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Sustainability: What's Faith Got To Do With It?

A Report by Brianna Jackson,'16

The correlation between our faith and sustainability is not always clearly defined. Oftentimes, our relationships with other people are portrayed as more important that our relationship with our environment. In Hayat Abuza's talk in October, "Sustainability: What's Faith Got to Do with It?" we discussed how various world religions promote environmental advocacy.

To start off, we introduced ourselves and discussed how we make personal efforts to be sustainable. Afreen Gandi '14 described how her family and upbringing taught her the importance of sustainability. She grew up in a small town in India, and her family was always focused on making the best use of their resources. Gandi's mother teaches her to be "concerned with the right things" so instead of focusing on materialistic desires, she prioritizes conserving her resources and taking care of her possessions.

After our introductions, each of us chose an insightful quote from an unfamiliar faith tradition concerning one's relationship with the environment. I chose the quote from the Jewish tradition, "Listen to the earth and it will teach you." I was struck by how universal this message was for all religions. By listening, we value what nature has to tell us and respect the fact that nature's message goes beyond explicit words. With the knowledge we attain from our listening, we are more prepared to support nature and serve as an advocate for the habitat which sustains us.

At the end of our discussion, Hayat asked us all, "What is the role of our faith in our quest for sustainability?" No one came up with a quick response. The intersection between environmental advocacy and religions is not typically discussed. Often we get concerned with how our religion can help us respond to social issues, but we lose sight of the immediacy of protecting the world around us. Respect for the environment goes beyond promoting love for humans; taking care of the environment shows respect for all life on the earth. When we give to the earth, our gift has the most far-reaching impact because we improve the atmosphere of all living organisms, no matter how great or how small.