A Climate for Change, Islam and the Environment

Earth Day arrived and passed with marginal coverage, awareness or acknowledgement this year.  To be fair, it was a heavy news cycle, the passing of music legend and icon Prince a day before, continuing primary election coverage and a host of other local concerns held sway.  Intended to create awareness of and for the environment, considering humanity’s centuries old assault, Earth Day is more relevant now then ever.

Solutions to climate matters are complicated, tainted with partisanship and moreover, difficult, as the impact may not be shared equally throughout the world.  Some nations have taken a leading and prominent role.  Sweden recycles trash at a rate so high, the country considered importing more.  Norway and Costa Rica are global leaders in sustainable development and ecotourism respectively.  An under-reported and often untold story is taking shape in parts of the world one would not routinely associate with environmental activism.

Morocco, Bangladesh and Turkey are emerging in both relevance and prominence, when discussing a clean energy future.  On a day dedicated to environmental awareness, discussing, even in passing, nations striving to implement and advance clean energy should be obligatory.  The aforementioned countries have staked a claim as global leaders in various clean energy sectors and technology.

Recently completing the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world, the North African nation of Morocco is poised to become a leader in renewable power.  Prior to completion, Morocco generated nearly all energy needs in the form of fossil fuels.  The project, unlike typical photo-voltaic cells, uses mirrors to concentrate and focus sunlight, heating liquid to power a turbine.  The Noor complex as it’s called, Arabic for “light”, will position Morocco as a “solar superpower” when fully operational.

You would be hard pressed to find the fastest expanding market for home solar in The United States or Europe for that matter.  The designation belongs to Bangladesh, which uses photo-voltaic solar panels.  Often cited as the solar energy solution everyone is ignoring, Bangladesh is poised to become the world’s first solar nation.  A country of 156 million, officials in Bangladesh plan on supplying every home with solar power by 2021.

Equally eyeing a renewable energy future by decade end, Turkey has invested heavily in hydro, wind and geothermal plants.  Investing in renewable sources, the country will eliminate 5 million tons of CO2 emissions per annum.  Turkey, along with Morocco and Bangladesh represent three of the top six nations in both renewable energy investment as well as shifting away from fossil fuel to power the future.

Globally, humanity faces three critical issues, climate change, water security and continual displacement of populations creating an increasing number of asylum seekers and refugees.  Weather, water and war have, or will, impact the lives of billions.  Though some continue to question climate change, pollution from fossil fuel emissions, sea level rise and drought are measurable and undeniable.

In China, surgical masks have become an all too common accessory.  Island and coastal nations have implemented action plans for when sea levels rise, not if.  California farmers and residents, regularly deal with water rationing.  Upon further deliberation, denial begins to dissipate into anger, on a path towards acceptance.  Climate change will contribute to both water security as well as creation of “climate refugees” further exacerbating those displaced by man-made conflicts.

Some accept climate change, but maintain human activity is not a primary cause.  Man made environmental disasters, specifically in extraction of fossil fuels, are visible and indisputable.  Oil spills, gas leaks and fracking have a direct impact on air or water quality.  Stewardship over the planet is sadly lacking.  Collectively committing to, and investing in, clean energy as a national policy is not only noteworthy, but newsworthy.  Morocco, Bangladesh and Turkey, all 90-plus percent majority Muslim, are a breath of fresh air.

Understanding parameters indicative of a worthy news story can be perplexing, even troubling of late.  The environment and Islam have much in common, both routinely covered in context of conflict and disaster.  Bangladesh, Morocco and Turkey are only part of the story, Islamic scholars from twenty countries have called on a commitment to renewable energy and decreasing emissions in an “Islamic Climate Declaration”.

Considering Muslims make up a quarter of the global population, a concerted effort mitigating climate change is a prominent story.  Imam Ali, the fourth rightly guided caliph of Islam, said “People are two kinds, either your brothers or sisters in faith, or your equal in humanity.”  Truer words have never been spoken.  We are one race, equals in humanity, sharing a planet.  May we all contribute to preservation and environmentalism, making every day Earth Day.

Dr. Bashar Salame is an award winning author and healthcare provider in private practice for fifteen years. Read other articles by Bashar.