Sustainability is for Everyone

 13 Nov 2016 - 12:08

Dr Syed E Hasan

Sustainability has received a great deal of media attention in recent years. Most people think it is a huge global issue that should be addressed by governments and institutions and individuals have nothing to do with it. But the reality is that it is as important for an individual as major corporations and administrative bodies.

No matter whether one is working in the academia, government,business, finance, or management, the idea of sustainability needs to be embraced by each and every segment of the society: It is equally relevant to an individual, a small business owner, CEO of a corporation, or a minister in the government.

So, what is sustainability? This article is an attempt to provide an answer in a simple term to the readers with the expectation that they, in turn, would convey it to people they interact with, thereby initiating the movement to make sustainability part of everyone’s life.

This small action by individuals would lead to big changes in course of timethat—among many other tangible benefits—would make a positive difference in limiting the unprecedented rise in carbon dioxide emission that is threating our existence on the earth. Somehow this important concept which the Qur’an informed us some 14 centuries ago, was lost through time. But thanks to the environmentally-aware citizens of the earth, it has made a come back in a big waythat holds the promise tosavehuman beings from untold miseries.

At a personal level, sustainability means leading a simple life that is in harmony with nature; and is not extravagant and wasteful. It requires using the earth and its resources in a prudent manner to ensure that the future generations would have access to all essential resources and will inherit a clean and healthy environment for their survival.

This is how it has been for millennia until the last century when rapid industrialisation released large quantities of greenhouse gases, resulting in global warming that has thrown the natural cycles of weather and climate out of balance.

Islam emphasises moderation which means all our developmental and other activities should follow the middle path and aim at maintaining the natural balance.Excessive and careless use of fossil fuel,or creating pollution of land, air, and water by carelessdumping of waste,are two glaring examples of how we have “disturbed the order and created chaos”on the earth.Verse 56 of Surah Al Aaraf has clearly warned us about avoiding such actions:

(“And do not create chaos on the earth after it has been set in order, and call upon Him with fear and longing. Surely Allah’s mercy is close to those who do good” 7:56).

Many of the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) affirm the principle of resource conservation, pollutionprevention, and maintaining a clean and healthy environment, which are key elements of the modern concept of environmental sustainability. We Muslims should draw inspiration from his life that was a model of simple living and environmental stewardship. It should serve as an excellent example for preventing waste and conserving resources.

Environmental sustainability must consider economic, environmental, and social factors to ensure that any planned developmental activities—occurring at a rapid pace in Qatar and other Gulf countries—would not take away the right of future generations to the vital life-supporting natural resources.

In its Vision 2030 report, Qatar affirmed that its developmental goal “aims at transforming Qatar into an advanced country by 2030, capable of sustaining its own development” and emphasised that “Qatar’s National Vision will choose the development path that carefully balances the interests of the current generation with the interests of future generations.”

However, this cherished goalcannot be fully accomplished until and unless everyone living and working in Qatar commit themselves to fulfilling their responsibilities. And herein lies the beauty and simplicity of practicing sustainability: Simple acts of being mindful of not wasting energy, water, food, and other bounties of nature, consuming not more than what we need, and adopting the elegant yet simple concept of Tashdeed(conservation), that I have noticed being promoted by the utility provider Kahrmaa in Qatar,can and will make a difference and set the country firmly on the path to sustainability.

So, as a well-wisher for Qatar and the planet Earth, what we need to do is to change our attitude toward the useof natural resources, regardless of our station in life.
No one has the moral or religious right to waste the life-sustaining resources of clean air, water, soil, minerals and energy, even if one can afford to pay for it. In addition, we must pledge to adopt the following simple measures, making them life-long habits to attain sustainability:(1) saving energy and water, (2) eating healthy food, more plant-based, less animal sourced, (3) skip water bottle, (4) avoid needleless driving, (5) keep electronics and medicines out of trash, and (6) cut down on chemical use by making our own cleaning supplies from vinegar and baking soda. Excellent resources on how to do it are available on the Internet.

The writer is an emeritus professor in environmental geoscience at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, USA. He was selected as a Fulbright Senior Scholar to teach a course in waste management at Qatar University in 2016 spring