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Asking the clergy: Do the faithful have an obligation to the environment?

With the debate about global warming, changing weather patterns and other environmental issues on the minds of so many, we asked this week's clergy to discuss the connection between the faithful and the environment.


Kadam Holly McGregor, Dipamkara Meditation Center, Huntington:

As Buddhists, we are responsible for caring about others . . . caring about their welfare, their freedom and their happiness. Since the environment supports countless animals, insects and microscopic life-forms, as well as human beings, and since as Buddhists we are training to develop love and compassion for all living beings, we are definitely responsible for protecting that which supports life.

Also, one of Buddha's main teachings is on interdependence: how things exist in relationship to everything else, and how everything depends on everything else for its existence. More and more these days, we see this in action — we see that what we do with forests on one side of the world affects the environment and the living beings on the other side of the world. We see that we need to treat the whole world and all living beings as one body, and see ourselves as one cell in that vast body of life. We always need to be acting for the benefit of the whole, and that, of course, includes caring for the environment.

Also from the standpoint of reincarnation, we should realize that we will be reborn again and again, and we will be having to live in and deal with whatever environment and whatever environmental consequences we have collectively created. Therefore, if we are destroying the environment, we are causing extreme difficulty for both ourselves and countless others in the future.


Pastor Martin Hawley, South Bay Bible Church, East Moriches:

I would say an emphatic "yes." God made us stewards of the Earth, which includes the environment. As Christians, we believe God created and owns everything. He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to rule over every fish in the sea, every bird in the air and every living creature. By rule, he didn't mean with an iron fist. He meant we are to care for every bird, fish and living creature. Adam and Eve were meant to be caretakers.

They were placed there to tend the garden. You can't separate our obligation of stewardship into compartments: environment, family, plants and animals. As Christians, we are responsible for all these things, for they are all gifts from God. Some think the world was made solely for our enjoyment, but you can't separate the care of that which he gives us from the enjoyment of that which he gives us.

In Isaiah 43:7, it says that we and all things were formed for his glory, not for our own purposes. I am not an environmental expert by any means. I can't even get tomatoes to grow well in my garden. I do know that we each are to do all we can to care for the space around us.


Rabbi Leibel Baumgarten, Chabad Lubavitch of the Hamptons, East Hampton:

The world is a gift from God, which he gave to all mankind. We have a religious responsibility to take care of ourselves and the environment. As far as the environment, we must take care of it not just for ourselves, but for others to enjoy. We are to be unselfish in our behavior, which means you do these things not for yourself, but for the good of others. Also, we reach out to others through the way we care for the environment around us.

It is not just an obligation, but a mandate. There are many ways to fulfill this mandate large and small — pick up trash, plant a tree, don't pollute the air. But do it in a positive way. Judaism teaches us our mission is to make a dwelling place for God in this physical world. And, when we leave, we are to not think only of ourselves, but of the coming generations.

Why plant a carob tree, which takes 70 years to flower and bear fruit? You don't even know if you're going to be around to see it flower. Why? You do it for the next generation. Each of us is to do goodness and kindness in the world. And, if each of us does those seemingly simple things, the world will be a better place.

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