SIDE EVENT – TEMPLE OF UNDERSTANDING
RIO+20, 17 JUNE, 2012
Interfaith Response to Sustainable Development: A Vision of Ecological Civilization by Sr. Joan Kirby, Main United Nations Representative
The Temple of Understanding presented a Side Event together with co-sponsors at the Rio+20 Conference. Rabbi Soetendorp, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Sr. Jayanti and Joan Kirby were panelists and Grove Harris moderated.
What does religion have to do with sustainable development? The Interfaith Consortium for Ecological Civilization works toward the transformation of consciousness needed to make necessary life-style changes to assure sustainability. Religions help people shape their worldview and and act on their values.
Governments need the guidance of an awakened civil society to make radical changes. Corporations need an awakened civil society that will insist on a sustainable consumption. Inspired by the work of Thomas Berry CSP and the world’s religions, this presentation explored the spiritual resources for transformation and current manifestations of such transformation.
Rabbi Soetendorp’s representative, Michael Slaby, spoke of Juliet Hollister’s vision–different faiths working for justice, which includes eighty percent of the world’s population today. It is religion’s duty to mend and heal the world. The message throughout the conference was do not wait for governments to write laws to save the earth. We count on religions to shape human behavior by speaking to and educating hearts. We spiritual beings are writing earth consciousness into our hearts.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, a network of seed keepers in India, asked for right action by pointing in the direction of:
- Open Source SEEDS to be collected at all religious sites thus forming Community Seed Banks, an appropriate way to respect God’s creation. Seeds are God’s creation; we need to protect them;
- Resistance to Monsanto GMO’s, genetically modified organisms, (or “God Move Over” according to Shiva) that replace God’s creative action. Religions can express respect and reverence for the SEED by saying what is right and what is wrong;
- Open Dialogue without subservience. Let us join hands, People of Faith know the importance of networking to get the work done – we cannot do it alone.
Sister Jayanti, Brahma Kumaris Director, invited us to return to the spiritual awareness needed to change consciousness. We are stewards and trustees of the sanctity of creation. When we act from the heart and speak from the heart we will change the heart of the “other.”
Inspired thus to speak from the heart, we agreed to network with Global Transition Movements and the Widening Circle as important methods to move a civil society motivated by religion. Reports on RIO 2012 are available – click here
In Memory of Wangari Mutu Maathai (1940 – 2011)
Alison Van Dyk
The Temple of Understanding Board of Trustees is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of a great leader of the International Environmental Movement, and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Wangari Muta Maathai. I first met Dr. Maathai in 1988 at the co-sponsored Temple of Understanding and Forum for Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders Conference in Oxford, UK . But it was not until years later when she came to New York that Board member Mary Davidson and friend, Daniel Martin and others informally introduced me to her. This was the early 1990′s when the GBM was building support by organizing trips to Africa.
Although I was not able to go on one of those trips, I was impressed by Wangari’s keen insight into the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation. She had a way of cutting to the essential core of every issue and acting on them: women’s rights as they are related to planting trees for instance. At the TOU, we are carrying on Wangari’s inspiration to create an ethical framework for sustainable development deliberations at the United Nations.
In 2001 Wangari agreed to be a Hollister Award recipient. The event was scheduled for 9-11-01 so Wangari was in New York when the Twin Towers were hit. The energy and grief of that day was devastating but Wangari, who always looked for the silver lining in any situation, was glad that she could be there for a friend who lost a son in one of the towers.
Our Hollister Award Ceremony was rescheduled for 2002. We honored both Dr. Wangari Maathai and Dr. Thomas Berry. Looking back on this event, I realize that we were so fortunate to have brought together two luminaries of the environmental movement. I am quite certain that Wangari’s work, like Tom’s, will grow and strengthen as more people learn about the Green Belt Movement after her passing.
To me, Wangari was truly an enlightened soul whose presence illuminated each of us with a desire to return to our roots, to nature and to that which sustains us. She had a presence that touched everyone who met her, enabling them to see their own path a little more clearly. May she rest in Peace.
Commit to Action – Join the Billion Tree Campaign!
The Billion Tree Campaign is a worldwide tree planting initiative facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme
About the Billion Tree Campaign Commit to Action:
Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, organizations, business and industry, civil society and governments are being encouraged to plant trees and enter their tree planting pledges on this web site. The objective is to plant at least one billion trees worldwide each year.
The idea for the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2004 and founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 30 million trees in 12 African countries since 1977. When a corporate group in the United States told Professor Maathai it was planning to plant a million trees, her response was: “That’s great, but what we really need is to plant a billion trees.” Click for more information
2011 is the International Year of Forests
From the UNEP site: “Forests cover one third of the earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. In fact, 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. They play a key role in our battle against climate change. Forests feed our rivers and are essential to supplying the water for nearly 50% of our largest cities, including New York, Jakarta and Caracas. They help to regulate the often devastating impact of storms and floods.
Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Forests also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent populations.
Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to survive. Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate — 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually, equal to the size of Portugal.
But it’s not too late to transform business as usual into a future where forests are at the heart of our sustainable development and green economies. An investment of US$30 billion fighting deforestation could provide a return of US$2.5 trillion in saved products and services. Furthermore, targeted investments in forestry could generate up to millions of jobs around the world. Already, many leaders are glimpsing the potential for renewable energy and nature-based assets, but for forest transformation to happen, forests need to become a universal political priority.” Click for more information please visit
ECO – Justice NOW
By Joan Kirby, RSCJ
Climate change is already affecting the United States – the poor in Louisiana are still recovering from Katrina, Texans lost homes during hurricane Ike, and many Californians lost everything during mudslides and fires. Los Angeles may be out of water in twenty years and, with a sea level rise of one meter, most of the mid-Atlantic coastal wetlands from New York to North Carolina will be lost. Increasingly heavy downpours, rising temperatures and sea levels, thawing permafrost, longer ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows are all danger signs. (Source: US Global Research Program)
It is time to cry out loudly for ECO-Justice.
For more information see: greenbeltmovement.org
Click to read Wangari Maathai’s Letter to World Civil Society
- Begin by acknowledging that, because the world’s richest nations have contributed more to climate change, we have a greater responsibility to take action – and to do it quickly.
- Recognize the devastating impacts on women, children, and indigenous peoples in developing nations. They did not cause the climate crisis, yet they are suffering more from draught and flooding.
- It is time to call on Congress and the Administration to respect human rights and to take action to reduce risks to vulnerable populations. Do not allow the Senate to defer discussion of the Environmental legislation crucial to U.S. acceptance of responsibility. Court cases and industrial innovations are positive signs, but we need a genuine transformation through legislation.
Our life style has to change as well. It is time for us to drive hybrid cars, to fly less frequently, to compost
and recycle our trash, to enjoy three-minute showers, and to avoid bottled water.
And it is time to remember our connection to those who will follow us. If we ignore the changes in climate, the developing world and generations of children and grand children will suffer the consequences.
For the sake of our humanity, it is time for ECO-Justice.
Joan Kirby, RSCJ, a representative to the United Nations from the Temple of Understanding in New York City, works closely with the U.N. on the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate poverty in the world. She attended the 2010 Climate Conference in Copenhagen and agreed to speak out in HEART about this critical issue because unless we have a stable environment, clean air, and sufficient water – other issues of social justice are moot.
Collaborations with Charter of Compassion www.charterforcompassion.org
Collaborations with Earth Charter www.earthcharter.org
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s speech, as prepared for delivery, to a Summit of Religious and Secular Leaders on Climate Change, in London: ‘YOU CAN – AND DO – INSPIRE PEOPLE TO CHANGE,’ SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS, ENCOURAGING SUMMIT OF RELIGIOUS, SECULAR LEADERS ON CLIMATE CHANGE TO ‘MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD’. Read the speech