Transforming Spiritual Values Into Environmental Behaviours

A recent survey from the Cambridge Globalism Project found that Indonesia has the highest percentage of climate deniers in the world. Psychology studies argue the reason people reject indubitable science like climate change is not ignorance, but because people ‘cherry pick’ the facts that back up what they already believe to be true. It means that something needs to be strengthened to the current science communication strategy. Finding out what climate sceptics can agree on and then frame climate messages to align with those is important. In Indonesia, religion could be an entry point. PEW research found that 84% of Indonesian practice religion daily and considered as a religious community. Religious values and teaching have thus potential to increase awareness and engage individuals to perform environmentally-friendly behaviour.

In Islamic values, the environment is sacred. Everything in the environment is His signs and praises Him. Yet, human activities have caused the environmental destruction and degradation in land and ocean and people are hence suggested to learn from that history, as explained in Surah Ar-Rum verses 41-42. The present level of climate change has almost reached a tipping point or a threshold that can lead to large changes in the state of the climate system. Humans have destroyed the balance of nature. The concrete threats of climate change is the results of the actions of humans which have jeopardised the natural balance. To fix it, in Surah Al-A’raf verses 56-58, Islam invites people to manage natural resources in a more sustainable way.

Internalize green lifestyle into rituals  

To instil eco-friendly views in abovementioned verses, we need to operationalize eco-friendly worldviews within religion into practices and religious rituals. Ramadan is a moment for it, when Muslims do transformation to show better action towards people, God, and environment. As the holiest month for Muslims, Ramadan could be utilized as the stepping stone to enhance the connection between religious values and environmental actions, a moment for delivering environmental education and learning for sustainability.

In theory, the practice of Ramadan fasting contains messages to control consumption and to increase sensitivity to hunger and poverty. This message is especially imperative to be addressed during Ramadan since we tend to be more conscious of our eating habits and behavior.

Individually, if we make changes as small as creating a shopping list and a meal plan to avoid impulsive buying and freezing leftover food, the level of waste would decrease dramatically. This action is aligned with the concept of mubazir, a situation when someone makes irresponsible consumption that leads to waste.

Same practice can also be done by mosques, government, NGOs and others organizing breaking-the-fast events. In addition, these institutions can avoid plastic packages, styrofoam and other single-use packages when serving meals. These practices can reduce the increase of daily waste which used to increase about 4-6 percent in Bekasi and Jakarta, during Ramadan. Furthermore, it can also reduce volume of plastic waste that is tossed annually into the ocean which kill sea animals.

These eco-friendly practices should be continued in Eid Al-Fitr and beyond. Internalizing green lifestyle into rituals and our daily activities should not stop after Ramadan.

Utilizing (in)formal education

People need to be made aware that environmental preservation is an inherent part of religion or religiosity. Several measures can be taken to change actions at scale. Environmental activists should work side by side with religious leaders and communities by associating religious values with environmental actions. It can be done through formal and informal education by integrating environmental topics in the education content. During Ramadan, it can be disseminated through pesantren kilat (a short Islamic boarding school), TV show of talent scout for ustad (Islamic scholars), and approaching ustad who deliver talks daily in Ramadan. Beyond Ramadan, Indonesian Ulama Council or the Ministry of Religious Affairs can invite religious leaders to disseminate eco-friendly practices through formal education such as Pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) and Madrasah (Islamic schools) and sermons in the mosques.

The same strategy can also be done by all religions. Religious leaders should bring together their people to internalize eco-friendly views within the religion. Buddhism emphasizes a mindset that creates a productive and cooperative relationship between humans and nature. In Catholic, priests can utilize the Pope’s 2015 encyclical that was found successful in increasing awareness on environmental issues. For Christian, working with a broad range of Christian institutions that are engaged in the environmental movement and contemporary environmental concerns is a good strategy. In Balinese Hindu, Trihita Karana can be internalized to improve good connection between people, God, and environment.

The involvement of educational figures and religious leaders is important to internalize eco-friendly lifestyle, increasing awareness on environmental issues, as well as making people realize about the climate crisis that we are having right now. It is indeed the responsibility of all believers to protect the earth, as a home that needs to be preserved. (/niv)



Ibnu Budiman, Researcher in WRI Indonesia

Sakinah Ummu Haniy, Communication Assistant in WRI Indonesia

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.