OPINION: Conservative Ideas For Conservation Of Mother Earth

Pankaj Jain | Associate Professor of Religion and Ecology, University of North Texas

It was refreshing to see Tucker Carlson discussing meat consumption in his popular show on Fox News recently. Tucker shared that he was so inspired that he had “a salad for dinner” after his interview with a vegan proponent.

Several such ideas are actually based on deeply conservative ideals. Conservativism actually supports conserving our deeply held sacred resources such as our nation, our culture, and our natural resources including our animals, with reverence and compassion.

According to the report Greening of Evangelicals, several Christian leaders are now working for environmental issues. In this report, John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, noted that polling has found a strengthening consensus among evangelicals for strict environmental rules.

In 2000, about 45 percent of evangelicals supported environmental protection, according to Green’s polling. That jumped to 52 percent in 2005. Similarly, for more than a decade now, the Roman Catholic Church has issued calls to save and protect the environment in its various appeals issued on different occasions.

As of today, our planet is still the only living entity, that we know of, in the infinite and largely unexplored universe. Although it has survived many disasters, catastrophes, and wars so far, Mother Earth seems to be in serious crises in our times.

The two biggest crises that are threatening our very existence are ecological destruction and terrorism. In this article, let us explore if and how religion, a supposedly conservative phenomenon, can be relevant as a solution for the conservation of Mother Eartha and Mother Nature.

A number of contemporary movements and communities that have taken inspiration from their religious traditions to preserve and protect their ecological resources. For such communities, religion has continued to be relevant.

Religious virtues had inspired Mahatma Gandhi and a large number of Indians to nonviolently fight against the British Raj. Similar virtues have continued to inspire people in the Himalayas where Chipko movement succeeded in prohibiting the felling of thousands of trees in the 1970s.

Since the 15th century, the Bishnoi community has taken care of their flora and fauna by applying their guru’s teachings. In our own times, Swadhyaya movement has constructed new tree temples and other socio-ecological institutions as their version of devotional activism with spiritual teachings as their foundation.

The Dalai Lama is now working with researchers on the intersection of consciousness and science. Many other researchers are working on yoga and meditation and their relevance in health care.

Similarly, vegetarianism, a religiously inspired virtue in India, has now acquired increasing relevance as an effective tool against ecological destruction across the world, as shown by recent studies.

India’s Jain tradition, in particular, emphasizes vegetarianism thus transcending temporal and spatial boundaries. The ten virtues that Jains celebrate, for instance, remain relevant in our world marred by all kinds of violence, physical, emotional, and intellectual.

Although religion is often accused of violence, especially in the media and even in academia, the silent nonviolent constructive work done by various religious communities is rarely noticed. In its most fundamental semantics, religion transcends the dichotomy of religion vs. secular.

For instance, the word “dharma” comes from the root dhri, to sustain, that gives us the word “sustainability.” Therefore, dharma can and is practiced by various communities with sustainability as a foundational principle.

The Chinese term Tao has similar dimensions that inspire harmony with nature rather than conflict with it. Similarly, the Japanese term Shinto inspires its practitioners to see divinities in all the natural entities such as the trees, mountains, rivers, and beyond.

As Buddhism spread across Asia, it reinforced this universal reverence into China, Japan, and other Asian countries even deeper. One of the key Asian concepts propounded both by Hinduism and Buddhism is the Jewel Net of Indra, one of the key concepts in Hua-Yen Buddhism in China and in ancient Hindu texts.

According to this concept, each particle in the universe, being empty in its most fundamental essence, has the Buddha nature and is therefore sacred and interconnected. Each particle reflects infinite images of other infinite particles in the universe giving rise to the interconnected Jewel Net of Indra.

Every particle in the universe is thus sacred and interconnected.

In conclusion, we see some inspiring virtues and contemporary examples inspired by different religious traditions that will remain relevant for our planetary future for a long time. These are the virtues that have sustained the planet for thousands of years.

It is time to equate conservativism with conversationism. Both these words not only are derived from the same root conserve; they both strive to conserve all that is priceless, i.e., the spiritual traditions, the national identities, and the natural resources.

Pankaj Jain is an associate professor of Religion and Ecology at the University of North Texas in Dallas.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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