Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Religious Environmentalism and Environmental Sustainability in Asia

Anthony Le Duc



The phase of the eight millennium development goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations at the beginning of 2000 has given way to the program of seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs) ratified in 2015, to be implemented until 2030. While the number of SDGs is more than twice that of MDGs and more comprehensive in outlook, examination of the individual goals indicates that most if not all of the SDGs are either directly related to environmental sustainability or indirectly concerned with the quality of the environment. This is not surprising because nations have realized, if somewhat late, that human well-being cannot be dissociated from the quality of ecosystems. The escalating global environmental crisis threatens economic and social stability and makes the innate human desire for happiness even more difficult to attain. The issue, moreover, has grown into something that cannot be confined to a single or even a few sectors of society, or that can be adequately addressed by politicians or scientists alone. Rather, achieving environmental sustainability, which is an essential component of the SDGs program, requires an interdisciplinary, dialectical, and dialogical approach involving a diverse collection of individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions. Political will, social and economic reforms, scientific and technological know-how, and religious and personal commitment are all part of the effort to address the environmental woes of the modern era. The role and contribution of religious systems and traditions for the achievement of SDGs , particularly in Asia, is the focus of this chapter. This chapter aims to present the following: (1) stating the reasons why religion is essential to the aspirations of the SDGs in Asia and (2) exploring how the major religions in Asia can contribute to promoting environmental sustainability by providing a framework for (a) assessing the root cause of environmental destruction; (b) envisioning a religious-based approach to how human beings could relate to the natural environment; and (c) presenting how religion promotes harmonious human-nature relationship through a program of self-cultivation and self-transformation . This chapter hopes to demonstrate that the task of achieving the SDGs in Asia is tied with the concern of religion and progress depends greatly on the improved state of human moral and spiritual well-being that religion aims to promote.

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