Our generation is the first to start feeling the impacts of climate disruption and the last to be able to do something meaningful about it. Despite this, politicians are reprehensively slow to take proportionate action, especially in Australia and the US.
We need to keep the pressure on them, but we need not helplessly wait for politicians to act. Ordinary people and communities have the power to help keep emissions down and thereby help to protect our common home.
“Living the Change: faithful choices for a flourishing world” is a globally-connected community of religious and spiritual institutions working together with sustainable consumption experts to champion sustainable ways of life. The website is: https://livingthechange.net/
Living the Change was initiated at the UN Climate Conference in 2017 by the US-based multi-faith organization, GreenFaith, an interfaith organization whose mission is to educate, organize and mobilise people of diverse faiths to become environmental leaders. Serving to coordinate Living the Change, GreenFaith now has Implementing Partners who collaborate to shape a vision for a worldwide community of practice which drives lifestyle-related emission reductions.
- Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (Multi-faith)
- The Bhumi Project (Hindu) bhumiproject.org
- The Global Catholic Climate Movement (Roman Catholic Christian) catholicclimatemovement.global
- Global Muslim Climate Network (Muslim) muslimclimatenetwork.org
- Hazon (Jewish) hazon.org
- One Earth Sangha (Buddhist) oneearthsangha.org
- World Council of Churches (Protestant and Orthodox Christian) oikoumene.org/en
- World Evangelical Alliance (Evangelical Christian) worldea.org
Can lifestyle change make a difference?
Living the Change emerged, in part, from a study which showed that “if the world's top 10 percent of carbon dioxide emitters were to cut their emissions to the level of the average European Union citizen, global emissions would decline by 33 percent. If the top 20 percent were to do so, the reduction would be about 40 percent.” In other words, while structural change is legitimately pursued as being potentially most effective in creating change, individual behaviour change within a targeted demographic can indeed make a meaningful contribution to stabilizing the climate.
Given that close to six billion people identify with a religion (Pew Research Center, 2017), the opportunity for these groups to create meaningful change through collective action cannot be ignored. In Australia, the 2016 census showed 60% of the population identified with a faith tradition.
There’s also the difference it creates in me, the individual. The more we act in ways congruent with science which tells us that climate disruption is a major threat, the more our determination to make climate action a priority can grow. By acting in line with my values, my integrity grows and, hey, fewer greenhouse gases actually go into the atmosphere! The various faith traditions value individual responsibility, and each person is intrinsically important.
What are people being asked to do?
Through commitments in diet, transportation, and energy use, Living the Change invites individuals to fortify healthy, balanced relationships that help sustain the earth. The three areas where religious leaders and people of faith will be asked to take steps are:
- reduced use of transportation based on fossil fuels, ie, air and road transport
- shifting towards plant-based diets, away from meat-based protein
- energy efficiency and sourcing energy from renewables
Leaders in faith communities are encouraged to make their pledges to lifestyle changes publicly and promote these changes in their communities. We are seeking faith leaders and other role models who can write, speak and/or speak to camera. People of faith inspired by this can also make pledges publicly.
The impact on emissions can be made explicit via carbon footprint measuring tools. These resources will be made available on the ARRCC website over the coming months.
Will there be celebratory moments?
At the Global Climate Action Summit, 12 – 14 September, San Francisco, leaders from across all sectors will gather to collaborate in support of the Paris Accord. This will be the first occasion to present pledges and stories to the world’s leaders and decision-makers. Please make sure you take your pledge before this.
During the week of 7 – 14 October, a Global Week of Commitment is planned, when people’s pledges will be celebrated during 100 events in faith communities around the world. This will be a high point, just prior to the COP24 climate negotiations in December.
We plan to organise five celebratory events in various parts of Australia.
Why make pledges publicly, why not remain private about it?
We especially need people who are relatively wealthy to scale down their carbon footprints, but this fact is not widely accepted in wealthy societies like Australia. It is counter-cultural.
Culture is defined by what is accepted as normal in any given society, which in turn is defined by the common practice of its citizens. If citizens more commonly use public transport than drive a car, then it is more normal to catch public transport than drive a car. We shift culture by doing things differently and letting others know we are doing things differently.
Right now, the earth needs human society to shift towards plant-based protein in our diets, the use of public transport and using renewable sources of energy. To create this shift, there needs to be a shift in what is considered ‘normal’, a shift in culture.
We know that faith leaders help shape culture, so we need them to step up and take a lead with this cultural shift towards sustainability. There is limited benefit in making lifestyle changes privately. It is by making the changes public that the shift in culture can be created.
How does Living the Change relate to our spiritual traditions?
According to Gopal D. Patel, Director of the Bhumi Project: "Hindus are encouraged to lead lives that uphold and sustain the natural order and balance of the world. Sustainability, therefore, is a central pillar of Hindu life."
Dr. Chris Elisara, Director of the Creation Care Task Force for the World Evangelical Alliance: "Evangelicals caring for God’s creation know that our faith-consistent personal choices are important. Choices like eating more plant-based meals or changing our driving or flying habits are not easy, and they are often counter- cultural, but they are ways we can be faithful to God’s calling on our lives to care for the gift of creation."
Kristin Barker, Director and Co-Founder of One Earth Sangha: "The Buddhist tradition teaches that each of us is deeply woven into the web of life; we are not separate. The suffering of others is ultimately our suffering, so each of us has a direct interest in reversing climate change.”
Nana Firman, Co-Founder of Global Muslim Climate Network: "We live at a time of unprecedented catastrophic destruction to people and the natural world. As Muslims, we are obligated by our faith and by our shared humanity to stand up and make the changes necessary to avoid further future disasters. Together with people of other faiths, we must show that there is a better way as stewards upon this earth."
 http://www.carbonneutraluniversity.org/delivering-on-2-degrees---kevin-anderson.html and http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/40237-mitigating-climate-disaster-will-require-both-systemic-and-lifestyle-changes