One of the most important lessons of Ramadan is to be able to feel empathy for those who have less than we do, especially in relation to food. This should encourage us to also commit to living a much simpler and less wasteful lifestyle, as we shed the excesses of our lives to become closer to God during this blessed month of fasting. We need to remember though, that ridding ourselves of this excess has benefits in this world as well as in the Hereafter.
There is a clear consensus among scientists that human activity is changing the earth's climate and it is the most pressing problem facing humankind today. These changes are already resulting in extreme weather events, rising sea levels, drowning of coastal cities, acute food and water shortages, refugee crises on a global scale, and an increase in the spread of diseases.
The runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting unbearable strains on the environment. It is we, human beings, who are the culprits. In particular, it is we, consumers in the industrialized world, who contribute most to global warming. Rampant consumption and wastefulness drive production, which creates the endless demand for energy, which in turn causes global warming.
Our lifestyle is threatening life.
Globally, 20 percent of the world's people in the richest countries account for 86 percent of total private consumption expenditures. More specifically, this richest fifth consume 45 percent of all meat and fish, consume 58 percent of total energy, and own 87 percent of the world's vehicle fleet.
Not only do we consume more, but we waste in staggering amounts. According to the United States. Department of Agriculture, up to one-fifth of America's food goes to waste each year. That is almost 100 billion pounds of food, enough to feed roughly 49 million people worldwide. On average, American households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. Nationwide that adds up to $43 billion annually.
As wealthy countries increase consumption, they also increase their exploitation of the world's natural resources, and in turn emit more greenhouse gases. According to scientists, greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise by two percent a year despite hundreds of environmental agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and the clarion call of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016.
The bottom line is that unless we change our wasteful lifestyle, we will not be able to avoid dreadful climate changes.
Some scientists say it is already too late to stop the consequences of global warming. Others say that if we can immediately and dramatically reduce our individual and collective production of greenhouse gases, we may be able to prevent the greatest catastrophes. It is obvious that time is of the essence!
As Muslims, we must not let unfavorable forecasts stand in the way of taking direct action. Prophet Muhammad said, "If the last hour comes and in your hand you have a seedling, then if you are able to plant it before that, then do so." May the peace and blessings of God be upon the Prophet.
Not only can we reverse the course of global warming, but it is also our moral imperative to do so. God has said, "O children of Adam, eat and drink, but do not be wasteful. God does not like wastefulness!" (Quran 7:31) In addition, the Prophet said, "The world is green and beautiful, and God has appointed you His stewards over it."
Let's start with ourselves.
Our consumption and wasteful lifestyle are connected to an individualistic mindset. We should have a simpler and healthier lifestyle that might result in the drastic changes scientists are looking for for our survival. Making this commitment in the blessed month of Ramadan has a far-reaching impact.
Let's thank the Lord of the Universe Who created us from nothing and Who ultimately controls the variables that we depend upon for our life. Let's bow with humbleness in front of the Almighty, as we have been arrogant in our inconsiderate usage of His bounties.
Let's seek forgiveness for the personal and collective sins of living selfishly, abusing God's bounty and the sin of ignoring more than 1.2 billion people in the world who currently live at less than a dollar a day.
Let's commit to a simpler lifestyle which the Prophet preached and lived by. He forbade hunting and cutting trees in the peace sanctuary of Madinah, which he established, and insisted on a simpler lifestyle with a lower level of consumption. That lifestyle was healthier for individuals and for the environment.
Let's remember that only the Hereafter is the everlasting life. A simpler lifestyle in this world, which is considerate of the needs of others, not wasteful but thoughtful, will be rewarding in this world as well as in the everlasting life.
It is all doable. As a nation, we have demonstrated our capacity to change. Just think of what we have been able to do to curb tobacco consumption in the United States over the last 60 years. We have successfully fought it. It only happened because we all individually and collectively realized what to do, and we committed to doing it.
This is the change where the Khalifas of the world, we stewards of God, are needed today.