WHAT IS THIS CAMPAIGN
Two Billion Strong is a platform that exists to help Muslims around the world to join the conversation on climate injustice.
The Muslim community is two billion strong. That’s two billion voices. Two billion stories full of culture, skill, and experience. It’s also two billion people experiencing the knock-on impacts of climate change – whether it is ourselves or our families on the frontline of the climate crisis in the countries or communities most affected, or in our daily lives as we see how global events highlight disparities.
Voices, stories, and experiences from the Muslim community are everywhere. We are calling for our voices to be part of those movements shining a spotlight on the governments, on fossil fuel companies, and on all those corporations and holders of power contributing to the climate crisis with no serious action to change, while those who have contributed the least to climate change continue to take the hit.
Although Islam and the environment are so interconnected, conversations on both often sit separately. There is a lack of Muslim representation in the mainstream portrayal of climate change, and we’re here to change that, together. The communities and countries impacted the most by climate change are mostly those that do not have the support, the finances, or the infrastructure to recover quickly from the effects. Climate change is amplifying struggles and exacerbating injustice faced by communities across the globe. Degrading the nature and the landscapes that surround us and support us, that we are connected to through the Oneness of our faith, and the oneness of ecological science. Let’s bring these conversations into our lives and communities. Let’s spotlight the solutions. Let’s make our voices heard for all of those who are unable to speak.
“The earth is a mosque, and everything in it is sacred” – Green Deen by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin
We are here as stewards of this earth to maintain peace and seek justice. We are one of two billion across the globe. Imagine that – two billion actions, two billion letters, two billion footprints setting an example and paving the way for the generations after us. We are one ummah – one community – with many stories to tell. Together, we are two billion strong and we can make a difference.
We’re at a time when people in the richest and most powerful positions across the globe turn a blind eye to solutions for the world’s injustices – a direct consequence of those imbalances of power that have contributed to the climate crisis and injustice that we are seeing unfold.
We are seeing these impacts loud and clear, but still governments and big corporations have yet to show quick enough action to move away from systems that put profits over people and the planet. But we are also at a time of unity, or oneness and of resistance. We’re seeing movements and solutions from the community – our global community – in all corners of the world, Showing everyone that these experiences, these injustices, cannot be ignored. This right now – is the tipping point.
We are at a tipping point. In the last year alone, we’ve seen and experienced scorching summer heatwaves, around the same time as devastating floods that have impacted so many lives in Pakistan and wildfires in Portugal and Spain. These events took place after two surreal years of a global struggle to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are sandwiched between the current cost-of-living crisis.
What these global events have in common is how they have highlighted that not everyone’s experience is equal: historically and presently, global power imbalances and their consequences have left some people more likely to be at a disadvantage, whether because of their nationality, race, gender, class, sexuality and/or (dis)ability, and it is those who are more likely to be disproportionately impacted by these large-scale events. One of the biggest events underlying all of these examples, and the biggest global event we are experiencing at the moment, is climate change.
Climate change is the buzzword – but what does it mean? Climate change is the umbrella term used to refer to changes in our earth systems which have been pushed to extremes due to human activity. It is a consequence of centuries of injustice rooted in colonialism and racism – particularly from brutal power structures upheld within European settler-colonialism of the Industrial Revolution during the 1800s. The communities most affected by these histories continue to see the consequences today.
We live on a planet so carefully articulated, so specifically designed to support, restore, and resource itself (and us) through its natural, ecological processes. However, some human activities have overloaded these natural cycles, making changes in our atmosphere to the point where they are struggling to keep up. Both the human activities behind climate change and the consequences of climate change feed into our everyday lives.
The leading cause of climate change is the large-scale burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are exactly that – fossilised ‘fuel’ sources in the form of oil, coal, or gas that are made from prehistoric remains of animal and plant materials that have broken down over millions of years. This lengthy process is what is meant when fossil fuels are referred to as ‘non-renewable’ sources of energy – they aren’t easily replaced and can’t be reused.
Fossil fuels are filled with a chemical substance called carbon and are often embedded deep into the earth. Once extracted the fossil fuels are burned to turn them into an energy source – to power our transport, heat our homes, and manufacture our everyday products. Through this burning process, they release gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane – these are known as emissions. The emissions that are released alter our atmosphere by trapping the sun’s heat, making the earth’s atmosphere hotter, which is why these emissions are referred to as greenhouse gases.
These rising temperatures are behind extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts, rising sea levels leading to increasing floods, and record-breaking heat waves. The high number of emissions in our atmosphere also impacts our health by polluting the air we breathe, contributing to a rise in illness and disease.
The impacts of climate change don’t affect everyone equally. The richest 10% of the world population has been found to be responsible for 52% of global carbon emissions. Let’s take a moment for that to sink in – that’s over half of the climate-altering global emissions.
These emissions have caused the earth’s global temperature to rise by at least 1.2C degrees since pre-industrial times. That might not sound like much, but that 1.2C has been enough to exacerbate extreme weather events like one of the worst floods that hit Nigeria last year, displacing 2 million people, and like the extreme drought, heatwaves and unpredictable rainfall impacting the livelihood of millions of farmers in India. The emissions behind this temperature rise are also a contributing factor to the increased air pollution disproportionately affecting racialized communities in cities across Europe and the rest of the world.
A 1.5C rise in global temperatures is considered a tipping point – the trigger for irreversible changes, amplifying the worst of the impacts that we’re starting to see now. If nothing changes now, we are looking at a rise of at least 2.4C by the end of the century. Climate change is a phenomenon, but climate justice is a response. It’s a movement with a shared goal and tagline of “systems change, not climate change” that is rooted in the need to look at climate change as one part of an issue that means people and communities who have contributed the least to climate change face the brunt of the lasting and continuing impacts. So, let’s be real – we really are at a tipping point.
“And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.” (28:77)
Islam has always been rooted in justice and equity. Islam’s teaching of peace was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed PBUH over 1400 years ago and continues to carry a rich history of stories from the Qur’an, and stories captured throughout the growth and spread of Islam to the present day, that illustrate the strong current of peace, love, and justice in the faith. From the distribution of one’s own wealth to support those in need of it (zakat) to the indiscriminate kindness and care set as example through stories of the Prophet Muhammed PBUH, the impetus for global and social justice rooted in Islamic teaching couldn’t be clearer.
“To God belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth, and God encompasses everything.” (4:126)
The teachings illustrated in the rich archive of Islamic stories are extended to the care and compassion for the earth (long before any meanings behind the term climate change existed!). Islam’s teaching of Oneness finds its way into every corner of Islamic faith. This Oneness refers to the understanding not only of one God, but also of everything in the universe being of God’s creation – understanding that everything has been created from one and the same source. It is no surprise then, that the world around us works as it does where the land, nature and natural processes support us, just as we can contribute to supporting it back. From a scientific perspective this is the first law of ecology. Our world and our universe are so intricately designed; from how the soil grows the plants that feed and purify the air for us and other living things; how our seasons and weather cycles grow these plants, giving them what they need to produce fruit, vegetables, and seeds; how the wind, insects and animals can help to pollinate the plants, continuing their life and the natural cycles that feed, support, share and maintain each other. Any human-influenced disruption to these cycles then, no matter how small, has a domino effect – just as we see in the causes and impacts of climate change.
Let’s give an example of this interconnectedness: trees have a special and unique relationship with rainwater. Of course, as plants they absorb water to grow and survive, which they usually get through rainfall. Maybe less obvious though is how during heavy rainstorms, the canopies of a tree’s leaves and trunks help to catch and slow down rain from building up on the ground. The rain that does reach the ground is then slowly soaked up by the soil, but the tree’s roots can help this process by creating pathways through its roots for the water to travel down. Not only this, but the roots will also drink some of that water, helping to reduce the overall build-up of water and therefore reducing the likelihood of flooded ground. Meanwhile, trees also have a key role in capturing carbon from the air, giving both us and the wildlife around us cleaner air and better health. However, deforestation (a human act of removing trees from an area) to make room for farming, buildings, roads or other human-made (and economically motivated) structures, affects those natural cycles and increases the risk of flooding and higher levels of carbon emissions in the air.
“Then We made you successors in the land after them so that We may observe how you will do.” (10:14)
Throughout the Qu’ran, readers are referred to as Khalifah, often translated as ‘stewards’, of the Earth. The role of the steward is to look after, oversee and make sure things are as they should be. So, the role of the steward of the earth is what has been embedded in Islam from the very start. It is what every pillar of the faith is rooted in – to strive to maintain the peace and balance of our incredibly designed and interconnected universe.
“The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, the exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves” (Saheeh Muslim).
1. Increased representation of the Muslim community in the climate movement.
2. Increased conversations within the Muslim community around climate change.