The Human Foot Print
“Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel” [Napoleon Hill]
The last bit of the quote- ‘carbon is to steel’- by Napoleon Hill resonates loudly when one thinks about one of the most important achievements in the early modern era. The industrial revolution was a major breakthrough in the history of theworld. The conversion from manual labor to work done by machinery dramatically influenced the socio-economic and cultural landscape, ushering in a new era of urbanization and the decline of village and suburban economies. It also marked a defining point where the relationship between the Earth’s ecology and the human condition would never quite be the same again.
The impact that the revolution had was that of unlimited possibilities as far as production, trade and globalization in all its splendour was concerned. The true impact of industrialisation -or as some might put it- ‘rampant industrialisation’ would be fully realised three centuries later when ecologists and scientists in the late 20th century increasingly became aware that the rate at which countries across the globe were tapping into what were once unchartered resources could quite easily- if uncontrolled- label us ‘endangered species’.
Global summit meetings, environmental campaigns and media coverage have caught our attention to this delicate relationship with terminology such as the ‘carbon footprint’ and the need for each of us to reduce our own individual carbon foot prints. How can we do this and what does it have to do with any of us?
This has a lot to do with carbon emissions or in more specific terms, the emission of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas released when fossil fuels are burnt. The thing is that almost all the fuels that we use are carbon based. And because we heavily rely on these resources, the rate at which carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere has created what scientists term the ‘Greenhouse effect’. In other words, the earth is warming up, and warming up to the point that the climate of the earth is being destabilised. Many are led to believe that this has caused many of the catastrophic natural events we have seen in recent times.
This leads to the issue of what a carbon footprint is exactly? A carbon footprint has historically been defined as the “total sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, even product or person”. Yes, you have an effect on the environment and quite astonishingly it can come from activities or things you would have seldom thought could ever make the tiniest impact. From the clothes that you wear, to your diet, from the decision to take public transport or jetting off to a luxury holiday, all of these things tell a story of your legacy on the environment culminating in the carbon footprint.
For instance, whenever you buy a nice pair of jeggings or a coat, energy was used to create that particular item, not to mention the fuel used to transport the item, and the fuel you contributed by taking public transport to get to the stores- that is if you choose NOT to walk.
According to timeforchange.org, whilst the “carbon footprint is a very powerful tool to understand the impact of personal behaviour on global warming” and can to some effect reveal the devastating impact whole nations can have on the environment, it must be said that it’s something that can never be fully eradicated. Saying ‘I have no carbon footprint or I will remove my carbon footprint’ is almost the same as saying, ‘I have no shadow or I don’t want one’. The most important issue is for us to reduce our carbon footprint, thereby ensuring that any effect we have on the environment is measured and fair.
One of the beautiful signs of Allah is not only the systems that form the universe but the sense of balance by which Allah has created all that He has. He says in Surah Rahman verses 7-8 (in translation), “And the heaven He has raised high, and He has set up the Balance, in order that you may not transgress (due) balance”.
We could safely say that the discourse with regards to man and his environment actually goes far back further than the Industrial Revolution, even far back to the time when mankind was not even a thing mentioned.
Therefore, our Islamic ethics in this regard points to our sole mission in taking care of the earth on Allah’s behalf and ensuring that when we do utilise the resources of the earth, it is done in measure, without extravagance or carelessness. Controlling our carbon footprint reflects the importance we place on our relationship with the creation of Allah and how seriously we take our role as His vicegerents.
One of the most effective ways we can reduce our carbon footprint is by first changing our mentality on the way we interact with our environment. We must appreciate, that the way we interact with our environment whether it comes in the form of travel, utilising personal technology to how many clothes one buys has an impact on not just us as individuals but on the wider community. This is not to say that any and all impact is negative, but that we think how we can best utilise what is readily available without being extravagant or wasteful.
Examples of ways we can reduce our carbon footprint is walking to work or nearby places, installing water conservation appliances in our homes, remove the plug once we know our phone is fully charged and using lower energy appliances in our homes and public buildings. There are many examples of how to reduce our carbon footprint in many areas of our life,the full detail of which can be found on websites such as carbonfund.org
They say no man is an island. And in this case, certainly no footprint is without its making. It’s a simple theory of cause and effect. No action is without its reward. Taking care to carefully use our resources in a measured and balanced manner, with the aim of causing the least harm is testament of readiness on our part to fulfil our duty fully as deputies on behalf of Allah.
Adama Munu is a south London based writer and television presenter for the Islam Channel.