Resources on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

Pilgrimages: Hot Steps

November 5, 2011

The Economist's November 2011 article "Pilgrimages: Hot Steps" focuses on the environmental degradation caused by religious pilgrims and the economic measures being taken to offset this massive footprint. The Alliance of Religions and Conservation, which includes representatives of the world's main faith traditions, met in fall 2011 to discuss how religious travel—over 100 million pilgrims travel annually—could be made more environmentally merciful. One such investment is a $2 billion railway being built in Mecca to replace thousands of pollution-heavy buses for Muslims making the hajj. In other places like Varanasi, India, where the Ganges River (sacred to Hindus) is filled with soap and detritus left by pilgrim bathers, less expensive measures like newspaper reminder advertisements are low-cost measures by religious groups and environmentalists who desire the preservation of destinations they love.

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