As political leaders aim for a momentous climatechange conference in Copenhagen in December, religious leaders arerolling up their sleeves as well.
This month, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu and Sikhleaders all pledged to build climate change plans for their adherents.Jewish leaders have also promised to build a seven-year climate changeplan.
The world religions initiative is being organized by theAlliance of Religions and Conservation, a UK-based organization founded14 years ago by Prince Philip.
What differentiates each religion's take on the environment? Intruth, not much. They base their actions on words of wisdom from theirprophets or leaders of old, and plan to focus on education, and to takeaction to become examples to the wider world of their followers. Ofcourse, each religion uses its symbols and concerns in the fight tocope with climate change
Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI firmly placedecology and the environment into the mainstream of Catholic concerns ina new encyclical. The pope argued, much as Jewish leaders do, that theEarth was given to human beings to preserve and protect. He singled outfossil-fuel-guzzling countries for criticism, both for theirdeleterious effect on climate change and for the social inequality hesaid they engender.
The pope also linked what he called "human ecology" to theright to a natural life and death and the absence of experimentation onembryos.
"In order to protect nature, it is not enough tointervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an appositeeducation is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisiveissue is the overall moral tenor of society.
"If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to anatural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are madeartificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscienceof society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along withit, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist thatfuture generations respect the natural environment when our educationalsystems and laws do not help them to respect themselves," Benedictwrote.
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 willbe presented at Windsor Castle in November, ahead of the Copenhagenconference. At Copenhagen, world leaders are expected to work out asuccessor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, whose greenhouse gaslimitations expire in 2013.
The Muslims, including many significant scholars, proposed aseries of measures such as "greening the Haj," greening some cities toact as models for the rest and a host of certification and bestpractices measures during a conference in Istanbul at the beginning ofthe month.
British Hindus have also pledged to examine their temples andtheir other assets and to try to implement greener practices. The UKHindu 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 withfood, and especially the environmental cost of meat, right at the topof the global climate change agenda, Hindus feel they have something tosay. One of their key concerns is to change public perceptions of thecow as simply a source of food."
The Sikhs have dedicated the new 300-year cycle, which began in1999, to nature. During the previous cycle, dedicated to protecting thevulnerable, they fed 30 million people a day from their free soupkitchens in their temples. While 300 years may be too long to save theplanet, their track record for religious action remains impressive.
The alliance was founded to harness the potential of theworld's religions. Taken together, they hold sway over vast numbers ofpeople around the world. The potential for reaching out and changingthe habits of ordinary individuals is tremendous, the organizationbelieves.
From a materialistic perspective, the world's religions ownmany profitable temples, tracts of land and other assets, which, ifgreened, would be beneficial in and of themselves.