Chapter 1 - The Origins of Sustainability 

Part 3 - Religion and the Environment

Borobudur monks prayingA Muslim ecologist, Fazlun Khalid, once said:  
“Our self-indulgence has led us to compete with each other as consumers, as individuals and as countries sucking things out of the earth at an ever-increasing rate and discharging a level of waste which the earth cannot recycle, thus contributing to the rapid destruction of the habitats and lifestyles of the weakest amongst us. We are rampaging through the delicate balance of nature. Savaging other species to extinction.  Robbing future generations of their inheritance. We have become so trapped in our own self-indulgence we are not even aware of it.”
(qtd. in Chapman, Petersen, and Smith-Moran, 1999)

Religious faiths and spirituality have an incredible influence on the lives of many people across the globe, and we must recognize that circumstance and its power for good, in an already damaged world. We need men and women of faith, and we need spiritual and religious leaders, to mobilize action to change our challenged future. Many have already heeded the call. We need a shared sense of inspiration, and faith, and a higher sense of goodwill for those we will never meet, but who will know us by the world we leave behind. 

Regardless of beliefs, faith, or cultural identity and allegiance, the degradation of the natural world is a challenge that affects all of humanity. For our survival and that of future generations, and the survival of nature in its timeless beauty and wonder, dominion must yield to balance, and harvest must yield to sow. With present and near future population and resource challenges, we need change, lest our last supper is the seed grain of our children.

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Suggested Reading

  1. Tucker, M. E. and Grim, J. (2009) Overview of World Religions and Ecology World Religions and Ecology

    (Hinduism; Jainism; Buddhism; Confucianism; Daoism; Shinto; Indigenous; Judaism; Christianity; and Islam)

  2. Chapman, A., Petersen, R., Smith-Moran, B. (1999) Consumption, Population, and Sustainability: Perspectives From Science And Religion. Island Press. 300 p.

  3. Gardner, G. (2002) Invoking the Spirit: Religion and Spirituality and the Quest for a Sustainable World. Worldwatch Institute. 62 p.

  4. Gottlieb, R. S. (2006) A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future. Oxford University Press, USA. 304 p.

  5. Gottlieb, R. S. Ed. (2004) This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment. Routledge, NY, NY. 762 p.