Faith in the Time of Climate Change

The ongoing climate crisis feels more urgent than ever before amidst ongoing heatwaves across the US and the rest of the world. Aside from oppressive heat in Colorado, our neighbors to the Southwest have also felt the effects of a rapidly changing climate: In Phoenix, Arizona, for example, the city saw a record 31 consecutive days of heat exceeding 110 degrees. And on the other side of the country, ocean temperatures off the Florida coast are in excess of 100 degrees, similar to a hot tub. Meteorologists warn that these temperatures are harbingers of an especially dangerous hurricane season.

While the climate emergency is occupying all of our thoughts, it’s particularly important for faith communities to examine how we can make a positive difference in our communities, and remind people of faith about the need for all of us to prioritize environmental stewardship. Here are a few excerpts from some of the major world religions calling on us to care for the planet, both for the sake of ourselves and for future generations.


While the first five books of the Bible make up Jewish scripture as well, the book of Psalms has several passages that call on God’s followers to care for the environment. One Psalm contains a line hinting at how the harmony of life’s living creatures depends on “righteousness and justice,” which could be easily interpreted as a reference to environmental justice:

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof; the world and those who dwell therein.”

-Psalms 24:1, ESV

When one loves righteousness and justice, the earth is full of the loving kindness of the Eternal.”

-Psalms 33:5


Muslims practice the concept of “amanah,” which means trust, or responsibility. The Qur’an teaches that human beings have been trusted with caring for the earth and its resources. Writing for Al Jazeera, Muslim scholar Ibrahim Ozdemir, a professor of philosophy at Uskudar University in Turkey, said there are approximately 200 verses in the Qur’an concerning the environment. He added that Muslims are taught that “greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the heavens and the earth.”

“The reality is that nothing could be more Islamic than protecting God’s most precious creation: the Earth,” he wrote.

One of the most prominent environmentalist verses from the Qur’an reads:

Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.”

-Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 60


Hindus take environmental stewardship very seriously. Hindus’ belief in reincarnation after this life is over supports a sense of the interconnectedness of all creation. In an article for HuffPost in 2011, University of North Texas associate professor of Indic studies Pankaj Jain laid out how Hinduism “contains numerous references to the worship of the divine in nature in its Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Sutras, and its other sacred texts.”

“The earth can be seen as a manifestation of the goddess, and must be treated with respect,” Jain wrote. “Dharma — often translated as ‘duty’ — can be reinterpreted to include our responsibility to care for the earth.

This attitude is reflected in the Hindu Declaration on Climate Change from 2015 in the lead-up to the Paris Climate Conference, which read that it is a “dharmic duty [to ensure that] we have a functioning, abundant, and bountiful planet.”


The interconnectedness of life is also a prominent concept in Buddhism. Nichiren Daishonin – a Buddhist scholar who founded his own school of Buddhism in feudal 13th century Japan – wrote “life at each moment permeates the entire realm of phenomena and is revealed in phenomena,” which includes “plants, sky, earth, and even the minutest particles of dust.”

This philosophy was further explained by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in 1993, in which he laid out five statements connecting Buddhism to environmental stewardship:

  1. Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals.
  2. Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving-kindness and learn ways to work for the wellbeing of animals, plants and minerals. I vow to practise generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those in real need. 
  3. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals (of all ages), couples, families and society. 
  4. Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve their suffering.
  5. Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family and my society by practising mindful eating drinking and consuming.


The Torah (also the first five books of the Christian Bible) contains numerous verses in which God calls on us to protect the integrity of the environment for the good of all species. The Religious Action Center (RAC) of Reform Judaism laid out several verses from the Torah that expand on this concept. RAC stressed that while God gave dominion of the earth to human beings, it was still God’s creation, and abusing it would be disrespectful to God.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

-Genesis 1:28

The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.”

-Genesis 2:15


The Wiccan faith tradition – a modern form of Paganism – has many traditions and rituals that represent the symbiosis between human beings and the environment. Emanuel, the founder of Aprende Gran Magia (a director of Pagan and Wiccan rituals) wrote an open letter in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, calling for solutions to the climate crisis. Their letter was co-signed by more than 8,000 other Pagans.

“Pagans can aid in the repair of our environment by teaching how we are part of life on Earth, sharing rituals and ceremonies that foster bonds between ourselves and the rest of the web of life, and instilling a sense of responsibility for how we interact with the ecosystem — all this creating cultures that can sustain our human society today and for generations to come.”


While a tent of Daoism is the “wu wei,” in which it’s important to allow things to follow their natural flow throughout the universe, Daoists have recently begun to embark on a path of climate activism. Daoists Chen Xia and Martin Schonfeld wrote in 2011 that a cornerstone of Daoism is communicating ideas that emphasize conservation, and create the vision of a post-consumerist society. and inform climate ethics. In 2017, Ren Farong, a Daoist master who is also the founder of the Daoist Ecological Protection Network, stated that “Taoist beliefs emphasise respecting and protecting nature, all in the pursuit of harmony between the human beings and the environment.”

Whatever your faith tradition may be, or even if you don’t have one, we can all agree that preserving the planet for future generations is a noble calling that has to be answered.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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