Religious belief and risk - when does 'believing' result in 'doing'?
Lisa Schipper (Oxford University Centre for the Environment)
Paper short abstract:
Religious belief can determine vulnerability to climate change and natural hazards. This paper presents findings from fieldwork on how pluralistic belief systems operate around risk. Underlying this is the question of how important beliefs are for predicting behaviour in the face of risk.
Paper long abstract:
Religious belief is an important factor that can determine vulnerability to climate change and natural hazards. This works in different ways: certain beliefs encourage behaviour that leads to increased exposure and sensitivity; other beliefs espouse alternative explanations for why disasters occur, contradicting risk management, or making it less rational; yet other beliefs discourage actively changing social and environmental circumstances, consequently entrenching people in conditions that cause vulnerability. But when it comes to asking whether belief always leads to an expected behaviour, we have less clear evidence. If a flood is ten minutes away, will people stay in their houses under their belief that God will protect them, or will they rush to safety? This paper presents findings from fieldwork in Haiti and Dominican Republic on how pluralistic belief systems operate around risk. The study explores three areas: how people negotiate multiple belief systems to find solutions to the challenges posed by natural hazards (and, by extension, climate change); the way that the governments use or bypass these belief systems in the context of disaster risk reduction; and how religious organisations understand these pluralistic systems and actively harness or work against them. Underlying this is the question around whether beliefs lead to behaviour, and ultimately questions how important beliefs are for predicting behaviour in the face of risk. This builds on earlier work to document examples of religious belief influencing (and increasing) vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change.
- Acting on Climate change and the environment