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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid