Religion and Ecology: Can They Facilitate Each Other?
By Tavishi Sharma
“My heart is moved by all I cannot save
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”
~ Adrienne Rich
The 21st century has been the advent of technology taking over our lives and the biggest population explosion in human history. With technology controlling every sphere of our lives and wanting us to strive for more each day, goals of sustainability have been strained and ecosystems have been pushed. So much so that over the past 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate ever in recorded history and experts predict the trend accelerating in the years to come.
How do we move forward in the face of such destruction? What role might religion, spirituality and faith play in all of this?
Religion is an important part of life. It is a system of belief for many, a sense of belonging and hope that there is a supernatural power that is on the lookout for them. That it will save them from perilous times, lift them up in situations of disappointments and defeat. With a huge proportion of population shifting towards spirituality and communal harmony, religious leaders and organizations hold an important place. With several religious leaders having staunch believers following them, their addressal of important issues can educate masses manifolds. The sooner the faith-based leaders acknowledge the issue of climate change, the better it will be. Several initiatives have been taken where religion has aided in the spread of awareness and initiatives towards environment protection. Some of them are given below.
Each year, various faith leaders from all over the world gather to discuss interfaith relationships. Adopted by the UN in 2010, the first week of February is celebrated as World Interfaith Harmony Week to initiate conversation and understanding amongst different faiths.
Several religious leaders understand the perils of ignoring the sabotaging of the environment and pushing the forces of nature and hence wish to play their part and impart information about it.
In May 2019, the Parliament of the World’s Religions 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, Centre for Earth Ethics, Govardhan Ecovillage, and The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
EcoSikh, an organization based in Ludhiana, Punjab connects Sikh values, beliefs and culture to act against environmental degradation. They run several programs like opening green Gurudwaras, green pilgrimage network and Sikh environment day keeping their vision of sustainability in mind.
Centre for Earth Ethics in New York, USA envisions a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of people and Earth. They work to cultivate public consciousness needed to make changes in policy and culture.
Govardhan Ecovillage is an initiative of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). The project is owned and managed by ISKCON Wada and is situated in Maharashtra, India. It is a place that houses several eco-friendly initiatives and runs several rural development initiatives in many villages nearby with the help of Sri Chaitanya Seva Trust.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has also launched the Faith for Earth Initiative in November 2017. The goal of Faith for Earth is to engage with faith-based organizations and associate with them to collectively achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and fulfil the objectives of the 2030 Agenda. This initiative serves 3 broad goals: to bring together leaders of different faiths and foster conversations leading to solutions concerning environment protection, to support investments by green faith-based organizations in order to support the implementation of SDGs and to provide the leaders with a platform to advocate the need of the hour i.e. protecting extinction of land and species.
The Christian community has also played a huge part in this movement. On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis released the letter Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home indicating that the Church understands the relevance of the topic of global warming and advocates the need to take actions to control it. In the letter, the Pope proposes an integral approach to ecology, economics, and equity for the wellbeing of both people and the planet.
Understanding the need to provide specialized studies on the correlation between Religion and Ecology, several universities have led research in this area. Earthcare is an important issue and it better be addressed at the latest. Reverence for the web of life and worshipping of all forms of nature is at the core of every faith.