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Religious Environmental Activism in the Digital Age (Clay)

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Course Title

Religious Environmental Activism in the Digital Age


Elonda Clay
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands


Religious Studies

Subject(s) Religion and Ecology

From “cognitive surplus” to Twitter and Facebook “revolutions,” digital and social media have led some to say that we are entering into a new era of activism that enables people from diverse locations and backgrounds to develop extended networks of collaboration and collective action. Recent years have seen an explosion of digital strategies that are designed to educate and change public consumption and to transform corporate and government policy on environmental issues.

The primary goals of the course are to guide participants in exploring the diversity of traditions and forms of religious and spiritual environmental activism and to educate participants on how to produce digital media strategies that will have significant impact on environmental issues. On-line web sites and social media campaigns are used by national and local environmental organizations to mobilize and encourage people to take action either online or offline. Participants will examine what "works" and what does not "work" in terms of digital media strategies that aim to advocate and to influence environmental issues. Throughout the course we will discuss a range of new media technologies employed by organizers. Examples of “tools” include Facebook groups, Twitter, Tumblr, SnapChat, wikis, or hashtags. We will also discuss a range of e-tactics deployed by activists, such as email newsletters, social media campaigns, blogs, crowdfunding, selfie protests, viral videos, digital storytelling, and e-petitions.

A key premise underpinning the design of this course is that the environmental issues we face are intimately intertwined with social, ethical, cultural, and political issues. Many of the activists we will cover in class view the environmental crisis as a reflection of a global religious and spiritual imbalance. The course will examine four “big questions” with respect to religious environmental activism and digital activism: 1) Does religion and culture make a difference in environmental activism? 2) When, where, and how do religious environmental activists mobilize? 3) What tactics do they use? 4) What explains success and failure in advocacy or participation?


See PDF here.