COP17 Side event in Durban Exhibition Centre, a joint panel of Brahma Kumaris and Maryknoll Sisters
Sustainable Capacity Building:
Empowering Individuals and Communities to Act.
The key focus for this event was to explore how we build the capacity of individuals and communities to be able to implement policies and adopt a greener lifestyle. Joachim Golo Pilz began with a presentation highlighting a solar energy project that he has designed and is building in Mount Abu at the headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris. There are three levels at which capacity has to be enhanced, at the individual, organizational and community level. We are at the end of the gas and oil age and currently we using 1.6 times the capacity of the earth's resources. We need to reduce our ecological footprint, since environmental degradation leads to poverty which leads to conflict.
Currently the Brahma Kumaris is one of the largest institutional users of solar energy in India. The India-One project is an ambitious project which aims to establish a 1MW solar power station which will meet the needs of 20,000 people. All development happens on site, and the local community is trained to fabricate the steel structures, install and monitor the plant. It is an excellent example of using renewable energy and developing the local capacity to build, implement, and maintain a system.
Golo was followed by Anne Braudis from the Maryknoll Sisters of St Dominic, Chair of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development, New York. She shared about a project established in the Philippines after a devastating earthquake in 1990. The disaster was intensified due to the bulk mining processes as well as open pit mining, believed to have caused the destabilization of the earth and deforestation in that area. 1700 people were killed. The project involved the local community in creating a campaign to stop further ruin of the environment and to apply pressure both to local government and mining corporations under the banner ‘save our children’. A voice was given to the indigenous peoples and using art, a beautiful park was created which reflected the interconnectedness of human life in the unfolding of the earth's evolution.
Finally Sister Jayanti highlighted the importance of capacity building, starting at the physical and then moving towards the emotional and spiritual levels. Quoting a WWF report that stated that every organism on the planet now has 300 extra chemicals within. The impact of this on humans is that it reduces the ability to concentrate; it brings about limited memory and reduces tolerance levels. She then moved to the topic of Emotional Intelligence - the measurement of how we relate to each other. Do we have the capacity to express the spirit of generosity, compassion and care? In the context of the spiritual law, whatever you put out you will get back, Sister Jayanti drew attention to the fact that something you can't legislate is a person’s ability to care.
Spiritual resources can be enhanced through knowledge and providing the right environment, however we need to build capacity so that that knowledge can be accessed and used powerfully. Inner power is vital to develop the resilience to adjust and adapt to the changing environment. We have to remain rooted in our principles but be flexible like a delicate reed to accommodate change and discern the need of the moment. There are two understandings that facilitate this, firstly spiritual identity and second the practice of going in to deep silence. When we go into silence we are able to access the store of inner treasures that every person possesses. Human beings have values at the core, but we disconnect from them when we forget our spiritual identity. The crises we see in the world can be attributed to crises in spiritual values.
The session ended with Sr Jayanti leading the audience into a few minutes of silent reflection. The audience deeply appreciated the input. In particular the Minister of Gender from Brazzaville, Congo was deeply moved and asked to be kept in contact and to be invited to further programs. She felt Sr Jayanti's input was invaluable especially in building the capacity of women.
It was interesting that at the same time as Sister Jayanti was speaking of connecting to our inner capacity to bring about the much needed change in the world, just outside our room a lively colorful march of 5,000 people passed by the conference center calling for Action on Climate Change. The juxtaposition of the inner silence inside the room and noisy action on the outside of the room was poignant.
Digital Media Lounge
The Digital Media Lounge is a set up in the middle of the exhibition area. It is like a speakers corner for people passing by to stop and give their views. Sister Jayanti was asked to do a presentation on Climate and Consciousness. She emphasized that human thinking and attitude play a powerful role in influencing human behavior and action. With awareness we become conscious of how we impact all life. She highlighted the need to shift to a vegetarian diet and in this way express a deeper respect for life and ensure that our actions are not a cause of pain and suffering. The statistics are alarming when we see how a meat-oriented diet affects the environment, pollution, deforestation, waste levels, and usage of water. When we realize how quickly these resources are diminishing, we can see the need to choose a more sustainable diet.
Climate Change Studio
The Climate Change Studio provides a space for one-on-one video interviews with a wide array of stakeholders from civil society, intergovernmental organizations, and party delegates. The studio is a platform for discussing the effects of climate change, causes of global warming and possible solutions. Both Sister Jayanti and Joachim Golo Pilz were interviewed on the two connecting themes of Building Capacity and Building Power. They explained how, if we are to survive, we need to work together; whatever happens to one happens to all of us. When we develop the vision of brotherhood and work together in co-operation we will find sustainable solutions.
The interviews from previous years can be found here:
For more news and resources, please visit: www.environment.brahmakumaris.org