A version of this post originally appeared at The Jakarta Post on June 22, 2019.
A recent global survey found that Indonesia has the highest percentage of climate change deniers in the world. Among Indonesian respondents, 18 percent were deniers, followed by Saudi Arabians (16 percent) and Americans (13 percent). This is an alarming revelation compared to expressed commitments of the government to address climate change even before joining the Paris Agreement in 2016.
An international internet-based market research and data analytics firm, the YouGov-Cambridge Center, partnered with The Guardian daily and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom to produce the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project. This study on populism and globalization includes national samples, each comprising about 1,000 people in 23 countries.
Psychology studies have explained that the reason people reject indubitable science like climate change is not ignorance, but because they “cherry pick” the facts that back up what they already believe to be true.
This means that something needs to be strengthened in the current science communication strategy. Finding out what climate skeptics can agree on and then frame climate messages to align with those is important.
In Indonesia, religion could be an entry point. A PEW research found that 84 percent of Indonesians practice religion daily. Religious values and teachings thus could increase awareness and engage individuals to perform environmentally friendly behavior. Unfortunately, we rarely hear from clerics about the issue.
According to Islamic teachings, everything in the environment is a sign from God. Yet, human activities have caused environmental destruction and degradation.
So, people should learn from that history, as reflected in Surah Ar-Rum verse 41-42. One noted translation reads: “Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of [the evil] which men´s hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return.”
In addressing environmental damages and the threats of climate change, Muslims, though belatedly, could also refer to Surah Al-A’raf, which invites people to manage natural resources in a more sustainable way. It states: “As for the good land, vegetation comes forth in abundance by the command of its Lord, whereas from the bad land, only poor vegetation comes forth. Thus, do We expound Our signs in diverse ways for a people who are grateful.”
Though Ramadan has passed, it should still be utilized to enhance the connection between religious values, lifestyle and efforts to improve the environment, a time for delivering environmental education and learning for sustainability.
We should continue to learn to control ourselves and try to make changes — as small as creating a shopping list and a meal plan to avoid impulsive buying and freezing leftover food — to dramatically decrease the level of waste or mubazir (irresponsible consumption that leads to waste).
Following the plastic-filled days of breaking the fast, mosques and other faith institutions, government bodies, NGOs and anyone organizing meals should avoid plastic packages, Styrofoam and other single-use packages when serving meals.
These practices can reduce the increase of daily waste, which estimates showed to have increased by 4 to 6 percent in Bekasi, West Java, and Jakarta during Ramadan. Such actions would also reduce the volume of plastic waste that is tossed annually into the ocean, which we have seen can kill sea animals.
Religiously inclined people should be aware that environmental preservation is an inherent part of religion or religiosity. Buddhism emphasizes a mindset that creates a productive and cooperative relationship between humans and nature.
In Catholicism, priests can utilize the Pope’s 2015 encyclical that was found to be successful in increasing awareness on environmental issues. For Christians, working with a broad range of Christian institutions that are engaged in the environmental movement and contemporary environmental concerns is commendable strategy.
In Balinese Hindu, Trihita Karana can be internalized to improve good connections between people, God and the environment.
The involvement of educational figures and religious leaders is important to internalize an ecofriendly lifestyle, increasing awareness on environmental issues, as well as making people realize the current climate crisis. It is indeed the responsibility of all believers to protect the Earth as a home that needs to be preserved.