Spiritual values can be helpful in achieving climate goals, and new research from the United States focuses on how to harness specific cultural shifts in spirituality to drive climate action.
In-depth interviews conducted by Dr. Jessica Eise of the University of Texas at San Antonio establish a sense of being connected to the natural world among those who see themselves as spiritual but not necessarily religious. A common thread found in the interviews, all conducted with people living in two Midwestern US cities, was a shared priority given to nature and the environment, regardless of how different their backgrounds. Individual belief systems.
With 27% of American adults now identifying as spiritual in addition to a specific religious identity, Eise believes that tapping into these dimensions can help advance climate action. And since he’s so far removed from the 1940s and 1950s, when only 2-3% of Americans had no religious affiliation (mostly Christian), he also believes it’s important to understand collective social bias that emphasizes specific values over individual spirituality. .
For example, surprisingly diverse people have chosen similar words to describe these spiritual values. “If there is a God, I must live my life with love, compassion, understanding, tolerance”, said one of the 28 participants. “And if God doesn’t exist, I must live my life with love, compassion, tolerance. So it just doesn’t matter”.
The strong bond with the land and spiritual values
The strong bond with nature, the Earth and other people is described in Eise’s scholarly article as “a widespread emphasis and certainty in his belief in the interconnectedness of living things“. The work, completed with Meghana Rawat of Utah Valley University, was published this month in the journal Public Relations Review .
More than 85% of respondents said that spiritual beliefs or values have influenced their lives and behaviours, how they view the world and the candidates and political positions they support. All participants stated that spirituality shapes their identity.
“My work, my relationships with other people, my interactions with bees, animals, plants, my garden. My garden… is like my churchsaid one participant. “It’s my place of worship”.
A growing population of people who are spiritual but not necessarily religious could be a key demographic in terms of climate action. “Communications and public relations professionals have struggled to motivate enough action around climate change and the environment, and this could be a space with the potential to promote and encourage change and action.said the paper.
At the same time, many of these people said they feel largely ignored or misunderstood by the media and others who see them as outsiders in the discourse.
Links between spirituality and environmentalism
“The rich ties between spirituality and environmentalism have been around for millennia and still exist in many cultures and groups around the world.says Eise. “But mainstream Western narratives have generally, and rather severely, divorced spirituality, ethics and morality from ‘scientific’ topics like climate change and environmentalism.”.
More research is needed, he said, to better understand the trend in spiritual values across different geographic regions and cultures. He will expand his own data with a study on spirituality, ethics and attitudes towards climate change.
“We need to reframe our messages to the ‘everyone’ problem that we can solve and that we have reason to hope forsays Eise. “Spiritual and ethical messages that emphasize connection with each other and with the environment have a lot of potential in this regard.”.