The Official E-Newsletter of the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka   |  Issue 47 - April / May 2020

Till Sun and Moon Shines [Part 5]

By Eng. Chandana Jayawardana

Religious teachings as an approach to sustainability

Some of the empirical approaches in achieving sustainability were discussed in the last issue. There were some alternative discussions also, not based on scientific and technological approaches, but biased towards religious and historical spheres. This issue is dedicated to brief some of the approaches based on religious teachings considered towards achieving sustainability.

In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the document titled "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity". These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that "a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided." In their manifesto, they showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They expressed concern about current, impending, or potential damage on planet Earth involving ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.

Here was so stark and authoritative a warning which could not be slipped without notice and calling for due recognition from entire human family. As the problem became ever more urgent, scholars began to examine other disciplines than science and law with a view to gathering insights and perspectives that might be of assistance in the unprecedented situation now facing humanity. According to Weeramantry, one such discipline came into focus was the deep environmental wisdom embodied in the teachings of the great religions (Weeramantry, 2009). These had hitherto been looked upon as prescribing principles of human conduct towards humans, but the realization now surface that the religions also contained prescriptions regarding human conduct towards the environment as well.

C. G. Weeramantry, (1926 - 2017)
A Sri Lankan lawyer who was a Judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) from 1991 to 2000, serving as its vice-president from 1997 to 2000. He also served as an emeritus professor at Monash University and as the president of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms

According to Weeramantry several forums have discussed the blending between religious teachings and the environmental concerns. At the inter-religious level there have been many notable activities directed to this end, and many institutions set up to achieve them. Among them is the Interfaith Partnership for the Environment established by the United Nations Environmental Programme which has given local congregations and religious groups a vast number of packets of material to be used in the cause of generating interest in religious perspectives and promoting practical activities in the field of environmental protection.
The World Parliament of Religious held in Chicago in 1993 and Cape Town in 1999 issued far reaching statements linking religious teachings with environmental issues. The Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders has held a series of seminars which have focused heavily on environmental issues. The Harvard Divinity School was host in 1996-1998 to a series of ten conferences on the theme of "Religions of the World and Ecology". Millennium World Peace Summit of Religions and the Environment made this their central topic for discussion. Another noteworthy activity in this clause is the study "Religions and Ecology: Can the Climate Change?" launched by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As an illustration of all this activity, the Assisi meeting in 1986 highlighted how such discussions can focus attention specifically on the teachings of each religion, while preserving the general theme of environmental problem.


Weeramantry, C.G., 2009, Tread Light on the Earth: Religion, Environment and the Human Future, Stafford Lake Pvt. Ltd., Pannipitiya

World Scientists' Warning to Humanity,


Eng. Chandana Jayawardana has earned his first degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Moratuwa and then, post graduate qualifications in Industrial Engineering and Buddhist Studies. He is currently working as Design Manager, Balfour Beatty Ceylon (Pvt) Ltd, Katunayake.