Can religion fight climate change?
At a time when newsflow associated with religion has been rather acerbic, here is a refreshing piece about how religion as a means to fight one of the gravest problems facing humanity – climate change. The Parliament of World Religions (PoWR), a global forum for inter-faith interactions, is driving discourse around climate change and committing to using religious tools to fight the issue.
“In May 2019, the PoWR launched The Climate Commitments Project, aimed at “committing to a low carbon world”. It enables proactive faith-based agents of change to network, document and access support from organizations such as Buddhist Global Relief, EcoSikh, Center for Earth Ethics, Govardhan Ecovillage, and The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
…“The Sikh faith is well-aligned to nature, and several shabads in the Guru Granth Sahib prove this. For example, in this shabad that says ‘Air is the Guru, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of all’, the Granth Sahib tells us to consider nature as our teacher. Organizations like EcoSikh are known for their ardent commitment to the environment, but even in gurdwaras like the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, saplings are distributed as prasad…Baba Sewa Singh of the Khadur Sahib gurdwara received the Padma Shri in 2010 for planting 346,000 trees along 382km of roads and 400 villages in Punjab.
…While religious organizations like EcoSikh and Iskcon have taken action only recently, the intellectual discipline relating environmentalism to religion has been taking shape from the late 1980s. Cross-disciplinary fields like eco theology, spiritual ecology and religious environmentalism have been delving into the academic frameworks of environmentalism and religion, ethics and ecology to locate these ideas in each.
Universities have led research in this area by offering specialized courses. Bodies such as the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale and independent organization Alliance of Religions and Conservation (which shut in June 2019) have carried the narrative forward.
In his book, Islam And The Plight Of The Modern Man, (Seyyed Hossein) Nasr noted that “the environmental crisis is fundamentally a crisis of values and that religions, being a primary source of values in any culture, are thus implicated in the decisions humans make regarding the environment”. As Nasr and Palmer have said, religion can be a compelling force in driving positive change and tackle the current climate crisis. Rooted deeply in social consciousness, religion is often a much stronger motivator in driving behavioural change than facts and figures. A careful selection of nature-centric scriptural messages, when delivered by a religious leader, can lead to the swift mobilization of a community.”