NEW YORK, USA—In honor of the Sikh concern for preserving ‘Mata Dharat’ (Mother Earth), Sikhs from cities across the northeast joined the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21st, the largest mass movement for climate justice in history.
World leaders came to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. The world is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution.
With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we took a stand to bend the course of history. We took to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.
We march because Sikhi affirms the sanctity of the Earth.
We march because the ecological basis of Sikhi rests in the understanding that the Creator (‘Qadir’) and the Creation (‘Qudrat’) are One. The Divine permeates all life, and is inherent in the manifest creation around us, from the wind that blows across land and skies, to the water that flows through rivers and seas, to the forests and fields and all creatures of land and sea that depend on the earth for sustenance.
We march because Sikh Gurus teach that there is no duality between the force which makes a flower grow and the petals we are able to touch and sense with our fingers.
We march because 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, and water, the Creator established the earth as the home for humans to realize their Divinity in this world.
We march because the Sikh Gurus were deeply connected to biodiversity. Throughout Guru Granth Sahib, birds and trees are used to describe the metaphoric relationship between a disciple and the Divine. Birds like the peacock, flamingo, hawk, cuckoo, nightingale, crane, swan, owl, and the koyal, and trees like the banyan, pipal, and sandalwood of Punjab are used in the Gurus’ metaphors, along with many other species that describe the Divine’s presence through land, water, and sky.
We march because understanding the universe is embedded within the Khalsa ideal for Sikhs, a word that also signifies the ‘sovereign’ body of Sikhs who make a commitment to protecting the most marginalized among us — a strong call to environmental justice.
The challenge that rests before us is tremendous and weighs a heavy on human life and the survival of our planet.
We march because unconcern for the environment has real implications. Take the ecological crisis currently facing the region of Punjab as an example, where 25 million of the world’s Sikhs reside. This once thriving alluvial plain, home to croplands interspersed with grasslands, forests, wetlands, and rivers, now has fallen among the lowest in Asia in ecological rankings. Due to unchecked demand on resources, the region claims some of the highest damage to soil, land, and water systems, and some of the highest rates of biodiversity loss in the world.
The Sikh Gurus’ message is timeless. Indeed, a harmonious relationship with our planet is essential for human life. Hence, the collective Sikh effort for the environment not only represents the spiritual foundation to protect our environment, but also the power of us all working together for sarbat da bhalla, the well being of all.
May all remain spiritually exalted, and always in service of the Universal, Creative Force that sustains this Earth.