Role of Religion in Environmental Conservation

7 July 2016

The current assignment is about the role of religion in environmental conservation. Every society of the world follows certain religion or has a particular set of beliefs. Religion is the basic instrument which patterns the behavior of the people throughout the world. It provides the basic principles, rules and guidelines to its followers to spend their lives. It directs the people to do certain acts and avoid certain things or acts. Some things may be considered as holy while some may be attributed as unholy.

This categorization may also be termed as sacred and profane. There are also certain socio-religious taboos in the societies around the world. Socio-religious taboos exist in most cultures, both Western and non-Western. They are good examples of informal institutions, where norms, rather than governmental juridical laws and rules, determine human behavior. In many traditional societies throughout the world, taboos frequently guide human conduct toward the natural environment. Environment comprises of both the living and non-living objects around the human beings.

Role of Religion in Environmental Conservation Essay Example

This may include natural resources like forests, water, soil, mountains, herbs, air and living organisms. Different religions guide the people to utilize these natural resources as well as these religions put some limitations in the utilization of environment. Religion and Environmental Conservation: The major religions of the world like; Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism have certain doctrines about the relationship of human being and environment. These religions guide its followers about the utilization of natural resources and about the conservation of environment.

In the Buddhist tradition, environmental responsibility is a result of the natural interaction between humans and nature. One of the misconceptions that prevent humans for reaching happiness is the false consideration of their own importance. As a consequence, humans lose their links with nature, destroying valuable resources as a result of their greed. Overcoming greed will provide a better internal equilibrium, as well as a better preservation of natural resources. Humans should be like bees that take the nectar of flowers without destroying them.

Buddhist culture also acknowledges a moral communion between humans and nature. The land will produce proper fruits when humans deal properly with her. Human greed causes division and ownership conflicts, which implies violence and destruction. Susan M. Darlington in his article, “The Ordination of a Tree: The Buddhist Ecology Movement in Thailand” tells about a Buddhist ecology movement which is started by Buddhist Monks. These monks are popularly known as “Ecology Monks”. This movement is developing in Thailand and other Buddhist countries.

It is focusing on the local and national problems of deforestation and ecological destruction. The Buddhist involved in this movement see their religion as critical for providing practical as well as moral guidelines for ecological conservation. The major aim of Buddhism is to relieve suffering, the root causes of which are greed, ignorance and hatred. The monks who are involved in this movement see the deforestation, pollution of the air and water, and other environmental problems as caused by people acting through these evils, motivated by economic gain and the material benefits of development and industrialization.

These monks forbid the people from damaging the natural resources which have a good impact on the environment of Thailand. Islam has provided different texts that support the environmental responsibility of human beings. Islam has divided the things for human use into “halal” (lawful or permissible according to Islamic law) and haram (sinful). Many species of organisms are haram according to Islam like; lions, dogs, pigs, monkeys, cats, bear, jackal, parrots, crow, eagle, etc. The Muslims avoid eating these organisms due to

which they are protected and constitute a major portion of the environment. Some hadiths include sayings of Prophet Mohammad prohibiting the wasteful use of resources, most importantly of water, which is a very valuable resource in Arab lands. A significant hadith in this regard includes an admonition by a God Messenger to a devout Muslim who is wasting water in holy ablutions. This implies a clear condemnation of sumptuous attitudes with regard to natural resources, since the carelessness deserves a reproach even when the water is wasted during worship.

Another hadith emphasizing the plantation of trees says that; “to plant a tree is sadqa-e-jaria” (keep on getting rewarded). Islam also forbids the cutting of trees in graveyards and the use of graveyard trees are haram for Muslims. The Earth is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it. The whole earth has been created a place of worship pure and clean. Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded. If a Muslim plants a tree or sows a field and humans and beasts and birds eat from it, all of it is counted as charity on his part.

In the Quran, Muslims are taught to look after the environment and not to damage it. Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah, the nature to which he has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah. (Surah 30 : 30) Allah is he who raised the Heavens without any pillars that ye can see. It is He who setup the Earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and flowing rivers. All this is God’s creation and Muslims should therefore seek to protect and preserve environment.

Moreover by doing so they protect God’s creatures. (Quran 2-4 and Quran 17:4) Hinduism is also very relevant to the environmental responsibility of humans, especially in rural communities, which have a strong conviction about caring for the land. Ancient Hindus felt the Supreme Being’s presence in everything around them. Since these heavenly forces sustained all living creatures and organic things on this earth, to please God, they felt they must live in harmony with His creation including earth, rivers, forests, sun and air.

Hinduism is a way of living according to one understands of principles of Vedas and Upnishads. Veda is revealed knowledge. The Vedas traditionally believed to have been written around 3000 B. C. ( as accepted by German scholar Max Muller) and considered sacred in Hinduism contain one thousand and twenty-eight hymns dedicated to thirty-three different Gods out of which most often addressed Gods are nature Gods. Surya (Sun God), Indra (Rain God and King of Heavens), Agni (Fire God). Ano Bhadrah: Kritwo Yantoo Vishwathana (Prayer in devotion to nature for the upliftment of mankind.

 “Do not cut trees because they remove pollution. ” (Rig Veda 6:48:17) “Do not disturb the sky and do not pollute the atmosphere. ” (Yajur Veda 5:43) “We invoke all supporting Earth on which trees, lords of forests, stand ever firm. ”(Atharva Veda 12:1:27 ) “Don’t destroy forest with Tigers and don’t make forest devoid of tigers. Forests can’t be saved without tigers and tigers can’t live without forests because forests protect tigers and tigers protect forests. ” (Virat Parrva 5. 45-46) Humans should avoid any form of pollution and alteration of the natural balance.

For instance, when somebody needs to dig the ground, they should fill the hole afterwards to repair the land and keep the original balance. Human care is especially critical with trees, which are the main reservoirs of life. Forests are considered sources of life and protectors of the land against soil degradation. This caring for trees has recently been manifested in two environmental movements, very active in India in the last decades: Chipko and Appiko. Both try to protect the forests from industrial exploitation and are a clear manifestation of this close relation with the land.

Hindu religion has prohibited the prey and killing of animals, especially the cow (a sacred animal) and its followers are vegetarians. This results in the protection of biodiversity and conservation of nature. In Hindu culture, the moral relations between humans and nature can be found in some sacred texts. The earth answers as a living organism to the humans’ ways of using its resources, being gentle and fertile when they take proper care of her, and violent and cruel otherwise. Therefore, humans have a moral responsibility not to harm the earth in any way, avoiding pollution and using natural resources properly.

Reed L. Wadley and Carol I. Pierce Colfer in their article “Sacred Forest, Hunting, and Conservation in West Kalimantan, Indonesia” tell that sacred how forest sites play an important role in conservation and local livelihoods of Iban community. Such sacred sites mark important historical and mythical events, providing the Iban with meaningful connections to the local landscape. They also provide important forest products such as fruit crops and rattan and may function as sources of forest regeneration. Bruce A. Byers, Robert N. Cunliffe, and Andrew T.

Hudak in their article, “Linking the Conservation of Culture and Nature: A Case Study of Sacred Forests in Zimbabwe” tell about the role of traditional religious beliefs and traditional leaders in conserving remnant patches of a unique type of dry forest in the Zambezi Valley of northern Zimbabwe. In these areas forest loss is dramatically less in forests that are now considered sacred, or were in the past connected to sacred forests. This shows that how religion plays an important role in the preservation of environment. Christian religious doctrines emphasize respect for nature and emphasize that humans are the stewards of God’s creation.

Christians imbued with an ethic of environmental stewardship may have access to religious resources that could facilitate pro-environmental behaviors. Many liberal and moderate Protestant denominations have made explicit statements supporting not only conservation, but even broader social changes to limit human degradation of the environment. To conclude we can say that the different religions all around the world has certain doctrines which tells about the protection of the biodiversity. These religious teachings have a significant impact on the preservation of environment.

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