Reflecting on Lessons from the Earth

A long-standing meditation and relaxation technique is to bring increased awareness to that fact that the earth is right beneath us, supporting us when we walk, sit, sleep, and live.

What makes this simple technique so profound? It increases sensitivity to the miraculous fact that the earth, by the grace of Allah (SWT), supports us throughout each of our moments. Yet in the modern business of our daily affairs, we often take the earth’s existence for granted, without reflecting on how fundamental it is to each part of our lives.

Pondering the Earth

Earth Day, April 22, can play an important role in giving us pause to consider just how astonishing the planet really is. But one day a year is not enough—every day should be earth day. Allah (SWT) wants us to reflect on the earth regularly, and reminds us to do so at numerous places in the Qur’an:

“And Allah has sent down rain from the sky and given life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who listen.” (16:65)

“It is Allah who made for you the earth a place of settlement and the sky a ceiling and formed you and perfected your forms and provided you with good things. That is Allah, your Lord; then blessed is Allah , Lord of the worlds.” (40:64)

The Earth is Sick

To say that we have taken the earth for granted is too much of an understatement. The truth is, at this point in history, much of humanity has failed the earth.

As industrialized nations burn large amount of fossil fuels like oil and gas, the “greenhouse” effect traps heat from the sun, causing the earth’s temperature has increased by approximately 1°C in the last century—which sounds small but has catastrophic consequences for families and animals worldwide. Cutting down rainforests, which absorb giant amount of carbon dioxide, also makes the earth sick.

Islamic Relief’s global programming is inseparable from the reality of climate change. Because IRUSA projects serve some of the most poor and vulnerable people, many of those we serve are among those most severely affected by climate change, even though they are the least to blame.

The 2019 UN Climate Action Summit shared that “all countries are affected by global warming. But the impacts tend to fall disproportionately on the poor and vulnerable, as well as those least responsible for the problem.”

For example, families we distribute emergency aid to in Afghanistan have lost everything due to drought, and face an unstable future. And refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh cope with rising temperatures in the form of sweltering heat, in already sub-par living conditions.

Do Your Part

The earth’s changes are symptoms of a sickness the industrialized world has created. It’s going to take a whole host of policy changes, environmental initiatives, and new habits to address a problem that should have been considered long ago.

That can feel overwhelming, but it’s not impossible. Here are four actions you can take now to do your part:

  1. Stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. Commit to using your reusable bags every time.
  1. Come up with your own plan to avoid single-use plastics. Single-use plastics like straws, coffee stirrers, drink lids, and silverware are classic examples of excess and disregard for the environment. They don’t biodegrade, are only used for a moment, and lead to grave consequences for the landfills and animals they end up next to. Take a moment to consider how you can commit to avoiding these detriments.
  1. Buy local. Do you have a farmer’s market near your home? Putting your dollar toward locally-grown produce with less packaging and that requires less fuel to be transported can send a powerful message.
  1. Go for a hike. This may sound cliché, but get out! Often we make poor environmental choices because we simply forget about nature and the beauty of the world around us. Going for a walk or hike while pondering the natural world around you can raise your consciousness, so you can start making balanced choices.

At Islamic Relief USA, Earth Day is every day. Join us in honoring the earth in your daily life as well.