Religious Support for the Environment

A Catholic Nun, a Muslim Imam and a Jewish Rabbi walked into a room. Per the Rabbi, there is no punch line as this is not a joke, as all three came to discuss how their religions support treating the environment well. The discussion was called “Interfaith Perspective on Caring for the Planet.” After viewing a movie called “Stewardship and Lost Rivers,” co-produced by two professors at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which featured numerous religious leaders of various faiths, it is very apparent that each religion supports doing something about man-influenced climate change and treating our environment well for our children and grandchildren’s sake. In fact, Pope Francis will be publishing a position paper that says these very things later this summer, in advance of the next United Nations global meeting in Paris on doing something about climate change.

The Catholic Nun, who is one of 25 Climate Action leaders in the US Catholic Church, was keen on equating poverty and maltreatment of the environment. She noted that people in poverty are more impacted than others due to the placement of environmentally harmful energy sources nearer poor neighborhoods and the inability to easily pick up and move or seek medical help for illnesses perpetuated by pollution and energy waste product. Also, climate change seems to hit impoverished low-lying areas with sea rise and encroachment into farm land and fresh water supplies. In fact, one of the co-producers of “Stewardship and Lost Rivers” who was present used the term “eco-racism” to define the inordinate onus placed on the impoverished.

Yet, each religious leader echoed what was noted in the film regarding the wishes of God, Allah or a supreme being to treat the environment well for future generations. The Rabbi told the story of a man who was planting a tree that would not bear fruit for 75 years. When he failed to attend a meeting with a potential Messiah, he said he needed to finish planting this tree, as a tree bearing fruit was here when he came along and, irrespective of whether this is the Messiah, people will need the fruit from the tree. This is echoed in Deuteronomy where God tells the armies if they must wage war, to avoid cutting down the fig trees, as people will need to eat regardless of who wins.

Each religious leader discussed our need to be good stewards with our resources, in particular, water which is important in all religions symbolically and spiritually, but as well as to survive. I spoke with the Imam afterwards, and he noted because water is so dear in the Middle East, Muslims can use sand instead of water in their prayers. We discussed in Steven Solomon’s book “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization,” Solomon notes that Saudi Arabia is oil rich and water poor, which will cause huge problems in the not-so-distant future. Sounds like Texas, Oklahoma and California to me.

This topic resonated with me, especially when poverty and the environment were linked. We must do something about man-influenced climate change and its impact on the world. We need to treat our resources of air and water as dear as they are and will become in the future. As noted in the movie, there is no “Planet B,” as this is the only chance we get. We cannot rewind and change what we have done, but we can alter the future course. It is great to see religious leaders, like the Pope and these three folks, embrace the need to act to address our environmental concerns and poverty, as well. We should follow the instructions in our religious texts and join them.

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9 thoughts on “Religious Support for the Environment

  1. I’m glad to read this. Katrina was a great example of what happens when weather systems run amok and those with the least are the most susceptible to the fallout. The same will occur when there are global food shortages. Pope Francis has become an icon for more than the Catholic community. Hopefully, people will take note when he becomes actively involved.

  2. Well written
    If one theme became important, let’s call it common sense, all the people pulling in the same direction, that might work?
    As we view history and really assess what happened, it appears the absolute best example of evolution is religion. People survived though we really made some mistakes following beliefs imagined. No proof, no repeatable science, just do it because Mom said so. Of course, even religion could help yet, lots of followers.

    • Lee, thanks for your comments. I told me wife and children I wish they could have attended this meeting as it was the best of America, three religions in concert toward a common cause. Per your comments, we tend to follow without question what our parents taught us about religion. Yet, when it is inclusive and welcoming the experience is far more positive than when religion is exclusive and intolerant. Thanks dropping by, BTG

  3. Note to Readers: 60 Minutes did an update on the Orange County, CA process that converts sewage water to drinking water. It makes inroads, but requires a populated area that produces sewage. However, a major caution was provided at the end, where a scientist noted CA’s aquifer could run dry unless something dramatic is done. The Orange County process is but one of several needed ideas.

  4. Note to Readers: I saw another editorial cartoon from an investor magazine that denigrates the Pope for his pending paper and previous comments over his concern over climate change. The fossil fuel industry’s control over the GOP on this issue is frustrating. Yet, here we have a religious leader who is stating clearly what scientists are saying and what the rest of the world is saying and he gets lampooned. Speaking of investing, in 2011, the largest investment consulting firm in the world at that time was Mercer Investment Consulting who did a study with the planet’s largest pension scheme (or plan) trustees in assets managed. The purpose was to speak to the cost of climate change by failing to act which they estimated would be in the neighborhood of US $8 Trillion, which may be low. And, Marsh & McLennan Companies, the largest insurance broker in the world at that time, noted huge risk that climate change has on risk managers. So, how can an Investor magazine belittle the Pope who seems to be more in tune with financial risk than they are.

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