“The World does need religion perspective and view to reduce our destructive behaviour to Mother Earth,”
We are facing with the edge of biological collapse with species extinctions, rapid land-use changes, climate change and pollutions. At the same time evolution in biological sciences and biotechnology are tremendously rapid and often ethically arguable. However for some reasons, environmental ethics in day-to-day can be shown in perspectives or beliefs of each human beings. This perspectives or beliefs can be derived from the world’s major religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam). Here I try to summarize comparison and contrast different systems of environmental ethics from these foremost religions. Furthermore, why do we need religion to protect the beauty of Earth and of its prodigious variety of life forms.
Concept of Environmental Values and Ethics
Firstly, we can define our own definition about environmental values.The value of nature basically falls into four categories: ethical, aesthetic, utilitarian and ecological (Spellberg and Hardes, 1992). Generally, it can be distinguished between normative and descriptive environmental ethics (Petersen, 2007). For ethical reason, some part our own perspectives and beliefs will be in ethical or normative category. If we assert that organism have an intrinsic value like the one we have given. This creature also has an unquestionable right to existence and extinction can be understood as natural trend. Furthermore we might also consider that natural world is a human heritage that should be protected for the next generation. This ethical value surely can explain those nature morality questions.
Environmental ethics is recognized as multidisciplinary matter and one of them is philosophy (Pettersen, 2007). In summary, philosophical perspectives on environmental ethics refer to discussions of how humans have to take care of the built and natural environment. Environmental philosophy and ethics is not the only environmental problems resolution because man himself is the biggest environmental problem on earth (Light, 2002). Regardless of that reality, our way of life or philosophy might be portrayed by our personal convictions including belief, political view or religion.
Environmental Ethics Based on the World’s Major Religions
Why the world needs religion to save our earth? To answer this grandeur question, we need to find a background behind that question. The truth is religion has become inseparable part of our daily life. The Religionfacts (2008) surveyed about 74% of world society has affirmed their belief to the world’s major religions which are Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. To cap it all without help and support from all people in this world, regardless their religion or belief system, any conservation efforts will be futile although religion is not the only way to save our earth. Technology can be another solution to reduce environmental breakdown as long as human use it meticulously.
Buddhism perspective on environmental ethics accentuates on simple, non-aggressive, gentle living. In its doctrine of karma and rebirth (similar to Hinduism), it recognizes that all animals and humans are spiritual entities to be treated with loving benevolence. According to Buddhism, the delineation of a way of moderate life designed to eradicate human suffering and psychological pollution within himself. Buddhism also believes there to be a close relationship between human morality and the natural environment. As the world passes through alternating cycles of evolution and dissolution, each of which endures for a long period of time. Though change is inherent in nature, Buddhism believes that natural processes are affected by the morals of man. Environmental pollution for example has been cause because there has been psychological pollution within himself. If he wants a clean environment, he has to embrace a way of life that arises from a moral and spiritual dimension (De Silva, 1987).
Hinduism argues that a profound environmental ethics, consisting in satyagraha (the persistent quest for truth) permeates Hinduism. Consequently, human being is authorized to use natural resources, but has no divine power of control and dominion over nature and its elements. Hinduism holds to a strong version of the equal sanctity of all life and for thousands of years practiced sustainable agriculture and non-violence (ahimsa) toward animals and nature. This most important aspect in Hinduism related to animal life is the belief that the Supreme Being was himself incarnated in the form of various species. Furthermore Dwivedi (1990) argues that in the last hundreds of years satyagraha lost much of its effectiveness, but there are signs that it is reasserting itself because the only viable strategy appears to be satyagraha for environmental conservation.
Christian environmental ethics can be found in the Book of Genesis or the book of beginnings. In Genesis, God blesses and bids human beings to take dominion over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, and every other living thing. Humanity is implored to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth, and control it (Gen.1:28). However, The Christian theology of man’s (and God’s) relationship with creation is more complicated than that, but at its root the relationship is that of a powerful servant whose duty toward God is to tend the inherently good creation (Vonnahme, 1999; CHC Publications, 2000). All in all, The Bible’s persistently highlight on theocentricity in all manners of life can give us a useful check against possible errors in moral view including environmental issue. And probably one of the best programs for environmental ethics is the land ethic which first developed by Aldo Leopold (1949) in his book “A Sand County Almanac”.
Islamic environmental ethics view that the foundation of environmental protection is found in the idea that God created the world and set human beings in it to enjoy and meticulously use it. Ecological balance and sustainable care of nature are supported by Islam’s assertion that life is maintained with due balance in everything. Although humans may not be able to understand the form or nature of this praise, but the fact that the Qur’an describes it is an additional reason for environmental preservation. Islamic ethics is founded on two principles: human nature (fitrah), and religious and legal grounds. Last one, were presented by the messengers of God since they were inspired by God. Unlike modern ethical values, Islamic ethical values are based not on human reasoning and alleged on an accurate scale which is fixed as to time and place (Deen, 1990).
Environmental crisis and religion will always be our part of life. In many way and wisdom, environmental ethics in each religion might have given another option how we treat our earth. Similarities in perception upon cause in environmental crisis amongst world’s major religions lies in our own consciousnesses and lifestyle. In contrast, Hinduism and Buddhism believe in reincarnation, karma or rebirth concept for all animals and human. In this matter, human being must respect all life form with expressing non violence attitude against animals and human beings alike. In Islam and Christian, humanity cannot act as a God over the planet, nor assign degrees of relative worth to other species.
Although there are differences amongst our metaphysical belief, Wilson (2006) suggested that we must put away our differences in order to save the Creation (environment). The defence of living nature is a universal value. It doesn’t rise from, nor does it promote, any religious or ideological dogma. Rather, it serves without discrimination the interests of all humanity. Above it all, our belief and religion perspectives is important to support conservation practises in daily life. Religion also can evoke a kind of awareness in persons that is different from scientific or technological reasoning. Religion helps make human beings aware that there are limits to their control over the animate and inanimate world and that their arrogance and manipulative power over nature can backfire (Dwivedi, 1990).
Religion might be another resolution to our environmental crisis. In fact, Religion and science are the two most powerful forces in the world today. If religion and science could be united on the common ground of biological conservation, environmental crisis would soon be solved (Wilson, 2006).
The world does need religion’s perspective and view to reduce (or in extreme way to change) our destructive behaviour to mother earth. The proof that conservation has not yet touched these foundations of conduct lies in the fact that philosophy and religion have not yet heard of it. In our attempt to make conservation easy, we have made it insignificant (Leopold, 1949). So practice in environmental ethics is not only important to involve world society (religion believer) in conservation policy but also to improve their morals and alter their attitudes (Deen, 1992; Light, 2002).
- CHC Publications. 2000. Christian Environmental Ethics. Available at http://www.chcpublications.net/environ.htm. (accessed December 2008).
- De Silva, L. 1987. The Buddhist Attitude toward Nature. In: The Buddhist Attitude Towards Nature, ed. K. Sandell. Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.
- Dwivedi, O.P. 1990. Hinduism’s Environmental Ethics. In: Ethics of Environment and Development, ed. J.R. Engel and J.G. Engel. London: Bellhaven Press.
- Deen, M.Y.I. 1990. Islamic Environmental Ethics. In: Ethics of Environment and Development,ed. J.R. Engel and J.G. Engel. London: Bellhaven Press.
- Light, A. 2002. Contemporary environmental ethics from metaethics to public philosophy. Metaphilosophy, 33: 426-449.
- Leopold, A. 1949. A Sand County Almanac. Available at http://home2.btconnect.com/tipiglen/landethic.html.(accessed December 2008).
- Petersen, T.S. 2007. Environmental Ethics: A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology. Blackwell.
- Religionfacts. 2008. The Big Religion Comparison Chart: Compare World Religions. Available at http://www.religionfacts.com/big_religion_chart.htm.(accessed December 2008)
- Spellberg, I.F. and Hardes, S. 1992. Biological Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Vonnahme, N. 1999. Christian Environmental Ethics. Available at http://enteuxis.org/nathan/portfolio/writing/1999/xian_environmental. pdf (accessed December 2008).
- Wilson, E.O. 2006. The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.