The Ohito Declaration on

Religions, Land and Conservation

April 1995, Ohito, Japan

Expressions of Concern

The health of the planet is being undermined by systemic breakdowns on several levels. Faith communities are not taking effective action to affirm the bond between humankind and nature, and lack accountability in this regard. Human systems continue to deteriorate, as evidenced by militarism, warfare, terrorism, refugee movement, violations of human rights, poverty, debt and continued domination by vested financial, economic and political interests. Biological systems and resources are being eroded, as evidenced by the ongoing depletion, fragmentation and pollution of the natural systems. Recognising the important parallels between cultural and biological diversity, we feel a special urgency with regard to the ongoing erosion of cultures and faith communities and their environmental traditions, including the knowledge of people living close to the land.

As people of faith, we are called to respond to these concerns. We recognise that humanity as a whole must face these concerns together. Therefore we recommend these principles as a basis for appropriate environmental policy, legislation and programmes, understanding that they may be expressed differently in each faith community.

Spiritual Principles

  1. Religious beliefs and traditions call us to care for the earth.
  2. For people of faith maintaining and sustaining environmental life systems is a religious responsibility.
  3. Nature should be treated with respect and compassion, thus forming a basis for our sense of responsibility for conserving plants, animals, land, water, air and energy.
  4. Environmental understanding is enhanced when people learn from the example of prophets and of nature itself.
  5. Markets and trade arrangements should reflect the spiritual needs of people and their communities to ensure health, justice and harmony. Justice and equity principles of faith traditions should be used for maintaining and sustaining environmental life systems.
  6. People of faith should give more emphasis to a higher quality of life in preference to a higher standard of living, recognising that greed and avarice are root causes of environmental degradation and human debasement.
  7. All faiths should fully recognise and promote the role of women in environmental sustainability.
  8. People of faith should be involved in the conservation and development process. Development of the environment must take better account of its effects on the community and its religious beliefs
  9. Faith communities should endorse multilateral consultation in a form that recognises the value of local/indigenous wisdom and current scientific information.
  10. In the context of faith perspectives, emphasis should be given not only to the globalisation of human endeavours, but also to participatory community action.

Recommended Courses of Action

  1. We call upon religious leaders to emphasise environmental issues within religious teaching: faith should be taught and practised as if nature mattered
  2. We call upon religious communities to commit themselves to sustainable practices and encourage community use of their land.
  3. We call upon religious leaders to recognise the need for ongoing environmental education and training for themselves and all those engaged in religious instruction.
  4. We call upon people of faith to promote environmental education within their community especially among their youth and children.
  5. We call upon people of faith to implement individual, community and institutional action plans at local, national, and global levels that flow from their spiritual practices and where possible to work with other faith communities.
  6. We call upon religious leaders and faith communities to pursue peacemaking as an essential component of conservation action.
  7. We call upon religious leaders and communities to be actively involved in caring for the environment to sponsor sustainable food production and consumption.
  8. We call upon people of faith to take up the challenge of instituting fair trading practices devoid of financial, economic and political exploitation.
  9. We call upon the world’s religious leaders and world institutions to establish and maintain a networking system that will encourage sustainable agriculture and environmental life systems.
  10. We call upon faith communities to act immediately, to undertake self-review and auditing processes on conservation issues on a regular basis.