Climate Change and Religious and Moral Education
Climate change affects human activities and natural environments now and particularly in the future. For decades, science, education, politics, economics, legislation and technology have tried to tackle environmental problems, but to no avail. Therefore, it is legitimate to examine the world’s major religions’ perspective on environmental issues and the responsibility they bear for combating climate change. Their role is linked to values, nurturing our relationship with nature and religious leaders’ ability to encourage their followers to take action for the future climate. Therefore, religious and moral education plays an important part in learning to understand climate change in-depth and in building a climate-friendly world.
Healing our Broken Relationship with the Natural World
Thousands of years ago, hunter-gatherers lived as a part of nature, at the mercy of it. The ability to control fire, farming and later the Industrial Revolution have gradually made it possible for humans to become more and more independent, long-lived and healthy. Food production has become incredibly efficient. Energy production provides electricity for work, leisure and heating homes. Wheels and heat engines enable us to move around without much muscle power, regardless of our physical limitations. Inventions that have boosted our wellbeing and eased our daily life, have quite imperceptibly, and without us seeking to do so, accelerated climate change.
Differences and Similarities between Religious Beliefs toward environmental issues
Our worldview has an impact on our relationship with nature. When discussing about religious attitudes to nature, people often highlight differences between religious philosophers and suggest that some beliefs are more environmental and environmentally friendly than others. However, the world religion leaders and their followers have been collaborating to protect the environment since the mid-1980’s. Although interfaith dialogue is often challenging, some common ground has been achieved, and it has become a popular research topic.
Spiritual Values Encourage taking Action for the Environment
Climate change is not just a problem related to natural sciences, but it is above all a moral and ethical issue strongly linked to justice and values.
Tackling environmental issues requires ethical action, but for a Christian, the foundation of action is rather more dogmatic than ethical. For example, creation care is a religious responsibility and reflected in all Christians’ actions.
The Church against Climate Change
As mentioned in the previous chapters, religions can have a big impact on worldviews, values, attitudes, decisions and the behaviour of individuals, groups and societies – for better or for worse. They can provide alternative suggestions and ways to identify cultural, moral and spiritual significance in nature, define our role in nature and how we should treat other beings. According to many religions, nature is sacred. Normally we want to preserve and protect whatever we hold sacred or spiritually valuable.
Tackling Climate Change Anxiety
The large scale and complexity of climate change often triggers anxiety. However, we need to stay optimistic in order to make a difference. Climate change can be slowed down significantly enough that harmful impacts on humans and the environment are not insurmountable. That requires effective and immediate action. A growing number of people are joining the fight against global warming today and will be in the future.
Religious faith can provide relief from climate anxiety and paralysis. For instance, Christianity spreads hope and encourages people to find ways to love and respect the creation. God in Christianity is merciful and gives strength to start again if lifestyle change doesn’t succeed right away. We should also remember to be merciful to ourselves and not to try and carry the weight of the world upon our shoulders. A childlike state of wonder at the world can help to cultivate awe and act as a counterforce to despair, paralysis and meaninglessness.