The advent of science has generated numerous technological innovations, including those in transportation, communication, health, and agriculture, which have improved the quality of human life. At the same time however, technological progress has also led to an array of challenges such as overpopulation, climate change, species eradication, and pollution. The daily actions of humans, of which we are sometimes completely oblivious, have been shown to result in irreversible environmental damage.
The Holy Qur’an says, “It is Allah Who has made for you the earth as a resting place, and the sky as a canopy, and has given you shape and made your shapes beautiful and has provided for you sustenance.” [40:64]
Due to growing awareness of the state of the planet we share, and more than ever before, there is interest in developing solutions to help curb the many environmental problems that have arisen over time. We now have many novel and more efficient technological solutions, such as the generation of clean renewable energy, advanced methods in recycling, and precision agriculture.
“Future generations will either remember us as the generation that destroyed its home, or the one that finally came to respect it,” said Munir Meghjani, who helped to initiate Sustainable Nation, a program which has eliminated the use of plastic water bottles and plastic bags in Jamatkhanas across the United States.
Operated by the Volunteer Resource Management team since 2014, this program has kept thousands of pounds of plastics out of landfill sites by installing water filters, using reusable water jugs and fabric bags, and strategically placing recycling bins in Jamatkhanas. The cost savings that result are an additional bonus. Munir estimates that in just five centers in the US Southeast region, Sustainable Nation helps save $18,000 in the purchase of water bottles and $5,000 in the cost of plastic bags annually.
Reflecting on the journey, he says, “There were many challenges, from educating the volunteers and the Jamat on why this is important, to figuring out how to go about reducing, reusing and recycling in Jamatkhana… I am intrigued by how we can encourage Jamati members to take these practices to their homes and places of work."
Adil Devshi helped implement the Sustainable Nation program. He said, "Thanks to the volunteers across the country who have made this incredible initiative a success, the impact of this program will be felt generationally and (Sustainable Nation) has really put the spotlight on climate change.”
Younger children are also being encouraged to use science and technology to help with sustainability. Each summer, thousands of Ismaili students in the United States look forward to Camp Mosaic. While camp organizers have incorporated environmentally sustainable practices over the last few years, including recycling and composting, this year, they decided to go above and beyond these practices.
Umer Rupani, Chief of Staff for Camp Mosaic, said, “We wanted to instil in the counselors and campers the value of sustainability, not just by encouraging them to recycle while at camp, but by teaching them why and how, so that they can take what they learn at camp and make it a part of their lives.”
Several regions incorporated environmental sustainability into the camp curriculum by focusing on the consequences of climate change, learning about energy consumption, and encouraging urban farming and sustainable city planning. At the 2019 Camp Mosaic, six to thirteen year old campers were taught how they can help the environment by incorporating green practices into their daily lives, with the ultimate goal of reaching carbon neutrality.
At the camp in Atlanta, counselors heard from Councilperson Kirkland Carden of the City of Duluth, and City of Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, who is also the Director of the Georgia Sierra Club. These officials shared technologies and practices through which their cities maximize environmental sustainability, when planning transportation, public safety, and economic development projects.
Camp Mosaic counselors used this knowledge to help their campers brainstorm novel ways to make our communities more sustainable. These ideas were developed and refined throughout the duration of the camp, and then pitched in a “Shark Tank” style competition, in front of Councilperson Carden, Mayor Terry, and other judges.
Aside from these large scale, nationwide programs, I-CERV (Ismailis Engaged in Responsible Volunteering) volunteers across the United States have participated in many service projects focused on the environment, including planting trees and beautifying parks.
Asma Jaria has helped organize some of these I-CERV projects through the Youth and Sports Board. She said, “Climate change poses one of the biggest long-term threats to our planet. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly imperative for us as a Jamat to practice environmental stewardship and be advocates for a sustainable lifestyle.”
Laila Hudda is an Environmental Engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency. While her day job is to work towards policies and programs that aim to protect the environment, she recently participated in a similar I-CERV beautification event at Medlock Park in Decatur, Georgia.
Speaking of the initiative, Laila said, “I-CERV events like park clean-ups help educate youth on the importance of trash-free neighborhoods and green spaces. These activities serve as a reminder of our duty to care for Allah’s creation and encourage environmental stewardship in all areas where we live, work, play, and pray.”