SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Religion And Ecology, Not Always A Natural Marriage

Muslims are supposed to save water, Christians and Jews energy. In the past, we blamed those ideologies for ecological crises.

Statue in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City
Statue in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City
Matthias Drobinski and Elisa Rheinheimer-Chabbi

MUNICH â€" The Vatican document that Pope Francis published last summer made headlines around the world. Humans are exploiting the Earth's resources, he declared in his encyclical on the environment. Particularly in wealthy countries, we are altering the conditions of our planet with a lifestyle that is dangerous, and perhaps even suicidal.

The pontiff's words could not have been clearer: Climate change is man-made, and now it’s our duty to save what’s left of God’s creation.

Though conservative Christians in the United States were shocked (Now even the pope believes the climate-warming-lie!), most religious leaders joined in the praise of the pope’s encyclical Laudato si" , named after Saint Francis’ "Canticle of the Sun."

In today's world, religion tends to find itself on the side of those fighting for ecological preservation. But it hasn't always been that way.

In 1967, the U.S. historian Lynn Townsend White, Jr. published a provocative essay, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis." He argued that the worldview of monotheistic religions is at the origin of the modern threat to the environment: Christianity, Judaism and Islam all consider mankind the pride â€" and master of â€" creation.

In ancient times, the notion of the neverending circle of life was what largely shaped the understanding of history. Monotheistic religions on the other hand see history as a linear, target-oriented process. This has led to a naïve belief in progress, reducing nature to a simple object of exploitation.

White hit a sore spot: Man-as-builder has always been at the center of, especially, Christian and Jewish anthropologies. This eventually leads to him flying to the moon and mastering nuclear power, all for the purposes of humanity. The idea of man being just part of a bigger picture, a larger creation, in which all creatures have the same right to life, was considered out of step with the times.

White’s essay is considered the moment when the modern theological discussion of religion and ecology was born. Ever since, the number of environmentally active Christians has grown steadily. Today it is considered theological common knowledge that humans are supposed to preserve nature and cultivate the land of an Earth that is part of a wider creation. It’s not the quantitative, but the qualitative progress that is considered as ethically unproblematic, leading to more justice, peace and protection of the environment. In the most basic but visible signs, you are increasingly likely inside Christian communities to find recycled paper in church pews and solar panels on the roofs.

Green kosher food, Muslim water

Judaism and Christianism have experienced a similar evolution â€" even if especially in Israel, environmental activists had to fight an uphill battle. Only recently, 333 rabbis in Israel signed a letter for the protection of the environment, calling on believers to avoid further investment in oil, carbon and gas, and commit instead to wind, water and solar power.

In Israel there are seminars for ecological kosher food, tree-planting activities and fair trade kippas. “Judaism and ecological awareness go hand-in-hand,” says the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Israeli theologian Jeremy Bernstein explains that “Halacha, Jewish law, has rich knowledge of how we influence nature.”

An Islamic call for saving water

Even in Islam â€" considered by some as the least eco-friendly major religion â€" you can see a new environmental consciousness, coming mostly from the Muslim communities in Europe. Already in the 1980s, Muslims in Britain founded the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

In Germany the group Nour-Energy was founded five years ago, campaigning for more environmental awareness among Muslims. In August, Muslim scientists from around the world published an “Islamic declaration of climate change.” The prophet Muhammad called on his followers to save water, and the Koran exhorts: “Don’t do mischief on Earth!”

Over the course of just one generation, Christians’, Jews’ and Muslims’ attitude towards nature has changed drastically, from the idea of mankind mastering nature, to a theology of creation.

Experts note that this is a major step in the fight against global warming: Christians, Jews and Muslims not only make up the majority of the world population, but also the political, economic and cultural elites around the planet. Prayers aside, it will take a change in people's behavior to fix the environment â€" and that requires the kind of raising of consciousness that religions do so well.

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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