Sunday, September 30, 2007

Climate Changing Fast!

“Fast and be healthy,” said the Prophet Muhammad PBUH (summu tasihu, in Arabic). The obvious implication being that overeating is bad for our health. Who can argue with that? But much as overeating can sicken the body, over-consumption can sicken the earth. Case in point, the climate crisis.

We are harming ourselves and the world around us. That much is beyond doubt (more on the science). But can fasting change this? Can we heal our planet through fasting? I believe so. If we used fasting and prayer (read: introspection, reflection and under-consumption) as guides, then it would be clearer which of our actions would lead to healing and which would lead to harm. We need to heal ourselves and, in turn, the earth. We cannot heal one without healing the other.

Ramadan is the month when we should reflect on needing, using and being perfectly satisfied with less. Not just with less food and drink, but less of anything that isn’t absolutely necessary: less clothes, less gadgets, less miles traveled and less energy consumed. The point isn’t to become an emaciated and immobile ascetic, but to use this blessed month to reevaluate how much “weight” we’ve accumulated over the course of the year; in body, spirit, consumer goods and, of course, carbon dioxide emissions (Carbon Calculator).

Here are a few suggestions on reducing your carbon dioxide emissions (thanks to Allison Fisher, from GWIPL for developing much of this list):

  1. Eat local food one meal a week. The average meal in the United States travels some 15,000 from the farm to our plates. By buying locally we will save fuel, carbon dioxide and help support our local farmers.
  2. Go car free one day a week. By eliminating just 10 miles of driving a week, we can save 500 pounds of CO2 a year.
  3. Change it up! By installing energy efficient appliances like light bulbs, refrigerators, and washing machines we can further help to cool the planet. If each household in the U.S. replaced its existing appliances with the most efficient models available, we’d eliminate 175 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
  4. Join (or start!) the greening effort at our mosques and help green our communities.
  5. Help advocate to elected officials for legislation which will help everyone reduce their impact on the climate.
I’ll end with a word on prayer. When the Prophet Muhammad PBUH was taught how to pray, the natural world (animate and inanimate alike) began to greet him with “salaam.” That greeting means much more than peace. It means wholeness and perfection. If we could hear what the plants and animals are saying to us (much like the prophets could), I believe they’d tell us that we are no longer whole and that nature needs us to be whole.


anilamuhammad said...

I wanted to make a comment on the idea of “less”. I really believe it is all in how we are defining ourselves against a predominate belief system held by main stream culture.

For example the concept of submitting in the west is very different than in, let’s say, Buddhist or Sufi philosophy. Whereas here submission is a act of being dominated in other areas of the world submission is a path to claim peace and tranquility in life. In that vein the concept of less, in the west, as I see it, is dramatically tied to issues of self-esteem (read: if I have more then I am a good, powerful, worthy individual. Where as if I have less I am poor, powerless…well you get the idea). Ultimately, any chance in lifestyle, weather it be to consume less or consume more, is reflective of core beliefs we have about ourselves and our worth.

I agree Mohamed, that Ramada is a time to reflect upon these very ideas and begin the process of unraveling a belief structure that will lead me to creating a greater balance for myself and inevitably for the planet.

Thank you for the reminder.

Sanjana said...

man, all my greenyness is for nothing. my activities this year have emitted approx 9.1tons of CO2 a year, MORE than average?! (perhaps i need to purchase a carbon offset for my trip to bangladesh?)

veggies from the farmers market do taste better though. go local :)

Omaira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohamad A. Chakaki said...

thank you anila! your point is well taken. now that you mention it, that's probably why any mention of consuming "less" totally turns people off here in the west. it's totally tied to self-worth. how do you suggest we reframe the issue? or is it our sense of self that needs reframing?

Al-faqr fakhry the Prophet PBUH would say. "Poverty is my pride."

though i'm far from that! :(


Anonymous said...

“salaam.” That greeting means much more than peace. It means wholeness and perfection.

the english word "perfect" has come to mean "without flaw" though its latin orgin means "complete." when we use the word perfect when describing the divine, but keep in mind the latin meaning, it makes more sense. we are at peace when we feel whole/complete. aren't all us humans seeking reunification of our conciousness with the creator's?

overconsumption is an exterior manifestaion of an interior emotional/spritual imbalance. focus on what you truly need in life to feel whole and you'll buy less of the extra "stuff." you need nutritious food, clean air, water and the company of loving people. start viewing the universe as ALIVE and concious. the earth is alive and concious. there is no dichotomy.

this is not easy. we were taught the opposite. i'm trying my darndest. i wish you all a transformative ramadan this year. i'm not muslim, but love the idea of the compact. how about choosing one thing that you've let go of this month to let go of the rest of the year with the goal of making it permanent? or learning to use it only when truly necessary? let me see if i can take my own advice. :)


anilam uhammad said...

Hi anonymous - one thing I gave up a bit over three years ago was TV. It was the best thing I did for myself considering I was a TV junkie. Now I can't even stand to watch 15min of TV. It just grates on my senses. I also enjoy the comments people make when they find out I don't have a TV (hehehe) :)

This time I gave up using disposable coffee cups and purchased a reusable coffee container and will use it through out the year.

Dina Badawy (aka: Dandoona) said...

Nice post! I must say, this is really exciting to see Muslims interested in the environment and climate change:) I worked for a bit at Earth Day Network in DC as a Muslim Community Outreach Associate, and it was really great to see how quickly MSAs, masajid, and lots other organizations jumped on the issue of the environment.

I htink in addition to any changes we can implement in our daily lives, we should encourage people to call in support for policy change in their respective communities. Also, businesses will turn green if it's profitable for them, so it might be a good idea to invest or buy from sustainable/green businesses.

One last thing that I think is a real treasure, is getting the word out. Write a press release or media advisory for your local papers with catchy headlines like, "Muslims Join in Waging Jihad on Climate Crisis" (ok, maybe not so inflammatory, but you get the point :)

I got a bit excited so I guess that's all for now. But I'll definitely come back to this blog and check out more stuff. good stuff it is.


Sabira said...

"salaam is more than peace, but rather wholeness and completion"....

straight outa tafsir :)