I notice that by the framing of an issue we can either take responsibility for it or distance ourselves from it. Take war and famine: most people agree that these are man-made problems; so for example the United Nation’s preamble mentions that it works to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. But when it comes to issues like climate change and desertification – equally man-made, as now proven beyond reasonable doubt by the vast majority of relevant scientists – then these are called environmental problems, not just problems caused by man. And by so calling them, we think we can leave their solution to environmentalists.

Also as people of faith we can experience environmentalists as trying to sell us a competing faith, due to the passion and commitment with which we are told about the state of the planet. However, I would suggest we see through linguistics, appreciate that the earth’s future is in all our interest and work on the shared care we have, or at least should have, for Creation. For example, as a Muslim I know that without a living planet the aims of Shariah (protection of life, dignity, faith, property and offspring) cannot be sustained. I am therefore very happy to be involved with Birmingham Friends of the Earth in their Multifaith Project, which aims to harness the teachings of the faiths to finding personal solutions.

Threatened as we all are, let’s be at peace with each other and with the rest of Creation.

Rianne ten Veen has a Master of Law degree from Leiden University (the Netherlands), Master in Int'l Relations from CERIS (Brussels, Belgium) & Paris XI (Paris, France) and works for Islamic Relief in Birmingham. She is particularly interested in the overlap between faith, environment and justice.

(an edited version of this article appeared in the B'ham Post on 8 March 2008 as part of the West-Midlands Faiths Forum – www.wmfaithsforum.org.uk – regular columns series in the Birmingham Post  – www.birminghampost.net)