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Saving the planet: How different religions view the environment




Pope Francis delivers his homily as he celebrates mass in Sibari, in the southern Italian region of Calabria.
Pope Francis delivers his homily as he celebrates mass in Sibari, in the southern Italian region of Calabria.
Vincenzo Pinto /AFP/Getty Images

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Religion and politics are colliding this week with Pope Francis' highly anticipated encyclical expected to be released Thursday. A leaked copy contains specific environmental teachings, calls for increased efforts in the fight against global warming and blames developed nations, like the U.S., for consumerism and waste.

But should religious leaders be involved in such hot-button political issues? Alex Cohen discussed the subject with three local representatives of different faiths.  

Kutter Callaway, Director of Church Relations and an Affiliate Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary agreed with the Pope's view that we need to learn from science but said many faiths are struggling with how to interpret scientific data. "All knowledge now is assumed under empirical science, in a way that is not always helpful or meaningful, because it leads to questions of moral uncertainty. The question now is how do we understand the data and how do we interpret it and incorporate it into our lives.” 

But is it possible to change people's behavior?  Founding rabbi from IKAR, Sharon Brous believes it is the duty of religious leaders to make others aware that this is not only a scientific issue, but also a moral one. “It’s our obligation as people who take religion seriously to step up and defend the poorest and most vulnerable among us who bear the brunt of the environmental devastation and to stand up and protect the earth itself.”

Meanwhile, Mustafa Umar, director of education and outreach at the Islamic Institute of Orange County said the first step to make change is education. He teaches conservation education in his religious community. “We should not abuse the natural world, and when we know that we are harming  people in the future, we should stop doing that.”