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

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid