As political leaders aim for a momentous climate
change conference in Copenhagen in December, religious leaders are
rolling up their sleeves as well.
This month, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu and Sikh
leaders all pledged to build climate change plans for their adherents.
Jewish leaders have also promised to build a seven-year climate change
The world religions initiative is being organized by the
Alliance of Religions and Conservation, a UK-based organization founded
14 years ago by Prince Philip
What differentiates each religion's take on the environment? In
truth, not much. They base their actions on words of wisdom from their
prophets or leaders of old, and plan to focus on education, and to take
action to become examples to the wider world of their followers. Of
course, each religion uses its symbols and concerns in the fight to
cope with climate change
Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI
ecology and the environment into the mainstream of Catholic concerns in
a new encyclical. The pope argued, much as Jewish leaders do, that the
Earth was given to human beings to preserve and protect. He singled out
fossil-fuel-guzzling countries for criticism, both for their
deleterious effect on climate change and for the social inequality he
said they engender.
The pope also linked what he called "human ecology" to the
right to a natural life and death and the absence of experimentation on
"In order to protect nature, it is not enough to
intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite
education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive
issue is the overall moral tenor of society.
"If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a
natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made
artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience
of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with
it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that
future generations respect the natural environment when our educational
systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves," Benedict
The pontiff also condemned contemporary society's tendencies towards "hedonism and consumerism."
The Alliance of Religions and Conservation is organizing five-
to nine-year plans from the 11 major religions of the world which will
be presented at Windsor Castle in November, ahead of the Copenhagen
conference. At Copenhagen, world leaders are expected to work out a
successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, whose greenhouse gas
limitations expire in 2013.
The Muslims, including many significant scholars, proposed a
series of measures such as "greening the Haj," greening some cities to
act as models for the rest and a host of certification and best
practices measures during a conference in Istanbul at the beginning of
British Hindus have also pledged to examine their temples and
their other assets and to try to implement greener practices. The UK
Hindu community also hopes to reach out to India.
Ranchor Prime, author of Hinduism and Ecology, said:
"Food has always been at the heart of the Hindu way of life. Now with
food, and especially the environmental cost of meat, right at the top
of the global climate change agenda, Hindus feel they have something to
say. One of their key concerns is to change public perceptions of the
cow as simply a source of food."
The Sikhs have dedicated the new 300-year cycle, which began in
1999, to nature. During the previous cycle, dedicated to protecting the
vulnerable, they fed 30 million people a day from their free soup
kitchens in their temples. While 300 years may be too long to save the
planet, their track record for religious action remains impressive.
The alliance was founded to harness the potential of the
world's religions. Taken together, they hold sway over vast numbers of
people around the world. The potential for reaching out and changing
the habits of ordinary individuals is tremendous, the organization
From a materialistic perspective, the world's religions own
many profitable temples, tracts of land and other assets, which, if
greened, would be beneficial in and of themselves.