As we approach the holidays and bring closure to the end of 2015, I urge us all to reflect upon what is truly most essential in our lives.
We are bearing witness to a massive climate crisis with increasing chaos throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking food, shelter and safety for their families, the violence in Paris, Beirut and Nigeria… all of it washing over us like a tsunami of emotion, leaving us stunned, feeling helpless and spiritually drained. It is nearly impossible to avoid getting caught up in the mass consciousness of fear and anxiety. In fact, the media works to keep us in a state of high alert.
These sacred (holy) days, provide time to reflect on what is most important to us, to our families and to our community. It has recently been documented in studies at Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia that there exists a kind of “positive feedback loop” between kindness and happiness, with one encouraging the other. In order to find happiness, we might begin by asking ourselves;
- How can I serve?
- What can I offer?
- What breaks my heart open?
- What gifts or passions am I willing to share?
- How can I make a difference in someone else’s life and shine love and compassion into this world?
When we ask these deep questions and listen, we are always guided. If we ALL do something and stand together, we can make a difference in this world.
“The practical implications of this positive feedback loop could be that engaging in one kind deed would make you happier and the happier you feel, the more likely you are to do another kind act,” says Lara Aknin, a graduate student in psychology at the University of British Columbia and the study’s lead author.
COP21 is upon us (21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change). From now to December 11, nearly 200 nations and their world leaders are gathered in Paris to discuss the effects that climate has on our future environment. The key issue – stabilizing global greenhouse gases at a level that will halt the increase of dangerous pollutants from disrupting the climate we inhabit. COP21 may be one of the world’s final opportunities to show compassion for ourselves and future generations by advancing the hard work of ending the carbon pollution that is driving climate change.
While these leaders meet, we also have a job to do: Please, take time to envision the kind of world we are calling forth – clean energy, stronger communities, a healthier planet — and this will help us build a better future for our children, future generations and our “Mother Earth,” who sustains us.
I am including the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions Declaration on Climate Change. Please read and know that if you sign this, you stand with over 10,000 people who have taken the declaration personally and spread it throughout the world in their inter-faith communities.
Embracing Our Common Future: An Interfaith Call to Action on Climate Change
Introductory Note: This is intended to be a brief consensus statement and call to action that can be endorsed by adherents of diverse religious and spiritual traditions and convictions – and not a detailed policy document. It is therefore simply worded and intentionally leaves out language that is religiously particular and cannot be accepted by all traditions. Its content is drawn from previously existing and published statements by interfaith and religious groups and a few eminent individuals such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis. It is rooted in the values expressed in the documents created and adopted by the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Declaration Toward a Global Ethic (1993) and A Call to Our Guiding Institutions (1999).
The statement does not spell out the specific effects of climate change (sea level rise, drought, food shortage, species extinction and so forth), as these are now well known. It also does not reflect on our spiritual failures.
In the interests of consensus and brevity, it does not analyze and recommend or condemn—quite specific measures such as carbon pricing, cap and trade, who should provide assistance to developing countries or those affected by climate change, use of different technologies, changes in our economic and governance systems, and so on. On the other hand, this document should be compatible with calls for many such specific measures. It seeks agreement.
Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are warming. The chief cause is human use of fossil fuels releasing greenhouse gases. Deforestation is also a cause, as is pollution of oceans. These facts are accepted by the vast majority of the world’s scientists.
The damaging impacts of climate change are already extensive. Many of them appear irreversible. If human behavior does not change, these impacts will become far more extreme, resulting in turmoil and suffering on an enormous scale with immense harm to both humans and other forms of life.
People affected are, and will be, disproportionately the poor, marginalized and vulnerable, including women and children- those who have done least to create this crisis. This is a massive injustice.
Earth is one interconnected whole. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.
Earth is our home. We have nowhere else to go – and time is running out.
But we can pass through the climate crisis to a new and better future. This problem can be solved with the technology and resources that we already have, coupled with restraint of consumption. Significant progress has been made, in which religious and interfaith groups have been an important factor.
What is needed now is total commitment and effective action by every one of us.
Effective action today needs to be focused on two imperatives:
- To keep Earth livable by reducing and then ending emissions of greenhouse gases, moving to the post-carbon global economy based on clean, safe, and renewable energy
- To do this while achieving fair access to energy for all, fulfilling basic needs and ending poverty for all people in all countries.
Because the climate crisis is unprecedented in its scale and complexity, no single government, institution or religion can bring about the urgently needed solution. Action is needed at all levels: personal, local, national, regional, and international.
As members of religious and spiritual communities, we affirm these values and principles, which are taught by all our traditions and will guide our actions.
- We are profoundly interconnected with Nature, on which we depend for our existence.
- We must respect and care for Nature and all life.
- We uphold the dignity and rights of every human being.
- We must provide for the needs and well-being of all people.
- We must act with love and compassion, and for justice and fairness.
- We are morally responsible for our chosen actions.
- We have duties to future generations, who will bear the consequences of our action or inaction.
We commit ourselves to take action and to act together, as one human community.
We pledge to do all that is necessary to achieve the following goals with the speed that the crisis demands:
- To take all possible measures to reduce greenhouse gases.
- To transition to clean, safe, and renewable energy in developed countries.
- To adopt a green energy path of development in developing countries, with needed financial support and technical assistance.
- To greatly increase energy efficiency at all levels.
- To stop deforestation and pursue re-forestation worldwide.
- To cease pollution of oceans and damage to their ecosystems.
- To make the required changes in our consumption and lifestyles.
- To end poverty and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
We will act as individuals and as communities, knowing that each action makes a difference. Our oneness in the interfaith movement will give us strength and effectiveness.
We will call on our governments and other guiding institutions also to act swiftly to achieve these goals.
The future we embrace will be a new ecological civilization and a world of peace, justice and sustainability, with the flourishing of the diversity of life.
We will build this future as one human family within the greater Earth community.
© 2015 Parliament of the World Religions