Native American group protesting pipeline

Although the media frenzy has moved on from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, many demonstrators are still there carrying on the resistance.

Last fall thousands of people descended upon the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota to protest the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline whose construction threatened sacred tribal artifacts and burial sites. Protesters voiced environmental concerns regarding the pipeline itself, while also stressing the important spiritual relationship between the tribe and their land.


There are many religions that touch upon humanity’s relationship with the natural Many religions concerned about the environmentenvironment. In religious texts and writings, humans are often portrayed as being stewards of the earth. We are to live and enjoy its fruits – but we are also charged with its protection. No human endeavor comes before the needs of the earth as a whole, the thinking goes. We live in an age ripe with environmental issues and controversy. Let’s examine what a few specific religions say about the environment and our relationship to it:

Christianity 

The book of Genesis opens with God creating the heavens and the earth. In the second chapter of Genesis, it states that, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” According to this reading, humans were put here to take care of the earth.

The list of scriptures that talk about nature and the earth could fill an entire page. There’s no debate that the Biblical writers thought creation was an important aspect of the story of Christ.

Buddhism

In a speech titled A Buddhist Concept of Nature, the Dalai Lama argues that “Not only for this generation, but for other generations, the environment is something very important. If we exploit the natural environment in an extreme way, today we might see some other benefit but in the long run we ourselves will suffer and other generations will suffer.”

Hinduism

A devout Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi played a major role in the Indian environmental movement, and has been called the “father of Indian environmentalism”. The Atharvaveda, a Hindu spiritual text, further clarifies the Hindu view on the natural environment: “Let there be peace in the heavens, the Earth, the atmosphere, the water, the herbs, the vegetation, among the divine beings and in Brahman, the absolute reality. Let everything be at peace and in peace. Only then will we find peace.”

Given the strong connection between religious beliefs and caring for the earth, it’s not surprising that faith guides some people to direct their energy toward environmental causes. So, what issues are religious environmentalists trying to solve?

Fossil Fuels and PipelinesAn oil pipeline in the environment

Continued reliance on fossil fuels is extremely dangerous for the environment, say activists. Numerous oil spills over the years have destroyed entire habitats and contaminated waters. For many, these are unacceptable consequences.  Although the media frenzy has moved on from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, many demonstrators are still there carrying on the resistance. Another similar project, the Keystone XL Pipeline, was shut down in 2015 after environmental concerns but now looks likely to proceed after all.

Although alternative energy sources do exist, fossil fuels aren’t going away anytime soon. In 2014 alone, the fossil fuel industry raked in $257 billion in profits – equivalent to the entire GDP of Chile.

Deforestation erodes the environmentDeforestation

Activists also bemoan the continued deforestation occurring all over the world. Cutting down trees, especially in complex ecological areas such as rainforests, has devastating environmental impacts. For example, up to 28,000 species are predicted to become extinct due to deforestation within the next 25 years. To put the rate of deforestation in perspective: 20 football fields worth of trees are lost every minute.

Interestingly, activists may have a powerful ally in the religious world. Many consider Pope Francis to be a faith-based environmentalist. Speaking off-the-cuff on environmental issues, the pontiff said: “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation… so many forests, all cut, that have become land… that can longer give life. This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to her to give us what she has within her.”

Takeaways

Most belief systems place a great value on the environment. As stewards of the earth, it is our responsibility to ensure human greed and selfishness do not result in its ruin. The question is: are we doing enough? Since the industrial revolution, human civilization has experienced unprecedented expansion and technological development – though sometimes at the expense of the natural environment we have inherited.

How does your faith guide you on environmental issues? Should humankind be doing more to safeguard the health of the planet?    

 

8 comments

  1. MG"4"B ∞ Möbius says:

    We can make our plans and God laughs at us.

  2. Lauren Sherwood says:

    it begins with an awakening, and we have had one like none in my lifetime! The awakening leads to a consciousness of what exactly is really going on and how we ourselves both benefit from and/or contribute to the situation. I believe our best course of action is to educate ourselves both through research and actual human interaction, sharing our resources, whether they be financial, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, you name it! We all have gifts to offer to the movement. We organize, set our intentions and work, side by side, heart to heart and head to head, toward a very common and essential goal of protecting and defending the Mother of all! There are so many choices we can make in our day to day lives to work toward change. Where we bank, where and how we shop, what we buy and therefore who we support, what and how much we drive a vehicle and what type of fuel it burns, how we live, how we dispose of our garbage, our relationship to Nature and to the Divine. To develop and Nurture “The Good Mind” as the Haudenosaunee refer to it. An army of Peaceful resisters have a lot of strength! Here’s to the Resistance!

    Side note, may I recommend an excellent documentary I recently saw by that name. http://www.thegoodmindfilm.com/blog

  3. J says:

    Mother Earth needs our love and support) where I live,they are so concerned on big money
    Corporations,our animals are being evicted from their homes!
    They are draining,excavating the wetlands,for subdivision ) there is nothing for the children
    In the community,people are moving here to steal,rape people of their homes,land so they can get it for cheap) sitting
    Like vultures,for people to slip
    On paying taxes ,so the can sweep in,buy,built up,resale without batting a eye) no meeting in your hometown,local
    Politicians are being bankrolled
    My the upper crust in society) friends,families in local probate
    To stab their family in the back for corporate greed) we as the people need to stand together)
    What about community centers for the children,they could careless,they are stacking their
    Family’s wealth,while judges,mayors,lawyers have a
    Slice of the pie) I’ve done my research ) they don’t care about
    The environment,are others,either while they called themselves Christians ) laughable) this is just in a small
    Town in the south,where racism
    Still flourishes) I’m not playing the game,all people are my brothers,and sisters! Sending love,light,healing all over the globe) Namaste

  4. rabbi jim says:

    rabbi jim here: It’s the same old story – humanity is destroying the planet and has been doing so since the beginning of industrialization. Industrialization is the monster that has been created. In the story of Frankenstein, the mad doctor creater a human being with a deranged brain and it became a monster terrorizing the countryside and townspeople. The only way to stop it was to destroy it. How does one destroy industrialization, or the evils it causes? I symphathize with the Native Americans, fully and support their cause. Their land is sacred to them and should be left alone. But, who am I to say that? I cannot apologize for the actions of the government or the industrial powers. May Yahweh show them what is right and fair force them to do what is right for
    the environment and the Native American peoples. We need a miracle!!!
    May Yahweh bless all of the Native American peoples in their defense and cause and keep them faithful and safe.

  5. Rev. Joshua Klaus says:

    I recently wrote a short paper for Seminary. Take a glance. http://www.revjoshuaklaus.wordpress.com or read below:

    Climate Affecting Humanity

    HOW THE CLIMATE IMPACTS MY ECOSYSTEM
    Rev. Joshua Klaus | Ecology & The Sacred | January 25, 2017 

    How Climate effects my Ecosystem

    Our climate historically changes over time. It’s proven, Scientifically, to be changing now. Why do you and I take for granted the wonderful resources offered by mother nature? How has it effected my Ecosystem around me? And, why in the world are most humans not significantly trying to stop bad habits to protect the gifts nature has to offer our children and future generations to come? These are just a select few questions I have raised through my observations this past week. In this paper I will go onto to share my observations, exploring these questions I now make you ponder for yourself.

    OBSERVATION
    Recently upon my time studying and doing research for my Ministry listening to some good lectures there was this one that struck me deep in my heart. Rev. Michael Dowd, a “pro-future” Evangelist, has some quite compelling lectures in regards to the future of humanity. Also during this period of my life, I’ve been assigned to closely observe the climate around me. This week we have had temperatures in the 50’s towards the end of January? My back yard is “squishy” not even frozen. I remember the ground would be frozen stiff growing up. Ecology shows us global warming is very much real. I watch my son get so excited for a snow day from school, only there to be three inches this week. Most of it sleet. I took a walk into the woods. I found so much liter. (Trash) I found cigarette butts all around on the sidewalk and the road out front after the snow melted. I see asphalt all around. The road is paved as is my driveway and parking area. In the brook, out back I see not a lot, but some pieces of trash clinging onto a stick here and there. I see remanence of smashed pumpkins from this Halloween that my son and a friend took out back after Halloween. The liter I spoke of, the asphalt, and everything else I look around to see was all manufactured by the very resources we will someday lose due to our lack of conservation and respect. I have never stepped back to observe my Ecosystem and the damage; the abuse, we are doing to earth until this week. We are abusing Mother Nature in my observation. I have asked Universe to forgive me; I have asked God to forgive me.

    REFLECTION
    Like I just finished saying, I asked for forgiveness. From who? From Universe. From God. From the Higher Power. Whatever Deity or central figure there is, I’ve honestly asked for forgiveness. Gosh, when I was a child I remember winters to have been much more cold than it is now. I remember when we would get snow more consistently than we do now. My son only knows of stories from my childhood of how it was in the winter. Now many years have gone by where the ground, the soil, freezes then thaws. Prematurely in my opinion. Clearly living in New England this is abnormal for me to see. I remember snow days bringing my childhood feet of snow by January. I’ve realized how many bad habits many of us have that effect the ecosystem. We have all contributed to the extreme depletion of our resources, climate and sustainability of this planet. If you have never truly observed your interaction or relationship with your Ecosystem, I strongly beg of you to do it. Why? Well, this mess wasn’t created by just a handful of people. It was not even created by a single generation of people. The fate of this planet is grave if we don’t come together and stop abusing our natural resources.
    My first thought is we need to humble ourselves and conserve on our resources. For years, people have been trying to clean up, create renewable energy etc. There’s simply not enough people doing it! I see the need for participation to be increased, to save this planet now, so future generations don’t live in an environment where it feels like “hell on earth” so to speak. Honestly now think about that.
    We have so much technology but where does it come from? It comes from what earth must offer. Well, should we not recycle other items than our bottles, bags, and other materials? I’m talking about the circle of life. We use natural resources to create life as we know it. I think we need to use our advances to save the future of humanity. Would that not be recycling, while conserving? I believe it is a way to slow down the destruction of our Ecosystem. God gave us everything we see and have. Universe gave us everything we see and have. Whatever you prefer to say is up to you. The point is here, we are taking advantage of our gifts. How is this love? It’s not. When two people in a relationship are together and one or both abuse each other, I’ve given the advice and received counsel in the same that abuse is NOT love. It just isn’t. Where there is love, we show respect and empathy. God wants us to love everyone. What better way to show people we love them than by coming together to show humanity today and in the future, we love them; we tried saving our Earth. As of right now how history will look back at us, doesn’t look good. We will look barbaric to humanity 500 years from now. If humanity makes it that long.

  6. Brother John says:

    The Bible tells us that we are God’s masterpiece Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) and in
    Genesis 1:28, the first humans are instructed to “be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

    Of the millions of species currently inhabiting the Earth, Homo Sapiens Sapiens have a number of traits, beliefs and actions that are unique amongst all of God’s creations. Read through the following and ask yourselves if this is how God wanted us to rule over and subdue his creation.

    Capture and breed other species to keep in captivity as pets for personal amusement

    Operate zoos and rodeos that use captive species for amusement and profit

    Breed and modify other species in captivity for slaughter and consumption

    Kill for sport and mounting the kill for display

    Harbour deep seated bigotry and hatred for members of their own species based on perceived religious or racial differences

    Directly cause the extinction of thousands of species every year

    Consciously destroy their own habitat and those of other species, often for profit

    Expend huge amounts of resources for technologically advanced war against members of their own species

    Build and maintain structures and organizations, at great expense, to worship self created deities

    Kill members of their own and other species to appease their deities (see infidels and heretics)

    Amass, hoard and defend resources at the expense of other species including their own

    Permanently change and damage the global environment

    Pollute their supply of life sustaining water

    Genetically alter both plants and animals

    Threaten the extinction of all species by the development and use of nuclear energy and weapons

    Believe they are the epitome of creation to be rewarded for their beliefs at death

    This list could be longer. Are we really God’s masterpiece, or an out of control plague that is threatening the existence of life on Earth?

  7. Brian Balke says:

    We in for a hard lesson from the Law of Natural Consequences. We’ve been consuming resources thoughtlessly. All that I can offer in the way of hope is that there is a reservoir of spiritual power that honors us when we take into our hearts the spirits of living things that are lost to greed. Don’t lose hope!

  8. Jason D Bender says:

    We need the oil. Shut up.

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