Talking To Hindus About Climate Change

Yesterday I was delightedGanesha statue being carried underneath umbrella from temple to 4WD chariot to have been able to join in celebrations for Ganesh Chaturthi at one of my local Hindu temples.  I had been invited to talk to the congregation about some very important gatherings that are happening later this year.

I thought the occasion particularly apt because Hindus and others particularly invoke Ganesha for:

  • ensuring success
  • removing evils and obstacles
  • education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth

These are just what we need if we are to make the changes necessary for sustainability and ensuring that life as we know it continues into the future, so we need all the help we can get! 😉

The invitation came about as a result of my work with Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC, a multi-faith

network taking action on the most pressing issue of our time: climate change) and helping some global organisations working on climate change such as OurVoices, The People’s Pilgrimage and FastForTheClimate.

I was aiming to connect with the congregation, engage them in the need take action on climate change, and inform them about the People’s Climate March and hopefully entice them to attend.[i]

For me, climate change is the greatest problem that has ever faced humanity.  It is not just another discreet economic or political problem.  Climate change is a systemic crisis that requires concerted action locally and globally.

In the face of ecological damage and social injustices, it is important to affirm our love for our world and its inhabitants and our deep reverence for life – and this is just what members of ARRCC do.

It was therefore a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to talk with people who have a deep understanding of how

the divine is manifested in the natural world around us

and how

we have a sacred responsibility to care for the earth.

The natural world is a precious gift,

yet

climate change is harming the earth.

We [therefore] need to return to our proper relation­ship to the earth.

When we do, the world [will be] restored to its natural abundance.

Climate change is disrupting the natural balance in the world.

Everywhere, people are noticing that the

seasons are coming at the wrong times.

In the Himalayas, melting glaciers are disrupting the timing of river flows. They have also increased the number of lakes from a few thousand in the mid 1900s to over 20,000 today.
Many of the lakes are in severe danger of bursting, which could cause catastrophes such as massive flash flooding and landslides. Changes such as these have led both the national government of India and nongovernmental organizations to identify climate change as threatening people living in India and neighbouring countries.[ii]

Climate change is a message that something is wrong.

 We need to wake up!

Hindus know that

we should respect and maintain the natural order and the universal systems that govern the earth. Climate change is tipping the natural order off balance, leading to instability and chaos. [Yet, w]hen we take action, the world returns to its natural order and stability is restored.

 This is a moral challenge.

Climate change is particularly harming people who are poor and vulnerable.

I am sure that I do not need to tell you about the immense suffering that people in India have just faced during the recent heat wave that killed over 2500 people with temperatures of up to 48oC, mainly in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana – or that people in Philippines and Vanuatu suffered as a result of super storms Cyclone Hayan and Cyclone Pam.

Climate change will harm future generations even more.

Hindus (and, indeed, most of us) know that

we should be generous and care for people who are poor and vulnerable…It is [also] our responsibility to preserve the legacy of our parents and provide for the future for our children.

Our faith is our way of life.
It is what we say and do every day.
We have been arrogant, ignorant, greedy and wasteful.

And yet,

[t]o fulfil our duty of faith[, we know that we need to] live by our principles, gladly living a simple, contented and fulfilled life.

We recognise the need for action at all levels – government, business, nations and community – and in our personal lives.

We express our faith through our actions.

When we live more simply, in a way that does not impact on the climate, we become better people and our actions are more in harmony with our faith.

I know this.

That’s why

climate change is important to me and my faith.
I accept this truth and will share it.
I make a[n ongoing] commitment to change myself and protect the world…

By doing so, I help build a world in which others share my values.

By making an ongoing commitment to protect the world,
I help build a world in which others share our values.

That’s because

[all] faiths have a strong sense of interconnectedness between humans, the natural world and the divine, and with past and future generations.

Through action we can strengthen our connections with our faith, our community, other people of faith and all of humanity.

One of the actions I am taking is to help mobilise people of faith
in the lead-up to the UN climate change talks in Paris at the end of the year.

At that meeting and afterward, world leaders will meet to agree on how the world will respond to climate change.

And that’s why I went to talk to this Hindu congregation: to invite them and their friends and family to join in the People’s Climate March.

More about the People’s Climate March in my next post. See you there!

 

 

 

 

 


[i] This post is an edited version of what I prepared for my talk at the Hindu temple. My talk drew on and quoted extensively from the results of research by the Climate Outreach and Information Network for OurVoices. (Climate Outreach and Information Network, 2015, ‘Messages to mobilise people of faith on climate change’, summary report to Our Voices.) Those quotes are inset and not necessarily in the order in which they appear in the report. It also drew extensively from draft internal campaign planning material for the Australian People’s Climate Marches. Because of the nature of that material, any quotes from that material are not marked as such.

[ii] The Salvation Army – International Social Justice Commission, 2011, ‘A Call for Climate Justice’, p4.

UPDATE June 2017: link to Fast For The Climate removed because the website is no longer operational.

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