The term environment is widely used and has a broad range of definitions, meanings and interpretations. It is derived from French word “environ” which means “surrounding”. In popular usage environment simply means nature in other words the natural landscape together with all of its non-human features characteristics and processes. Environment is a complex of many variables which surrounds man as well as the living organisms. According to Kalavathy 2004, environment includes air, water, and human beings and other living creatures such as plants, animals, and micro-organisms. It is essential for existence of life as in the solar system there are other big planets but have no life due to lack of environment. The major religions of the world acknowledge the need for environmental stewardship and their holy texts urge adherents to be caretakers of the Earth and its biodiversity. The following is a reflection on how religions have addressed religious commitments towards the environment. (a) Christianity: To protect environment, there are approximately hundred verses in the bible that talk about protection of the environment. Christians therefore have environmental responsibility and encourage behavioral change for the good of the future (Open Bible.info., n.d). It is said, “Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” (Verse 35:33) “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12) “We must treat nature with the same awe and wonder that we reserve for human beings. And we do not need this insight in order to believe in God or to prove his existence. We need it to breathe; we need it for us simply to be.” (Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 2010) “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.” (Pope Francis, 2015) (b) Islam: The second largest religion in the world with more than 1.8 billion followers, making up about 24.1% of the world population. Hundreds of Qur’an verses support the protection of the environment. Many some Islamic organizations promote the relation between Islam and sustainability. Islam also approaches environment from a stewardship perspective. The earth is God’s creation, and as humans, we have been entrusted to preserve it as we found. The responsibility of humanity is to protect and ensure the unity (Tawheed) of the God’s creation. Moreover, Islam prohibits the excessive consumption of resources the planet provides to the humanity (Qur’an 7:31, 6:141, 17:26-27, 40:34). In fact, Qur’an mentions wasteful consumption (Isrāf) as the thirty-second greatest sin. In 2015, the Islamic Climate Change Symposium adopted the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. Quran says, “Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah.” (Qur’an 30:30) “Do not strut arrogantly on the earth. You will never split the earth apart nor will you ever rival the mountains’ stature” (Qur’an 17: 37). “It is Allah who made for you the earth a place of settlement and the sky a ceiling and formed you and perfected your forms and provided you with good things. That is Allah, your Lord; then blessed is Allah , Lord of the worlds.” (Qur’an, 40:64) This saying is sufficient to apprise us of the eco-friendly nature of Islam. Planting a tree is a sadaqah jariyah (continued charity) in Islam, for the poor and the rich alike. Whenever a human being or even an animal shelters under the shade of a tree or relishes a fruit that it produces, the planter will earn rewards, even after his or her death. (c) Hinduism: Hinduism is a religion deeply rooted in nature. The sacred text (Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Epics) has many references of divinity related to nature, such as rivers, mountains, trees, animals, and the earth. To protect them, Hinduism encourages environmental protection and there are organizations who promote sustainable development and support the protection of the environment through awareness campaigns and actions (Green Faith, 2010). It says, “I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. Brahman, the spirit, beginning less and subordinate to Me, lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.” (Bhagavad Gita 13.13) “According to the different modes of material nature — the mode of goodness, the mode of passion and the mode of darkness — there are different living creatures, who are known as demigods, human beings and hellish living entities. O King, even a particular mode of nature, being mixed with the other two, is divided into three, and thus each kind of living creature is influenced by the other modes and acquires its habits also.” (Bhagavata Purana 2.10.41) “There is an inseparable bond between man and nature. For man, there cannot be an existence removed from nature.” (Amma, 2011) (d) Buddhism: The notion of karma alone, being an important part of Buddha’s lessons, conveys the values of conservation and responsibility for the future. It is said that the morality of our actions in the present will shape our character for the future, an idea close of sustainable development. (b) Buddhist Connections and Reflection on Environment: “As a bee – without harming the blossom, its color, its fragrance – takes its nectar and flies away: so should the sage go through a village.” (Dhammapada IV, Pupphavagga: Blossoms, 49) “Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.” (Dhammapada IX, Papavagga: Evil, 122) “Our ancestors viewed the earth as rich and bountiful, which it is. Many people in the past also saw nature as inexhaustibly sustainable, which we now know is the case only if we care for it.” (Dalai Lama, 1990a) (e) Confucianism: For more than 2500 years, Confucianism influenced culture, society, economy and politics of China mainly, but also Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Some sociologists called Confucianism as a civil religion or diffused religion (Center for Global Education, 2018). It says, “… sustainable harmonious relationship between the human species and nature is not merely an abstract ideal, but a concrete guide for practical living.” (International Confucian Ecological Alliance, 2015) (f) Baha’i Faith: The Baha’i faith is based upon the world citizenship and it proclaims the unity of humankind. In this order of idea, it defends the environment so that the whole humanity (including future generation) can live happily in harmony with nature (ARC, n.d.). It says, “Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.” (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 142) (g) Jainism: Originated from India, the main teaching from Jainism is Ahimsa, the non-violence, in all parts of life. Verbally, physically and mentally, Jainism doctrines focus on a peaceful and disciplined life. Kindness to animals, vegetarianism and self-restraint with the avoidance of waste are parts of Jains life. (h) Judaism: In tradition, the land and environment are properties of God, and it is the duty of humankind to take care of it. The book of genesis, as an example, proposes that the garden in Eden was initially the chosen territory chosen by God for human to live. It says, “And God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed–to you it shall be for food.” (Gen 1:29) “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24) (i) Shinto: Shinto is a religion based on Kamis, spirits corresponding to natural entities: wind, rocks, water, etc. It makes the faithful very close to nature to preserve the relation of each person with the spirits. These relations encourage preservation of the environment (Japan Experience, 2017). Related to the kami, it is expected that Shinto followers are in harmonic existence and in peaceful coexistence with both nature and other human beings (PATHEOS, n.d. [a]). (k) Sikhism: Sikhism is a native Indian religion appeared in the late 15th century founded by the first guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
The sacred text is written by the foundational scripture Guru Granth Sahib where there are several teachings on environment. It says, “You, Yourself created the Universe, and You are pleased…You, Yourself the bumblebee, flower, fruit and the tree.” (Guru Granth Sahib, Maru Sohele, page 1020) “You, Yourself the water, desert, ocean and the pond. You, Yourself are the big fish, tortoise and the Cause of causes.” (Guru Granth Sahib, Maru Sohele, page 1020) (j) Taoism: Taoism, or Daoism, is an old Chinese religion based on the divine harmony between nature and humanity. Briefly, the Dao principle consists in “a path” where you find the appropriate way to behave and to lead others. It says, This original nature is the eternal law. We are putting the planet under enormous pressure by depleting scarce natural resources and polluting the air and water. Faith-based organizations can play a significant role at the global, regional and local level in addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Statistics says, about half of the schools on our planet are owned by faith-based institutions, therefore they can play a crucial role in arming the society with knowledge about the damage we are doing to our environment and how we can turn things around. It is noticed that our greed have endlessly spoiled our environment so for diminishing the growing disaster, the united nation named 5th June as international world environment day. In 1972, the UN General Assembly designated 5 June as World Environment Day (WED), it came into being at the Stockholm conference on human environment. The first celebration, under the slogan “Only One Earth” took place in 1974 in city of Spokane in US. In the following years, WED has developed as a platform to raise awareness on the problems facing our environment such as air pollution, plastic pollution, illegal wildlife trade, sustainable consumption, sea-level increase, and food security, among others. Furthermore, WED helps drive change in consumption patterns and in national and international environmental policy. Each year, WED has a new theme that major corporations, NGOs, communities, governments and all celebrities worldwide adopt to advocate environmental causes. The theme for 2021 is “Ecosystem Restoration”, and this year Pakistan will host World Environment Day. On this occasion UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration will also be launched. Ecosystem restoration can take many forms: Growing trees, greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts. This is the generation that can make peace with nature. Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Restoration can happen in many ways – for example through actively planting or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own. It is not always possible – or desirable – to return an ecosystem to its original state. We still need farmland and infrastructure on land that was once forest, for instance, and ecosystems, like societies, need to adapt to a changing climate. Between now and 2030, the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could generate US$9 trillion in ecosystem services. Restoration could also remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The economic benefits of such interventions exceed nine times the cost of investment, whereas inaction is at least three times more costly than ecosystem restoration. All kinds of ecosystems can be restored, including forests, farmlands, cities, wetlands and oceans. Restoration initiatives can be launched by almost anyone, from governments and development agencies to businesses, communities and individuals. That is because the causes of degradation are many and varied, and can have an impact at different scales. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) following a proposal and resolution for action by over 70 countries from all latitudes. It is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity. The UN Decade runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change. Worldwide scientists are of the opinion that COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of our dysfunctional relationship with nature. So far, COVID-19 has caused the deaths of more than 3 million people globally, and that number could be significantly higher given how challenging it is to track every COVID-19 death. To prevent further outbreaks, both global heating and the destruction of the natural world for farming, mining and housing have to end, as both drive wildlife into contact with people. We never had a better chance to make a greener world. Humans stayed indoors, animals venture out due to COVID-19 lockdown. Covid-19 has delivered unusual environmental benefits: cleaner air, lower carbon emissions, a respite for wildlife. One major and predominately positive benefit of the pandemic for wildlife is less human travel. Due to the significant reduction in journeys, fewer people are hitting and injuring or killing wildlife on roadways. Now the big question is whether we can capitalise on this moment. It has been noticed that Natural ecosystems and protected species are at risk during the coronavirus crisis. In many countries, environmental protection workers at national parks and land and marine conservation zones are required to stay at home in lockdown, leaving these areas unmonitored. Their absence has resulted in a rise of illegal deforestation, fishing and wildlife hunting. Thus, attention must be given to threats on the environment and natural resource bases as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and consequential social and economic impacts. We conclude by Quoting Marlie Martin: The earth does not belong to us, we belong to earth.
( While Dr. Sidrat-Ul-Muntaha Anees is an Assistant Professor at Womens College Srinagar, Kashmir, Dr Bilal A Bhat is Associate Professor Statistics at S K University Of Agriculture Sciences & Technology-SKUAST Shalimar Srinagar. Both the authors contribute regularly for opinion pages of “ Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own)