Different Traditions, One Planet

Religion influences numerous lifestyle choices that impact the environment. Childbearing decisions and the use of contraceptives, whether people see climatic change as human-caused, consumption patterns and willingness to take action to abate environmental degradation are all shaped by someone’s religious tradition and outlook.

In order to understand the relationship between religion and climate change, it may be helpful to understand some of the basic teachings of five religious traditions on the topic of earth care.

Dharma. Good works. The divine path. Divine commandments. Promoting right and forbidding wrong. Grace. Harmony. Oneness. Stewardship. Each of these concepts represent different ways of framing the imperative to work for climate justice. Regardless of religious tradition, each contains different stories of humanity’s relationship with the planet and point toward how the earth is a sacred trust with concurrent human duties towards it.

Below is a summary of some spiritual sentiments expressed in a diverse range of religious traditions.


It’s important to note that not all people who identify as Baháʼí believe the same thing; in fact, no one adherent can make claims of faith for another. But broadly, Baháʼí teaches a rejection of materialism. Instead, it teaches that the path to oneness is not through wealth, but through moderation and humility. Baháʼís believe that human hearts are inherently intertwined with the world – we affect and are affected by it. We are interdependent and coexistent. God is present in nature and God’s glory is revealed in nature’s diversity. To permit humanity to destroy that creation in the name of materialism is to turn our back on our teachings.

Reporting on Baháʼí responses to climate change would take these broad beliefs into account, without suggesting that all Baha’is believe the same thing. The teachings of Baháʼí are rooted in the sacred texts called The Kitáb-i-Aqdas written by Baháʼu’lláh, the founder of the religion.

Baháʼís are regularly involved in multi-faith — or interreligious — efforts at addressing climate change or advocating for more action on the part of governments across the world.

Example Coverage

Religious leaders talk climate action in Israel ahead of COP27

By Rina Bassist, Al-Monitor

November 30, 2022

(Al-Monitor) – Israeli religious leaders gathered today at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, ahead of the UN Climate Conference COP27 next week in Sharm al-Sheikh. Participants included Vatican’s Ambassador to Israel and Cyprus Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, Orot Shaul Yeshiva head Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Baha’i Jerusalem representative David Freeman, Druze imam Jaber Mansour and many others. The special event was organized in collaboration with the Israeli nongovernmental organization the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

The interfaith conference focused on the role of religious leadership in dealing with climate change, with the goal of empowering religious communities both in Israel and globally to curb climate change and promoting the use of renewable energy. Participants signed a Jerusalem Climate Declaration calling for urgent action to mitigate climate change.

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Buddhist Traditions

Buddhist traditions (see the Reporting Guide on Buddhism) affirm that life includes suffering, including the adverse impacts of climate change.

But they also point toward a path to the end of suffering. This path includes right action, the imperative to act with moral clarity in the face of injustice, and right speech, the imperative to speak truth. It teaches that all living things are connected and that how we treat other living things has a profound effect on our enlightenment and our karma.

Karma (action that has future consequences) and detachment from the world in order to seek a path to the end of suffering are two concepts to consider when reporting on Buddhist responses to climate change.

Buddhism relies on the teachings of the Buddha. Other Buddhists also follow the teachings and leadership of the Dalai Lama on climate and environmentalism, though he is the leader of only one sect of the tradition. 

The Bodhi tree is often used as a symbol in eco-buddhism; the tree is where the Buddha reached enlightenment. As such, it is a central symbol of Buddhist traditions. 

Example Coverage

The Dalai Lama Offers A Take On Climate Change: ‘Promote Vegetarianism’

By Reena Advani, NPR

November 11, 2020 

(NPR) – The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, is 85, and he wants to warn us of something: We must take care of our planet.”

It’s logical,” he tells NPR’s Morning Edition on a video call from his home in Dharamshala, India.

He just co-authored Our Only Home, a book about climate change. In Buddhism, trees are sacred; they sheltered Buddha during his birth, his enlightenment and his death. In the Himalayas, against whose backdrop the Dalai Lama lives, glaciers are melting. Billions of people in China and India depend on them for water.

One step toward helping to combat climate change, he says, is to stop eating meat. Cattle produce methane, a greenhouse gas and contributor to global warming. It also takes a lot of land to grow food to feed livestock, making meat production a leading cause of deforestation.

“Not only is it a question of a sense of love [of these animals] but itself, you see, very bad for ecology,” he says. “The beef farm, I really feel very uncomfortable. Large number of animal only for food. We should promote vegetarianism as much as we can.”


Christian responses to climate change range across a wide spectrum, often dependent on the tradition being considered.

Roman Catholic Christians are globally guided by Pope Francis’ encyclical (or official letter) “Laudato Si’,” which points to the interconnectedness of all life and the faithful vocation (or role in life) of taking care of the planet and all living things. Protestant denominations determine responses to climate change and the environment through different governing bodies. However, these traditions rely on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the movement of a Holy Spirit and a God that most Christians see as the Creator of everything. There is also a history of Christians following a “social gospel” in the United States – that is, a biblical understanding that says practitioners make the world a better place for all, especially people who are marginalized. 

In reporting on Christianity and climate change, one might also need to pay attention to how certain readings and interpretations of the “Old Testament” (or Hebrew Scriptures, also part of the Christianity’s religious texts) have led to harmful planetary destruction. These interpretations have led some Christians to believe (and act upon) that the earth is temporary and meant for human consumption. This belief is most prevalent in evangelical and more conservative versions of Christianity (though is part of other strands as well). 

Reporting tip: like other religious traditions, there are many different forms of Christianity. The moral authority of the leaders of one stream do not carry the same weight in other streams.

Example Coverage

Wanted: Creation Care Coordinator for Major British Evangelical Church

By Ken Chitwood, Christianity Today

September 16, 2022

Image: Google Maps

(Christianity Today) – The job ad was a little different than the ones normally posted by London’s largest churches. It wasn’t for a pastor, priest, choir director, or organist. Instead, the large evangelical Anglican congregation wanted an environmental project manager.

Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), perhaps best known as the birthplace of the evangelistic Alpha course, has advertised a position for someone who will help “oversee the strategy, planning and execution of HTB’s approach to Creation Care.” The individual will work closely with other lead team members to put an “environmental response at the heart of church life.”

Jobs like this at places like HTB are notable, said Jo Chamberlain, national environment policy officer for the Church of England. Such roles, she said, signal a sea change. Evangelical churches in the UK—and perhaps elsewhere—are embracing the critical importance of creation care and environmental stewardship at the congregational level.

“People are recognizing that we have to get our house in order,” Chamberlain said. “We can’t just talk about taking care of creation without doing the work and changing the way we do things.”

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There are some climate and environmental organizers, activists, and actors who draw on spirituality to work on climate change issues but do not claim allegiance to any organized religious tradition. Some people may draw on aspects of religion – without seeing themselves as strict adherents – while others may see themselves as acting as a person of good will, or as an ally to people in religious communities. Some members of this group identify as “interfaith practitioners,” which means that they are guided by rituals (or practices) of many different religions and traditions. Still others may identify as a member of a particular religious tradition (e.g., Roman Catholic), but still claim the moniker of “ecospirituality.” 

Featuring a blend of ecology and spirituality, ecospiritualists emphasize the spiritual connection between human beings and the environment and the essential interrelated and interconnected web of all life and matter.

Reporting tip: Some of these actors appropriate indigenous traditions, so reporting on climate change and eco-spirituality needs to pay attention to the origins of the practices being covered.

Example Coverage

Ecospirituality is more than ecology and theology. It calls us to reconnect.

By Barbara Fraser, National Catholic Reporter (Commentary)

February 10, 2022

(National Catholic Reporter) A spirituality closely bound to God’s creation has deep roots in Scripture, where in Genesis God separates light from darkness and water from sky, then creates all plants and creatures of Earth and sea and sees how good it is.

A bee hovers over flowers in front of a crucifix at a cemetery in Santiago, Chile, Feb. 18, 2021. (CNS photo/Ivan Alvarado, Reuters)

The Book of Job, among others, picks up the theme, telling of a God who speaks intimately of the constellations, the many forms water takes, the wisdom of the ibis and the hunger of lions, and the reproductive cycle of deer, bears and mountain goats — but has a rather low opinion of the stork’s common sense.

A couple of millennia later, St. Francis of Assisi added his voice to those who recognize the interconnectedness of all things, despite the pain of his own illness, finding God in — and praising God through — all of creation, including the sun, moon and stars, wind, water, fire and the Earth itself.

So it’s not surprising that Pope Francis, the saint’s namesake, echoes that idea in his own writings, especially his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” and Querida Amazonia, the apostolic exhortation that grew out of the 2019 synod for the Amazon.

With his emphasis on integral ecology, Francis ties care for God’s creation to our economic, political, social and religious priorities. In a lot of ways, with this pope, ecospirituality has gone mainstream.

The prefix “eco-” before “spirituality” comes from the Greek oikos, meaning home — a reminder that “this house is the only one we have, we’re all together, what happens in Kolkata affects New York, Santiago in Chile, and São Paulo,” Divine Word Fr. Fernando Díaz of Chile told EarthBeat.

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Hindu Traditions

Hindus generally teach that life is defined by a sense of duty — to families, to communities, and to the Divine. Hindus recognize the earth itself as one of the faces of God. For example, some Hindus begin the day with a prayer of gratitude to the Goddess of all, Mahadevi, for allowing them to walk upon her surface with their feet.

In Hindu traditions there is a belief that all of creation is an aspect of the Divine, all of it is connected. That is why the Vedas teach “Vruksho Rakshathi Rakshithaha,” meaning “the trees protect you if you protect them.” The core teaching of all of the epics (or mythology), including the Ramayana to the Mahabharata, is that adherents must take such responsibility seriously. 

Reporting tip: Some Hindu traditions are rooted in the teachings of the Vedas (their sacred text) and seeking dharma, or right action and belief in the world. Other traditions reject these sacred texts in favor of right action and devotion (puja).

Example Coverage

An ‘old-school Hindu’ takes on the future of climate

By Kevin Douglas Grant, Religion News Service

December 5, 2022

(Religion News Service) – Nearly two decades ago, at the age of 21, Gopal Patel moved into an ashram on the banks of the River Ganges to study the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s foundational Scriptures.

One of just a handful of Indian students at a “very racist” high school in England, he said, Patel, now 39, found comfort in the epic conversation between the sacred text’s warrior prince Arjuna and the god Krishna.

“It made me go into myself and try to discern who I was as a person, my identity and my cultural background,” Patel said. “By the time I finished reading it, I was like, ‘I want to give my life to this.’”

Today Patel lives in Montclair, New Jersey, a short commute from New York City, and travels the world as the founder of Bhumi Global, a faith-based environmental movement rooted in Hindu principles. The organization, named for the Hindu goddess who represents Earth, focuses on the “triple crisis” of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

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Indigenous Spiritualities and Communities

There are indigenous communities around the world, many of whom connect their religious and spiritual traditions, rituals, and teachings to the planet as a whole and to the specific regions in which they live.

In many modern nations (though not all), indigenous communities have been forced from their original lands or to give up their practices. At the same time, indigenous communities from around the world are often depicted as having romanticized relationships to the planet, while leading lives of subsistence.

They are often lumped together across indigenous identities and nations; when reporting on indigenous spiritual communities, identify communities as they want to be identified. 

Example Coverage

Across the US, Native Americans are fighting to preserve sacred land

By Alejandra Molina and Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

December 5, 2022

(RNS) – In what they call a “holy war” to save their sacred site in Arizona known as Oak Flat, the Apache people have gathered in prayer with other Native American tribes, even those they’ve historically been pitted against, such as the Akimel O’odham, or River People, of the southwestern United States.

Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management/Creative Commons

They’ve formed a coalition of Native peoples named Apache Stronghold and bonded with Christians and other religious leaders as they seek to stop the land from being transferred to Resolution Copper, a company owned by the British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto.

Now, at a three-day meeting beginning Wednesday (Nov. 30), Apache Stronghold is hoping to unite its cause with other similar Native American groups that are working to preserve land they deem sacred.

The Sacred Sites Summit in Tucson, Arizona, will offer sessions on Native religion and spirituality, the history of colonization and capitalism, and the destruction mining wreaks on a landscape. The summit will also highlight the efforts tribes are making to protect areas from the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah to Quechan Indian Pass in California.

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Among Muslims, there is a clear call for action to protect the environment and to fight against climate change.

The Quran (Islam’s principle holy text) teaches adherents that God created humanity from earth and settled humans on the planet in order to cultivate the earth. It tells us that we are appointed as the guardians upon the earth, and we are responsible for it.

The Quran also calls adherents to recognize that God established the natural world in a life-sustaining balance which humans should both respect and protect. The Quran furthermore recognizes that people are responsible for all forms of human wrongdoing, including effects on land, sea and air.

To integrate such values into their personal lives, more and more Muslims try to change their own personal consumption habits to walk more lightly on earth. 

Reporting tip: Many counties that are oil-rich are also heavily Muslim. Avoid assuming that all Muslims are the same and have similar thoughts on oil; avoid language and depictions of Muslims that play into global stereotypes around terrorism or “oil sheikhs.” 

Example Coverage

Can Indonesia’s Muslim leaders help combat climate change?

By Michael Taylor, Reuters

August 17, 2022

(Reuters) – From packed mosques during Friday prayers to the classrooms of thousands of Islamic boarding schools, Indonesia’s Muslim leaders have been urged to use their sermons and influence to boost conservation efforts and win over climate change sceptics.

Activists take part in a protest urging governments to act against climate change and social injustice in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The country’s top Muslim representatives met last month at Southeast Asia’s biggest mosque, the Istiqlal in the capital Jakarta, to discuss ways to raise awareness about global warming and develop climate solutions linked to Islamic teachings.

The leaders also established a forum – the Muslim Congress for a Sustainable Indonesia – and called for community donations, including alms, to be used to help fund such efforts.

Green campaigners say Muslim leaders and imams can play a key role in fostering greater understanding and action on climate change – and also work with governments to focus on sustainability, not just economic development, in policy.

“Imams or religious leaders are really respected and highly listened to in Indonesia – they can have a big impact on both government policy and citizen action,” said Jeri Asmoro, Indonesia digital campaigner at climate activist group 350.org.

“Imams could affect a lot of social change … seeding awareness of environmentally-friendly life and propelling the climate movement at the grassroots level,” he added.

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The Torah (the core religious teachings of Judaism) teaches adherents that the connection to the earth is sacred. For example, the Torah includes begins with a story of how humanity is first shaped from the earth itself by God’s hand. The earliest prophets were shepherds and farmers who understood deeply their responsibility to care for the divine gift of creation. They remembered that the punishment for humanity’s early sins was a Great Flood. God promised Noah he would never punish humanity that way again.

But God never promised to stop humans from doing it to ourselves. That’s up to humanity, says Judaism.

Jews are moved by the teachings of the Torah and the Talmud, see themselves as the chosen people of God, and have many teachings and festivals that rely on the earth and human connection to it. These festivals include Sukkot (or a celebration of harvest) and Tu BiShvat (celebration of the trees and is often viewed as a Jewish Earth day.) Each of these holidays are celebrated in different ways by different strands of Judaism.

One thing to note (and avoid) is the anti-semitic trope of how Jews control the world, financial systems and global power. Nuance your reporting to avoid unintentionally hitting this pitfall, especially in relationship to climate finance.

Example Coverage

3 rabbis arrested at climate change protest outside Wall Street giant BlackRock

By Julia Gergely, The Times of Israel

October 20, 2021

(The Times of Israel) – Three rabbis and six Jewish teenagers were among those arrested on Monday at a climate protest at the Manhattan headquarters of BlackRock, the largest investment management company in New York.

Israelis attend a rally calling to stop the use with Fossil fuel, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, December 18, 2020. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

The demonstration, organized by the Jewish Youth Climate Movement with support from the interfaith organization GreenFaith, demanded the firm stop its investments in and cut ties with companies that fund the fossil fuel industry, which include Enbridge, Inc., Formosa Plastics, and Shell.

Rabbis Rachel Timoner and Stephanie Kolin of Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, vice president of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, were among those arrested.

“Judaism’s highest priority is saving lives,” said Timoner in a statement. “The Jewish youth who are leading us today understand that we are in a life or death moment, that we must divest from fossil fuels now in order to save lives.”

The Jewish Youth Climate Movement, founded by the Jewish environmental group Hazon in 2019, is a Gen Z-led movement dedicated to combating climate change and environmental injustice from a Jewish lens.