On Thursday, February 9th, 2012, Tezcan Inanlar, Pacifica Institute’s CEO welcomed Provost of Claremont Lincoln University, Philip Clayton for an insightful lecture at Pacifica Institute, Orange County.
Almost everyone knows the scientific facts about the planet’s worsening climate conditions, Provost of Claremont Lincoln University said, but they are somehow still unconcerned.
Philip Clayton, a Christian theologian and philosopher gave a talk at the Pacifica Institute in Irvine about the relationship of religion and the global environmental crisis as well as the importance of interreligious partnerships in addressing environmental problems.
Author of six books, Clayton said he spent the early part of his career writing “brainy” books that only a few could really understand, until he underwent a conversion.
He realized he said that “abstract theoretical discussions are a luxury that we can no longer afford.
This conversion can be attributed to the fact that the effects of climate change are having a “direct and present impacts of climate change,” and immediate action needs to be taken to undo some of the damage.
• Animals such as the golden toad have already gone extinct and others such as Costa Rica’s harlequin frogs are teetering at the brink of extinction.
• In certain parts of Austria, ecosystems exist where the temperature, air and liquid are so radical they would be impossible to survive in but certain species have adapted to this world. However researchers are finding that the change in the environment is so marked that even the species adapt to radical conditions can no longer survive in those places.
• Since the 1970, half of the nesting pairs of Adelie penguins in Anvers Island, Antarctic have been lost.
• Change in the seasons causes variations for the animals, the period during which young birds have worms or insects available for food is changed which changes their ability to enter the mating season as well as to feed their young once they are born.
• Extreme weather is another direct effect of the environmental crisis. In 1995 the heat wave of Chicago killed about 700 people , and it is predicted this will become more common as the globe gets warmer.
• Water scarcity is one of the most urgent issues that need to be addressed, Clayton said. Floods and draughts claim lives and cripple economies. With the melting of glaciers the loss of sources of fresh water is really one of the most urgent issues that we face today.
• Carbon emissions also contribute to the worsening environmental condition.
But at the root of the environmental crisis, he said is the fact that human populations have grown at an exponential rate over the years, directly causing extinction, climate changes and other issues.
Clayton said simple things such as “switching to greener light bulbs, hanging clothes out to dry, using renewable energy, paying bills online, recycling plastic bags,” can make a big difference on the environmental situation.
People, however, still aren’t doing anything. “Scientific data is not making any difference. The science side seems not enough to motivate human beings to do something different,” he said.
For that reason Clayton said it is important to look at the Abrahamic traditions to draw knowledge from them.
At his talk yesterday he spoke mainly about the teachings of Islam and the environment stating that “I’ve taken on the discipline to speak of religious traditions other than my own because I can learn the powerful motivations for taking care of the planet out of other religions,” which helps in the realization “that the beliefs that we may learn in practice can go hand in hand with the beliefs of other traditions as well.”
The Holy Quran, Clayton said is filled with calls to move beyond our self and our own comfort and to live for the sake of the planet and things in it.
He said that Islam outlines several different reasons why humans should respect the environment.
“The Quran teaches that every creature deserves attention and consideration because of its relation to the Divine,” he said.
In quoting a passage from the Quran, Clayton explained that nature was not a coincidental result of the creation of human kind; it was created for a purpose.
“Not for idle sports did We create the heavens and the earth and all that is between!” (Quran 21:16) If it had been Our wish to take (just) a pastime, We should surely have taken it from the things nearest to Us, if We would do such a thing! (Quran 21:17)”
He said that Environmental ethics and responsibility is integral theme in the Quran because of its direct relation with the Divine and therefore its sacredness.
Earth and its resources he said were not created solely for the use of humans, however, through Christian Europe into secular treatments of earth and through the misunderstanding of passages of the Bible people have come to believe that nature was created just for them.
“We took the story of the creation of the earth in genesis and the placement of the humans as the ones who named the animals; Adam names the animals and cultivates the soil.” He said, “The Christian theologians over the years unfortunately took that as a reason for us to use nature in whatever way we wish.”
Clayton said the irony is that while science can teach the facts about the universe, it cannot justify why we should care.
“It can tell us if you do this, you will soil your own nest and find yourself in trouble but the Koran and Muslim tradition, on the other hand, teach us why those fundamental values should matter to us as creations of god,” he said.