News / Africa

    Preaching for the Environment

    A Heliconius Charitonius is seen in the butterfly exhibit at the National Biodiversity Park near Heredia, Costa Rica (File Photo)
    A Heliconius Charitonius is seen in the butterfly exhibit at the National Biodiversity Park near Heredia, Costa Rica (File Photo)

    Multimedia

    Audio
    • Listen to De Capua report on religion and environment

    Joe DeCapua
    Throughout history, there have been many groups and cultures that have worshiped the Earth or nature. While the world’s major organized religions do not hold to those beliefs, some scientists say today’s religious leaders could play a key role in protecting the environment.


    Ecologist Grzegorz Mikusinski believes a little faith may go a long way in helping to preserve biodiversity. He and his colleagues have studied how people of different religions are distributed around the world. Many live in areas where biodiversity may be at risk from climate change, development or other factors.

    “Christians and especially Roman Catholics are most numerous in the countries where there is a lot of biodiversity. It’s obvious that South America is very, very important here – Brazil, Ecuador and so on. And all these countries are strongly Catholic. And then the United States, Mexico and then some countries in Africa – those countries that are in this belt of very high biodiversity along the equator,” said Mikusinski, an associate professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

    He said there’s a certain amount of overlapping of religions and biodiversity, such as Buddhism in Southeast Asia, Hindu in the Indian subcontinent and Islam in Asia Minor and regions of North and Central Africa. He says the environment is not usually a topic of sermons or speeches to the faithful, but perhaps it should be.

    “I’ve actually been a member of [the] Catholic Church many, many years and I have to tell you, frankly, that, I don’t know, maybe I’ve listened to 1,500 preaching priests and I’ve never heard a word – or very little, I think never – about being more modest in your way you are using the resources.”

    Caring for the environment, he said, would be in religious communities’ best interests.

    “Religious congregations own about, I think, if I recall well, seven percent of the land on the Earth and then [an] additional eight percent are considered as being sacred lands. So, actually 15 percent – that is [a] very high number – is directly linked to religions, so to speak.”

    His colleague at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences -- Malgorzata Blicharka – is co-author of the study. She wrote that conservation strategies are needed which “can change people’s ethical attitudes towards nature and encourage modes of thinking and lifestyles that are good for the environment.” Mikusinski agrees.

    “We have a moral obligation to secure a decent living for coming generations. This is common for almost all religions. We are using more and more resources per capita. And of course in the long run it’s not sustainable,” he said.

    He admitted it’s a complicated issue. For example, it’s difficult to ask the poor to use even fewer resources than they do now.

    Another co-author of the study, Hugh Possihngham of the University of Queensland in Australia, wrote, “Roman Catholics, per capita, have the greatest potential to preserve biological diversity where they live.” 

    Mikusinski pointed out that Francis of Assisi is the Roman Catholic patron saint of animals and ecology. And now, the current pope is named Francis. He said that he hopes Pope Francis will take an active role in protecting biodiversity.

    You May Like

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora