Szrot said recent research suggests that environmentalism in the United States has religious roots dating back to the Puritans via an emphasis on environmental stewardship — the idea that humans bear a special responsibility to care for creation that comes from God. However, researchers have traditionally had difficulty quantifying the connection between environmental concern and those Americans who consider themselves religious.
“Religious groups have said there really is a part of Christianity that isn’t anthropocentric,” he said. “They have seemed to get a dialogue going.”
The dataset accounted for various Judeo-Christian religious traditions, including Protestant denominations, Catholics and Jews.
The environmental concern by age cohort was the starkest finding, Szrot said, indicating that the idea of stewardship has grown, particularly among younger generations of Christians.
This finding likely represents the influence of the heyday for the environmentalism movement in the United States that began in the late 1970s and lasted through the mid-1990s, he said. This focus likely led religious groups to begin to discuss environmental stewardship and care in light of their religious duties, he said.
The findings can be viewed positively, especially in such a divisive and partisan American political climate today, Szrot said.
“I think that there are people on both sides of the party line who want to reach out on environmental issues right now,” he said.