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Three leaders from Islam, Buddhism and Christianity tell Green Futures how their religion perceives the role of people on the planet.
“What you do to the environment, you do to yourself”
A very central principle in Buddhist teaching is the oneness of self and environment. The environment may appear to be separate from ‘me’, but Buddhism teaches that my environment is a reflection of my life, not separate from my life. They are ‘two, but not two’.
As you practise Buddhism, this ‘oneness’ becomes clearer. Practising Buddhism is about attaining enlightenment, and one important aspect of this is raising and broadening your consciousness. As you do so, you become more aware of your effect on the environment. You realise that what you’re doing to the environment, you’re doing to yourself.
And everything we do has an effect: that’s another important Buddhist teaching. If we do negative things, that negativity is lodged in our lives. Equally, if we do life-affirming things, this comes back to our life as well.
Robert Samuels is General Director UK of Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist association with 12 million members worldwide.
“Creation works as a whole”
At the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science (IFEES), we focus on four Qur’anic principles. The first is unity: the principle that the universe is one entity and the human community is part of that. The second is fitra: that our origin is in creation, and that we are not to tamper with it. If we do, there are repercussions, as we now face. The third is that creation is in balance, and so we must not introduce imbalance, or the system won’t work. And the fourth is responsibility. As stewards of creation, the earth has been left to us in trust.
Fazlun Khalid is Founder and Director of IFEES.
“We must inspire and energise”
In the eyes of Christians, we’re living in a creation that we’re charged to take care of – from the wildlife in our church yards, to our waste and where we put it. Today, the most critical environmental threat is climate change, which is primarily the consequence of our use of fossil fuels. The main way in which the Church of England uses energy is in running our buildings. In our personal lives there are several other factors, such as food and flying. We mustn’t be seen to be bossy on this front: we must inspire, energise and inform. Some think people will be turned off by too much information, but they’re not. I see waves of relief crossing people’s faces when you take the trouble to explain the greenhouse effect.
But first we need to put our own house in order, by reducing the energy use of our churches. Then there’s our wider role in addressing the public at large. We mustn’t be afraid to speak up.
Brian Cuthbertson is Head of Environmental Challenge, London Diocesan Fund.