study reports expressions of religious environmentalism at the congregational scale. It suggests that the potential of religious environmentalism to transform environmental beliefs and politics proposed by scholars and religious leaders may be unrealistic, yet it does demonstrate impacts of an intervention on pro-environmental behavior, thus clarifying some of the ambiguity in past correlational studies, and suggesting that religious environmentalism can help foster a more sustainable society.


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