The UN Climate Change Conference or COP26, is underway in Glasgow this week with heads of nations who face the worst impact of climate change being the most vocal about the consequences of global warming. Rising temperatures are resulting in rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions – and island nations like Barbados face serious consequences with the rise in global temperatures. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley told COP26 that for Island nations like hers a 1.5C rise in global temperature, ‘is what we need to survive’, while ‘two degrees is a death sentence’.[i]
Meanwhile, speaking at the opening ceremony The Prince of Wales told world leaders and delegates that a ‘war-like footing’ is necessary to tackle the climate crisis. He said, ‘I know you all carry a heavy burden on your shoulders, and you do not need me to tell you that the eyes and hopes of the world are upon you’. He talked of the need for countries to come together for a ‘global systems levels solution’.[ii] How nations work together to solve the climate conundrum remains to be seen.
Sikh scriptures tell us, ‘Air is the Guru, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of all’ – thus we are encouraged to respect our environment and care for our planet. We have a responsibility like others to work to combat climate change, and initiatives such as EcoSikh are both important and commendable. Whilst considering COP21 and the global climate crisis, we happened to unearth a BBC Thought for the Day broadcast by our Director Lord Singh from March 1989.
Despite being over thirty years old, it is as relevant today as it was then.
16 March 1989 – TFTD Lord Singh (then Dr Indarjit Singh)
There is a saying in Sikhism that ‘We love the gift but forget the giver’. The words are used in a spiritual context, but they are also true of every-day life.
I’ve long forgotten who it was that gave us a present of a re-chargeable electric toothbrush, some ten or twelve years ago. It was never really suited to the sturdy demands of the Singh family – but it did give rise to a most unusual dream.
The dream started with isolated reports about a strange and deeply upsetting noise. Doctors blamed stress and prescribed tranquilisers. But without success. The complaint became more widespread not only in this country but also abroad, and soon became the subject of major world concern.
An international conference of scientists was called to consider the situation, and, after days of intensive deliberation, came up with a solution – specially designed earmuffs to filter out the offending noise:
It worked at first, but soon people complained that the earmuffs were beginning to lose their protection and that the noise was becoming even more distressing.
In despair, a conference of religious leaders gathered and, after much discussion, concluded that the noise was in some inexplicable way, nature’s reaction to the way in which human-beings were treating each other and destroying the environment in the process. I’ll never know what happened next. At that moment, I woke up to the noise of the toothbrush holder on charge in the bedroom.
This strange dream occurred many years before the current concern over the environment. Today it’s not nature that’s making a noise of protest but people all over the world, alarmed by the potentially lethal gap in the ozone layer, the hazards from excess carbon dioxide and other known forms of pollution, too numerous to mention, as well as others still unknown, undoubtedly lurking around the corner waiting to be discovered. It all adds up to the inescapable fact that the human race is proving far too clever and short-sighted for its own good.