If you want to change people's hearts and minds, priorities and lifestyles, talk to their core beliefs. And in a world where the majority of the population adheres to a religion or spiritual world view, nothing rivals the impact of faith. The role of faith leaders and communities in instigating and effecting change is often hugely underestimated. But awareness is dawning of the great potential it represents to help us chart a path to a truly sustainable future.
There is no other group of leaders, either in business or in government, with so great an influence among so many communities. The Abrahamic religions have over 3.4 billion followers between them; Hinduism has an estimated one billion adherents. These vast networks span continents, linking those making decisions and influencing behaviour in local communities throughout the world.
Imagine, then, the scale of change that can be achieved through faith-based commitments to action. Examples already proliferate. The US Catholic Coalition on Climate Change is buying renewable energy for 18,000 parishes and 8,500 schools. The Muslim Association for Climate Change Action has agreed a seven year plan, which includes greening Islam's most sacred cities and training imams to become leaders in environmental principles.
And imagine what could be achieved if major religions were to work together towards the goal of a healthy planet for all people – as Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Chair of the annual interfaith seminar Building Bridges, envisages.
There is no shortage of energy to harness. Faith leaders are ever more vocal about climate change and the urgent need for action. In a flurry of recent speeches, Nyansako-Ni Nku, President of the All Africa Conference of Churches, called for “a real and actual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions”; Sheikh Ali Goma’a, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, acknowledged “a religious duty to safeguard our environment”; and Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society for Hinduism, warned religions against being “silent spectators to the ecological crisis”.
Moving Mountains explores the many examples of faith leaders and societies turning to innovative, low carbon practices and solutions. It highlights how spirituality and faith-based values have informed the green movement, and reconsiders ritual celebration and sacred art as vehicles for change. It reflects how diverse faiths are increasingly agreeing that, while the world’s people may have many ‘heavens’, we have only one earth. And it charts a path for spiritual and religious leaders to work effectively together, demonstrating that the need to live sustainably on this shared earth is – literally – their most important common ground.