Have you ever contrasted the glistering and sparkling waters of Dal and other water bodies, as seen in pictures from past with their present day mucky and filthy state? Have you ever contemplated the reasons behind this catastrophic and unhealthy change? And for that matter are you observing the change of pattern in our forest cover, conversion of eco-sensitive belts into industrial and residential areas? The emerging repercussions, as they manifest in calamities like extreme weather conditions, shifting of climatic belts and abnormal temperature deviation, must have caught your attention. While these things are happening locally, scientists warn us of much severe climatic concerns that await us and the recurrence of Ice Ages, which wiped out many species from the surface of Earth in its early history may again be around the corner and in one sweep on climatic catastrophe an overwhelming diversity of species may be erased from the planet. Almost every hour, a news item or a research article hits the internet that is directly linked to the environmental change and the consequences thereof – such is the gravity of the issue.
What has been our response – Individual and collective to these changes, changes at which is staked our future, not only future but the question of our existence, survival and subsistence. The severity and seriousness may be yet to dawn on us, but on the question of environmental stability and sustainability is hinged the future course of entire humanity. Its slow motion (Though it has fast forwarded during the last few decades) deludes us into believing as if all is well, but the melting snow-caps, the fast vanishing glaciers, spiky flash floods and such other visible and tangible parameters awaken us to the deeper mess, the hidden danger and the inevitable tragedy that we might collide with if timely and necessary measures aren’t brought into action without further delay. The question of response, which we referred to above, follows the top – down trajectory in a colossal problem like environmental degradation and its protection. That’s precisely the reason that international organizations and their affiliated countries have risen to the task and have started adopting and implementing universal policies and methodologies to safeguard the precarious environmental balance and to minimise any further stress on environment that may ultimately steer it to the point of rupture. As carbon and its compounds called Hydrocarbons are chief miscreants in destabilising environment and causing temperature abnormalities, the global community has set before itself the primary task of reducing Carbon emissions. Alternatives are being worked upon and efforts are accelerated to harness the eco-friendly, sustainable and non-polluting energy sources like Solar, Hydel, Geothermal etc. The industrial wastes are being subjected to proper decomposition techniques, residues are ingested to treatment plants and parallels like electric vehicles, solar photovoltaics are explored to meet growing energy demands without compromising on environmental safety parameters.
With all the measures in place and new measures being explored, the question remains as to what extent can an industrial society driven by capitalistic ideas and selling the ideal of consumption can cut down its carbon consumption/emissions. This is exactly where the religious teachings, particularly the teachings of Islam can play an important role, not only by restoring within man the serenity of satiety, but also by awakening him to his responsibilities towards environment. In its ideal, encompassing both the individual and collective attitudes, Islam sees man, not in an independent, dispassionate or disconnected way from his environment. It rather endows man with the trusteeship of the world, its resources and its ecosystem. Environment and natural world is not presented to man as an object of exploitation, which man may rob now and then to meet his legit and illegitimate desires. But man is placed in the ambit of accountability towards God for his relation with the environment and is allowed to benefit from the resources of the Earth within earmarked boundaries without subjecting the environment and biosphere to undue stress. Likewise, Islam places upon mankind the responsibility of ensuring well-being of other species, not to disturb their habitat and ensure inclusive biodiversity. Azizan Baharuddin writes in his paper (https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/10.1142/9781783267507_0008#:~:text=In%20Islam%2C%20nature%20caters%20to,foundation%20of%20Islamic%20environmental%20ethics), that “ Based on these Islamic teachings, a Muslim is able to focus on his goal of resisting extremes in worldly temptations which often translate into environmentally wasteful and exploitative habits. In Islam, nature has its own order and functions (fitrah) that work naturally within ecosystems wherein the components are mutually dependent on each other. Any single disturbance will affect the balance (mizan) of the greater system and cause harm (fasad) to at least one or more components”.
Islam is not a monastic order commanding distance from and indifference towards the world. It rather shares a pragmatic outlook and positive attitude towards the world of physical order. It emphasises upon its followers and therefore entire humanity to uphold the sacredness of biome and inspires us to work for the well-being and safety of all species. It was mentioned above that the problem of climate change and environmental sustainability doesn’t stem from a single individual. It is rather an issue operating on large scale and therefore calling for collective and group oriented response. But that shall not delude us into the false belief that we as individuals have no role to play and we are to act like mute spectators witnessing the climatic change in pessimistic spirit. Instead, we can all, in our individual capacities play an active and important role in mitigating the challenge of environmental degradation. This change can assume myriad forms like avoiding energy wastage, cutting down our carbon consumption by making use of public transport, using vehicles in pool and getting environmental safety of our vehicles ascertained from competent authorities. We also have to mend our basic habits in managing the wastes we produce at home and more importantly not to pollute the water bodies by throwing waste and garbage into them. This shall not be overlooked something as moral teaching or preaching, but all these measures are incumbent upon us all if we desire to live further on this planet and share any concern towards preventing any calamity that can arise in absence of these measures. Eva Morales summed it wonderfully that “Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans”.