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Engaging faith-based communities for rural coastal resilience: lessons from collaborative learning on the Chesapeake Bay

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  • Christine D. Miller Hesed

    (University of Maryland)

  • Elizabeth R. Van Dolah

    (University of Maryland)

  • Michael Paolisso

    (University of Maryland)

Abstract

Rural coastal areas are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. In the USA, much energy is devoted to conserving rural coastal ecosystems by promoting their adaptation to climate change. However, these areas are also home to vulnerable and underserved communities who can be challenging to engage in climate adaptation discussions. Churches—as trusted social institutions—may offer a structure through which government decision-makers and rural residents can engage to improve the resilience of these rural coastal regions. We employed collaborative learning to engage government decision-makers and rural church members on the topic of climate impacts on Maryland’s Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We analyzed the collaborative learning process and its outcomes using ethnographic methods. In this paper, we present our approach and discuss the benefits and challenges of collaborative learning with rural churches. We found that this approach yielded major benefits including greater understanding of capacities and limitations in addressing environmental challenges, increased trust and social networks, expanded engagement with a greater diversity of stakeholders, increased opportunities for new conversations, new pathways toward interventions, and stakeholder empowerment. Collaborating with churches is not without challenges though; it requires considerable time and effort and presents difficulties in navigating social hierarchies and specialized language, identifying common goals, grappling with the newness of climate change, and overcoming institutional barriers. Despite these challenges, we conclude that collaborative learning with churches is a valuable approach for information exchange and network-building toward more resilient rural coasts.

Suggested Citation

  • Christine D. Miller Hesed & Elizabeth R. Van Dolah & Michael Paolisso, 2020. "Engaging faith-based communities for rural coastal resilience: lessons from collaborative learning on the Chesapeake Bay," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 159(1), pages 37-57, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:159:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1007_s10584-019-02638-9
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-019-02638-9
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    References listed on IDEAS

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