Finding Interfaith Potential in Environmentalism

Many saw President Obama’s speech in Indonesia last month as a second attempt to improve America’s relationship with Muslim communities around the world, after his first attempt in Cairo in June 2009. He addressed issues such as development, democracy, and religion — complimenting Indonesia’s ability to move development, establish one of the world’s largest democracies and function as a religiously pluralistic society.

However, his words elucidate our domestic need to reframe our understanding of interfaith work. Diversity is a fact, not an achievement. As a plural nation, we must not see tolerance as a destination, but as the first step of engaging faith communities in tacking our must fundamental issues. Rather than rehashing our differences in creed and theology, we must focus on the problems that we all face in America: need for more jobs, economic and financial reform and a clean environment.

Our environmental problem is one place where the religion, democracy and development trifecta has a clear potential for success. Communities of faith around the country are joining the “green” conversation and the environmental movement. Groups like Green Faith and Interfaith Leaders for Environmental Justice are bringing people together around protecting planet, not destroying it. An Amazon Environmentalism bestselling book is Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet, a book that encourages people of faith — specifically Muslims — to see themselves as stewards of the Earth with a divine responsibility to leave the planet better than we found it. Faith communities can set aside their differences and work towards solutions to common problems.

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Muslim Maldives Goes Solar

The lowest lying island in the world, the Maldives which has an entirely Muslim population has alot to lose due to climate change.  Scientists have issued stark  warnings that rising sea levels caused by climate change could engulf the Maldives and other low-lying nations this century.

So, the country is taking action.

In 2009, the president of the Maldives Mohammed Nasheed unveiled plans for the country to go carbon neutral within a decade and has now installed 48 solar photovoltaic modules on the rooftop of his official residence.

Nasheed’s office quoted him as saying in Yahoo News! : “Solar power helps combat climate change, reduces our dependency on imported oil and most importantly cuts out electricity costs.”

The Maldives sits (on average)  just 1.5 metres above sea level and erosion problems mean that saltwater has contaminated freshwater supplies and hit its fishing industry (second-largest economic sector next to tourism).

“For the Maldives, climate change . . . is not a problem in the future,” Nasheed said in a conference call Tuesday from his nation’s capital, Male. “It is a problem that we are facing every day.”

Image via Steve Jurvetson.

Take A Break From Carbon With The ‘Oil Fast’

oil-fast-carbonIf Ramadan and Yom Kippur have given you a taste for fasting, why not try the latest eco friendly fast: the oil fast.

Fasting is a natural, religious and spiritual affair which is practised by many people all over the world. Muslims give up food and drink between sunrise and sunset for an entire month during Ramadan, Christians give up luxuries during Lent, and Jews abstain from food during Yom Kippur. But can these practices be transferred onto the green agenda to help protect the planet from the worst effects of climate change? Well, one UK-based Christian organisation thinks so and on 3 October, it is launching an Oil Fast as part of its ‘Carbon Exodus’.

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Egypt’s Climate Lessons

egypt-garbage-environment-climate-change-lessons-arab-muslim

As one of the most populous countries in North Africa and the Middle East, the effects of climate change in Egypt will hit alot of people. Some of the biggest issues the country is facing include desertification, dwindling water supplies and pollution. In fact Cairo is one of the most polluted cities on the face of the planet and according to a recent article by Ismail Abdel Gelil in Al-Masry Al-Youm:

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Did climate change cause the floods in Pakistan?

Unless you have been using Ramadan to hibernate, there is no way that you have missed the terrible news of the catastrophic floods in Pakistan.  According to the latest reports 1,600 are believed to be dead, making it worse than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, 2005 Kashmir earthquake, 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster in Burma, and the recent earthquake in Haiti –  combined. Whilst the efforts to help and support the victims are still in full swing, others are now asking: what caused the horrendous floods in the first place?

Experts have been pointing to various issues such as deforestation and intensive land-use practices but the top U.N. and Pakistani government officials are now saying that climate change as the principal culprit. During an aid appeal Pakistan’s foreign minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi remarked:

“Climate change, with all its severity and unpredictability, has become a reality for 170 million Pakistanis… The present situation in Pakistan reconfirms our extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

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