Ben Lowe
 

Research

I am an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods researcher in the human, religious, and ethical dimensions of environmental conservation and natural resource management. My current research focuses on perceptions and responses to climate and environmental change, both in East Africa and the United States. I utilize a range of methods (including quantitative surveys, qualitative interviews, and content analyses) and analytical tools (including SPSS, R, and Mplus) to better understand and help shape the relationships between people and their environments.

Theoretical Approaches

My research draws on a wide range of fields including ecology, psychology, sociology, communication, and religious studies. Key social science theories that I work with include:

·      Theory of Planned Behavior

·      Frame Theory

·      Cultural Cognition Theory

·      Moral Foundations Theory

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Human Dimensions

Environmental problems are people problems, and when the environment is not healthy, people are not healthy. Grounded in the conservation social sciences, I work in complex social-ecological systems—such as small-scale fisheries—to analyze the role that people play in environmental problems and solutions. This includes collaborating with the international CLEAT project to analyze the effects of climate change on Lake Tanganyika, a biodiversity hotspot and one of the largest inland fisheries across Africa.

To learn more: Lowe, B. S., Jacobson, S. K., Anold, H., Mbonde, A. S., & O’Reilly, C. M. (2019). Adapting to change in inland fisheries: analysis from Lake Tanganyika, East Africa. Regional Environmental Change, 19(6): 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-019-01516-5

The Katonga fish landing site on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania

The Katonga fish landing site on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania

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A sacred grove persisting amidst a deforested landscape in Tanzania

A sacred grove persisting amidst a deforested landscape in Tanzania

Faith leaders at the People’s Climate March in New York City, USA (PC: YECA)

Faith leaders at the People’s Climate March in New York City, USA (PC: YECA)

Religious Dimensions

Although often neglected in conservation and natural resource fields, religions and faith communities can play profound and integral roles in shaping how people understand and relate to the ecosystems around them. A major focus of my research is on examining the influence of religion in natural resource conservation and fisheries management in particular.

To learn more: Lowe, B. S., Jacobson, S. K., Anold, H., Mbonde, A. S., & Lorenzen, K. The neglected role of religion in fisheries management. Fish and Fisheries. https://doi.org/10.1111/faf.12388

Another major research focus is on how religious communities in the United States engage around climate and environmental concerns. Specifically, I am collaborating with multiple faith-based and environmental organizations to analyze the opportunities and barriers to promoting greater engagement among evangelical Christians and congregations, which make up one of the most active and influential religious movements in the U.S. and world, This developing research will include both a news media content analysis as well as a clergy survey.

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Ethical Dimensions

At their roots, environmental problems are also moral/ethical problems, and our attitudes and actions are invariably grounded in and guided by what and how we choose to value. Toward this end, I draw on a wide range of ethical and philosophical perspectives—including land ethics, bioregionalism, pragmatism, ecofeminism, social/environmental/intergenerational justice, stewardship models, and more—to evaluate and inform how we understand and engage the interconnected social and ecological challenges of our time.

To learn more: Lowe, B. S. (2019). Ethics in the Anthropocene: Moral Responses to the Climate Crisis. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 32(3): 479-485. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-019-09786-z

The Beaver Pond at the Au Sable Institute in Michigan, USA

The Beaver Pond at the Au Sable Institute in Michigan, USA