The Earth is not ours to abuse, we need to protect it for future generations

On 22 April 2021, The Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day will bring together leaders of major economies, including some of the world’s main polluters. Hosted by Joe Biden, the two-day conference aims to “galvanise efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis”.

In this month of Ramadan, Muslims globally should think deeply about climate change and steps they can take to address the issue.

Ramadan is a time when families and communities come together to celebrate and help each other. Muslims deliver food packages to the needy and recognise the importance of never wasting food, which in turn benefits the environment. Islamic teachings relate to the earth; planting a tree, for example, is like giving to charity, yet many Muslim’s awareness of this is staggeringly narrow. India, for example, has the world’s second highest Muslim population (as of 2018), yet is the world’s 2nd largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is therefore countries like these where education and everyday changes to lifestyle habits are fundamental in helping to address climate change. It is not just the responsibility of a few countries, but of every country and every individual.

Saleha Islam, former Director of The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre – Al Manaar Mosque,  explains that “As Muslims, we have a responsibility to look after the earth as we are seen as its guardians, protecting the planet that gives us life for future generations. Ramadan is the perfect time to truly fulfil that obligation. As well as being grateful for our blessings and helping to alleviate the struggles of those less fortunate than ourselves, we can modify our own behaviour and also contribute to climate change appeals.”

Zakat is an obligatory charity that qualifying Muslims must make every lunar year, but Sadaqah is entirely voluntary and can be performed at any time throughout the year with no stipulation on what, or how much, can be donated.

Islamic Relief was established in 1984 by a group of medical doctors and activists to provide disaster and emergency response, rebuild lives, prepare people in the event of a disaster, and promote sustainable economic and social development to communities of all races, religions and genders. Their significant achievements include initiating the first Islamic Declaration on Climate Change and becoming a founding member of the Muslim Climate Action network – UK-based NGOs working collaboratively to tackle climate change.

Trees are absolutely essential to our survival; they sustain life on earth and help to mitigate the impact of human behaviour on climate change. They absorb harmful pollutants from the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and ozone, while providing a habitat for countless forms of wildlife. Forests also provide more than 86 million green jobs and also support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people. Therefore, investing in forest restoration, particularly in a post-pandemic era, will create more jobs.

Planting a tree seems such a simple concept and yet how many of us do it?

In the 2020 report, The State of the World’s Forests, conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, it is estimated that a staggering 420 million hectares of forest have  been lost through conversion to other land uses since 1990. More than half of the world’s forests are found in five countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Russian Federation and United States of America). This demonstrates the scope for planting millions of climate-appropriate trees in many more countries.

In his book Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet, Ibrahim Abdul Matin said that Muslims should view the Earth as a Mosque and should treasure the environment and Earth in the same way that they care and love places of worship. He said that Muslims are advocated to become good stewards or Khalifas of Earth and ensure the Mizan or balance of the Earth is maintained.

Not only does the planting of trees and plants benefit the environment and physical health but has a positive impact on mental health too. Many studies have shown that green spaces boost feelings of calm and joy and are particularly beneficial for those living in urban areas.

So, I say to Muslim brothers and sisters, this Ramadan, let’s think about the planet. Don’t waste food, use water carefully, reuse, recycle and reduce.  We can use what nature provides but we must avoid waste and excess.  The Earth is not ours to abuse; we need to protect it for future generations.

This Ramadan until the next Ramadan, and every Ramadan, thereafter, be kinder to the planet.

* Rabina Khan is a councillor in Tower Hamlets and Special Advisor to Lib Dem peers. Her book, book My Hair is Pink Under This Veil (BiteBack Publishers) is due out in March 2021.

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  • Please do not confuse the atmospheric gas, carbon dioxide with pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and others.

    Carbon dioxide is naturally occurring and is essential for life because at levels below 150 – 200 ppm, all life on this planet would cease. Sunlight converts CO2 to sugars via photosynthesis and the sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates and more complex molecules. It is the basis of plant food and without it we all die.

    Pollutants are chemicals that have no business being in our atmosphere because they are toxic.

    By confusing these very different substances through ignorance, great damage is caused. The pointless obsession with reducing carbon dioxide means that the more important issues of real pollution are overlooked. I refer to gases like nitrogen dioxide, a gas that is a common product of poorly maintained diesel engines. It produces nitric acid in the lungs in cases of acute poisoning.

    Why did I call reducing CO2 pointless? The gas is distributed between the atmosphere and the oceans. The ratio was always estimated to be about 1 part atmosphere and about 2 parts oceans.

    The precise distribution is determined by the ocean temperature since the solubility of gases in water is governed by Henry’s Law. Carbon dioxide moves from the oceans to the atmosphere as the oceans warm up and vice versa.

    Any contribution by fossil fuels is a tiny addition to this global natural effect.

    The recent pandemic has reduced industry, transport and social activity more than any green global policy could hope to achieve. It has had zero impact on atmospheric CO2 comcentration. Atmospheric Co2 cincentration data measured at Mona Loa shows no change at all. Massive human CO2 emission changes do not even register on the scale.

    This demonstrates that US and UK initiatives are misguided, but then, politicians are into virtue signalling, not reality.

  • Peter Martin 24th Apr '21 - 12:13pm

    @ Peter,

    Give it a rest with your climate change denial.

    The consensus of scientific opinion is that the concentration of CO2 has risen from 280ppmv in the pre-industrial age to about 410ppmv currently due to the burning of fossil fuels. That’s an increase of 46% which isn’t “tiny”.

    We don’t want CO2 levels to fall below 200ppmv because that will make the Earth too cold for comfort. On the other hand we don’t want it to rise much above its pre-industrial level because it will make the Earth too warm for comfort. As even you might appreciate, a warmer Earth will have a more unstable climate and will slowly melt the polar ice caps. Even you might not be too happy if your house is only accessible at low tide.

    You don’t know what you are talking about. So, please, put a sock in it.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Apr '21 - 6:10pm

    You can care for the planet for many reasons. Religious teachings are one. Realising that we are all custodians of the planet regardless of our differences is not only true and also can help to lessen those differences.

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