What follows is the January 1990 text, sent by scientists to religious leaders, of "Preserving and Cherishing the Earth: An Appeal^ for Joint Commitment in Science and Religion."
The Earth is the birthplace of our species and, so far as we know, our only home. When our numbers were small and our technology feeble, we were powerless to influence the environment of our world. But today, suddenly, almost without anyone noticing, our numbers have become immense and our technology has achieved vast, even awesome, powers. Intentionally or inadvertently, we are now able to make devastating changes in the global environment—an environment to which we and all the other beings with which we share the Earth are meticulously and exquisitely adapted.
We are now threatened by self-inflicted, swiftly moving environmental alterations about whose long-term biological and ecological consequences we are still painfully ignorant — depletion of the protective ozone layer; a global warming unprecedented in the last 150 millennia; the obliteration of an acre of forest every second; the rapid-fire extinction of species; and the prospect of a global nuclear war that would put at risk most of the population of the Earth. There may well be other such dangers of which, in our ignorance, we are still unaware. Individually and cumulatively they represent a trap being set for the human species, a trap we are setting for ourselves.
However principled and lofty (or naive and shortsighted) the justifications may have been for the activities that brought forth these dangers, separately and together they now imperil our species and many others. We are close to committing — many would argue we are already committing — what in religious language is sometimes called Crimes against Creation.
By their very nature these assaults on the environment were not caused by any one political group or any one generation. Intrinsically, they are transnational, transgenerational, and transideological. So are all conceivable solutions. To escape these traps requires a perspective that embraces the peoples of the planet and all the generations yet to come.
Problems of such magnitude, and solutions demanding so broad a perspective, must be recognized from the outset as having a religious as well as a scientific dimension. Mindful of our common responsibility, we scientists — many of us long engaged in combating the environmental crisis — urgently appeal to the world religious community to commit, in word and deed, and as boldly as is required, to preserve the environment of the Earth. 174 • Billions and Billions
Some of the short-term mitigations of these dangers—such as greater energy efficiency, rapid banning of chlorofluorocarbons, or modest reductions in the nuclear arsenals—are comparatively easy and at some level are already under way. But other, more far-reaching, more long-term, more effective approaches will encounter widespread inertia, denial, and resistance. In this category are conversion from fossil fuels to a nonpolluting energy economy, a continuing swift reversal of the nuclear arms race, and a voluntary halt to world population growth—without which many of the other approaches to preserving the environment will be nullified.
As on issues of peace, human rights, and social justice, religious institutions can here too be a strong force encouraging national and international initiatives in both the private and public sectors, and in the diverse worlds of commerce, education, culture, and mass communication.
The environmental crisis requires radical changes not only in public policy, but also in individual behavior. The historical record makes it clear that religious teaching, example, and leadership are powerfully able to influence personal conduct and commitment.
As scientists, many of us have had profound experiences of awe and reverence before the Universe. We understand that what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be treated with care and respect. Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred. At the same time, a much wider and deeper understanding of science and technology is needed. If we do not understand the problem, it is unlikely we will be able to fix it. Thus there is a vital role for both religion and science. We know that the well-being of our planetary environment is already a source of profound concern in your councils and congregations. We hope this Appeal will encourage a spirit of common cjwse and joint action to help preserve the Earth.
The response to this Scientists' Appeal on the Environment was soon after signed by hundreds of spiritual leaders from 83 countries, including 37 heads of national and international religious bodies. Among them are the general secretaries of the World Muslim League and World Council of Churches, the vice president of the World Jewish Congress, the Catholicos of All Armenians, Metropolitan Pitirim of Russia, the grand muftis of Syria and the former Yugoslavia, the presiding bishops of all the Christian churches of China and of the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, andMennonite churches in the United States, as well as 50 cardinals, lamas, archbishops, head rabbis, patriarchs, mullahs, and bishops of major world cities. They said: We are moved by the Appeal's spirit and challenged by its substance. We share its sense of urgency. This invitation to collaboration marks a unique moment and opportunity in the relationship of science and religion. Many in the religious community have followed with growing alarm reports of threats to the well-being of our planet's environment such as those set forth in the Appeal. The scientific community has done humankind a great service by bringing forth evidence of these perils. We encourage continued m.
176 • Billions and Billions scrupulous investigation and must take account of its results in all our deliberations and declarations regarding the human condition.
We believe the environmental crisis is intrinsically religious. All faith traditions and teachings firmly instruct us to revere and care for the natural world. Yet sacred creation is being violated and is in ultimate jeopardy as a result of long-standing human behavior. A religious response is essential to reverse such longstanding patterns of neglect and exploitation.
For these reasons, we welcome the Scientists' Appeal and are eager to explore as soon as possible concrete, specific forms of collaboration and action. The Earth itself calls us to new levels of joint commitment.
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