Academic journal article Education

An Islamic Perspective on Environmental Literacy

Academic journal article Education

An Islamic Perspective on Environmental Literacy

Article excerpt


Man has forgotten his relationship with the environment and is instead trying to become its master, but does he have an unlimited license to destroy (Abraham and Chacko, 2000)? Damaging well-established natural systems is a drama that has been running for a long time, with man playing the lead role. The drama's main part has taken place only in the latter half of the 20th century. As its result, we have dangerous chemicals, nuclear wastes, acid rain, an increase of carbon dioxide content in air and many other problems (Damodaran, 1992). Prevention of further damage to the environment is necessary; it is preferable to expensive repair of the damage. An important goal of the environmental education curriculum is to produce environmentally literate citizens who will take care of the environment.

Over the past few decades or so, there has been a growing realization that the accelerating deterioration of the environment is not so much an environmental problem as a human one, and has its root in a distorted and unbalanced perception of existence. Many in the West are engaged in articulating a new eco-philosophy" or "deep ecology", are emphasizing the importance of developing an ecological consciousness, and in the process formulating a comprehensive and radical environmental ethic.

What role can religions and social values derived from play in achieving this goal? It is easy to conclude that religions and social rules aim to produce a clean and healthy environment for all humans, but humans have to follow these rules and must not mistreat and use up the environment they live in. People should be taught to care for the environment, because by caring for it, they enhance their own quality of life, not only for themselves, but also for future generations (Disinger and Roth, 1992). This will require proper planning of all activities that have an impact on the environment, the religious and social approaches being of central importance. Religious, public, social and political awareness of the environment are also necessary. The goal of environmental education, to produce an environmentally literate citizenry who will take care of the environment, may be achieved with a team of well trained, dedicated religious, socially and environmentally literate teachers. Environmental literacy is an important issue not only for environmental education but for education as a whole. Functional environmental literacy indicates a broader knowledge, practice, and understanding of the nature of interactions between human social systems and natural systems. Operational environmental literacy indicates progress beyond functional literacy and the capability to gather information and to work for the sustenance of a healthy environment.

A doctrinal approach to Environmental Literacy

On the doctrinal level, all religious beliefs have stressed the need for an environmental ethics within which man's relationship with his environment is defined, all religious beliefs impact moral perspectives. These assume that man must be guided by environmental ethics enshrined in religious texts and traditions. Such ethics ensure that a balance is struck between the maintenance of a healthy environment and the activities of man. This study argues that the moral concept developed by Islam should be adopted as the guiding principal for the human--nature relationship.

Environmental ethics vary depending on religious beliefs and have different impacts in promoting environmental literacy if put into action. The three main religions existing in the world are Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Each of these religions embraces specific ideas and rules regarding the environment and environmental ethics and thereby, has a role of its own in the promotion of environmental literacy. But the discourse over these matters in Christianity and Judaism is not within the scope of this study. It is found that Islam's stance on environmental issues is particularly clear, which will be analyzed in this study. …

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