Are Religions becoming Green?

Religious communities are able to address climate change and other environmental challenges. They can use their public voice to lobby for progressive climate policies, disseminate pro-environmental values among their members, and undertake projects to improve the carbon footprint of their institutions (e.g. energy efficient refurbishments). However, it is unclear to what extent religious communities in Switzerland are undertaking such activities and contribute to solve existing environmental challenges. 

Scholarship suggests that religious traditions and communities become more environmentally aware and engaged over time. Although the topic has increasingly received attention in recent years, there is still little expertise about religious environmentalism at the congregational level. Yet, research at the congregational level is particularly important, given that congregations constitute important mediators of environmental engagement between the macro-level leadership of religious communities and the micro-level membership. Congregations can disseminate “green” theologies and environmental programs, which the leadership initiated, among the local membership. At the same time, they can promote religious grass-roots initiatives, which started at the local level, towards the leadership or expand them towards other local congregations.

This project will identify (a) to what extent congregations in Switzerland are environmentally engaged, (b) what types of environmental engagement they undertake, and (c) under what circumstances they are most likely to be environmentally engaged. To this end, the research team conducts a survey about the environmental engagement of congregations. The project will contribute to the increasing international debates about religious environmental engagement by exploring the mechanisms of this engagement.

The project is being conducted under the direction of Prof. Dr. Jens Köhrsen at the Center for Religion, Economics and Politics (ZRWP) at the University of Basel. The team consists of Adam Hearn, Fabian Huber, Ann-Lea Buzzi and Julius Malin.

The study is being conducted in collaboration with the project "Switzerland's changing religious diversity. The National Congregations Study Switzerland II", which is being conducted at the University of Lausanne under the direction of Prof. Dr. Jörg Stolz.