By November 17, 2012 Read More →

Rio+20, June 15

Large Poster at the entrance of RioCentro and a banner from Major Groups (“Keep the Oil in the Soil and the Coal in the Hole”)

Rio + 20 UN Conference at Rio Center

Women’s Side Event

Sister Jayanti and Julia Grindon-Welch attended a side event called Women’s Resistance and Resilience, organized by, among others, the Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF).  This side event showed what great social and economic inequities still remain, twenty years after the first Rio conference. These inequities especially affect women and children, who make up the majority of those living in poverty.  We listened to testimonies from women suffering from the extraction industries, from unsustainable energy and agro fuels and from land grabbing. Yet their resistance and resilience in the face of these showed a clear way forward.

Kaisha Atakhanova representing the Social Eco-fund Kazakhstan spoke on the crucial need to clean up mining, drawing on the example of uranium mining communities in Central Asia. There is no ‘safe’ level of radiation.  The mining of Uranium is an unsustainable ‘brown’ economy and takes many million of years to remove the effects of uranium. In this, there are no boundaries.  In communities such as Semipalatinsk every third woman has some or other health problem, which was illustrated in the many sad images of deformities in 3rd generation.  Now there is no budget to clean up or manage the problems left from these mining and nuclear test sites.  Kaisha proposed an independent institutional framework to document and monitor these sites, and to create legally binding mechanisms to eliminate uranium mining and nuclear sites.

Carmen Capileres representing Reaccion Climatica from Bolivia spoke of what a challenge it is to protect the climate, forests and indigenous peoples lands in Bolivia.  The forests are a buffer that catch water like a sponge and then release it back into the atmosphere. It is a complex system and the community from which she comes has a strong water culture.  She wants to keep her way of life where she knows where most things she uses come from and where they go.  They have a different way of life and have all the things they need and live in harmony with nature and do not want to develop in the unsustainable ways of the rest of the world.

Caroline Usipeko-Omoniye from Niger Delta Women spoke of protecting women from land grabbing and pollution in Africa.  80% of Niger’s income comes from the Niger Delta.  Oil companies export to developed countries while locals deal with the devastation of the land and pollution.  The average age of death there is 41.  Oil has only brought misery to the local communities and especially to the women.  Women are bringing attention to their plight and saying there is no future in crude oil and they need to resist these unsustainable practices in the Niger Delta and the whole world.

Winnie Kodi from Southern Sudan spoke of how things are better for women now than 25 years ago when the then president of Sudan said that  “the ideal Sudan women is one who takes care of her self, her children, her home, her reputation and her husband”.  Now 25% of the government is made up of women.  Her organization focuses on bringing the cheapest most available resource in Africa – solar energy – to their communities with the use of solar lamps, along with the use of organic waste and charcoal as a cheaper alternative.

Norma Maidonndo from Guatemala spoke of how our model of sustainable living needs to change.  The ideas, traditions and ways of doing things in the south have never been valued, and those in the south cannot allow others decide how they should live.  Conversely, they can share their knowledge of how to live sustainably with the north/west who are the ones destroying these communities lands and ways of life, with their oil.  They have their own bank of seeds to grow their own way of life. Whoever controls the stomach controls the will.


Peoples Summit – Flamengo Park

As we arrived at the people’s summit, people were still setting up their stands and orienting themselves to the expansive open spaces separated by large white tents. There was a good feeling as people were embracing strangers and hoping for a strong collective vision from the people. The desire for real change was strong; as the governments seem to be at a veritable standstill in negotiations.  The Brahma Kumaris organized or participated in number events on this, the first day of the Peoples Summit.

Our first event was Consciousness and Environment: the Confluence of Two Living Systems   Valeriane Bernard, our UN Representative in Geneva moderated this deep and evolving conversation. Somehow, between the pow wow that was happening in the tent next to us, and the singing in the tent to our north, it was the ancient principles of organic agriculture being shared by yogic farmer Piero Musini(Italy) that held our attention. He explained that to ensure our health and wellbeing, we must live according to the spiritual laws that govern the world, as generations before us have done. The demise of this connection is why food is no longer harmonious to the body. Conventional farming used to be local and organic, as something unremarkable. So there was a relationship between what we grew, and what we ate. There was a natural harmonic resonance. However, now much of our food has not connection with the land on which we live, as it has traveled huge distances and been modified with chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers. This is directly related to a loss of spiritual values. Like everything, values must be cultivated. Our inner consciousness and the outer environment affect each other. Our consciousness has changed, and this has affected the quality of the food we grow and the way we grow it. Returning to the harmonic and mindful agricultural systems of our foremothers and forefathers is the most sustainable of all farming practices.

Anna Santosh spoke clearly and eloquently through the drumming and dancing in the adjoining tent. She explained the vital need to educate our communities from the cradle onwards, about our fundamental interdependency with the natural world. Each of us is like a cell of the living system we call Earth. When we are well in mind, heart and spirit, the earth is well. When our minds, hearts and spirits are ill through selfishness or narrow thinking, it impacts upon our decisions therefore resulting in the breakdown of all systems – social, environmental, economic. The foundation of these is spiritual and this must be restored.

Fabiane Turisco is a young Brazilian lawyer who has been involved in the Bhutan Gross National Happiness project in Brazil. She clearly discussed the ways in which happiness is distinct from consumption and materialism. GNH actually contemplates the factor of art, education, family, urbanism and the environment when considering the well being of people. Silent reflection, meditation and purposeful thinking are absolutely essential for happiness and wellbeing.

Tamasin Ramsay, an environmental anthropologist and UN representative of the Brahma Kumaris in New York spoke through the nearby chanting about the spiritual reality of disaster. A disaster is not something that happens ‘to’ us, but a natural event that combines with a vulnerable population. A bush fire away from impact on communities is restorative and regenerative. Close to communities it most certainly becomes a ‘disaster’. But only because, over just a few generations, we have attempted to manipulate nature to satisfy our own wants, rather then living according to the natural and symobiotic give, take, ebb and flow of nature. A ‘disaster’ is nature attempting to reclaim what has been taken. It is a karmic redress. To reduce our risk and increase our resilience to disaster, we must take the time to consider carefully our relationship with the elements, and the impact we are making upon the elements, in the way we live our lives.

Valeriane Bernard represents the Brahma Kumaris on a panel ‘Freedom of Religion and Belief’ organized by the Bahai community at the Peoples Summit

Valeriane Bernard was a panelist in Climate Change and Human Rights, an event arranged by the Geneva Interfaith Forum on Climate, Environment and Human Rights. In this illuminating discussion, two things in particular stood out.

Curtis Doebbler, a lawyer and a high-level negotiator and advisor to some of the governments in the Rio+20 process said, “the problem with these negotiations is that the spiritual process has been removed from our political aspects. Spirituality needs to be embedded in the way we think about issues we are facing”. Joy Kennedy from the World Council of Churches and a senior advocate among NGOs commented about the need to move away from false indicators of wellbeing (such as GDP) and move toward a different understanding of what it means for people to be well. Curtis echoed this and had successfully introduced this concept into the negotiations. The governments picked up on it and many were concerned about how to make these fundamental shifts. However, those who use economic drivers are the ones least likely to make the changes required to realize a sustainable world, Curtis stated. This discussion ultimately suggested the best way forward is to present clear and constructive perspectives to those of influence in the political field, while also continued to move social society.

Curtis and Joy both guarded against the temptation to fight against an invisible foe as we watch the systems of our world break down. Regardless of our perspectives, cultures and opinions, a change of awareness is required from each of us individually and collectively to restore our world to its original state of harmonic beauty. A change of awareness and integrated spirituality is required for the change we seek.

Workshop by Luciana Ferraz and Ken O’Donnell – Spirituality and Inner Ecology

Luciana Ferraz and Ken O’Donnell participated in the People’s Summit in Flamengo Park in a panel organized by Religions for Rights on the topic of  “Spirituality and Inner Ecology”. Other Panelists included representatives of the Rio Inter-religious Movement (MIR) and WYCCA. Because of the small size of the audience the session became quite interactive after each of the speakers shared briefly on the topic. A few of the points:

– we have recognize the sacred nature of the Earth and each of the elements

– we have to align with the Divine if we want to bring change in our physical reality

– we have to look after all our houses – the world, our work, our family, our body and our minds if we wish to be authentic ecologists.

The Freedom of Religion and Belief panel was sponsored by the Bahai community with representation from the Wicca (Pamela Vesper), the URI and inter-religious movements UNISOES by Rev. Elias and Ana Maria Santos and for the Brahma Kumaris, Valeriane Bernard.

The Baha’i community  explained how the principles of religion act as a guide for living and as a way to maintain spiritual values in peoples: unity in diversity, equity, justice, and truth. Guardianship of post as the right of everyone to take responsibility for their protection and permanence. Social action was the focal point of dialogue, with an emphasis on strengthening a culture of values, regardless of belief of each individual. The Wiccan community philosophy is based on the cyclic rhythms of the earth, seeing nature as an expression of divinity and diversity. Nature is viewed as sacred and there is the freedom to act according to the specialities of each person – this is a foundation of their tradition. Wiccans believe the world will be transformed by magic, created by a new awareness, not through rationality.

The United Religions Initiative (URI) emphasized that one draws on faith (belief, tradition) to overcome the pain of the past. The Brahma Kumaris spoke of the role of spirituality in environmental issues.  Spirituality  teaches and demonstrates ways to live in harmony. Brahma Kumaris share tools to help people see  how thoughts are the foundation of being in harmony with the self, which can then be implemented in our lives, our relationships with others, the world at large and nature. Insight and deep inner balance are needed for well being. The UNISOES (Union of Spiritualist organizations) has placed education as the main centers to implement a culture of respect for religious diversity and spirituality as doing good.

Planetarium of Gaeva

Alternative Energies – Social Responsibility

Golo Pilz presented on Solar Energy at a one day program on corporate and social responsibility in environmental education at the Planetarium of Gaeva

The “Environmental Education for Sustainable Societies and Global Responsibility” in the Planetarium of Gaeva arranged a one-day program about corporate social responsibility in environment education. Joachim Golo Pilz presented about solar energy on a panel along with Mr. Nelton Friedrich, a specialist on water energy from Itaipu Binacional. The presentation was well received and the connection between values and alternative energies was new to this gathering of 150 environmentalist and educationalist. Golo shared that the technology to use alternative energies in large scale is already there, but due to a lack of ethics and values they are not being used. Mrs. Moema Viezzer, from the Planetary Network of the Environmental Education Treaty and others been to Peace of Mind retreat in Madhuban and for them it was a very warm experience to meet someone who was living in Madhuban. Golo Pilz was also interviewed by a Brazilian Sustainable Magazine.

Youth and Education for Environmental Sustainability

12-17 June the Ministry of Education (MEC) in partnership with the Ministry of Environment (MMA) and UNICEF held the “Meeting of Youth and Education for Environmental Sustainability,” an event parallel to the Rio +20 held in Rio Othon Palace, Rio de Janeiro. Kamila Vitarjo from the Brahma Kumaris in Belo Horisonte was invited to participate in the afternoon session of the 15th June by José Vicente de Freitas. The main objective is to develop a programme  of integrated youth and the environment. There was great support from the National Secretary for Youth, Severine Macedo and Environmental Education Department

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