Faith is something which the Middle East has a lot of. Whether that faith is being used solely for good is another matter altogether – some are trying to change that by invoking the shared green aspects of the Abrahamic faiths
Sharing Eden – Green teachings from Jews, Christians and Muslims is a small book which is trying to do a big thing: encourage those of faith to take more positive action for the environment. And therein lies the strengths and also the weaknesses of this book. Three writers from each faith explore issues such as sustainability, water, food and biodiversity through the lens of their faith.
They look at the teachings from the Torah, Bible and Qur’an whilst also highlighting practical action faith groups and communities are taking across the continents. It’s only 100 (small!) pages long, it’s very readable with lots of images and I managed to go through it all in a short train journey. The writers manage to fit a lot of spiritual and practical information into a very short space but there is naturally a lot still missing.
There was no exploration of the fact that there are some aspects of all faiths that will struggle to align with the environmental agenda. For example, in Islam the Hajj pilgrimage is seen as problematic as the international travel and use of natural resource that occurs during the pilgrimage can only be minimized and not be eliminated altogether.
There was also no interaction between the three faiths in terms of their similarities and differences and although that could be explained away by lack of space, it still would have been nice. Saying that, it was lovely to be able to read about the three different faiths in one book and hopefully that will mean the readers (of whatever faith or of no faith) got a taster of all three too.
The book seemed to have a naïve belief (in my opinion) that once you told people of faith of these green ethics, that they would change their deep-rooted behaviours. From personal experience, I’ve found this to be untrue and that people often need more than just information to change their actions. As such, it would have been nice if the barriers that those of faith experience whilst trying to take environmental action were explored more fully and the more difficult and contentious nature of green action discussed.
A little bit more climate science would have also been nice and would have rooted the need for action in two spheres – faith and science.
Indeed, the book could have made more of an effort to link those of faith with the broader environmental movement in terms of other (non-faith) groups, organisations, campaigns and also news sites.
No, this isn’t about the fact that GreenProphet.com wasn’t mentioned, as no green news sites were mentioned at all (!) although that could have been a vital way to strengthen faith followers’ knowledge and understanding of climate change related issues.
After reading all that, you probably think I didn’t enjoy the book but I really did. The writing was great, the chapters on food and biodiversity were particularly interesting and I think for someone new to the issue, this is a GREAT introduction.
It was also great to have all three faiths together in one book and I will definitely be passing my copy around. However, for those looking for a little bit more in-depth exploration of the faith-environment nexus then this probably isn’t for you.
Sharing Eden – Green teachings from Jews, Christians and Muslims
By Natan Levy, David Shreeve and Harfiyah Haleem
Kube Publishing in association with The Conservation Trust
$8.99 / £4.99
For more green faith communities see: