WASHINGTON DC, USA—The Washington-based environmental organization, EcoSikh, has released a statement on climate change from the Sikh perspective, the first of its kind from a Sikh organization. The statement outlines new actions Sikhs can take to strengthen their connection to the Sikh faith through environmentalism, and expand their political voice within their communities.
“We want to inspire the Sikh community to take concrete action against climate change. Sikhs have a long history of standing up for the vulnerable, and as the world faces serious environmental security challenges, Sikhs must be poised to act,” said EcoSikh North America Program Manager, Sumeet Kaur.
The statement aims to connect environmental preservation with the teachings of the Sikh Gurus – a regular goal for this organization.
“‘The Sikh Gurus referred to the Earth as a ‘Dharamsaal,’ a place where union with the Divine is attained. Guru Nanak describes this in Jap Ji Sahib, that amid the rhythms of Creation, the changing seasons, air, water, the Creator established the Earth as the home for humans to realize their Divinity in this world,” said EcoSikh Ambassador, Bandana Kaur.
EcoSikh urges Sikhs to take action with this statement, to reverse the deleterious effects climate change has had on the earth.
“The first Sikh statement on climate change will be the catalyst for Sikhs to take real actions against climate change,” said EcoSikh President, Dr. Rajwant Singh. “As we see our homelands deteriorate in front of us, we must realize what is happening to our earth and do something.”
The statement begins with a line from the Guru Granth Sahib, which explains how all Creation is connected: You, Yourself created the Universe, and You are pleased…You, Yourself the bumblebee, flower, fruit and the tree. You, Yourself the water, desert, ocean and the pond. You, Yourself are the big fish, tortoise and the Cause of causes. (Guru Granth Sahib, Maru Sohele, 1020).
EcoSikh has also led several efforts this past year to engage Sikhs in environmental advocacy. Since March 2011, EcoSikh has been hosting Sikh Environmental Day, which is now celebrated by more than 2,000 Sikh institutions around the world. The day has become an annual event of education, action, and reflection.
EcoSikh will also be attending and will be a signatory to the United Nations Interfaith Summit on Climate Change taking place on September 23 in New York. EcoSikh will issue a joint statement following the UN summit.
The statement on climate change:
You, Yourself created the Universe, and You are pleased…You, Yourself the bumblebee, flower, fruit and the tree. You, Yourself the water, desert, ocean and the pond. You, Yourself are the big fish, tortoise and the Cause of causes.
— Guru Granth Sahib, Maru Sohele, 1020
Through His teachings, our first Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, explained that the world we humans create around ourselves is a reflection of our own inner state. So as we look around to our wasteful and polluting practices, we obtain an insight into the chaos within us.
When the tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, founded the Khalsa in 1699, he charged Sikhs to challenge any force that threatened the wellbeing of others. He made us warriors with the responsibility to protect the vulnerable. Today, the Earth is vulnerable because of climate change and because people have not protected their environments. Today, it is time to act and show that we are true warriors of the Khalsa. We must make amends with the Earth.
Our Mother Earth, Mata Dharat, has gone through undeniable changes at the hands of humans. It is abundantly clear that our action has caused great damage to the atmosphere and is projected to cause even more damage if left unhandled. Since 1980, the average temperature of the earth’s surface has increased drastically. Glaciers and Arctic ice are melting, and sea levels are rising – threatening plant and animal species and hurting the poor people of the world first. As Sikhs, we appeal to lawmakers, faith leaders, and citizens of the world to take concrete action toward reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment. And as Sikhs we pledge to take concrete actions ourselves. We have a responsibility to follow our Gurus’ teachings and protect the vulnerable.
Governments have struggled to find consensus and have been slow to reduce the effects of releasing greenhouse gases and excessive carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As climate change and thoughtless practice continue to threaten food and environmental security worldwide, governments have to put environmental issues at the center of security concerns. We should not only hope they will do so; we have to take the initiative to push our own governments to act.
Sikhs should be front-runners of change. Seva, the practice of selfless service, is a main tenet of Sikhism. Sikhs can perform seva by reducing our carbon footprints, recycling, investing in renewable energies, and being mindful about where our food comes from.
Gurdwaras, as beacons of righteous thought, must be eco-friendly. Our religious spaces, when in harmony with nature, will allow Sikhs to be more spiritually connected to Waheguru, the creator of all.
Respect for nature is ingrained in Sikh teachings. As Guru Nanak Ji said: Pawan Guru pani pita mata dharat mahat (Air is our teacher, water our father and the great sacred earth is our mother). If we act now, we can protect our atmosphere, water resources and earth for ourselves and for future generations. To achieve internal peace, we must first look at the environment in which we live.