Sustainability and Climate Change in Mennonite Media

The past few months the Center has been working on a research project which could have implications both for monitoring and evaluation, as well as the communications strategy for reaching the Mennonite church on environmental issues. By monitoring the frequency of sustainability keywords in Mennonite publications, and the contexts for the discussion of climate change, the Center hopes to gain a better understanding of how the Mennonite church is interacting with the issue.

The initial research was an overview of 25 different Mennonite publications (including colleges and universities, church news outlets, and classic media websites), and catalogued how many articles used the word “climate change” over a ten year period.

The graph to the left represents the findings from the initial research, and while there are other possible reasons for the sharp increase in the last three years (such as greater frequency in total articles published), it does seem to suggest that Mennonites have been talking about climate change much more since 2015, and have continued to talk about it more frequently since.

One other interesting finding from this initial research was the topic of the articles. After separating the articles into broad categories, it became clear that there were certain topics with which Mennonites were more likely to discuss climate change. The topics with the most articles were advocacy/politics, relief/development, and theology/ethics, which suggests that these are the best lenses through which Mennonites can examine climate change, and discuss it.

After the initial findings, it became clear that researching sustainability keywords in Mennonite publications would be extremely helpful to our work, and to understand the broader context of sustainability in the Mennonite church. Using the same format as the initial research, this segment examined 25 Mennonite publications for 15 different sustainability keywords (i.e. environmental, recycle, emissions, etc.) to see if there was a similar trend throughout the topic of sustainability in the publications.

The graph on the right represents the findings from these research, which show a definite trend, albeit not as steep as the trend in the term “climate change”.

One interesting finding from this research was the most common keywords used in Mennonite publications. Understanding this might, especially in conjunction with an understanding of the most common topics used to discuss climate change, might give the Center an idea of the best way to approach communication and research in the future.

The most used keywords from the publications were “environmental”, “sustainability”, “recycle”, and “creation care”. Other words, which might have been expected to have more citations, such as solar power and pollution, had significantly less over the course of ten years.

While there is certainly more to understand about the usage of sustainability keywords in Mennonite publications, there is little doubt that the research will aid in creating an effective communications strategy for reaching the Mennonite church. Once more aspects of the project have been completed, an extended examination of the findings will be posted on the website.

By Daniel Bellerose

The Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS) is a collaborative effort of Eastern Mennonite University, Goshen College, and Mennonite Central Committee. CSCS advances thinking and action in Anabaptist and other faith communities to mitigate climate change. Our goal is to make climate change the moral equivalent of war and violence in the Anabaptist community and to change hearts and minds around climate change in the church.

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