We care for our environment?

I question. Is what we believe to be environmental friendly indeed environmental friendly? And is being environmental friendly Islamic? I’m also motivating members in Quran De Novo to write more posts on applying the Islamic principles in real life, including real life experiences, as Islam advocates an active lifestyle; charity and fighting for peace and justice are emphasized along with the system of Monotheism in the first five – and one of the most important group of – chapters in the Quran. I think the first five chapters already explained the core of the system of God, and the later chapters are elevating us to higher levels of being, or perhaps the later chapters constitute a training plan for the soul, just like exercises after core concepts in a math book. (Warning: I’m heavily relying on the theory of evolution in this post) 

I just went to the annual UCLA Ecochella, a concert entirely using electricity generated by human power, motivating people to protect the environment, and I rode some bikes there and generated some electricity which powered the concert on the stage. I also signed a petition to build more bike lanes, like on Westwood Blvd, and especially especially especially Wilshire Blvd and hopefully Pico Blvd and Sepulveda. I demonstrated how to eat an apple “correctly” to reduce waste; I ate all of the apple, including the core which didn’t have seeds, leaving the stalk. And I helped to spread the word to save the ocean and lagoons from pollution; this is a political fight, since local residents are reluctant to invest money on such environment problems.





But I ended up with skepticism of what I’ve done in Ecochella. Is traveling by bike indeed environmental friendly? It takes energy and generates pollution to manufacture more bikes and build more bike lanes. If more people go everywhere by bike, then more food need to be made, since people are burning more calories, then more land is needed for agriculture. And I know that manufacturing many bike accessories do generate pollution and the material of some cheap accessories are bad for health. And bike lanes and bike tracks take up space, so roads should be made wider, further destructing some ecosystems. And cars means more efficient transport (if there’s no traffic), which fosters economy and friendship between cities and states.

But it seems that traveling by bike is still more environmental friendly than traveling by car. At least, say, an ordinary car can take 5 people including the driver, and it takes far more material and energy to build such a car than to build 5 bikes. And bikes won’t generate pollutants like CO and nitrogen oxides. And if more people travel by bike instead of car, then the overweight and obese and related diabetes and so on rates will go down, and thus energy wasted on medical care and pollution generated by the non-reusable medical supplies. And cars also have many accessories – made of similar materials as many bike accessories and much larger. And if more people travel by bike, then the car traffic will go down, so the roads don’t need to be expanded. And if the roads are more bike friendly, poor people who can’t afford cars will not be denied right to transportation. In fact, I don’t mind if somebody is walking on the bike lane.

But what about public transport? Is public transport using green energy more environmental friendly than bikes? And are those “green” sources such as solar panels indeed green? Why aren’t they also advocating more efficient public transport? (Enough of the horrible inefficient Metro!) I think we need more data. And what about long distance transport? Are airplanes and trains and buses like Greyhound also more environmental friendly than driving? Probably this is true for Greyhound, since it takes less material and energy to build a bus than 10 cars, and one bus might burn less fuel than 10 cars. but I’m not sure about airplanes, although I enjoy the acceleration when taking off and the scenery in the sky. What about boats? Efficient public transport can build the link between cities and states built by cars, probably in a more environmental friendly way. After all, what links nations is the airplane, and almost all air traffic is public.

And probably I should distant myself from politics, such a filthy field. Should I override democracy? But what is really democracy? What if the majority of people are just ignorant? I think, before I advocate environmental friendly transport and clean ocean, I should advocate critical thinking first, which very few people do, so the general public will be able to think on their own, not easily fooled by evil politicians. I’m skeptical of environmentalism, since every organism is changing the ecosystem. OK, in the wild, termites can build “highways” and large hives and corrupt trees, but we don’t think they’re corrupting the environment because we think they’re in the “wild.” And many organisms coevoluted, like plants and insects who pollinate the plants, and some plants develop toxins to poison herbivores and meanwhile some animals developed means to overcome such toxins. The environment is not unchanging. We might be causing extinction of some species; well, the advent of angiosperms means extinction of many species of ferns and horsetails which don’t do that well as angiosperms, but what comes next is great adaptive radiation and diversification of angiosperms. And the extinction of dinosaurs means adaptive radiation and diversification of mammals, as lots of ecological niches are opened. So are we also causing speciation and adaptive radiation and diversification? That’s also a form of coevolution, just like flowering plants and their pollinators coevolved. Then what counts as the biodiversity that we want? There were other mass extinctions long before the advent of humans, then you’re blaming God?

But I still support a more environmental friendly lifestyle, since polluting the environment and the resultant change in climate are bad for our own health and our own welfare. And wasting resources means that it will run out while we still need it, and wasting is itself not theologically correct, as it characterizes a lifestyle of haste and indulgence of the worldly life, which in turn causes idolatry, sins, and bad theology. In the Quran, people who reject the message are mostly characterized as people who live lives of haste and indulgence, and whose hearts are blind. Then what’s health? Will pollution generate selection pressure so over time, more and more people are pollution-resistant? I’m still assuming that every human life is equally precious, so we’re trying our best to make everyone equally viable and have equal rights to health. But I think this has to be justified with theology, as God will judge each of us, so we should give everyone equal chance to repent and be righteous. This may also be seen in the principle of respite; God leaves sinful people in respite, until they have a chance to know the message especially through a messenger, so they will have equal chance to repent and be righteous. But the respite is not forever; the message is accessible even without a messenger, though harder, and everyone will eventually be judged. We’re different from other animals, as we’re intelligent and we have something called ethics which even atheists care about, so we’re responsible for what we do. I don’t think Islam directly supports environmental protection, but it might do so indirectly. Also, a healthy body is good for our spiritual journey in Monotheism, as everyone knows that we don’t want to think, learn, and contribute if we get sick. After all, it takes too long for the environment to reach a new equilibrium and for us to adapt to the change in environment.

Seriously, is what’s commonly believed to be “green” indeed green? Even scientists can yield to what’s politically correct, forgoing scientific rigor. I think science and state should be separate just as church and state should be separate, to protect academic integrity. Then we need more private funding for scientific research, and we should beat plutocracy, so science don’t get controlled by the same rich people who control politics. I think, if the majority don’t think on their own, I’d like to endure the nasty bumps on the road until they critically evaluate why bike lanes and why be environmental friendly, and draw their own rational conclusions. I also need to critically evaluate; the advocates in Ecochella were not presenting any data and real studies. I’d like to endure the bumps and the traffic; this is a ride towards the light, the consciousness. After all, we all need healthy souls.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Ballona Creek Bike Path

Ballona Creek Bike Path


One thought on “We care for our environment?

  1. Another problem with the common bicycle advocacy is that we can’t deny how automobile contributed to the economy. Provided the importance of cars in current society, adding a bike lane will cause more traffic congestion, slower traffic, and less parking spaces. Public transport can never truly replace private transport, since private transport is a lot more flexible and will respond to emergencies much more effectively. But how important cars actually are? We need more data, and this depends on where you are. The problem may not be with bike advocacy itself, but about when and how to advocate. We don’t need bike advocacy in poor parts of China, since many people can only afford to ride bikes. But is it really needed in the West?

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