Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Religious communities can make the difference in winning the fight against climate change
December 2, 2021 3.59am AEDT
Tobias MüllerLecturer in Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge
Esra ÖzyürekProfessor of Abrahamic Faiths and Shared Values, University of Cambridge
The threat of climate change signals a “code red for humanity”, and we are running out of time to transition away from carbon and prevent catastrophic planetary warming. Our best chance is to convince existing organisations with financial, political and social power to pioneer drastic change. Faith communities – to which 4 billion people worldwide belong, with an economic value of over £900 billion (£676 billion) in the US alone – might be the force we need.
When US President John Biden met Pope Francis on October 29, climate change was a focus of their discussion. Later that day, the pope spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day strand on the Today programme to demand “radical decisions” from world leaders on climate. He warned that the interlinking crises of the pandemic and climate change have created “a perfect storm” about to cause havoc to human civilisation.
Before the COP26 UN climate conference took place in Glasgow, 40 religious leaders also met in the Vatican to make an unprecedented plea for addressing the climate crisis.
“If one nation sinks, we all sink”, said Rajwant Singh, a Sikh leader from Washington D.C. And the Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, an institution usually not known for its progressive politics, called on young Muslims “to be ready to fight against any action that damages the environment”.
But these steps alone are not enough. As the pope suggested to BBC listeners, religious groups must acknowledge that our profit-oriented economy is making our planet uninhabitable.
Faith communities across the world together make up an industry that is bigger than most national economies. Through speaking the truth about the state of the planet and exercising uncompromising financial, social and political pressure on governments and corporations, they can shift the balance towards averting the devastation of all we hold sacred on Earth. These communities have the resources and the resilience, but above all the moral responsibility, to do that.
In light of the many times they have failed to stand up for justice and human dignity, religions could win back their place at the forefront of a struggle that will define the future of humanity. To rephrase a famous slogan, there are no religions on a dead planet.Read more: https://theconversation.com/religious-communities-can-make-the-difference-in-winning-the-fight-against-climate-change-172192
The problem with renouncing our profit oriented economy, with renouncing excess, is as Venezuela discovered, it is way too easy to undershoot, and tip large numbers of people into want and hunger.
Capitalism works because it is very responsive to need. People seeking a profit go out of their way to try to anticipate needs, which usually results in at least a mild excess of essentials – nobody has to go hungry.
Other systems not so much.
There is nothing sinful about allowing people to make a profit, thereby ensuring everyone has enough to eat, even if this means food is wasted.
Religious leaders should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting otherwise, for backing failed ideas which always lead to guaranteed large scale want and hunger.