By Dr. Nanditha Krishna
Mankind’s relationship with nature was the focus of the Climate Summit of Conscience. With the UN COP (Conference of Parties) climate conference just months away, faith leaders, Nobel laureates, economists and artists from around the world gathered in the French capital to show that protecting the planet is more than a matter of science.
The Summit of Conscience was championed by the French TV personality and environmentalist, Nicolas Hulot, appointed President Hollande’s Special Envoy for Climate Change.
During the Summit, the Call to Conscience for the Climate was signed by over 40 religious, cultural, environmental and political leaders present in the event and will be presented to each Head of Delegation at the COP 21 in Paris this December.
In a move that many, including key government figures, said was “remarkable”, “unique”, “historic” the French government agreed to send through its diplomatic channel a letter from leading religious and cultural world figures to the heads of the 195 delegations coming to the climate change COP.
The letter asks them to ask themselves a single and personal question: “Why Do I Care?”
“Why are we asking you to do this?” it asks. “Because we hope that in answering this question, you will come to the COP primarily as a conscious human being not just a representative of a Government or agency. In the end the most important element of this is that we hear from you as a person, a member of the human family who has for a time a uniquely significant role to play in protecting the world.”
The letter was announced at a groundbreaking “Summit of Conscience” in Paris, July 21, hosted by the Elysee Palace, along with leading French publisher Bayard Press and the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).
“The Summit of Conscience departs from the point that the climate crisis … cannot be reduced to scientific, technological, economic and political dimensions, however important those are,” said French President Francois Hollande. “It is in fact a crisis of meaning.”
“The root cause of environmental degradation and climate change is a way of life, a mode of production, a mode of consumption that is not compatible with human development,” he added.
“In the past we have talked about “stewardship” but now we must talk about care,” said Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who presented Pope Francis’ Laudato Si Environment Encyclical to the world in June. “When we care it is with passion and commitment and attachment. Commitment to embrace with passion not just with thoughts and ideas but with the heart….What kind of world do we want to bequeath? An environment will not be able to sustain life after us unless we embrace commitment – we received a garden as our home and we may not turn it into wilderness. The garden we received must be passed on and bequeathed,” Cardinal Turkson said.
“France is one of the most secular governments in the world and for the president and government of France to propose this level of cooperation with the major faiths of the world is highly unusual.” said ARC’s Martin Palmer.
“The issue of climate change and protecting our planet has largely been taken away from people by governments, by scientists and international agencies making most people feel powerless or even hopeless in the face of all the data,” said Palmer. “We need that but we also need to feel that we each can make a difference.”
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that “The earth is not ours; it is a treasure we hold in trust for our children. We must be worthy of that trust.”
France’s Minister of Ecology, Segolene Royal, and many other speakers, highlighted the need to progressively decrease use and dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal, and shift to renewable energy.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through a message delivered by Janos Pasztor, Assistant-Secretary-General on Climate Change, said that “Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. It affects us all, but it does not affect us all equally. We have a profound responsibility to protect and assist the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people and to pass on to future generations a planet that is thriving and healthy.”
Why Do I Care is now an international movement.
This is not just a movement for politicians or delegates or people who are already leaders. When Bayard, one of France’s largest publishing companies, especially for young peoples’ magazines, agreed to sponsor the meeting and carry out much of the on the ground organization, their editorial staff said they thought this was a question their young readers would love to answer.
They created the website http://www.whydoIcare.org in which people of all countries are invited to tell their story in less than 200 words or a one minute video and this testimony will be added to the words of thousands of others, like a river of personal commitments. Bayard are also devoting many of the autumn editions of their magazines to this theme.
Meanwhile other organisations such as MOA Japan which hosts an international children’s art festival with more than 400,000 entries every year made the question “Why Do I Care” a key theme to this year’s competition.
And so almost by accident a movement was born, because in asking the question “Why Do I Care” everyone can take part.
Top photo: Author: Olivier « toutoune25 » Tétard / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.” / Nicholas Hulot
Second photo: attribute http://www.kremlin.ru. Author: Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Kremlin.ru” / President Hollande of France
Third photo: Wikimedia Commons-emblem-copyright.svg / “This photograph comes from Free On Line Photos (source). The copyright holder of this work allows anyone to use it for any purpose including unrestricted redistribution, commercial use, and modification.” / Lower Lake in the Bois de Boulogne on the western side of Paris.
Fourth photo: Quotes from the Sommet des consciences.