Faith Communities and Environmental Degradation in Northeast Nigeria

By Muazu Shehu and Susan Molyneux-Hodgson.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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Few empirical studies have examined understandings of environmental change within faith communities. This is the case even in regions suffering severely from environmental change like Northeast Nigeria. In highly religious societies such as Nigeria, an appreciation of perceptions and modes of adaptation to change within faith communities is crucial to both understanding the religion-environment connection and as a basis to generate ideas for mitigating environmental degradation. Leaders of Christian and Muslim congregations in Northeast Nigeria were interviewed to explore their interpretations of how faith communities understand environmental change and degradation. Analysis of the interviews reveals that participants offer a wide range of understandings around environmental change. While some attribute change to human activities, others interpret it as 'natural' occurrence or outcome, defining it either as God’s way of punishing humans for their wrong deeds or as a fulfillment of 'end times' prophecies. Ways of responding to environmental change within these faith communities are found to range from religious rituals such as special prayers, to active management practices such as tree planting. Our findings suggest that religion plays a more important role in shaping views on problems in 'Sufi' Muslim communities than in Christian and 'Salafi' Muslim communities. The implications of these findings for future research and policy are discussed.

Keywords: Environment, Religion, Environmental change, Faith Communities, Northeast Nigeria

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.27-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 553.265KB).

Dr. Muazu Shehu

PhD Student, Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK

I am a Doctoral Student in Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield, UK. Before joining the University of Sheffield as a Research Student in 2011, I taught Sociology at Gombe State University, Nigeria. My research interests are in environmental sociology, religion and development and poverty and vulnerability.

Susan Molyneux-Hodgson

Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK

I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield, UK. I work within the field of science and technology studies (STS). I joined the Department in October 2001, following 5 years in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Bristol, and a 2-year post-doc at the Institute of Education, University of London. I co-founded and am currently - Director of SATIS (Science and Technology in Society) research group. My sociological work is focused on three substantive areas: the emergence and reproduction of scientific communities, nature and society relations, gender and science. In 2007-2008 I was Visiting Professor of Sociology, Turku University, Finland.