When world leaders gather in Paris on November 30 to negotiate a climate change agreement, they will have heard a clear message from world religious leaders: Caring for our planet is a moral duty.
Pope Francis’ May statement to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics — “Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home” — received great attention and was widely discussed. “All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation,” it concluded.
An International Islamic Climate Change Symposium held in August called on Muslims to protect the environment and “recognize the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the Earth’s non-renewable resources.”
The Muslim leaders who endorsed the declaration urged 1.6 billion faithful to support a global climate agreement.
Both declarations concur with the international scientific community’s conclusion that emissions from carbon-based fuels burned by humans cause planetary warming trends.
“There are serious flaws in the way we have used natural resources — the sources of life on Earth. An urgent and radical reappraisal is called for,” said the Islamic Declaration.
The papal encyclical made a similar appeal to re-examine unsustainable use of Earth’s resources.
In the United States, citizens from diverse faith communities have mobilized to support the cause.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis has declared: “Minimizing climate change requires us to learn how to live within the ecological limits of the Earth, so that we will not compromise the ecological or economic security of those who come after us.”
Green Muslims raises awareness of global environmental issues. Its effort began when a small group of American Muslims hosted a zero-trash iftar in 2007.
To deal effectively with the climate crisis, the Buddhist Climate Action Network (BCAN) says, “we need to experience a sense of urgency … collectively, on a mass scale.”
BCAN invites its members to join collective actions such as demonstrations, protests and forums as part of a worldwide campaign for more sustainable policies.
Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) helps religious groups reduce emissions and energy use and promotes the role people of faith should play in addressing the causes and consequences of climate change.
These faith-based groups add an important perspective to the broad coalition of groups working to combat climate change. The cause will assume greater prominence in September when Pope Francis vists the United States, and the issues addressed in his encyclical are widely publicized and discussed.
How are faith communities involved in environmental issues in your community? Is environmental protection a moral responsiblity in your own belief system?