Connected World project: Connecting Climate Discourse and Religious Language

The threat of drought, floods, famine, and conflict due to climate change is often described in apocalyptic terms. Statements that the end of the world is near and that there will be no escape, can be found both in religious texts and in urgent calls for climate action. Sometimes references to religious apocalypticism are overt, sometimes they are hidden. This applies not only to doom scenarios about an unavoidable end, but also to calls for responsibility, action and care for nature (cf., e.g., the use of the term -creation- or -Mother Earth-).

The VU Profile theme Connected World has granted a scholarship to an interdisciplinary team consisting of Prof. Willem van Peursen, Dr. Yusuf Éelik, and Dr. Jan-Jorrit Hasselaar, in collaboration with Prof. Sandjai Bhulai (Business Analytics, BETA) and Dr. Meike Morren (Consumer Behavior and Sustainable Marketing, SBE) to address question such as: how is climate conversation shaped by religious concepts and what does this reveal about the interrelatedness of world view and attitudes towards nature and climate?

This is an interdisciplinary project, because detecting hidden religious language in societal debates requires expertise in Natural Language Processing and text-mining, religious studies and sociology. The scholarship will be used for two Academy Assistants, who will text mine websites of important environmental NGOs (e.g., Greenpeace), utilizing archived instances of these sites to ensure a historical perspective that comprises the last decade.

The project builds upon the work on detecting religious language related to the NI hackathon Analyzing Religious Language in Social Media (Van Peursen and Éelik, research team Digital Aproaches to Sacred Texts ) and the VUA-UvT joint project Hope as a Response to Climate Change (Hasselaar).