Seven Key Areas
Faith-consistent use of assets
Land, forests and woodlands, and nature
The first of the Seven Key Areas, Faith-Consistent Use of Assets, is a big one. Faiths are major stakeholders in the physical planet when it comes to land, buildings, forests and water – and that's before we get to health care, financial investments and microfinance, and purchasing power and consumption behaviours, all of which fall into this category. For that reason, we have split this section into several pages. Here we focus on land, forests and woodlands, and nature.
Ancient trees are precious. There is little else on Earth that plays host to such a rich community of life within a single living organism
Sir David Attenborough
Caring for creation in your physical landscape
Faiths own or manage a great deal of land. They own or manage around 8% of the globe’s inhabitable land mass, and more than 5% of forests, including around 15% of commercial forests. They also have influence over land that they don't own but which has spiritual significance. As a result, they have significant role to play in how their land is managed, protecting and creating forests and woodlands, planting trees and conserving wildlife habitats.
Questions to consider as you develop your Faith Plan
The guide below provides prompts and pointers to help you identify what steps you can take to use your land, forests and woodlands for the benefit of people and planet, including nature protection and restoration. You can also download a copy of the questions to work offline.
LAND, FORESTS and NATURE
First steps: Examine the assets under your organisation’s ownership, management or guidance – such as forests and woodland, grasslands and pastures, farmland and gardens including community gardens, and areas of open desert, mountain or hillside – and consider the following questions.
- What does your faith teach about land and forests? Do you have access to a theology of land from your own faith tradition, which outlines your faith’s traditional understanding of land, and of the land’s role in your faith today?
Can you use your theology of land to encourage people to both avoid undesirable behaviours and instead positive behaviours in how your land and forests are accessed and managed? What land-based activities might flow from this theology?
Have you mapped and recorded the extent of your land and/or forests? Have you recorded the biodiversity on your land?
Are current management/protection programmes ecologically and socially beneficial?
LAND, FORESTS and NATURE continued
5. What improvements can you make in your existing management practices over the short and long term to better contribute to sustaining our planet? For example, can you establish – and meet–- ecological targets?
Next steps: Have you considered other stakeholders?
Does the land or forest you own have purpose for non-faith stakeholders or those of other faiths?
Have these relationships been taken into consideration when determining what ecological improvements can be made?
How will you include stakeholders or keep them informed about any activity or decisions made for change?
Can you bring your local community into activities that make a difference at grassroot level?
How is your commitment to gender, racial and societal equality reflected in your long-term land and forest management plans?
An innovative Sikh project is planting hundreds of micro-forests in India and around the globe
The Sikh environmental organisation, EcoSikh, has planted hundreds of micro-forests as part of its Guru Nanak Sacred Forest project. Nearly 400 forests have been planted so far, including one in the heart of India's capital city, New Delhi.
The Sacred Forest initiative was born of an intense need to take action in the face of severe ecological issues – in particular the need to limit global warming to no more than 1.5ºC – explained EcoSikh’s global president, Dr Rajwant Singh, talking to us ahead of the November 2021 COP26 climate conference.
'We had two options: either to sit back or to take action,' he said. 'And we are proud as a team that we chose the latter. As of now, EcoSikh has planted 366 forests with over 195,250 trees in India and 20,000 trees worldwide.'
The forests, named after Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, can attract a broad range of biodiversity within just months of planting, and help restore the local ecological balance. So far studies show that more than 100 native, rare and endangered, wild forest species have been conserved as live seed banks in these forests, which have a 95% survival rate.
EcoSikh says everyone can plant a forest in their backyard, school, college or at their own religious place and that this is 'a collective and a solid step' to fight climate change. It's only just started: EcoSikh has pledged to ultimately plant 1 million trees worldwide.