How will these resources help you?

As we become more and more aware of the issues facing our planet, religions and worldviews can help guide commitments to actions that may help and sustain a hope that we can make a difference. These resources are aimed at Key Stage 3 classes but will also be useful for older students. They are deliberately positive in their outlook at a time when many young people are dealing with climate anxiety.  

Is the earth alive?

Remembering James Lovelock, Whose ‘Gaia Theory’ Shaped Our Understanding of Global Warming

by Will Sullivan, published by Smithsonian Magazine, (2022)

Rather than seeing the Earth as the place where life developed or was created by God, the Gaia theory has helped people to understand that the Earth is itself a living system. Lovelock’s theory helped pave the way for climate scientists, campaigners and activists to articulate why the actions of humans were so potentially devastating for Planet Earth and its inhabitants. The Gaia theory highlights the self-regulatory ways that the Earth can stay alive and continue to support life upon it. One such example is the greenhouse effect, which, following human interference, is at risk of causing a global catastrophe through global warming. While the Gaia theory is not ascribed to a particular religious outlook or tradition, it has fed into non-religious worldviews and various discussions of ethical behaviour relating to how we treat the planet. 

Case study: Putting teachings into action - the eco mosque

Cambridge Central Mosque

published by Cambridge Central Mosque Trust, (2023)

Europe’s first eco-mosque (in Cambridge, UK) would make a great case study for how one religious tradition is putting the teachings to care for the environment into practice. It uses water recuperation and solar power and is a sustainably sourced wooden structure – just three examples of how this building is reducing its carbon footprint and reminding people of the beauty of Allah’s created world. Teachers and students can navigate the website to see how the mosque supports the local community and explore its environmental credentials. 

Case Study: The village that plants trees

111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl

by Rina Singh, published by Kids Can Press, (2020), 9781525301209

The tragedy of one family in the small Indian village of Piplantri is turned into a powerful symbol of hope and sustainability through the actions of one man, Sindar Paliwal. Coming from the Dharmic tradition, where sacred texts refer to the worth and life within plants and trees, the community also holds that the number 111 has a special significance. When tragedy struck Sindar’s family, and his daughter passed away, he planted a tree in her memory. From this one act, a new tradition was born, which brings together a renewed respect and cherishment of the 111 trees planted for a new baby girl, as well as an opportunity to show the worth of a girl being born, where previously they may have been seen as a burden. This case study will stand out as a positive story for how religious communities can make a change amid news that can seem overwhelmingly pessimistic about the future of our planet, as well as showing how gender equality and social justice can be linked to our ecological endeavours. 

A Religious world leader on why we should care for the environment

Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home

by Pope Francis, published by Dicastero per la Comunicazione - Libreria Editrice Vaticana, (2015)

This encyclical letter from the leader of one of the world’s main religious traditions showcases the importance of caring for the environment as part of a sacred duty within the faith. While previous Popes in the Roman Catholic Church have mentioned a duty to care for the planet, this paper is unique because it is dedicated entirely to this aim. Sections of this paper can be used within the classroom to explore how the Roman Catholic Christian tradition aims to protect the environment without needing to set this in competition with a duty to care for the poor. In contrast, the two should be pursued as a joint project. Students can also explore this paper for its message of hope that we are capable as humans of changing our ways and that though the future appears difficult, we are still able to make a difference. 

Audiovisual clip

Belief File - Hindus and the environment

published by BBC, (2012)

A lens on Krishna, one of the most worshiped Hindu gods, and how the religion of Hinduism views the environment in light of Krishna's flute playing in the forest.

Further Materials 

What Is The Gaia Hypothesis?: Gaia Theory Explained by YouCurious?, published by YouTube, (2021) Watch this video
The Green Patriarch and Ecological Sin by Chris Durante, published by Public Orthodoxy, (2021) Read this article
The One About Animal Welfare (S8 E2) by Louisa Jane Smith, published by The RE Podcast, (2023) Listen to this podcast
Beyond Belief: The Environment by Ernie Rea, Michael Roberts, Martin Palmer and Chris Halliwell, published by BBC Sounds, (2014) Listen to this podcast
XR Christian Climate Activists in action, “Faith, Belief, Conviction” by Extinction Rebellion UK, published by YouTube, (2019) Watch this video
Ruth Marx teaches Religion and Worldviews, is a Consultant for Religious Studies and PSHE, a Farmington Fellowship Scholar and a published blogger on Re:Online.

Text © Ruth Marx, 2023.