Nana Firman: I am not alone
Muslims -- and indeed the majority of Americans outside the White House -- are united on the urgency of the issue of climate change
Editor’s Note: Nana Firman is the Muslim outreach director for GreenFaith, an interfaith environmental coalition, and is a climate reality leader and mentor. She is also the co-founder of the Global Muslim Climate Network. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
From the cropless farmer to the beleaguered first responder to the person forced to evacuate their flooded home, we all have our reasons for caring about climate change. As an Indonesian-born Muslim living in California, it is my faith that compels me to protect our earth.
For many people like me who cherish tolerance and clean air, the first 100 days of the Trump presidency have not been easy. As a Muslim immigrant to America, it has been painfully frustrating to witness the Trump administration reinforce xenophobia against both immigrants and Muslims.
As someone whose faith is bound up with combating climate change, it hurt to see Trump impose an executive order that effectively denies the impacts of climate change I have seen with my own eyes.
Frustration must never lead to resignation, however: that is why, on Saturday, I and many other Muslims will be marching in Washington, D.C. in solidarity with thousands of others for our climate and the protection of the vulnerable.
Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) leaves Muslims like me in no doubt as to the duty we humans share: “God has made the Earth green and beautiful, and He has appointed you as stewards over it,” he said. There is no greater threat to our “green and beautiful” Earth than the more frequent and intense droughts, floods and storms brought by climate change.
Muslim-majority countries around the world are some of the most severely affected by climate change impacts like heat waves, floods, droughts and extreme weather events like the recent famine in Somalia, which has led to more than 16 million people facing food shortages and death.
Many Muslims live in parts of the world that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, such as Bangladesh and parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Pakistan is another country that is extremely short of freshwater resources. With a continuously increasing of climate crisis, the water availability has decreased severely, which then placed the country as water scarce nation and in turn it will have an adverse influence on poverty.
Maldives is another Muslim-majority country that could become the first in history to be completely erased by the sea level rise at the turn of the century.
And with last year’s COP 22 taking place in Morocco, the responsibility has shifted to the governments of Muslim majority countries and their religious leaders to step up and play their role in the growing grassroots movement accross Muslim communities around the globe, to reverse the effects of climate change.
That means phasing out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, shifting away from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy, including urging the Muslim petropowers and oil-producing nations to take the lead in the transition toward renewable energy based development. (Rich and oil states should phase out their emissions by the middle of the century and provide generous support to help the poor nations to combat climate change).
The consequences of climate change are already having significant and costly affects on our communities, our health and our ecosystem. Globally, 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the three hottest years on record. From January to March 2017, the US experienced five billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, a national record that killed 37 people. Climate change likely worsened the impact of Colorado’s deadly 2013 floods and has exacerbated droughts in California. Of course, it is always the poor and vulnerable who are impacted most.
These facts and figures are no abstractions for me. In February 2007 I was in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, as the city was paralyzed by severe flooding – the worst in its history – that inundated about 70 percent of the city, killed a number of people, cut off the highway connecting to the country’s major airport and sent about 450,000 fleeing their homes.
In January 2014, a couple years after I moved to the US, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a “drought state of emergency” due to ongoing water shortfalls following the driest calendar year in state history. He asked Californians to cut their water usage by at least a fifth. As a California resident, I witnessed first hand firefighters battling a wildfire in San Diego County during the severe Santa Ana Wind and heat wave in 2016.
I am not alone. Muslims – and indeed the majority of Americans outside the White House – are united on the urgency of the issue of climate change. In August 2015, I witnessed over 80 global Muslim leaders from over 20 countries release the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change in Istanbul, urging world governments to phase out fossil fuels and make a transition to renewable energy to tackle climate change.
In December of that year, by signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, almost 200 governments set a path to do just that. The Global Muslim Climate Network, of which I am chair, is also doing its part to encourage more Muslims to focus on solutions and take concrete actions, such as running their local mosques on solar energy.
By seeking to undermine the Paris Agreement, which the Trump administration could do if it decides to formally withdraw or which arguably it is already doing by seeking to eradicate climate regulations and funding for climate science research – Donald Trump and his administration are reneging on a promise to have the interests of the vulnerable and forgotten at heart.
Together with his divisive rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants, Trump represents a potentially disastrous departure from the inclusive and multicultural American society that I love.
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Saturday’s People’s Climate March reminds me of a verse in the Holy Quran that says, “We have created you into different nations and tribes so that you may come to know one another.” This march – images of which will be shared around the world – is a demonstration of how people are coming together to tackle one of the fiercest humanitarian and moral challenges humanity has ever faced.
Muslims, including Muslim faith leaders and Imams, will be marching shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people of all faiths and those who ascribe to none.
I’ll be marching to show President Trump that I will not allow him to claim to represent the vulnerable while slashing the legislation that is designed specifically to protect them. I will not allow him to claim to represent the forgotten while he stokes further divisions within American society. We will already have achieved a lot in the fight against climate change – a fight whose ultimate aims are peace and joy – if we can overcome that which attempts to divide us, embrace each other and work together.