In this series of ‘Getting to know us’, we present the people behind the RCRC group, their motivations and inspirations to bridge the gap between religion and conservation biology.
“When I first started looking into the issue of religion and conservation, I remember being a graduate student pursuing my Masters in Science under Prof. Navjot Sodhi at the National University of Singapore. Sodhi presented us with a writing exercise: Think about a topic that is controversial and exciting and could be published as a commentary in the journals Nature or Science. I came up with the topic on relating the world’s religion to biodiversity conservation and presented my topic “Keeping the Faith in Conservation” (see the amateurish presentation here). This article never made it to any journal but my time researching and being exposed to the literature behind this idea has kept me interested till now.
To me it made sense. To want people to care about the environment, we need to influence their perceptions, the way they value nature. Even more so in Asia where majority of rural people at the forest frontiers profess a religion or belief system. Ever since that writing exercise, I have grown to be interested in trying to develop this idea within my own religion (I am Catholic) as well as to understand how other religions can be tapped into to promote conservation values. Shonil Bhagwat whom I met at the Association of Tropical Biodiversity and Conservation meeting in Marburg 2009 roped me in as one of the executive members of the Society of Conservation Biology Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group (SCB-RCBWG). Through the SCB-RCBWG, I had the opportunity to meet numerous like-minded individuals, including Stephen Awoyemi who is one of the most passionate individuals I have met so far. Steve saw a need for a more research oriented approach to this topic and spearheaded the development of the Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative (RCRC).
I began this blog in September 2012, naively thinking that I could handle some outreach activities while finishing my PhD. Of course, the blog fell silent for almost 10 months. Now that I have some time and energy, I plan to use this blog as an effective means of communication to the public on research and news that has been conducted in the nexus of religion and conservation biology. I will focus more on communicating research articles published in peer-reviewed journals but will also contribute some posts on interesting news events or research projects.
If you are an oddball conservationist like me and will like to join us, feel free to contact me!”