News / Science & Technology

Religions Seen Slow to Go Green; Pope has Chance to Inspire

FILE - Pope Francis waves as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 10, 2013.
FILE - Pope Francis waves as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 10, 2013.
Reuters
Few religious communities have gone as far in fighting climate change as a church in Queensland, Australia, which has 24 solar panels bolted to the roof in the shape of a Christian cross.
 
“It's very effective. It's inspired some members of our congregation to install panels on their homes,” Reverend David Lowry said of the “solar cross” mounted in 2009 on the Caloundra Uniting Church, which groups three Protestant denominations.
 
Many religions have been wary of moving to install renewable energy sources on their places of worship, from cathedrals to mosques - or of taking a strong stand on climate change in general - despite teachings that people should be custodians of nature.
 
But slowly, that may be changing, thanks to new religious leaders including Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
 
Francis's stress on environmental protection since he was  elected in March and his choice of the name of a 13th century nature lover - Saint Francis of Assisi - may make a difference for all religions trying to work out how to safeguard the planet from threats including climate change.
 
Under his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican took green steps such as installing solar panels on the roof of the Papal Audience Hall in 2008. It says it wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but has no formal target.
 
“Religious environmentalism is slowly increasing,” said John Grim, a coordinator of the forum on religion and ecology at Yale University in the United States. “It's very uneven. Religions tend to be very conservative in their practice and doctrine.”
 
Safeguard the Earth
 
Grim said the pope's influence was significant since few other religions recognize a single earthly leader - and there are 1.2 billion Catholics, amounting to a sixth of humanity, according to the Vatican.
 
In his inaugural homily, Pope Francis stressed that people should safeguard the Earth.
 
“Let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!” he said.
 
In a 2010 book “On Heaven and Earth”, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he said mankind sometimes lost respect for nature, “then ecological problems arise, like global warming.”
 
Solar panels are pictured on the roof of the Protestant Reformed Church in Vienna, Austria, April 9, 2013.Solar panels are pictured on the roof of the Protestant Reformed Church in Vienna, Austria, April 9, 2013.
x
Solar panels are pictured on the roof of the Protestant Reformed Church in Vienna, Austria, April 9, 2013.
Solar panels are pictured on the roof of the Protestant Reformed Church in Vienna, Austria, April 9, 2013.
Some religions have been reluctant to be associated with climate change policies because of divisions among believers. A 2012 Pew Research Center poll showed that only 42 percent of Americans agree global warming is mainly man-made, a view overwhelmingly held by climate scientists, for example.
 
The Church of England says it aims to cut its carbon emissions by 42 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 across widely varying energy use in 16,000 buildings, but it is an exception.
 
“Some churches are used all week and others used very occasionally, with only one light bulb,” said David Shreeve, environmental advisor to the Archbishops' Council. He said other religions were now asking for advice on emissions cuts.  Irrespective of climate change, big savings can be made by plugging drafts and improving heating and lighting.
 
Some believers object that solar panels can damage or disfigure fragile historic buildings. Some cathedrals, like the Catholic Saint Stephens in Vienna, have elaborate patterns on the roof.
 
Bradford Cathedral, where the oldest parts of the Nave date from 1458, installed solar panels in 2011 and said it was the first cathedral in England - and perhaps in the world - to generate its own power.
 
Among other examples, a planned mosque in Bursa, west Turkey, aims to use solar panels and install a vertical axis wind turbine - without big revolving blades - on a minaret.
 
“Mosques ... can be covered with photovoltaic panels,” the mosque's architect ECelik Erengezgin said.
 
Green initiatives by religious leaders and groups are not new.
 
The Jewish Temple Emanuel in Lowell, Massachusetts, installed solar panels in 1978 in what is believed to be the first such system on a religious building in North America, the Lowell Green Building Commission says.
 
And Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, has long been called the “Green Patriarch” for seeking to protect the environment, from organizing conferences about fresh water to writing an encyclical in 2012 urging repentance for “our sinfulness in destroying the world”.
 
Saint Francis has long been a green inspiration.
 
In what are known as the Assisi Declarations from 1986, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic leaders called for people to live in harmony with nature. Baha'i, Jainism and Sikhism later added their own declarations.
 
Holy See
 
In the United States, many evangelical Christians stress a broad need for “stewardship of creation”, rather than man-made climate change, as a spur to action.
 
Many evangelical Christians are Republicans who are more likely than Democrats to doubt that climate change is mostly caused by human activity, such as burning fossil fuels.
 
“Americans allow their politics to inform their faith,” said Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian and climate scientist at Texas Tech University.
 
In Australia, Lowry said the solar panels were saving money and cutting greenhouse gas emissions for the Uniting Church, which brings together Methodists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians.
 
“The solar cross ... doesn't bring hordes of people into the church,” he said. “But it helps people understand that God is a presence in the world in which we live.”
 
The Vatican has an observer seat at U.N. talks among 200 nations who have agreed to work out, by the end of 2015, a climate deal to avert more floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
 
Pope Francis himself has focused on environmental protection without yet spelling out clear solutions.
 
Raising awareness of the environment could be a step to modernize the Church, besieged by scandal for covering up sexual abuse of children by priests and whose strict moral traditions are often at odds with a increasingly secular society.
 
“With Pope Francis there is new hope,” said Reverend Henrik Grape of the Church of Sweden, who is also a member of the World Council of Churches' climate change group.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

3-day Lockdown to Fight Ebola Continues In Sierra Leone

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid