Spirituality and Awakening: Brahma Kumaris and Climate Change by Sister Jayanti, European Director, Brahma Kumaris
After the historic Paris agreement in 2015, the atmosphere regarding climate change has been one of high expectation and optimism. However in successive years since countries generally have been unable to fulfil their ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDC) to reducing carbon emissions. The atmosphere at COP25, the UN’s climate change conference that just took place in Madrid, was a little different. There were hopes that countries would have raised their ambitions in 2019 and be aiming for higher reductions yet the figures have again indicated a steep rise of emissions.
Scientists are very clear. Prof Dr Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, stated at one plenary that nine out of twelve of the tipping points of irreversible change in climate due to human intervention agreed a decade ago were approaching very quickly and there was only a very tiny window of opportunity to change the situation. The nine tipping points already ‘active’ are:
- Arctic sea ice
- Greenland ice sheet
- Boreal forests
- Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
- Amazon rainforest
- Warm-water corals
- West Antarctic Ice Sheet
- Parts of East Antarctica
A lot of work needs to be done before COP26 in Glasgow, when countries will then make their legally binding commitments for changing the trajectory.
I have been attending the annual UN ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) climate change conferences, organised by UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) since 2009, when COP15 took place in Copenhagen. The Brahma Kumaris have held General Consultative Status with the UN since the ‘90s and been affiliated as an NGO with the Department of Public Information since 1981 and we are invited to attend these conferences as observers.
People always ask us: what contribution can a purely spiritual organisation make to the situation of climate change? Our response has been twofold. One is the spiritual awareness that our inner state of being impacts everything that happens around us. Our consciousness impacts climate. When our consciousness becomes materialistically oriented, our desire to accumulate material wealth and possessions takes over, leading to consumerism and depletion of all natural resources. We seek to find happiness through what we buy and accumulate, without realising that happiness is actually inherent within our inner being. The path of spiritual awareness enables us to find happiness within, so that we are able to simplify our needs and reduce our carbon footprint. Forgetting our true identity as a spiritual being has led to the rampant consumerism we seetoday. The inner pollution of ego, anger and greed has led to the outer pollution of nature through our excessive demands. Changing consciousness and returning to our own spiritual identity allows us to transform our behaviour and we begin to treat nature with respect and value nature as being sacred. At a meeting of faith based community leaders with Deputy Secretary of UNFCCC Mr Orvais Sarmad, I highlighted the importance for a new perspective of the role of consciousness and the heart, to enable co-operation as one human family. Brahma Kumaris representatives spoke at a total of 26 events over the duration of COP25.
Secondly, we have also sought to express this awareness through practical initiatives. For example, Brahma Kumaris initiated research and development of renewable energies for individuals and communities over 25 years ago and are now probably the single largest organisational users of renewable energies in India. We recently developed and installed India One, a 1 Mw solar thermal power plant at the foot of Mount Abu in Rajasthan, India. A special feature of this project is its capacity for thermal storage, which means that it is able to supply electricity 24/7 to our township of 30,000 there. It was funded by the German and Indian governments and the Brahma Kumaris. All the research and development is being shared freely with those interested.
Today we witness natural events of huge intensity – from the fires along the East Coast of Australia from Brisbane to Sydney and the melting of the glaciers to alternating drought and flooding in various parts of the world. The COP25 was due to take place in Chile but had to move suddenly from Santiago to Madrid due to civil unrest. It has been suggested that the cause of this civil unrest was 10 years of drought. In addition, most of the available water has been privatised and as a result some farmers and indigenous people no longer have access to water.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that climate change is now precipitating societal disturbance and even war and this trend is likely to continue in the future. Is there something that we can do to help? Spirituality teaches us the way to develop resilience, so that we can cope with adverse circumstances and still retain our inner core of stability and peace. Going on the inner journey restores love and compassion in our hearts, so that we are ready to support the whole of our human family. Spirituality reminds us that after a period of darkness there is always light and so from situations of extreme suffering, we move towards an age of truth, love and justice again. Time is definitely calling us to make the inner changes within ourselves to be able to prepare for a better world in the future.