Need a new religion-related angle for Earth Day? Here's how to get started

Earth in the hand

If you pay attention to news about climate change you're undoubtedly aware that the warnings about the potential catastrophes facing human civilization are increasingly dire. I pay close attention to the subject and its clear to me that the warnings are coming in greater volume and getting ever-more threatening.

I'm crawling toward my mid-70s so I'm probably too old for the worst of the predictions to manifest fully during my lifetime. But I can't help but think that my children and certainly my grandchildren will experience climate events that could upend human life as we know it.

Just last week, for example, saw coverage that the massive ice sheets covering Antarctica appear to be collapsing faster than previously thought. That means a steeper rise in sea levels, which is terrible news for coastal populations worldwide. Click here to read how The New York Times covered the story.

Of course I'm aware that not everyone agrees about the reality of climate change or to what degree, if any, it's human-caused. But this post is not about arguing the issue's merits.

Like the preponderance of scientists who study the issue, I believe that climate change is a real threat and that the increased levels of atmospheric heat-trapping gases result directly from humanity's continued reliance on fossil fuels, in particular coal and petroleum.

Disagree? Think liberal media has blown the issue out of proportion? Say so in the comment section below. Give us some mainstream URLs for your facts and claims.

But with Earth Day 2016 coming up this month (April 22), it's appropriate to take another look at how the global faith community is currently dealing with the issue.

An Earth Day story was once an annual newsroom obligation. That's no longer the case.

For one, Earth Day debuted on the international stage in 1970. Coming up with a new angle, particularly one with a religion component, has long since ceased to be easy.

So here's some suggestions to get you thinking, starting on the global level.

A recent Reuters piece out of Pakistan addressed whether Muslim leaders in that South Asian nation could do more to foster environmental awareness in general and climate change action in particular.

That raises the larger question of what religious leaders are doing in developing or undeveloped nations already suffering or expected to suffer disproportionally from climate change. Examples might include Bangladesh, most of which is one big low-lying river delta, or some barely above sea level Pacific island nations that predictions say could be entirely submerged by rising sea levels.

Closer to home, do local and national religious leaders who support environmental causes feel they've made headway in convincing religious organizations and congregants to act against climate change threats in a meaningful and sustained manner, such as making climate change policy a personal political priority?

Or do they think they haven't made much headway, perhaps because congregants are simply preoccupied with more immediate problems, such as their economic situation and terrorism?

Do religious leaders approach climate change as a social justice issue -- the poorest nations tend to be the least prepared for the predicted consequences -- or as one of proper stewardship over God's domain? Do they blend the two approaches?

For journalists just getting into the issue, there are an abundance of resources available for getting up to speed.

Domestically, one place to start is the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christian churches are involved, as is American Judaism's leading national public issues umbrella group. For a strictly Jewish viewpoint, there's also this at the website MyJewishLearning. A particularly comprehensive resource is available at Religion Link, a project of the Religion Newswriters Foundation.

There's also a wealth of material on the web from individual, high-level religious leaders. Click here to read an opinion piece co-authored by the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Anglican Communion's Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Pope Francis has also addressed the issue in moral terms. Read this piece from Crux written on the occasion of the pontiff's speech to the United Nations last year.

And may I humbly suggest checking out my book, "Spiritual Perspectives on Globalization" (SkyLight Paths), which includes information on environmental concerns as expressed in Hindu, Buddhist, Neopagan and tribal traditions, in addition to the better covered Christian, Jewish and Islamic beliefs and concerns.

As Earth Day nears, journalists can expect to receive multiple news releases from religious entities anxious to have their views on the subject covered. Hopefully, some will include new ideas and new efforts worthy of coverage.

Have a new angle of your own that you're willing to share? If so, please offer them up in the comments section.

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