Climate, reality and religion
Being trained by Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Presenter is in itself a leap of faith.
The 350 people who volunteer to give a version of the Inconvenient Truth slide show to their networks and communities around the Asia Pacific region are as diverse as the audiences they speak too.
More than 70 per cent of Australians proclaim adherence to a religion. In Asian countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia that proportion is even higher.
The Climate Reality Project has at its very core – a mission to work together – and deal with cultural, language and geographical divides.
To that end, Climate Reality must strive to ensure that its message resonates harmoniously with the teachings of the major faiths.
The case for action on climate change, as laid out by The Climate Reality Project, is founded on scientific reason; and many religious communities are receptive to Climate Reality’s message because it gels with their own scripture.
The Qur’an tells that “He it is who has appointed you as viceregents over of the Earth” (6.165).
Conservation sentiments also abound in the Jewish and Christian traditions, which record God’s warning that “the land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (Leviticus, 25.23).
These teachings and many other faiths are represented within the people who are Climate Reality Presenters.
Perth-based Climate Reality Presenter Gerard Siero has made a specialty of presenting to church groups. He started out using Al Gore’s faith-based climate slideshow, but he has adapted it and made it his own.
Gerard’s presentation contains over twenty-five Biblical quotations he relates to climate change. His message is that, “the important thing is
making people see that when the Bible talks about humans having ‘dominion over the Earth’, it means stewardship, care. Not conquest.”
In Pakistan, Climate Reality Presenters have drawn on the Holy Qur’an to make their presentations more relevant to traditional communities.
Pakistani Presenter Zabardast Khan has partnered with local religious leaders to highlight the need for climate action, explaining, “Imams have a lot of influence, their support makes it so much easier.”
Buoyed by the success of this partnership, Pakistani Presenters are now in talks with their Indonesian counterparts about producing a new range of Islamic slides on the climate crisis.
When speaking with religious audiences, Presenters have learned to be flexible. “You have to read body-language,” says Gerard. “If I’m talking about million-year old ice cores and people are becoming uncomfortable, I move on. The details of the science aren’t as important as the message that we have to change our relationship to the world.”
In this regard, faith-based presentations are no different to any other.
Tailoring the message to suit the audience has always been the key to a powerful presentation.
Across religions and cultures, there was one thing that each presenter agreed on that day: the world is a sacred place, and it is our duty to protect it.