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Religious Leaders Might Be the Key to Preserve Biological Diversity

St. Francis of AssisiThe left image shows St. Francis of Assisi, the special patron saint of ecology. The Catholic Church has just elected a pope and his name, Francis, is associated with the Catholic Church’s “greenest” saint, Francis of Assisi.

 “Our study investigates how various religions are distributed around the world and how they overlap areas that are important for preserving global biological diversity,” says Grzegorz Mikusinski, a researcher at SLU who directs the study. “Our analysis shows that the majority of the most important areas associated with biological diversity lies in countries dominated by Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism.” Hence, if people in these areas can be more aware of and put more effort in ecological protection, we will see some breakthrough in preserving biological diversity.

Most countries in Latin America belong to this category: Roman Catholic and with areas of importance for biological diversity. There is also a certain number of overlapping of areas important for biological diversity and areas that are Hindu (Indian subcontinent), Buddhist (Southeast Asia), or Muslim (Asia Minor and parts of North and Central Africa).

“We believe that members of religious groups can implement a conservation agenda both in their daily lives and their political activities under the guidance of a moral resolution to preserve the world’s natural resources for coming generations.,” Says Grzegorz Mikusinski. Religions strive to be good morally and have led people in terms of right wrong for many centuries. Thus, notes Grzegorz Mikusinski, they have the potential to guide people to “miracles” also when it comes to biodiversity conservation because religion has a great influence on society.

 “Our results suggest that Roman Catholics, per capita, have the greatest potential in biological diversity preservation where they live,” says Hugh Possingham, a co-author of the study and a researcher at University of Queensland, Australia.

The Catholic Church just elected a pope, Francis, reminding people of the Catholic Church’s “greenest” saint, Francis of Assisi, the special patron of ecology. Let us hope that Pope Francis and other religious leaders consider seriously the likelihood of becoming more involved in the conservation debate. And, at the same time, scientists should actively encourage religious leaders to participant in such a debate.

Currently, people have proposed many solutions to halt the loss of biological diversity. However, the notion of conservation has rarely become a part of our daily life, either among nations or among individuals.

 “Conservation study has to adjust the focus, toward strategies that can alter people’s ethical attitudes toward nature and encourage modes of thinking and lifestyles that are beneficial to the environment,” sayd Malgorzata Blicharska, a co-author of the study and a researcher at SLU. As the study points out, religions are central to fundamental ethics and beliefs that affect people, and they need to be taken more seriously in the debate about biodiversity.

​Sourrce: EurekAlert!