In a bid to limit the devastating effects of plastic pollution on the environment, one senior UN representative is calling on faith groups to be more involved. The topic was broached during a series of interfaith dialogue sessions, known as the Faith for the Earth Initiative. The dialogue comes as the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) celebrates its 50th year.
According to the Faith for the Earth Initiative homepage, it is estimated that the practices of 80% of the world population are driven by their religious values. With this in mind the UN is encouraging all religious representatives from all religions to get involved in the environmental effort. The initiative began in 2008, with the stated mission being:
“To encourage, empower and engage with faith-based organizations as partners, at all levels, toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfilling the 2030 Agenda.”
The UNEP goes on to note the staggering amount of plastic that is thrown away worldwide. It is estimated that 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used and thrown away every year. On the water bottle side, they report 5 million bottles purchased per minute. With more than five-and-a-quarter million minutes in a year, this number becomes dizzying.
The Tablet reports that these UNEP sessions represent the largest interfaith discussion on religion’s role in environmental protection in history. It has drawn in 180 guest speakers from 94 faith-based groups from around the world.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, former prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, noted that much of the initiative’s goals fall in line with Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si.” He said:
“He (Pope Francis) said I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we shape our planet. That’s what we are doing now. The dicastery decided to move ‘Laudato Si’ to concrete applications and we formulated … the Laudato Si’ Platform,” to encourage the connectivity of all peoples of the world, he said.
The prelate went on to suggest that Catholics avoid single-use plastics or eating meat, while they should consider public transportation when possible. He reiterated that the scriptures also encourage us to protect the Earth.
The UNEP sessions will continue until March 5th. Until that time, the discussions on how faith groups can positively impact the environmental movement will continue.