Spiritual beliefs urge us to address climate change
The reality of global warming and the impact of a rapidly changing climate are at long last dawning on a majority of individuals and entering into planning discussions, political debates and our educational halls. Many people understand that changes in habits and practices dealing with how we transport ourselves, what we eat, how we heat and cool, and much more are needed.
But if that assent to change doesn't dwell in the depths of our beings, at our spiritual core, then change is often hard to enact. Thus it is exciting to note that across the world a spiritual voice is clearly sounding on this most essential issue that cuts to the core of how we care for our neighbors and care for the earth we have been gifted with.
The great spiritual traditions of our day call us simply to a sense of responsibility and action for those untold billions of human souls who stand to be most affected by a changing climate though they contribute little to the warming globe. Judaism calls us to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), and Hinduism reminds us that "This is the sum of duty: Do not to others what would cause pain if done to you" (Mahabharata 5:1517).
Our South Pacific neighbors on the tiny island of Tuvalu, which is being overtaken by a rising tide, need us to be true to such spiritual traditions and change our habits that their islands might still remain above water. Our neighbors in Southeast Asia who stand to lose the bulk of the protein in their diet from coral reefs being lost to acidification need us to examine our behaviors as people of faith and make changes that will show we wish no pain.
The great spiritual traditions of our day also call us simply to understand that in fact caring for the earth is part of caring for our human neighbors, part of being people of faith. The Quran states, "The All-Merciful ... created humans and ... set (the earth on) balance. Transgress (and skimp) not in the balance and weigh with justice." The Dalai Lama reminds us in "Humanity and Ecology" that "peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities. Destruction of nature and nature resources results from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth's living things." Let us not forget the inherent wisdom of our Hawaiian ancestors that comes to us in our state motto: Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono -- the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.
This vast wealth of spiritual wisdom that guides our responses to climate change is quite evident here in Hawaii. Interfaith Power and Light, a national movement that strives to mobilize an interfaith religious response to global warming, has an affiliate organization starting here in Hawaii. Hawaii Interfaith Power and Light will hold a dedication ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Church of the Crossroads. The public is enthusiastically invited to attend, and congregations of all religious traditions in Hawaii are invited to send members to find out more about becoming a covenanting congregation in this fast-growing movement as people of faith strive to change habits and save the earth one individual, one congregation, one community at a time.
The time for action is now, and as the Christian theologian Father Thomas Berry reminds us, "The destiny of humans cannot be separated from the destiny of earth."
The Rev. David Baumgart Turner, a United Church of Christ minister, is a board member of Hawaii Interfaith Power and Light.