How does climate change affect the poor?
The consequences of climate change and environmental disasters are felt unevenly throughout the world, with the most vulnerable populations facing the greatest threats. When disasters strike, it is those with the fewest resources who suffer the most, further exacerbating the problems they already face.
Some of these threats and their consequences include:
Natural disasters: Floods, droughts and tsunamis destroy communities with already fragile infrastructure. They often lack safe housing, live in overcrowded cities or very rural villages and as a result suffer further shortages of food and water, and have little access to basic health care. Many communities hit by disaster are already burdened by poverty and are pushed deeper into poverty while trying and failing to deal with the effects of natural disasters.
Greater health risks: Driving cars and burning fossil fuels introduces toxic gases into the air, reducing the quality of the air we breathe – affecting our lungs, brains and hearts and leading to chronic or fatal disease. Lack of fresh water, droughts, changes to the water cycle and lack of resources to purify water all also lead to increased waterborne diseases and malnutrition.
Food Security: Changing temperatures, rain patterns and droughts have important consequences for farmers – it lowers their income and sends them further into poverty. It can also lead to shortages of food or increases in prices of food, leading to famine.
Forced migration: In the aftermath of famine, droughts and natural disasters, people are often left with the choice of being forced to migrate to a place with better living conditions or to risk uncertainty and further loss by staying at home.
Why does Islamic Help care about climate action?
Climate change and environmental sustainability have become today's buzzwords, amid increasing recognition that the damage being caused is in danger of becoming irreversible.
It is this sense of duty to the world around us and its people - and working on the ethos that the natural environment is a key factor in improving the quality of life for its inhabitants and the most vulnerable - that led to Islamic Help’s environmental projects.
Humankind has long benefitted from the natural bounties which our planet provides us with. Along the way, however, the balance between nature, industrialisation and the development of societies has tilted out of balance. When we speak of climate change affecting populations that contributed to it the least, we are talking about devastation to the most vulnerable individuals, with death, displacement and disease a sad reality for millions.
Islamic Help, with the intention of restoring the harmony of our nature-life balance, is working on environmental projects and to provide awareness and education to the next generation of stewards of this Earth so that they are able to look after what Allah swt has provided us with.
What is the Islamic perspective on the environment?
Human beings and nature form one whole that humans must preserve:
It is He who made you successors on the Earth and raises some of you above others in rank, to test you through what He gives you. [Prophet], your Lord is swift in punishment, yet He is most forgiving and merciful.
Put simply, Allah created the Earth and all that is in it, including animals and its resources – it is people's heritage. Muslims believe human beings have guardianship of the planet, which means that each individual should act as a khalifah (guardian). They will be held accountable for their guardianship on the Day of Judgement.
Humans should treat the world with respect, as it is not ours to abuse. Guardianship allows humans to make use of the environment for their survival, but this must never be taken to the level of exploitation and the balance between nature and human life should always be kept equal. The principle of conservation is beautifully illustrated by the rule which says that while making ablutions (wudu) we should be sparing or moderate in the use of water even if we have a river at our disposal.
Environmental awareness and protection of natural resources is an integral part of a Muslim’s belief. As protectors of the Earth, we have to make use of natural resources in a sustainable manner in order to ensure that Allah’s bounties continue.
As humans, we have been given the duty of caring for all of creation, including soil, air, water, animals and trees. A major objective of Islamic teachings and the Prophet’s (Peace Be Upon Him) traditions is to build and maintain a healthy and clean environment without overexploitation and misuse.
Allah swt has given reasons to our being as humans and we must use this gift in our stewardship of creation:
…greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the Heavens and the Earth.’ (Qur'an 40:57)
What is Islamic Help doing to safeguard nature and its ecosystem services?
At Islamic Help, we recognise that NGOs have a huge part to play in transforming the way people think and the way we carry out our projects. Acknowledging this, we understand that this new journey for Islamic Help will allow us to carry out our duty of looking for more sustainable and climate-friendly ways to do things, part of which is to start our own internal and external campaigning team.
We aim to empower, and to do that we need to make changes first within, to then have an effect globally. To do this, we are setting up a climate action department which will be campaigning on a local, national and international level with donors, volunteers and staff to take climate action seriously.
Here are some of the projects we are already working on:
Trees for Change
Environmental concerns have increased in recent years but the importance of maintaining our planet’s delicate ecosystems has been an essential aspect of Islam, as evidenced by numerous Hadith and mentions in the Qur’an. Trees are an essential component of our existence as a species. They literally give us life by releasing oxygen.
Trees for Change not only helps our environment but fulfils an obligation of our faith by bringing new life to our planet. Today, the visual results of the project are a testament to its success. More than 30,000 trees have been planted at our pioneering Children’s Eco Village in Tanzania and over 68,000 saplings of different species have been raised. All of this is down to the efforts of the Trees for Change project. It is all about sustaining life and creating a natural balance.
In Tanzania, beekeeping plays a major role in socio-economic development and environmental conservation. However, only a fraction of its potential is being realised. To counter that, Islamic Help launched programmes in the Tanga region to reduce poverty and empower women by giving them the tools and training to take up bee-keeping. It helped vulnerable families to more than double household incomes. Keeping bees in The Children’s Eco Village has a two-way benefit for both the bee population as well as the farm, gardens and tree nursery.
Globally, bee populations are in decline and this has been linked to a growing decrease in the diversity of plants they can access to pollinate. Bees fed pollen from a range of plants have shown signs of having a healthier immune system than those eating pollen from a single type.
UNEP (UN Environment Programme) Youth Partnership
Islamic Help is looking to form a steering committee of youth from different faith groups who want to take climate action and engage in implementing the sustainability agenda. This will be a group of young people who want to advocate for change from a variety of backgrounds, all motivated and influenced by their faith. The establishment of a youth committee raises a generation of environmentally aware leaders who will better influence the decisions made and act responsibly to promote sustainable development.
This will give them an opportunity to call for a paradigm shift and reform in every sector - from agriculture, conservation and financial markets to careers and more – to tackle environmental crises. The most exciting part of this is that it will be mandated by Faith for Earth, an initiative set out by the UN to strategically encourage and engage with faith-based organisations around environmental issues.
Young people are heavily attuned to the consequences of environmental degradation. They have the ability to tackle environmental issues at their core and to challenge the environmental injustice with their own voices at the forefront, inspiring change locally, nationally and globally. Our youth committee will be delivering and designing campaigns within their local communities as well as communicating with higher authorities, with the key focus that change starts at home, and so our local campaigns will birth the creative thinking required for solutions to environmental injustice leading to the campaigns on a more national and international level.
Children’s Eco Village
The Children’s Eco Village in the Mkuranga district south of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania is a ground-breaking initiative set up in March 2012 to help promote environmental sustainability and make a lasting positive impact on the lives of these children. The village was set up to provide homes for the most vulnerable of children, giving them the opportunity to grow and develop within a healing and sustaining natural environment.
The Children’s Eco Village was birthed with the idea of providing ample provisions for young orphans for their upbringing while ensuring protection for the natural environment taking into consideration the SDGs set out by the United Nations. The long-term development of these orphans is at the core of our ethos and so we work hard to ensure that the Village provides the most conducive environment in which to grow up in.
The Village is designed with sustainability, conservation and biodiversity in mind and reflects current thinking in environmental best practice. We understand the importance of spreading the message of sustainable development to the communities outside the Village as well. We have a responsibility to the whole of the society into which our children will eventually go.
Islamic Help has provided countless beneficiaries with the positive impacts of solar panels. As well as providing small villages with solar panels and light bulbs, we have taken on much bigger projects, such as the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Providing solar panels here tackled the problem of loss of electricity in the hospital – meaning that people could continue to use the hospital to learn as well as continue with medical practices comfortably while promoting clean and affordable energy.
As well as providing and installing these solar panels, we also teach the locals on how to maintain them and provide them with the ability to keep our projects running once we have left – another example of how we empower people in need, not just provide short term aid.
This is our flagship volunteering programme which provides volunteers with the opportunity to get involved in humanitarian work, on a much larger scale than they might normally expect. Our volunteers travel to where relief aid is greatly needed. They embark on a journey that takes them thousands of miles away from home to a new country, where they team up with like-minded individuals and distribute aid directly to beneficiaries. As a result of their efforts, they can witness and experience first-hand the difference they have made by providing assistance to those in desperate need.
Examples of that work and its benefits include:
Giving out solar panels promotes clean and affordable energy and teaching the locals how to maintain them provides them with the ability to keep the projects running once we have left
Planting trees: gives out oxygen; creates habitat for animals; absorbs harmful gases; promotes natural conservation; conserves water; preserves soil; used for resources such as paper; provides shade for people and animals from the sun
Bee-keeping: locals are taught how to run their own beekeeping farms and given the resources to do so; promotes pollination of food; safeguards biodiversity and maintains the ecosystem while also helping to conserve natural resources
Awareness projects: to teach locals how to be more environmentally sustainable and look after their community.
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