Mainstream economics treats altruism as ‘impure’. It looks at altruism in the paradigm of pursuing self-interest. Economists like Andreoni reason that altruism can be explained through the ‘warm glow’ effect. People feel good to help others as they gain personal and private comfort. They might be doing it because of social pressure, to gain fame, to improve social image, to exhibit status or to avoid the guilt of saying no to a cause in public. The paradigm of self-interest is neutral between a person’s decision to help others or to not help others.
In the Islamic framework, there is an emphasis on conservation, preservation and responsible use of resources. There is a discouragement for excessiveness, extravagance, lavishness and wastefulness in the use of resources. These norms are especially needed in the present times to foster a healthy, livable and sustainable ecosystem. In 2019 alone, humans have used up resources for the whole year within 7 months according to World Economic Forum.
A great number of empirical studies now challenge the position of conceptualising human behaviour only in the framework of a rational, utility-maximizing homo-economicus. Yet, this framework is used for the purpose of simplicity and tractability in situations where abstraction does not result in major loss of focus and information at hand.
When we look at Islamic environmental ethics encapsulated in Islamic principles, we find that they compliment these SDGs and can act as a catalyst to foster commitment, responsibility and affirmative action for sustainable and congenial co-existence with environment.