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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmarki
    X
    John Owens
    June 26, 2016 2:04 PM
    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora