“I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy … and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation — and we scientists don’t know how to do that.” – Gus Speth, former United Nations Development Programme (UNEP) Administrator, 2014.
Already globally recognized each year as Earth Day, April 22 was officially declared by the UN as International Mother Earth Day in 2009. This day is one of many days and initiatives, such as World Wetlands Day (February 2), that the UN has established to address environmental issues. One such environmental project, not widely covered by the mainstream media, is the UN’s Faith for Earth Initiative, a global coalition of interfaith actors that work together to focus faith resources on the environment.
Referring to the UN’s resolve in 2008 to focus more attention on “interreligious and intercultural dialogue,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) declares on its Faith for Earth Initiative website that “spiritual values for more than 80% of the people living on earth have been driving individual behaviors.”
It follows that spiritual values drive behaviors toward the environment, as well, and thus the Faith for Earth Initiative was born in November 2017.
The initiative’s mission is “to encourage, empower and engage with faith-based organizations as partners, at all levels, toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfilling the 2030 Agenda.”
Its vision, “a world where everything is in balance,” is based on eight “shared values” that spell CREATION:
C: Communication — Effective communication at all levels between all stakeholders.
R: Respect — All spiritual and religious beliefs are respected.
E: Empower — Empower and engage all stakeholders.
A: Act — Act in coherence with individual reflection and communal beliefs.
T: Transform — Transform people’s behavior for a more responsible lifestyle inspired by their own faiths.
I: Inspire — Inspire innovative approaches to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
O: Organize — Organize knowledge and other resources related to faiths and sustainable development.
N: Network — Build a strong network between the UN and faith-based organizations.
According to the UNEP, the initiative’s success will require trust-building between what the UNEP calls “the perceived secular values of the UN” and the values of the faith actors. Part of its strategy will be to engage local communities of faith, as well as establish a top-level “Coalition for Creation” to influence environmental policy.