Artist Rendition of Mars Rover: NASA.

The rhinoceros. Giraffes. Panthers. These creatures are on the cusp of extinction. Bee and other pollinator populations are in sharp decline. We are causing the “sixth extinction,” a mass extinction during the Anthropocene—the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. This mass extinction is linked above all to human agriculture and to climate change.

Of course, it is not only non-human lives that are at stake, but ours as well. Crucially, the most vulnerable among us will be most affected, unable to protect themselves economically from the global changes already sweeping the earth. If things continue apace, within the century entire island nations will sink under the salt waters. Droughts and desertification, exacerbated by political and social instability, have spurred millions of people to migrate so they may feed their families. Storms have increased in severity, and wildfires become more common.

Yet even as evidence fitting the theory of human-caused global warming keeps adding up, politically not enough has been done. Some states, such as the USA, are embroiled in national-level debates about the validity of science. Even leaders who recognize the dangers of climate change are constrained by the severity of the lifestyle changes required. In wealthy communities, this would mean higher costs and drastically reduced consumption. In poorer communities, it might mean a curtailment of the dominant path to prosperity—at least the path taken by now-industrialized countries in the West.

This section builds upon the modules on science and tradition, for it is necessary to understand how science operates to be able to distinguish authoritative and well-founded postulations from un-grounded rejections and non-science. Likewise, if tradition is a long rope with many strands, we may draw upon a long history of lived practice and scholarship to determine what direction the embodiment of tradition should take into the future.

This leads us to our questions.

Have certain readings of tradition been involved in permitting, or even justifying, the damage to our ecosystem? How should we view our relationship with creation in light of Islamic tradition? What are our responsibilities to ourselves, one another (particularly the most vulnerable), and the living and non-living elements of creation around us? What values will we pass on to our children and far descendants to guide the stewardship of the future?

Key Terms:

  • Anthropocene
  • Climate change
  • Global warming

Thumbnail: Artist Rendition of Mars 2020 Rover with sample tubes. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Public domain.

Learning Materials: