Effecting environmental change: The challenges of transnational environmental faith-based organizations
This chapter focuses on the relationship between religion and environmental action by analyzing a transnational environmental faith-based organization (FBO) and how it seeks to establish a national movement to support environmental protection and change in a new country. Our underlying premises are that religious beliefs can shape environmental action and that environmental problems are global in nature and require transnational action. First, we seek to understand how transnational environmental FBOs try to create partnerships when they enter a new destination. Second, we examine whether these actors’ identities (religious or otherwise) are accepted, negotiated and resisted by local actors and the implications of such transnational-local interactions for the embedding of the transnational environmental FBO. Finally, we seek to understand how factors such as a locality’s history of religious participation in “secular” activities may influence the relative success of a transnational organization’s embedding in a locality. Focusing on the case of a particular transnational environmental FBO, we examine the ways in which a religiously-inspired environmental movement seeks to find ways of embedding in a new society (Singapore) to effect change. Using the concepts of network, societal and territorial embeddedness and related ideas of social capital and trust, we identify the challenges that transnational environmental FBOs face. We found that formal ties between institutions, such as seminaries, and personal relationships were central to creating trust that helped the transnational FBO become successful. The actors’ backgrounds could enable or constrain the embedding process. While certain aspects of an FBO actor’s identity (such as being a member in a worldwide religions institution) granted the actor an ‘insider’ status, other aspects (such as being a “Westerner” seeking to enter a postcolonial society) may hinder the embedding process. The presence of an existing cluster of similar organizations and the state-defined roles that national religious organizations play within a society, point to the continued influence the ‘national’ has on transnational organizations.