How Religion Can Save the Planet

Scientists have determined beyond any doubt that the current wave of mass extinctions has been caused by human activity and that in order to delay catastrophic climate crises of truly biblical proportions, we need to leave most of the fossil fuels in the ground. This is the most pressing moral issue of our era. There are a number of ways that churches, synagogues, mosques and temples everywhere can be part of the solution. One is to divest financially from companies that extract or exploit unsustainable fossil fuels and encourage their faithful to follow suit. In my area, the electric utility buys power from customers with solar panels. Thousands of religious institutions could put solar panels on their rooftops and reduce the use of electricity from oil- or coal-powered plants. The approval of religious leaders for such efforts would be a great step in the right direction as it would encourage the development of clean energy resources.

More people are becoming aware that it is our own daily habits – particularly in the west – that are driving whole species into oblivion. We need to make the connection between our own thoughtless habits and the suffering and death of others. One example is the plight factory and garment workers in developing nations who are not protected by the workplace legislation that we enjoy. Another is the quarter of a million farmers in India so desperate they killed themselves. Tar sands development is deadly, and despite what the petroleum industry says, hydro-fracking destroys aquifers and poisons the very water of life. Ecocide is worse than a crime against humanity – it is a crime against the Earth we inhabit and a crime against our very Creator.

Religious institutions that want to make the world a better place could communicate these ideas to their congregations and help people wake up to the consequences of their actions. However, it is not necessary to burden people with shame and guilt for what they did in the past. If the human race has committed a terrible sin, has missed the mark, the loving response is to spread the word that we can do better.

The trend toward industrial food production is damaging to human health and the biosphere on many levels. The faithful could be a great catalyst for positive change by encouraging sustainable urban agriculture and permaculture. Have you ever tried to imagine what a more compassionate world might look like? In this vision, a church with a lawn might turn it over to grow fruits and vegetables for the community. Perhaps a group of volunteers would gather donated supplies, lay out and mulch some rows, plant seeds, and care for plants together. Perhaps teachers and students from local schools could be invited to participate. The harvest could be celebrated with a communal meal and the surplus would be shared with low-income families, local food banks, school lunch programs and/or provide organic produce for patients in local hospitals or nursing homes. Volunteers can learn and teach sustainable urban agricultural and permaculture practices that they can use at home, while making healthy food available to the needy. The church could reach out and invite neighbours to join in the garden project, which could and perhaps should operate on a non-denominational basis in order to be truly loving, compassionate and inclusive in sharing this model of stewardship.

A congregation with only pavement or an accessible flat roof could set up raised beds. Indoor container gardens could be set up in sunny windows. Even a parish with no space for growing food could use a filing cabinet to maintain a small seed library for the community. The poor could save and share seed without having to lay out money for what our Creator provides for us. We could even advocate for a “food forest” in every city, like the one that Seattle is growing. Such efforts would increase food security for the whole community.

I am pleased that more people are becoming aware of the dangers of things like terminator seed technology. However, it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. There are grassroots organizations springing up all over North America and elsewhere to promote healthy alternatives, start seed libraries, ‘grow food, not lawns,’ and develop new local economies based on sustainability and sharing. Projects to grow community at the local level could apply spiritual ‘first aid’ without ever mentioning their faith. Yet the potential reach of such efforts will go far beyond the boundaries of local gardens. There is a tremendous opportunity to build a movement that bridges gaps between traditions by acknowledging our collective humanity. If I am going to wear a label, let it be as inclusive as possible. I like to identify myself as a believer in Terrestrialism, which means I have a common bond with every living creature on this planet, regardless of any religious beliefs they may or may not hold.

There are few activities more healing, more satisfying to the soul than tending a garden, working with the earth and caring for growing things, while the birds and insects sing like a choir. Cultivated flowers touch our spirits with their beauty, yet even the tiniest wildflowers nurture the earth by keeping the bees and butterflies healthy. Some say that the best way to teach children about miracles is to plant a seed. There is truth here, and as the old saying goes; “Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime, but show a person how to garden and the whole neighbourhood gets tomatoes.”

If any of these little idea seeds seem viable to you, I humbly suggest that they be scattered widely on fertile ground.

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About Connect ALL the Dots

Just trying to make the world a better place.

Posted on October 23, 2013, in Terrestrialism and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great post! In times of trouble, even non believers will be praying.

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