Climate change is real. And based on the principles of many religious traditions, people have to take care of the Earth. People must also care for others whose homelands may be destroyed by global warming’s consequences: rising sea levels and natural disasters. From Greenland to the Marshall Islands, speakers from different continents pointed out how quickly the environment is changing in their regions. There is no Planet B – if people of faith want to change the world, saving the environment must be an urgent priority.
Many speakers decried past inaction by discussing the disastrous impact climate change has already wrought. Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq noted that ice melt in the Arctic threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples living there. Reverend Rachel Mash reminded us of all the water restriction efforts needed to pull Cape Town out of its drought in early 2018. Davi Kopenawa Yanomami asked the audience why societies have destroyed ecosystems in vital locations like the Amazon basin for economic benefit when they could look to indigenous people for guidance. For thousands of years, native peoples have been responsible stewards of their lands.
The audience was, thus, called upon to reimagine its relationship with nature so humans can live more sustainably. But what is required of humanity to enact these changes? First, we must “melt the ice in the heart of man,” per Mr. Angakkorsuaq’s guidance. We need to remember that we are tied to the Earth and that caring for it helps us care for others. Second, we must work with institutions to reduce or stop practices with serious environmental impacts. For Vandana Shiva, this means that fossil fuel consumption must stop. For Wande Abimbola, people must protect the world’s flora and fauna from the effects of global warming.
We were reminded that living conditions will only worsen without immediate climate action. Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam indicated that “the early and disproportionate victims of the ecological crisis…are the poor, who have contributed least to causing the crisis in the first place.” The wealthiest billion people are responsible for half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Kathy Jetnil-Kiljner’s poem “Dear Matafele Peinem” prompted us to think about those who may be stateless in the future, all because they are from an island or low-lying nation. Christiana Figueres and Reverend Dr. John Chryssavgis eloquently reiterated the moral necessity of action, calling on all us to adapt or face these future catastrophes. Ms. Figueres declared that we must “ensure that generations to come have the livelihood and wellbeing we have been able to enjoy on Mother Earth.”
The Fifth Directive of the Global Ethic, recited at the conclusion of this assembly by members of the board of trustees, is the first Parliament document to address sustainability and care for the environment. Recognizing that humanity’s relationship with Mother Earth should be forged by respect and gratitude, we must alter our lifestyles to reduce our environmental impact on others. Enthusiasm spread like electricity throughout the Exhibit Hall as attendees prepared themselves to join the global faith climate movement, guided by this foundational text.
© Parliament of the World’s Religions