Can faith motivate environmental action?

The environmental movement includes many people who don’t subscribe to any particular faith, as well as many others who do. Caring for birds, beasts, and the natural world is a common thread running through all the world’s religions. For example, Pope Francis invoked Catholic teachings of stewardship in his 2015 encyclical calling for action on climate change and other ecological threats. And in recent days, diverse religious groups across the country are participating in Faith Climate Action Week, organised by Interfaith Power & Light.

With World Environment Day 2017 just round the corner, let us hear from four environmental advocates who talk about how their environmentalism and personal beliefs intersect.

Haley Main, a minister in her non-denominational Christian church:  Climate change, at its core, is about ethics and values, which we derive from our belief systems. We have reached this place of constant consumption and wanton destruction because we have been led for too long by our belief that the Earth is here to serve humanity instead of co-flourish with us. This belief is in direct conflict with all major world religions, which all have some concept of the Earth as created by God, or sacred, and deserving of care.

Scientific reasons alone are insufficient for successful and lasting conservation action—religious and cultural values must be part of the equation. People of faith understand this and have begun to work with secular environmental groups, as well as form their own conservation organisations. There is great hope, even as there is still great work to be done.

Purbita Saha, a Hindu:  I think the fight against climate change is non-discriminatory, in terms of belief. As more religious leaders follow Pope Francis’ lead by speaking out, religion will have the potential to provide a powerful organising principle and crucial political sway to the movement.

Chandra Taylor Smith grew up in the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ:  I believe that in many ways climate change is the greatest test for how we live out our faith. All faith traditions have teachings about how to live in right balance with creation and the Earth. Our challenge is really living out what those traditions tell us about restraint, sharing our resources, loving all of God’s creation, and even loving our neighbours as ourselves.

Matt Anderson, a Lutheran:  What we do about climate change is a matter of moral conscience. I see religious communities around the country and the world stepping forward on this issue. I’m proud to serve on the national board of Interfaith Power & Light, a campaign bringing religious groups together to fight global warming. – www.auduborn.org

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