The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it
——–Genesis 2:15 – NIV
In 1983, the former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, was engaged as the head of the new World Commission on Environment and Development by the United Nations. After decades of efforts to raise living standards through industrialization, many countries still struggled to deal with extreme poverty. It seemed that economic development at the cost of ecological health and social equity did not lead to long-lasting prosperity. It was clear that the
world needed to find a way to harmonize ecology with prosperity. After four years, the “Brundtland Commission” released its final report, Our Common Future. It brilliantly defines sustainable development as: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The commission did a good job by unifying environmentalism with both social and economic concerns within the world`s development agenda.
In 2010, the Academic Advisory Committee for the Office of Sustainability at the University of Alberta, Canada put together a working definition of sustainability as: the process of living within the limits of available physical, natural and social resources in ways that allow the living systems in which humans are embedded to thrive in perpetuity.
The social and economic pillars are both dependent on the environment as any harm caused the environment will distort any existing harmony in society or any form of economic gains. Environmental sustainability is therefore crucial in our dispensation.
Ecological integrity is maintained, all of earth’s environmental systems are kept in balance while natural resources within them are consumed by humans at a rate where they are able to replenish themselves.
Three (3) Pillars of Sustainability
Roles of Faith Actors
Faith Actors have a well-established reputation in society providing socio-economic services to local communities in the areas of welfare, education, health, and disaster relief, focusing on the poor and marginalized. Values and faith-based lifestyles have demonstrated that sustainable local impact at all levels of society can be achieved. In some places, unwavering synergy is demonstrated between political and religious leadership.
There are many crucial roles Faith Actors or Faith-based organizations can play in sustaining the environment.
- Awareness Creation
Faith Actors can collaborate with civil society organizations, traditional leaders, non-governmental organizations and the media in the communities for advocacy on creation care. There can be durbars, crusades, and other forms of gathering to solicit views and educate citizens on how to take care of the environment after tilling it.
Aside verbal discourse, the group can develop flyers, posters and also leverage cinemas and documentary to drum home the need to ensure that the environment is crucially protected from negative and hazardous practices.
- Data Collection facilitation
Faith Actors can leverage their convening power to build trust and facilitate communication between communities and local governments to enable smooth data collection drives. Faith-based organizations can map quality and quantity of core services, along with community needs. They can advocate for data transparency and accountability in government. They can facilitate coalitions between civil society organizations, local governments, academic institutions, the private sector and community leaders in order to form a comprehensive database of information that can be used to advocate for community needs.
Communities can develop great trust in Faith Actors and help fight environmental hazards, if organizations leverage data to help these people secure basic needs in the community.
- Investment and targeted funding
Faith Actors can help connect communities with funding and investments. They can also partner with local governments, private funders and civil society organizations in developing programmes and monitoring their impact. Moreover, as institutions with considerable physical and financial assets, faith-based organizations themselves have the potential to serve as investors, directing funding toward projects that promote sustainable environmental practices in farming, mining, quarrying, etc. This can greatly help with sustainable livelihoods whilst maintaining integrity of the environment within the communities.
- Creating diverse coalitions
Faith Actors can facilitate coalitions of diverse stakeholders. Further, these organizations can work together to ensure peace and reduce conflict within communities. Faith Actors can form “Leaders of Influence” to help champion sustainable practices. Moreover, more conversation between faith, government and development leaders can enhance the efficacy and technical skills of faith-based organizations while improving government and development actors’ abilities to engage at the grassroots level. This will create avenues to influence society deeper and ensure sustainability at all levels especially with that of the environment.
- Community development through owned assets and land
For centuries, faith-based organizations have provided critical community services such as education and healthcare. These may include shelters during a crisis, vegetable gardens, or rehabilitation centers for homeless or displaced individuals. In sub-Saharan Africa for example, faith-based organizations provide approximately 40% of healthcare services. Faith-based organizations also own and manage substantial assets, including buildings, land and finance, that can support sustainable development. This can be leveraged upon to help create alternative livelihoods for the communities and eventually divert attention from environmental harm through illegal practices.
- Becoming Ambassadors and Influencers
Leaders of Faith-based organizations can become ambassadors and influencers of environmental sustainability through leadership initiatives that makes them responsible. They can greatly lead by example through campaigns, peaceful protests with branded paraphernalia, edutainment in schools and churches, and advocacy via the media landscape. As the Holy Bible speaks off becoming ambassadors for Christ, they can become ambassadors for Christ by promoting ecological theology (theocology) on the pulpit and in the streets.
- Developing literature for members of the church
Faith Actors can initiate a programme where literature on environmental sustainability is developed as part of Bible study material for example, to be given to members. Various topics on the ecology like tree planting can be developed by experts to enable members have a handy, simple and yet quality document to help educate them on healthy environmental practices. It will become a companion that will help immensely to add up to the message on the pulpit that God`s first call to man was to take care of the environment (Gen. 2:15).
Many ecosystems around the world, from forests to coral reefs, are in decline, victims of pollution, climate change and resource extraction. But Faith Actors are increasingly stepping in to help repair these natural spaces. In many cases, religious leaders have become environmental influencers, championing nature-based solutions that experts say are crucial to saving the ecosystems that underpin human society.
The motivations behind sustainability are often complex, personal and diverse. It is unrealistic to create a list of reasons why so many individuals, groups and communities are working towards this goal. Yet, for most people, sustainability comes down to the kind of future we are leaving for the next generation.
Sustainability as a value is shared by many individuals and organizations who demonstrate this value in their policies, everyday activities and behaviours. Individuals have played a major role in developing our current environmental and social circumstances. The people of today along with future generations must create solutions and adapt.
https://www.mcgill.ca/sustainability/files/sustainability/what-is-sustainability.pdf [Accessed June 1, 2023]
https://www.wri.org/insights/faith-organizations-cities-sustainability [Accessed June 1, 2023]
https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/faith-groups-help-save-disappearing-forests [Accessed May 31, 2023]
https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/how-faith-based-organizations-are-restoring-nature [Accessed May 26, 2023]
https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/100551/1/MPRA_paper_100551.pdf [Accessed June 1, 2023]
https://www.amherst.edu/system/files/media/0972/fulltext.pdf [Accessed June 1, 2023]
About the Writer
Ebenezer specializes in Development Communication, International Development, Innovative Finance for SMEs and Sustainability.