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It’s the small steps, that many of us take in an effort to help maintain the integrity of our planet, that really matters. 

I am reminded of this as I speak to  many people who deeply feel the need to take action in regards to the sustainability of our planet. I hear people say “what can I do”, “will my small step make a difference”, “will I have an impact”.  

Sometimes it is difficult to see how one, individual, small, action can have an impact. However, it does, in fact it already has. Think about it, each, small, simple, unseemingly “I don’t matter”  action has had the effect of placing our planet in the precarious position that it is currently in. We would not be where we are today without each of us making a small contribution to this situation.  

The flip side to this is that the ecological make-up of our planet can be restored with each individual action.  

As the verse suggests (Quran 13:11) God does not assist in changing the condition of people until people take the inner initiative and commit to the change. In the case of healing our planet, as individuals we must choose, willingly, not by force, and definitely not through guilt, to change our current condition.  

If you are interested in taking a look at the impact you are having take a Bio-Diversity Impact Quiz at  Conservation International. Don’t worry its pain free. It is a first step in accessing individual impact. Besides providing an understanding of where you stand environmentally it will provide you with greater insight into the small steps available to create a big impact on the planet.  

As one of my friends mentioned “it’s easier to focus on the small actions”. Small actions are manageable, do not require a whole lotta his time, are easier to accomplish (who doesn’t like ease and a sense of accomplishment), and when done from a place of choice (and not a place of “I have to”) can provide a nice feel-good buzz. 

Have a great holiday weekend 🙂

Author: Anila Muhammad

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Has anyone every heard of the Islamic Foundation for Ecological and Environmental Sciences (IFEES). Established in the 1980’s IFEES is a UK based organization that is involved in environmental work from an Islamic perspective. Besides educational and research projects IFEES works at the grassroots level to change the perspective people have towards their environment; and in the process save a patch of our planet one project at a time. They also have a newsletter titled EcoIslam (WoW! Great minds do think alike). 

I have been following IFEES’s work for a while and have wanted to include them in this blog.  Below is an article that was originally posted on BBC, the piece is a bit older but it does speak so beautifully about the impact IFEES is having. Whenever I meet Muslims who question what our communities are doing in regards to the environment I always direct them to take a look at this organization. True IFEES is UK based, but I think this organization reflects an understanding of our world that is both spiritual, practical, and pro-active. 

I will continue to post about other Muslims, and Muslim based organizations, that are active in promoting the eco-good as I come across them.  Read more.

Sorry for the delay in getting some posts up on this blog. I have been traveling and it gets a bit difficult to post without access to the internet.

A few tidbits on my journey.

I was traveling to Canada, and yes flying. We all know that climate change is affecting our planet and green house gases are the culprit. Much of these greenhouse gases come from transportation; cars, planes, trains, space ships. Ok…maybe not space ships as I am assuming that Martians are better at being carbon neutral than humans.

I enjoy traveling but I do not enjoy being part of the growing problem of heating up the earth. Whenever possible I choose methods of transportation that are ecologically sound. However, sometimes I can not get away from plane rides. Normally when I do fly I am faced with a great deal of guilt since I totally get what is spewing out of the tail of each plane that I am on.

To reduce the amount of guilt I subject myself to, and of course to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases I am responsible for, I go to a great site called Sustainable Travel International.org (STI). Check out the site when you have a chance. STI has a calculator which shows me what my carbon footprint looks like with each flight, and what it will take to off set the full amount of this footprint. The calculator shows a dollar amount. I can then choose to invest this dollar amount into carbon credits. Sometimes along with carbon credits I will also give to the National Arbor Day Foundation and have them plant trees on my behalf.

I am also noticing that a lot of airline companies are choosing to get into the action by offering passengers a way to offset their carbon footprint. For example British Airways offers its customers a convenient method to offset carbon emissions of flights during the purchase of an airline ticket.

Air Canada, the carrier I was using for my most current travel experience, has introduced a host of changes to curb carbon emissions. Some of the changes include increasing fuel efficiency, reducing stalling time on the runway, engaging air traffic controllers in providing routes that minimize flying time.

Air New Zealand is currently working with Boeing to come up with a biofeul that can be used to power its fleet of aircraft. If Air New Zealand’s pilot biofuel project works out we could be looking at a definite advance in curbing carbon emissions…and  guilt.

Happy Travels!

Author: Anila Muhammad

Yesterday a friend sent me an interesting story about a few hundred people who made a statement by getting naked on a glacier. This action is significant since it dramatically demonstrates what is happening to the earth’s climate.  

Before I go further let me recognize that there may be those of you who do not feel comfortable with the words “naked people” and “Islam” on the same page. I completely get it, and just so we are clear I am not posting this for any sensationalist or shock value. I am posting it because when I read it inspired me (yes a story about naked people on an glacier did inspire me) to have the following thought. “There are so many of us who care and who are willing, and who want to, see the world shift.” 

As a Muslim I do recognize that naked bodies of men and women lying down together is…well…kinda reminiscent of a scene out of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, I also recognize the message these people want to convey to the world. It is a pretty powerful message about the earth’s climate heating up so significantly that being naked on a glacier is no big deal (when in fact being naked on a glacier should put any person in a state of hypothermia in 1.23 seconds flat).  I am moved by the action of these individuals to make a statement by using their bodies.

There are so many people who are willing to take action for our planet, and yes some are doing it by removing clothing. The majority of us are making a difference while fully clothed. Either path we take the goal is the same.  

 rainforestYesterday I put out a question concerning corporations as responsible environmental citizens and today as I am surfing the web I came across a piece about a foresting company that is cutting down trees in the rainforest.

Ok, my first instinct is to get angry and yell out (at my computer screen) “what is wrong with this company don’t they get the impact they are having on our planet”.  

Well, apparently they do get it.  

CIB (Congolese Industrielle des Bois), a timber company has been working with the World Wildlife Foundation to maintain the integrity of the Congo rainforest. A lot of the efforts of CIB are linked back to a cost/benefit recognition that if the forest disappears, so too, does their profit. CIB is an example of how a company with a horrid environmental record can be converted. 

As Bruce Piasecki has discussed (see the post And Now for Some Good News), and as CIB demonstrates, companies begin to implement green into their workflow when they have a clear understanding of how it will affect the bottom line. This is also the same when it comes to getting households to shift their energy consumption. When individuals understand the amount of $$$$ (dollars) that are to be saved turning a switch off, things begin to shift.  

The amount of money saved, and the need to plan for the future, mean that people and organizations must be able to see the long term outcome of each action instead of opting for short term instant gratification.  

Read more…

 One of the reasons I started this web blog was because I did not see a lot of news, stories or other information out there (“out there” meaning the internet and other information sources) which focused on the eco-good that was happening on our planet. Now this is very far removed from my former thought process that went something like this: “let’s look at the problem and analyze it to death and then set aside some time to blame, blame people, blame governments, and blame those pesky multi-nationals for the ice caps melting in the Arctic and the contamination coming from landfills, and the extinction of multiple species off the face of this earth, and….” 

After a while I kinda got very tired thinking this way and reacting to the world from this place. No really I mean it, I literally became emotionally, and mentally, and also physically exhausted. That is why I made a choice to focus on the solutions that were out there and happening all around me. Solutions that focused on what people and communities where doing to create a sustainable future.  

Here’s what I discovered. When given hope, inspiration, and possibilities I actually wanted to take the initiative and do what I could do to create my own sustainable patch of earth. When given problems I became terribly depressed and wanted to curl up under a blanket and just sleep through this next century of environmental catastrophes (a bit dramatic I realize, but then again I tend to have a flare for drama).  

Currently, my fixation is to see big, small, and mega corporations as responsible environmental citizens. This is not an easy task considering that industry holds a huge piece of the pie when it comes to pollution, climate change, natural resource mismanagement, and the list does go on.  

So what to do? 

To prove that the tide is turning I will be on the look out for posts that discuss how industry is taking responsibility, and engaging in new and environmentally friendly ways of doing business. Having said that, look what I found on the Christian Science Monitor site. It is a piece written by Bruce Piasecki titled The Social Responsibility Revolution. A must read if you are interested in giving yourself a new possibility around big business and environmental responsibility.  

I will mix these posts with some EcoThough writings for the next few weeks or until I get tired of hearing about this stuff. 

Enjoy! 

Author: Anila Muhammad

Just read this on Yahoo news a few days ago and thought it was a nice piece to share. Though there is still much to do in regards to protecting our world’s rainforest, it is always nice to see governments getting concerned and taking initiative in the matter.  

Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum. The World Wildlife Fund and other smaller non-profit organizations have a tremendous role to play in creating awareness and organizing people to persuade governments to change.  

Read more…

Posted by: Editor

I have noticed that there is this fascination among masses of people to locate the anti-Christ. Ok, at least among my work colleagues there seems to be this fascination. Alright, maybe only one of my work colleagues. And really its not even a fascination but more of a one time amusing conversation we had involving an email that had been circulating in which, somehow, with some type of numbering scheme, the letters in Bill Gates name were added up to a whopping total of 666, the sign of the anti-Christ. The anti-Christ meaning all that is not good, holy, compassionate, loving, and of God.  

Hmmmm….don’t know if I buy into the entire Bill Gates as the anti-Christ thing considering he tends to be a disgustingly generous philanthropist. Not really anti-Christ kinda behavior.  

This conversation with my work colleague caused me to contemplate this entire notion of a final “day of reckoning”.

There is a the recognition of a final day in almost every faith tradition that I am aware of, the sign of the anti-Christ being the most significant. Within my own Muslim tradition there is discussion of the ending of our time in both the Quran and the Hadith, and  the descriptions are not very pleasant, with significant emphasis given to natural resources becoming scarce and the earth in turmoil.  

Here’s what troubles me around these doomsday predictions. If, eventually, the ecological structure of the earth is set for destruction then what influence do individual or collective actions have? Does it even matter what I do if the final outcome is pre-determined? I want to be able to influence my future. I want to be able to, individually and collectively, create a sustainable, ecologically friendly planet in which the concluding outcome is value for all life. An interpretation that calls out our eventual self-destruction does not work for me.  

But wait a second! What if the interpretation we have been using all this time is actually incorrect. Is it possible we have been lulled into a false sense of future? What if these accounts are of a possible future and not a definite future? What if these future accounts are given to serve as a warning? The warning being; if we keep walking down this current path then, indeed, we will be faced with a future that is very similar, if not exact, to what is laid out in our sacred text.  

The other part of it (that is somewhat disconcerting to me) is if the future is pre-determined then that would mean I have no free will to determine what I want the future to look like. I really enjoy having fee will as I can do what I want and experience the goodies of my actions afterwards (it’s a totally selfish reason I realize). The idea that we are headed towards pre-ordained self destruction goes against this entire concept of free will.  

Of course we have a choice in all of this. We always have a choice. We can freely and willing choose another future, and we can do this every single morning that we get up, and we can do this with every single action. We also have a choice regarding how we wish to understand different aspects of our sacred text. We can choose to follow an interpretation that will never benefit us,  or create one that serves us and serves this planet.  

Author: Anila Muhammad

 Lion

I came across an interesting read on the National Geographic website regarding the return of the lion population on a particular ranch in Kenya.  

Back in 2006 it seemed that the lion population, which was all of 15 in total, was on the brink of being done away with. The article sites the Maasai warriors, in the  region, as being responsible for killing off most of the lions. Mostly the lions where killed as either a manhood ritual or killed to protect livestock.  Very dire situation indeed, until the Living with Lions project was established.

In a nut shell the project aims to compensate herdsmen when livestock is lost due to predators (such as lions). The program also links jobs to the growth or decline of the lion population. So when there are more lions there are more opportunities for young Maasai men to work as lion guardians, if the lion population dwindles so do these opportunities.  

Great program on many levels. First and foremost it is based within the community that is experiencing the affects of the predatory nature of the lion. Second it recognizes the economics behind why individuals are motivated to kill lions and addresses this issue. Most importantly the Living with Lions program incorporates individuals from the community to take active roles in lion conservation. This role is most often fulfilled by the lion guardians who educate their community about the economic need to protect the lion and notify herdsmen when lion are nearby.  

Besides the reference to the Maasai young men as being “uneducated” it’s a good read.  

Read more…

The lens I use to look out into the world is a lens that I will call Spiritual Environmentalism. I have been using this term for sometime now, and after doing a quick Blackle.com search (Blackle.com is Google’s new search engine designed to conserve energy , read about it here) I realize that my definition of this term is different from some authors who are using it. I thought it would be a good idea to define what exactly I am talking about, since, for me, environmentalism has always been grounded in my spirituality.  

Spiritual Environmentalism is, to me, about looking at our planet and recognizing that there is a larger spiritual picture that surrounds us. That larger picture begins with the understanding that all life is valuable. Regardless of if that life is contained in a human, a tree, a cat, or a dog (yes, even a dog) that life holds value and must be respected.  

This idea that all life is valuable is not anything new. Countless people across the brief history of our human race have expressed this same idea within their own faith based understanding. To mention just a few, people such as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and the Buddha all acknowledged the idea that life is valuable. In our own Muslim tradition we have these very examples in prophets such as Muhammad, Solomon, Eesa.  

The idea that all life is valuable comes from the view that the very breath of The Divine is what causes that which has no life to have life. Meaning, that it is the very breath of Allah that gives birth to each element of life we hear, see, or become aware of.  And if this is the case, which I do believe it is, then this means that within all forms of life there is an element of Allah that is constantly stirring. Therefore an element of Allah stirs within you, within me, within the trees and mountains, within a cat and within a dog (yes even a dog). 

Spiritual Environmentalism expresses this understanding through various actions. These actions can include recycling; buying organic and local, rescuing a stray animal, standing in awe at a sunset or those actions can include gaining awareness, getting involved in an activist project, contemplating the diversity of life. The thing that makes these actions different is that the “doer” sees any one of these undertakings as an act of devotion and recognizes that these various actions honor the idea of respecting the earth and respecting life. An individual engaged in Spiritual Environmentalism creates actions that are grounded in respect, gratitude, and compassion and not in fear, agitation, or guilt.  

There you have it! Spiritual Environmentalism is a “way of being” that is positioned in the notion that all life is valuable and this “way of being” is expressed in actions that largely flow from a place of respect, gratitude and compassion.  

A few questions:

Do you agree/disagree with the ideas expressed above? And why.

Is this how you view the world?

What would you include or not include in this definition?