A Critical Analysis of Religion and Environment

Written by Sourabh Pareek and Mayank Choudhary

Introduction

“What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny — that is, by religion.”

– Lynn White, Jr

Regardless of whether we are actively religious or not, religious belief pervades the very essence of our existence. Namely, it impacts if not directly, shapes our legal systems; and in similar manner our constitutions; and therefore our nations’ policy choices, both at home and abroad.Thus it would be logical to assume that religion also influences how we individually and collectively view our role with regards to ensuring environment protection.To suggest that any one belief system somehow cares more for the Earth than the others would be simplistic and absurd, but within each religion there lie slightdifferences that gives an indication as to how we view our position in relation to environment. In this paper, the author tried to observe various theories from sacred scriptures of major faith systems which tell about how human should think about their natural environment.

The paper further discusses how the religious practices been brought into the national legislature structure thus creating a constitutional tussle on religious rights and environmental rights and also how these conflicting situations of Religious freedom and Environment protection have been dealt by the courts in India. The author also concentrated on some of the best religious practices followed in Japan which are need to be taught to the rest of the world to sustainably develop and thus protect the environment.

Sustainability blended within World’s religions:

Role of various religions in the management of environment

The concept or approach of sustainability is incorporated in almost all major religions of the world. According to a study by Pew Research center in 2012, around 84 percent of the world’s population subscribe to some sort of spiritual perspective, thus it is worth considering how religion impacts the way we treat our environment. Religions have a very great influence over people; the power of religion is very strong, it binds peoples. Only a religion have ability to make thousands of people come together under one roof.

Theories of different religions regarding protection of environment:

Following also includes various texts from sacred scriptures of major faith systems which tell about how human should think about their natural environment:

HINDUISM

Hinduism is the only religion in the world which followed by the most people of the world. This religion is very divers and complex. This religion teaches to live a simple life and tells people to not run for material pleasures instead the religion tells to follow the spiritual path for satisfaction and relief.

Hindu philosophy has many doctrines which directly tell the followers to safeguard the environment. Doctrine of Ahimsa and the other such doctrine are of karma and rebirth. Hinduism belief in the cycle of birth, where a person dies and can take rebirth as an animal or birds etc. so because of these doctrines and the faith they have in the cycle of rebirth, they not only respect but also give reverence to other species of the planet. Doctrine of non-violence teaches them to not to injury any other being.

 Vedas

The literature of Vedas is considered as the most sacred text of Hinduism. According to Vedas, man, nature and the god have the internal balance. The force of nature is considered as the voice of god and Vedas commands the man to not to pollute environment. RIG Veda tells that universe is made of five basis elements namely Air, Water, Earth, Fire and Space. These elements are the basis of life so men have to preserve them. YAJUR Veda tells to maintain .peace and propitiation in between all the elements of the earth. ATHARVANA Veda tells that earth is mother and it command humans to not to degrade the resources of the mother earth. Rivers are source of power for life. Water is considered as the milk of mother earth. All Vedas give commands to save the environment from all kind of impurities.

CHRISTIANITY

Christianity is one of among such religion which is followed by most of the people in the world. The teachings of bible promote the protection of environment as the religion belief in the nature’s divinity so it is the responsibility of every human to protect and take care of environment. Christianity also says that humans and nature have a relation of harmony and if this nature get destroyed by humans then the harmony will be alienated between humans and its creators. As God said that “I am the alpha and the omega” which means god is the beginning of everything and ending of everything. So each and every thing is made by the god and humans have no right to destroy the nature. Christianity teaches that all the creatures are created by God so there is no right to anyone to destroy or pollute the bio diversity and the nature as it belong to all the species equally.

BUDDHISM

Buddhism is considered the most environmental friendly religion because it preaches that we all are sentient being, we all are born and we all will age and die. Because of this belief they do not consider that humans are any how superior to any other spices and all deserve equal level of treatment. It is a religion of love kindness empathy towards all. Buddhism follows the principle of simplicity and Ahimsa. Simplicity means that human should not over exploit the natural resources. Ahimsa teaches to not to kill animals instead love and protect them. Buddhism believes in the theory of cause and effect. According to the theory if any un mindful action has been done by human then it can bring the environmental crisis. It also believes in the cycle of rebirth so if a person do wrongful act then he will again born before reaching nirvana. Buddhism commands to protect the wildlife and bio diversity.

JAINISM

Jainism teaches that one should avoid that kind of act which can harm the other person in any way. The principle of Ahimsa is also followed by this religion. Ahimsa is a way of life in Jainism. Jainism preaches that every human should be benevolent towards all being and environment, every human have some compassion toward weak. Under Jainism they follow three principles and adhere to then these principles are: The Right Belief, The Right Knowledge, and The Right Conduct.

ISLAM

In Islam, prophet Muhammad said that all  beings are the children of God and the dearest children is the one who do the most good to the other children of the God. So it means that humans have a duty to not only protect the humans but also other species of the planet. In Islam humans are consider managers of the planet so they have a basic duty to protect the bio diversity wildlife. Islam also tells that man have no right to abuse distort the natural resources of the planet as they should be use in a manner that future generation can also use them.  Allah considers humans to be his mangers or trustee and they have held responsible managing other creators environment wildlife bio diversity etc. the environment is not only for this generation so humans also have to keep in mind that they should not destroy the natural resources.

Best Religious practices across the Globe to sustainably conserve the Environment:

Learnings from Japan:

As an island nation with few natural resources, Japan can’t afford to be profligate. The author believes that Japan has something to teach other nations. The country is one of the most energy-efficient industrial countries in the world. Many Japanese habits and philosophies contain some real gems of wisdoms regarding environmentalism which is needed to be taught to the world and implemented in people’s lifestyle. Once Japanese people embrace an idea, they do so wholeheartedly. Environmental consciousness is no exception. Some of their sustainable practices are:

KonMari Cleaning

This is a technique for decluttering and organizing your home, from the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Upby Marie Kondo which looks at a more mindful approach to sorting out the clutter. The thing about this technique is that it encourages a more sustainable mindset for example apply KonMari to a shopping trip as: Do I really require this new Jacket? What different situations will I be able to wear it in? How does it make me feel? How long will it last me? This technique is a welcome alternative to the fast fashion fad that seems to be influencing the West, where new fashion every season mean excess purchasing thus extra resources wasted to maintain our “throw-away” lifestyle.

 

Mottainai Thinking:

The term Mottainai roughly translates to “too good to be wasted”. This idea consists of four R’s which stands for reduce, reuse, recycle, respect.This idea fits in perfectly with the notion of living a low-carbon lifestyle. It reminds us to consider the value of things or objects we have around us such as people, animals, water, soil, plants. Mottainai teaches us to not take things for granted and nor to abuse them. It teaches about the interconnectedness and interdependence of species. So next time when you save a polybag, a rubber band, a piece of string or an envelope, etc. for future use, just utter the word Mottainai to make this mentality your lifestyle. Mottainai.

A clean home is caring for your family

In 2008, Time Magazine looked at Japan’s growing trend of recycling being used as a way to show kindness and affection to others, making environmental conscious a trendy way to care for their families, which is quite a logical idea because if you care about someone, you want to give them a clean and safe environment.

Constitution and Environment Protection

Indian Constitution is the supreme law of country; in constitution it is a obligation on the state as well as people to conserve wildlife, bio diversity, water resources, forest etc. constitution is consider a basic of all laws, as all drives there validity form this supreme document only. Under constitution, part fourth deals with the directive principle and state policy, this imposes fundamental duties on the part of state as well as citizens to protect the environment.  The constitution also has specific provisions regarding environment protection. Article 21 `which deals with right to life and personal liberty.  This article directly doesn’t deal with the issue of environment but as its ambit is very large so by judicial pronouncement cases like Hinchlal Tiwari vs Kamla Devi, in this case the Supreme Court given the judgments that lakes forest tanks ponds mountains etc. all these things have maintain the ecological balance of planet so they should be protected for healthy life of people which is given under article 21 of the constitution. Like this there are many case laws which are given by different courts of the country for the purpose of environment protection.

Article 48-A of Indian constitution directly deals with the protection of environment which says, that it’s a duty of sate to protect the environment and safeguard the natural resources like forest and wildlife of the country.  The environment protection act and many other similar act are made under this provision only.

Part IV-A deals with the fundamental duties in which article 51(g) directly deals with the environment protection, which says that it’s a fundamental duty of every citizen to protect natural environment like rivers lakes mountains wildlife forest and have compassion for other living beings. The high volume of loudspeakers and amplifier creates noise pollution which disturbs the other people of the society and Indian constitution guarantee every citizen to have a peaceful environment under article 19 (1)(a) in a landmark case PA Jacob vs. The Superintendent of Police Kottayam, AIR 1993 Ker ,  in which Kerala high court said that freedom of speech under article 19(1)(a) does not allow the use of loud speakers and create noise pollution in the society.

Like every right comes with duty and reasonable restriction, so if under article 25 of Indian constitution which give freedom of religion to the citizens of country with certain reasonable restriction, you can follow any religion but you cannot create any form of nuisance on the name of religion. In next chapter by different case laws the researcher will try to justify that how religious freedom comes with the responsibility with regard protecting environment.

Case Laws Regarding Conflict of Religious Rights and Environment Protection

Free Legal Aid cell Shri Sugan Aggarwal vs Govt. of NGT of Delhi and others.

In this case, the main grievance of the petitioner was display of fireworks and use therefore during marriages and religious festivals, because of which physical and mental hazard is suffered by adults as well as children. The use of high sounding explosive fire crackers and other loud sound producing devices, the effect of which results in hazardous Noise Pollution causing irreparable damages to ears. The high court bench headed by Justice A Pasayat, held that noise can be regarded as pollutant if it exceeds reasonable limits because it causes nuisance, contaminates the environment and effects the health of people therefore offending right to life which is guaranteed under article 21 of Indian Constitution. The bench held that the use of firecrackers in marriage processions and religious festivals should be properly regulated ensuring that their use in residential area is in such a manner that there is no likelihood of any danger to life and property. And in marriages, the use of firecrackers on the public street shall be prohibited.

Om Birangana Religious Society … vs The State and Ors.

This is a case of using microphones and loudspeakers as a means of preforming Religious practices. The court held that the religion that has been practiced by the petitioner and others, is nothing new, but the same as is there for several centuries. It cannot be said that the spiritual leaders or the religious teachers who had laid down these practices, had in any way desired the use of microphones as a means of performance of religion. Article 25(1) of the Indian Constitution guarantees every individual a fundamental right to practice, profess and propagate religion, but that is not an absolute right as the provisions of Article 25 is subject to the provisions of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. On true and proper construction of the provisions of Article 25(1), read with Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, it can be said that a citizen should not be coerced to hear anything which he does not like or require.

Arjun Gopal and Others vs Union of India and Others

Ten days before Diwali i.e. October 09, 2017 a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice A K Sikri has delivered a verdict on a plea filed by three kids seeking restoration of its last year’s order dated November 11, 2016, about banning of firecrackers in the New Delhi and National Capital Region. In this plea, the appellants have alleged the Central Pollution Control Board of suppressing the relevant information from the Supreme Court, which led to relaxation of previous ban on fire crackers through an order dated September 12, 2017. In this case, the bench headed by Justice A K Sikri put on hold the sale of fire crackers in Delhi and National Capital Region area during Diwali and the bench said that its September 12, 2017 order permitting sale of fire crackers will get implemented only from November1, 2017. The bench said that it wanted to test the effect of ban on air quality after this Diwali noting that each year burning of firecrackers on Diwali festival leaves the air in Delhi thick with smoke.

Gauri Maulekhi vs State of J&K &Ors.

This is a case regarding preservation of Amarnath Caves in Himalayas of J&K. the National Green Tribunal directed the Amarnath shrine board that no person/pilgrim/devotee would be permitted to carry any object or article from the last stairs which further lead to the holy cave and from the end point of the last stair and the whole area of the holy cave only shall be treated as silence zone. The NGT panel also directed that there should be a single line of people walking towards the cave from the last check point.

CONCLUSION

Religions always have been a very great influence over people. In all religion they teach to conserve and protect environment and natural resources. In this paper the researcher have written about the different religious teaching and there principles regarding environment protection as they are the basis of human existence. Almost all religion says that every being on this planet is equal so no one have any right to destroy or alter the resources as they all belongs to God.

Our constitution also has provisions regarding the protection of environment and the natural resources. The law regarding the protection of environment protection act is developed by these provisions. But there is the need of more awareness regarding the protection and the importance of natural resources and bio diversity protection.

We can protect environment by different instruments like Law and Religion. As both can regulates the people, religion can make people adhere to the rules of protecting environment and natural resources at large in comparison with Law. In religion people have faith so they can understand easily the importance of natural resources and environment protection in comparison to Law.

References:

The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis authored by Lynn White, Jr, http://www.zbi.ee/~kalevi/lwhite.htm last seen 3/02/2018 ibid

All About The Religion and The Environment by Rachel Oliver , http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/01/27/eco.about.religion/, last seen on 8/01/2018

Environmental Protection And Religious And Cultural Heritage In India, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/73994/11/11_chapter%204.pdf, last seen on 8/01/2018.

Environmental Protection And Religious And Cultural Heritage In India, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/73994/11/11_chapter%204.pdf, last seen on 8/01/2018.

Role of Religion in Environmental Conservation by ecolife, http://ecolifeke.com/role-religion-environmental-conservation/, last seen 8/01/2018.

Environmental Protection And Religious And Cultural Heritage In India, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/73994/11/11_chapter%204.pdf, last seen on 8/01/2018.

All About The Religion and The Environment by Rachel Oliver, http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/01/27/eco.about.religion/, last seen on 8/01/2018.

Environmental Protection And Religious And Cultural Heritage In India, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/73994/11/11_chapter%204.pdf, last seen on 8/01/2018.

Religion, Ethics And Environment, http://iefworld.org/unepgc21.htm, last seen on 8/10/2018.

Environmental Protection And Religious And Cultural Heritage In India, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/73994/11/11_chapter%204.pdf, last seen on 8/01/2018.

All About The Religion and The Environment by Rachel Oliver, http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/01/27/eco.about.religion/, last seen on 8/01/2018.

Environmental Protection And Religious And Cultural Heritage In India, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/73994/11/11_chapter%204.pdf, last seen on 8/01/2018.

The life changing magic of tidying up authored by Marie Kondo, https://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/how-japanese-philosophies-can-teach-you-about-cleaning-and-reducing-waste/, last seen 2/02/2018

Mottainai: can we save the planet with ancient Japanese philosophy? By Kevin Taylor, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-30/mottainai-can-we-reduce-waste-with-ancient-japanese-philosophy/8553928 , seen on 2/02/2018

http://content.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1730759_1734222_1734215,00.html

Sumit Kumar Suman, CNLU, Religion Freedom And Environment Protection, https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/religious-freedom-environmental-protection/#_edn18, last seen 8/01/2018.

V.N.SHUKLA, CONSTITUION OF INDIA, eastern book company, lucknow, twelfth edition.

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Environment Protection Under Constitutional Framework of India by Pooja P.Vardhan, http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=105411, last seen 8/01/2018.

Free Legal Aid Cell Shri Sugan … vs Govt. Of Nct Of Delhi And Others on 23 July, 2001,AIR 2001 Delhi 455, 93 (2001) DLT 28, 2001 (60) DRJ 297,https://indiankanoon.org/doc/651443/

Om Birangana Religious Society vs The State AndOrs. on 1 January, 1996 C.O. Appeal No. 4303 Of 1995, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1816137/

Arjun Gopal vs Union Of India. on 12 September, 2017, I.A. No. 52448 of 2017, http://www.livelaw.in/sc-bans-sale-fire-crackers-delhincr-ahead-diwali-ban-remain-till-nov-1/

Gauri Maulekhi vs State of J&K &Ors. 2015. http://admin.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/Amarnath%20Shrine%20NGT%20Order%20Silence%20Zones.pdf, last seen 8/01/2018.

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