Religious Climate Activism: Discourse! February 2021


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Environmental issues take center stage in this month’s episode of Discourse!, hosted by Michael Munnik with guests Suzanne Owen and Daniel Gorman Jr. How is the media covering the intersection of religion and the latest environmental issues? Listen and find out!

First the groups speaks on some of the differences in major news publications and their coverage of environmental issues. Opening with the broader issue of how such stories appear (or do not) in major news outlets, Suzanne Owen offers some discourse analysis. Who is covering environmental issues so regularly their masthead categories reflect that attention? This is a moment to acknowledge how some political affiliations on both the left and the right can make it harder to sell stories about both religion and the environment.

Despite those challenges, one issue pushing that intersection of politics, religion, and the environment into the front pages is the election of the United States’ second Catholic President, Joe Biden. Dan Gorman cites Elizabeth Dias’ article in the New York Times, “In Catholic Faith, an Ascendant Liberal Christianity,” as one place we’re seeing coverage of the role of Catholic environmentalism being discussed openly.

Such issues of identity and politics lead the group to talk about the ongoing Farmers’ Protests in India (and the twitterstorm involving Rihanna and Greta Thunberg). Noting that the location of the striking workers is predominantly Sikh, the group looks to larger issues of religious and national identity under President Narendra Modi.

Finally, Dan suggests that the Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest is one place where we can see significant attention being drawn to the union of environmental and religious activism. Is climate concern religious practice for progressive Jews in the U.S?

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