Use religion to battle the climate crisis
Leaders at the Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow intended the summit to be a turning point in the campaign to battle the climate crisis. But they ended up saying nothing about the fundamental cause of the phenomenon — the way we live our lives. Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi tried to steer the conference in that direction.
In his address, he called for a one-word movement to be known as Life — standing for Lifestyle for Environment, and urged all the world leaders “to come together and take Life forward as a campaign”. But, in the final statement of the conference, there was no mention of lifestyle.
India gained credit with its investment in solar and new commitments, but lost some of it when it was seen as having combined with China to dilute the language on coal. It does have to be said that even the watered down commitment was a step forward because it was the first time coal was specifically mentioned in a United Nations climate pact.
COP26 proceeded as though the climate crisis could be averted merely by greening energy supplies. That is proving difficult enough to do. Australia’s PM Scott Morrison even suggested that scientists, technologists, engineers, and business people will achieve the target of net-zero emissions.
In other words, there is no need to do anything about lifestyle, the economics, which have brought the problem of the climate crisis to its current pass. This is a mistaken view.
How much energy do we need was a question that was not asked at COP26. It is obvious that developing countries need more energy but do the developed countries need to consume as much energy as they do? Is it heresy to suggest that the energy needs of the developing countries can be reduced if they didn’t follow the path which has led to such an energy intensive lifestyle? But they can’t be expected to change direction until the rich countries change first.
The ancient wisdom of religions tells us what is fundamentally wrong with our current lifestyle. The manner in which nature has been regarded as a resource to be exploited is contrary to the teachings of all Indic religions, as well as against the belief that we are part of one great unity. All religions condemn greed but consumerism is rampant in the way we live our lives.
A month before COP26, some 40 leaders of different faiths, including the Pope and representatives of Islam and Indic religions, signed an appeal in the Vatican pointing out that their faiths taught that they are “deeply interdependent with each other and with the natural world”. To fulfill our responsibility to protect the natural world, faith leaders said we need “to change the narrative of development”.
In his book, The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh maintains that the representatives of governments cannot confront the climate crisis on their own. He suggests that already existing communities and mass organisations need to be at the forefront of the struggle, and says “those with religious affiliations possess the ability to mobilise people in far greater numbers than any others.”
In India, almost all the world’s religions have a historic home but the voice of faith on the climate crisis is hardly heard. Religious leaders must come together to demand a change in the narrative of development, in the way we live our lives.
The views expressed are personal