Gosia Luszczek

CLIMATE CHANGE AND RELIGION (Ireland) Category: Climate Change

YRE Competition 2022
2nd Place - Article
19-25 years old

By Kate Burke

There’s a Hadith in Islam where the Prophet Muhammed taught that, “even if the sun has risen on the Day of Judgement, you still have the chance to plant a tree.”

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, founder of the Islamic Centre Ireland and climate activist, referred to it when speaking to The Green News, and spoke of how people of faith draw on a very strong inspiration from their religion to be responsible inhabitants of the earth. 

Within his own life, Al-Qadri has made significant changes to the Islamic Centre Ireland in terms of sustainability, noting that these practical, small steps matter, but that governments and multinationals need to step up. 

Contrary to the secularisation thesis of the early 20th century, religion is an integral part of daily life for the majority of the world’s population – and that’s projected to increase. By 2050, it’s estimated that 87 per cent of people will identify as being religious, so secular life is very much the exception rather than the rule. 

And for those leading and participating in religious communities, there’s a growing belief that religion is an underutilised tool when it comes to addressing the climate crisis.

For Dr Ciara Murphy, an environmental policy advocate with The Jesuit Centre of Faith and Justice, climate and social justice fits in with religion because there is the sense of “caring for a common home.” 

“I think science is good at explaining what we need to do – and the religious aspect is good at the ‘why’ we should do this,” she said. 

Within Christianity, there has been a growing movement for climate justice, largely attributed to the fact that climate crisis itself is an “issue of justice”, according to theologian Ruth Valerio

Christian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe has also cited the Christian doctrine of easing suffering as being a cornerstone of her decision to work on the issue. 

However, nowadays Christianity tends to be most prevalent and dominant in western regions where consumerism also thrives alongside it, which has made figures like John Grim, one of the founders of the religion and climate school of thought, call into question the so-called ‘rationality’ of the Homo-economicus. 

Just what kind of rational creature consumes so much and so carelessly that they leave their planet – their home – burning in their wake? 

And while there are figures within the Christian faith working towards climate justice the worldover, by-and-large many followers take on an anthropocentric lens when it comes to their own relationship with nature, which is a sharp contrast to other faith traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Indigenous faiths where humanity is a central to nature, not outside of it. 

Within most religions there is also the concept of the afterlife – an eternal next place that for many is determined by how our lives are lived here on earth. 

Assistant Professor at the School of Religion in Trinity College Dublin Dr Cathriona Russell observed that imagining paradise or heaven is a speculative exercise in theology, and the idea of paradise as a garden is one common among the religions. Notably, these locations are usually green, flourishing and abundant – a realm where nature is thriving. 

There’s also the fact that for many strands of faith life here on earth is temporary and the afterlife is permanent, so perhaps “people assume that means that faith communities probably wouldn’t really care about what’s happening in this life…[because] the Day of Judgement is going to come anyway,” according to Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri. 

But he noted that this is in fact not the case in Islam, and referred back to the Hadith mentioned above and stressed that every day on earth we must, “protect the environment. We have to be those that are responsible and not those that create chaos in the world, no matter how long we live on Earth”. 

But perhaps most importantly, given its far-reaching influence and long-standing traditions, religion has the ability to bring “hope to the table,” according to Dr. Ciara Murphy. 

“And it’s not a hope that things will just change. It’s the hope that we need to work towards change. It’s a hope and a kind of guiding force to change,” she said.


https://greennews.ie/when-it-comes-to-action-on-the-climate-crisis-where-does-religion-fit-in/ Cover Photo Credit: Alexander Cifuente - Unsplash

Source: https://bahaiteachings.org/combatting-climate-change-science-religion/

LESS IS MORE FOR PEACE BAY (Slovakia) Category: Loss of Biodiversity

YRE Competition 2022
3rd Place - Article
19-25 years old

By Michal Mazánik


This natural location in the Trenčín region, located near the city centre, was neglected and polluted for a long time. The situation changed in 2011, when activists from the Centre for Environmental Activities (CEA) began to take care of the space. They transformed the previously unsavoury bay into an environment that ranks among the most sought-after recreational places in the city.

Vanda Mokráňová has been part of the community of volunteers for several years. She sees their work as a way to contribute to a better city and more attractive public space for herself and others: "Young people come here, people with dogs, they sit along the river or have a picnic. In the middle of the city, they find nature and birdsong," she says. In 2021, a municipal protected area of Trenčiansky Luh was declared near the place where construction is to take place.

The main justification for protecting the Trenčiansky Luh is that the floodplain forests on the river Váh River are wetland habitats of European importance. They are home to dozens of species of birds, mammals and amphibians.


On sunny spring days, this natural area is a popular place to relax. (Two weeks before the reconstruction began.)


Volunteers fear that once the investment is complete, the territory will turn into a space that ordinary people will not have access to during times of athletic training. They point out that the project lacks toilet facilities and drinking water for athletes, which cannot be built here because the location is a flood zone. According to a member of the initiative, Klaudia Medalová, a sports facility suitable for organizing races of young athletes would make more sense at one of the primary schools.

In addition to the restoration of the current running oval, the project is to include the construction of two multi-functional playgrounds, a landing pit, and a shot put area. The clay surface of the track is to be replaced by Tartan [polyurethane]. Changing the surface of the running track is one of the reasons the natural character of the site could be disrupted. Also, during athletic training sessions, passage to the bay may not be possible through the running oval.

Erika Sagová, a spokeswoman for the city of Trenčín, sees no reason for concern: "The sports facility will primarily serve the general public. We do not believe that it is necessary to build toilets and other facilities there. People will come, do sports, and leave." She emphasizes that  playgrounds and other recreational areas, such as apartment block courtyards, do not have toilet facilities.


Due to the construction of the sports facility, the bay will be almost inaccessible to the public during the summer of 2022.


Opinions vary among council members. Richard Medal, director of the CEA and member of the City Council, stresses that the original proposal, which would have been welcomed by the ZátOKa volunteers, was for just the restoration of the clay surface on the running oval. It was supposed to be reconstructed in half profile, for recreational runners.

"I think locating a training space in this area, or even a racing facility for athletics, is not right. Trenčín deserves a proper big track for running," Medal said. The project approved by the City for ZátOKa pOKoja, he describes as a "toy imitation".

Since the construction of the Vah Cycling Path is planned in the immediate vicinity next year, one can expect the Tartan track to be damaged in a few months, he said. Consequently, public resources will have to be spent repeatedly on repairs. Trenčín's spokeswoman Sagová responded, "The project plan includes the construction of the Vah Cycling Path. If they damage our track or anything else when building the route for cyclists, they (Trenčín Regional Government) will have to repair it." However, it is still the taxpayers' money that might be wasted.  


The location is a pleasant alternative for Trenčín's residents to the hot and busy streets of the city.


Trenčín resident Janka came to ZátOKa for a walk with her young daughters. She views the announced sports facility positively, because the playground will be used by children and youth: "I don't mind, a lot of people don't come here today, maybe it's better if athletes use it. If there was a training event, we'd take the kids to one of the other playgrounds in the city."

However, Vanda Mokráňová believes that the space has already found its best purpose: "I have always said during meetings that I do not understand why interfere with a space that does not need it. You've got a lot of music here for very little money." In addition to community benefits, this natural element in the central part of town also has another important effect. Richard Medal, Radovan Jambor and Sylvia Mertanová, the drafters of the explanatory memorandum to the proposal for the declaration of the municipal protected area of Trenčiansky Luh, with which ZátOKa is physically and functionally linked, are in agreement. "It is of huge importance in terms of its location in the middle of the city. It performs important eco-stabilisation, health and psychogenic functions, as well as cooling the overheated urban environment," the report said.