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Archive for the ‘environmentalism’ tag

Protecting the Earth Through Interfaith Education and Activism

Photography credit to the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development’s Interfaith Climate Change Forum.

by Yonatan Neril
from The Huffington Post

The Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison tells the following story: A young girl with a bird in her hands went to a wise person. The child asked the wise person, “Is the bird in my hands alive or dead?” If the answer was “dead,” she would open her hands. If the answer was “alive,” she would close her hand and kill the bird. The wise person, sensing her intention, responded, “I cannot say whether the bird is alive or dead, but I can say that the fate of the bird is in your hands.”

Today we have in our hands not one bird, and not just all birds, but all living beings on our planet, including 7 billion human beings.

I grew up on an acre of land in California with a large orchard and organic garden. In my BA and MA studies with a focus on global environmental issues, I conducted research in India on renewable energy and in Mexico on genetically modified corn. I came to see first-hand global environmental changes that humanity is effecting on this planet. Following these studies and research, I studied for a number of years in a rabbinic program. Because of my environmental background, I encountered traditional Jewish texts from a particular lens, and realized that my own tradition offers profound teachings that relate to environmental sustainability. I also came to realize that other faith traditions — Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and others — also speak deeply about the roots of and solutions to our environmental challenges. Based on this understanding, I founded The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development to access the collective wisdom of the world’s religions to promote co-existence and environmental sustainability through education and action.

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Embracing a Greener Ramadan

Photography Credit to Google Ryan Strom
from Common Ground News Service

The holiest month of the Islamic year, Ramadan, began last Friday, 20 July.  This Ramadan, many Muslims are looking at a new dimension of the month: our impact on the earth.  This is particularly important as we learn more about the effects of climate change, dwindling resources and, most importantly, decreasing access to fresh water around the world, which is a growing concern in many Muslim communities and countries.

Muslims believe that God has asked them to abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.  In addition to fasting, Muslims around the world aspire to attain spiritual contentment and come closer to God through increased prayer, meditation, helping others and self-reflection.  While fasting is the most well known aspect of the month, it is also a time to be more aware of the universal principles of mercy, compassion and respect for the Earth that our faith teaches.

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August 1st, 2012 at 10:55 am

Eyeopener: ‘Journey of the Universe’ on PBS

by Celia Wren
from Commonweal Magazine

Painted stars splay across the ceiling of an old Greek church. A flower blooms in slow motion. Tree roots twine serenely round the rocks of an ancient ruin. The images in the nonfiction film Journey of the Universe are luminously beautiful—and so well meshed that their flow feels almost effortless. But a great deal of effort has gone into this hour-long work, which aims to knit modern scientific knowledge and religious and humanistic perspectives into a seamless, eye-opening chronicle of cosmic and earthly evolution.

Indeed, the genesis of Journey—airing on PBS stations beginning December 3 (check local listings)—stretches back more than three decades, to the publication in 1978 of an article titled “The New Story,” by Thomas Berry, the influential thinker who taught at Fordham University and directed the Riverdale Center of Religious Research. “The New Story” argued that humans were positioned between important narratives—namely, the scientific narrative about the unfolding of the universe and the creation stories offered by religious traditions. Might a new narrative be possible—one that integrates these worldviews?

Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Thomas Swimme, scholars who worked closely with Berry (he died in 2009), have responded to the challenge. The two have coauthored both the film Journey of the Universe and the companion book, published by Yale University Press. Tucker, who codirects the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, has also done yeoman’s work on Journey’s educational DVD, hosting twenty half-hour conversations with scientists, educators, and environmentalists, including Sr. Marya Grathwohl, OSF, of Earth Hope in Wyoming, and Sr. Paula Gonzalez, SC, of EarthConnection in Cincinnati.

It’s the affable Swimme—professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies—who hosts the film, speaking with enthusiasm about matters like the Big Bang (he prefers the term “The Great Flaring Forth”); the arrangement of the solar system (he illustrates it with vegetables, using a cabbage for the sun); the significance of plate tectonics; the advent of life on earth; the nature of photosynthesis; and the development of art and language among humans. The film even addresses the phenomenon of compassion, suggesting that it is a natural, if rather marvelous, part of human evolution—perhaps an extension of the maternal instinct (a shot of a koala and her baby helps illustrate this theory).

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Zoroastrians Practice Ancient Traditon of Being Good Stewards of the Earth

by Cyrus Rivetna
Faith in Place

About 3,000 years before “green” became a term for sustainable living, Prophet Zarathushtra taught that man must live in harmony with Nature. In keeping with those teachings, Zoroastrians today revere all elements of nature—Fire, Sun, Earth, the Waters, Plants and Animals. Ours is not a stagnant worship of nature’s beauty, but rather a reverence for what provides the necessities for life on Earth. From a young age, Zoroastrians are taught conservation and cleanliness, with injunctions against pollution of earth, body, mind or soul. Traditional Zoroastrian fire temples in India and Iran reflect these beliefs. These buildings defy notions of massive religious monuments; small and eco-friendly, they use passive solar techniques that keep the hot sun out while letting in natural light and wind. Their primary purpose is to house the continuously burning, consecrated fire. However, temples include all elements of nature—a garden has fruits and flowers for rituals, a well provides water for washing, animals are represented by a white bull; and respect for Man, God’s highest Creation, is reflected in the temples’ modest, human-built scale. Together, the elements harmonize to create a peaceful, prayerful environment in front of the Fire burning in the inner sanctum of every temple.

Zoroastrians have migrated to all parts of the world and are building centers that continue the tradition of eco-conscious living, including the Zoroastrian Center of Chicago in Burr Ridge. There, the architect isolated the “wet” areas (kitchen/bathrooms) and put water pipes over 3ft deep under the dry areas—thus allowing the whole building to be minimally heated when empty without freezing any pipes.

With support from Faith in Place, the Zoroastrian Center is incorporating new techniques to lighten their impact on this wonderful Earth that is our home. We replaced light bulbs and roof insulation with more efficient versions. When people were forgetting to turn the furnace off, we installed an automatic timer for the thermostat. We recycle and use biodegradable dishware whenever possible. This year a “Green Committee” was formed. They’ve built two container gardens where our youth planted vegetables. Next a composter was built, so it’s now common to see people come to the Center carrying a bag of their week’s compost!

The Sacred Table: Biblical Wisdom vs. Disposable Products

by Rabbi Mary Zamore
from Huffington Post

Many, many years ago, when I was in college, I had a handful of friends who were hardcore environmentalists. They wore tie-dye, did not wear make-up or shave, and they carried around a cup and chop sticks. Sharing many of their core values, I admired these friends, but was too conventional to emulate their lifestyles.

Twenty years later, I have gotten much greener, aligning my actions to my aspirations. While I remain fairly mainstream (I am still a suburban prep at heart), I have been carrying around a cup, plate, flatware and, yes, sometimes even chopsticks.

About a year ago, I watched the movie “No Impact Man,” a documentary chronicling Colin Beavan’s year-long project in which he, his wife, and his two-year-old attempted to live in the middle of New York City with as little environmental impact as possible. Over the course of a year, they stop using anything disposable, buying new things and using electricity for anything. OK, pretty extreme. However, despite the spectacle that Beavan makes of this project, I was completely drawn in by his earnest approach and well-placed criticisms of American consumer culture.

The movie explores the amount of garbage produced by take-out food and disposable plates and flatware. It really spoke to me. As the scene lingered on piles of disposal items in a garbage can, I thought about how disgusting the image was! My first instinct was to lament the unenlightened Americans who every day eat loads of junk food leaving behind plastic wrappers. Then, more importantly, I took a moment to consider how I contribute to that pile. At the time, I was doing very well in terms of disposables when I was in my house, but I knew I could do better, especially when I was outside of my home.

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August 8th, 2011 at 11:17 am

Religious leaders launch interfaith environmental campaign

from AlMasryAlYoum

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Holy Land joined forces Monday to launch a multi-faith environmental campaign, citing religious injunctions to protect the Earth across their three faiths.

Among their plans are the convening of an international conference of religious leaders in New York ahead of the 2012 United Nations General Assembly, a North America public relations campaign and training future clerics on the importance of environmental issues, one of the organizers said.

At the Jerusalem launch of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, Rabbi David Rosen noted that the obligation upon humans to care for their surroundings comes near the very beginning of the Bible.

“That is the original charge in the first chapters of Genesis, given to the first man and woman, not purely to develop, to till the land, but also to protect it … to conserve it,” he said, to nods of agreement from a Roman Catholic bishop and the Palestinian deputy minister of religious affairs.

“The main religions should really study the ecological crisis together, because our destiny is common,” Bishop William Shomali said. “If Earth is polluted it is polluted for Muslims, Christians and Jews.”

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God is My Rock: How the Earth Reveals the Divine

From The Huffington Post

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my stony rock, and my defense. — Psalm 18:1

When I was eight or nine, I was playing outside on a hillside near the sea in Rhode Island, where my family spent time during the summer. It was overcast. The air was heavily damp, opaque with mist at a distance of 150 yards. The sound of a foghorn bleated from an offshore buoy like a blind person groping in darkness. I was running around with my brother and friends, barefoot. The stiff blades of crabgrass and the sandy soil were abrasive and cold on my feet. Slivers of moisture hit my cheek as I ran.

Then, my foot ran across a rock whose rough face stuck up above the surface of the ground. And suddenly, inwardly, I felt something very different, coming up through the rock.

An enormous depth opened up from the earth into my body and suffused the air around me. I felt a remarkable presence, eternity packed into a nanosecond, a fullness of time. It was loving and stern, beautiful and awesome, silent and strong, all at once. It stopped me in my tracks.

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