EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Geoscience in collaboration with religion to save lives and livelihoods in seismic risk regions: a case study from Haiti

Roger Abbott
Roger Abbott
  • Faraday Institute for Science & Religion, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (

Eighty-four percent of the world’s population self-identifies as religious, and many of these people live in low-income contexts exposed to seismic hazard risk and to potentially disastrous outcomes. Using a case-study from Haiti, this presentation explores the theoretical benefits of a geoscientific – religion collaboration contribution to education modules for saving lives and livelihoods in seismic risk zones. Our previous research, carried out in areas most affected by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which caused catastrophic fatality and life-changing injury rates across the demographic spectrum, revealed that many people had little inkling of what an earthquake was or of how they should respond to one. However, this ignorance was not due to lack of desire for, or lack of interest in the significance of seismic hazard risk awareness or of disaster mitigation. On the contrary, we found a very serious desire for education that would lead to greater awareness and disaster mitigation. The real problem was based in a lack of access to educational systems and in the lack of serious geoscience within the educational curriculum. Drawing on my research carried out after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and our recent publication, Abbott, Roger P and Robert S. White, Narratives of Faith from the Haiti Earthquake: Religion, Natural Hazards and Disaster Response. (New York: Routledge, 2019),this presentation, advocates for an experimental project methodology that would combine both geoscience and religious education working in collaboration to demonstrate the potential benefits for saving lives and livelihoods for vulnerable communities exposed to seismic risk. In Haiti, the majority of educational establishments are faith-based. Therefore, these establishments are significant stakeholders for geoscientists to be in collaboration with. The geo-scientifically educated students can then input their education into parental/familial life, thereby extending the seismic hazard awareness and disaster mitigation procedures even more widely in society. In geographical contexts, where religious beliefs are endemic to daily life, a religious collaboration with geoscience could help establish a religious as well as confident scientific logic and resilience from embracing the geoscience relevant to students’ locales, as being both scientifically and theologically justified.  The five-year longitudinal project we advocate would involve constructing a contextualised science-faith teacher-training module, its implementation in selected schools in Haiti, and the utilisation of Raspberry Shake seismometers in those schools for monitoring and collection of seismic activity data. A control group would also be selected, which would neither be subjected to the educational material, nor would they have the Raspberry Shakes. Analysis of the data from both groups and of any changes in disaster awareness and mitigation in one group in comparison with the other would reveal the feasibility and beneficial nature of such an indigenised educational programme for a national curriculum in Low Income Countries.

How to cite: Abbott, R.: Geoscience in collaboration with religion to save lives and livelihoods in seismic risk regions: a case study from Haiti, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-2723,, 2020


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  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-2723, Martin Bohle, 02 May 2020

    That's a tough choice:  (1) It is the hypotheses that combined geoscience-religious education would reduce the number of victims.  (2) Experiment design with a control group (random selection) that does not get such an education. (3) Is such a design ethical? 

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, ROGER ABBOTT, 03 May 2020

      Thank you for raising this query about the ethics of the proposed model. In response, I stress that the model I am proposing is an exploratory one to see if this collaborative model does actually lead to saving lives and livelihoods, to see if it does validate the hypothesis. My hunch is it could, and if it does then this is a model that must be worth considering developing for rolling out as polcy in LIC. However, the research may demonstrate otherwise. Like so many exploratory research projects, there needs to be a control group to make the methodology effective. In this case, the project already being carried out by the geologist and social scientists (Calais et al) has a control group in mind - once the situation on the ground permits implementation. My project seeks to follow this approach. Indeed, it could be argued that to NOT have a control group would severely bias the results and make any conclusions dangerous for rolling out as national policy.

      I hope that helps, and thanks for raising the issue.

      • CC3: Reply to AC1, Martin Bohle, 05 May 2020

        Hello - I  share the description of the dilemma that you face. Driven by valid methodological concerns the 'control group' is a must. Likewise you accept that this group will suffer more than other groups.   As remedy, I would consider that your dilemma is of a similar nature than in a clinial trial (= hypothise to have a cure and exclude the 'control group' from getting it). I would expect that procedures are available how to set up the (clinical trial in an ethical acceptabe manner. Furthermore, you may consider to alter your zero-hypothese, namely supposing that 'access to the geoscience information' has no impact.  Subsequently, the altered hypothesis should lead to a different set up of the experiement. I would suppose that diciplines doing experiments that involve humans should have protocolls for the kind of situation / dilemma that you face. I wish you success!

        • AC3: Reply to CC3, ROGER ABBOTT, 05 May 2020

          Again, thank you for your comments, which are appreciated and will be considered carefully. Clearly, any project of this nature will require ethics approval, and we fully aniticipate submitting an application for such, which wil also require submission of ethical protocols. This has been our practice in all our research ethnographic projects concerning natural haxards. Thank you.

  • CC2: Comment on EGU2020-2723, Jan Boon (deceased), 05 May 2020

    Very interesting! Reading your abtract made me think immediately of the project "Comunicacion con Comunidades" that was organized by the geological survey organizations of Argentian, Chile,Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela with the Geological Survey of Canada coordinating the effort. Most pilot projects involved schools, and in Chile I saw how the schoolchildren influenced their parents. While religion was not involved, there were similarities with you proposal. The pilot projects dealt with natural hazards such as land slides, and vokcanic eruptions. If you are interested, please send me your email address and I can send you the document (it is in Spanish, and the projects took place eralier in this century)

    • AC2: Reply to CC2, ROGER ABBOTT, 05 May 2020

      Thank you for that response regarding the South American project. I would be very interested in obtaining it, please. Send to

      Best wishes,