What do you consider the most important planetary actions we as global citizens should be taking to help the planet?
As global citizens, we need to see resources as finite. We need to come from this place of understanding with all of our actions. How are we impacting the planet – are we creating more waste? Are we giving back? Can we at least neutralize what we are doing? Having this consciousness is crucial.
I had this image of myself this morning, throwing away garbage and seeing other people doing this, and my heart said “What can I do?’ This consciousness is so important for us all to adopt.
When we look at the technology of today’s age, there’s so much that we need to be conscious about to try to develop humanity’s trajectory in a way that doesn’t consume so much and then create toxic waste. For instance, even electric car batteries mine so much of the resources and also create environmental damage.
How can we live on this planet in a way that our impact is positive? Let our whole life be centered around that exploration!
How are you taking these actions in your community?
I find that the biggest impact that we can have definitely starts with our own life. Let your habits serve as an example. It’s comfortable to do things in the old, familiar way. The change on the bigger levels is difficult.
Some simple ideas and steps that I have taken include the following:
- Being aware of plastic bags and bringing our own plastic bags to get food and supplies
- Buying whole foods as opposed to processed foods – these create as little waste as possible
- Buying in bulk
- Buying local – the further something travels, the more emissions it creates
- Buying items with less packaging – the more packaging something has the more resources had to be consumed to create it
- Minimalizing lifestyle – we’re doing our best with a 3 year old child!
- Being conscious about what we are purchasing – is it necessary? Living simply is in many ways more fulfilling. Stuff can just be a huge distraction.
- This is a huge challenge – the lifestyle and culture we live in is a consumer-based culture.
- Stop junk mail: I get online and try to tell the mailers to stop sending it
- In the greater community, in the ashram, we are becoming more eco-conscious about recycling and using washable plates, cups, etc. and having solar power to try to integrate renewable resources into our community spaces.
What are the challenges that people might encounter when doing these actions to help the planet? How can we overcome these challenges and take action to save the planet?
I believe the biggest challenge is that the culture we are in is a consumer-based culture. It’s very easy to accumulate stuff. Especially if we’re in a hurry to cut corners, we often get something easier which is full of plastic and creates a lot of waste. For example, disposable food items and plastic silverware, etc. It helps just to be conscious ahead of time, and put some reusable bags in your car, bring some reusable silverware with you.
For me personally, I take it as my challenge – every day I ask myself: can I not create a bunch of waste today? Can I minimize what I am putting into the garbage?
Ecobricks are an innovative invention – you have a plastic water bottle and then you stuff all the plastic bags, etc. into it. Tons of plastic can be stuffed in – it’s amazing. When the eco brick is totally packed full, there are buildings that can utilize them in their design. It’s not just going into a landfill, it is having structural integrity to create buildings using less natural materials. It is fun to do this. Stuff it all into a little bottle – it’s really amazing how much can go in and how little waste is produced. It creates a lot less waste, and animals can’t eat it. It also takes up a lot less space.
We had a Prius, an electric vehicle. Electric vehicles are a great idea, but the toxic waste that goes into creating the batteries includes cobalt and lithium. Cobalt is being mined by children in Africa and it’s very toxic, it’s so inhumane – batteries in cars and cell phones create a lot of toxicity for the environment and the conditions aren’t humane for the people mining.
We need to shift globally to a new model of consciousness, and always ask ourselves: where did it come from? What kind of impact did it have on the collective? Not just, what do I get from it? It is about going from individual to collective consciousness and living from that place. Helping Mother Earth becomes intuitive when we come from that perspective.
Do teachings or stories from Sikh Dharma inspire your commitment to serving Mother Earth?
I love the story of Guru Nanak and the Aarti – he was in a temple and not engaged with the ritual being performed inside. So he walked outside and he started singing about the beautiful, incredible ceremony going on all around him. He was seeing life as an incredible ceremony happening around us – painted clouds, birds singing, riotous flowers, a blue sky – these are the highest blessings of the Creator.
It is important for us to just appreciate what we have been given as this gift of life. It is important to understand the impact of what we are doing. So many species are dying, water is becoming undrinkable. We used to be able to go around and drink at natural waterways, now we are afraid to swim in rivers – we are becoming fragmented from the whole and disconnected from this celebration of life.
This story inspires me by reminding me that life is the ceremony, and our role is to constantly steward the earth’s flourishing. This is what life is about. We’ve become so disconnected that we forget we are part of the flow of life. We’re not looking forward or back, we’re doing whatever we want to do right now but we are leaving a trail of destruction and we can’t ignore this forever. The earth won’t be able to sustain life anymore if we continue to do what we’re doing. Our actions will start impacting human life on this planet.
I think that at the time of Guru Gobind Singh – this is my understanding of Sikh Dharma – that Sikhs were instilled with the idea that it is our responsibility to stand up for those who aren’t able to stand up for themselves.
I see our planet as the one in need now. Service is a core component of Sikh Dharma. Our Mother Earth needs help now and needs us to devote ourselves to fighting for her. In this time I believe we don’t need to stand up and fight against people, but we do need to stand up and give the earth a voice. The earth is the one in greatest need right now.
Ram Krishan Singh Khalsa
Ram Krishan Singh is the Founder and CEO of Cultural Detox, a Freedom Facilitator with Radiant Heart and a volunteer with Arnold’s Way Vegetarian Raw Cafe & Health Center. Previously he served as the Program Director of the Seva Sadhana Program at Hacienda de Guru Ram Das Ashram in Espanola, New Mexico. He also served as an organizer of the global effort, “40 Days of Prayer for Mother Earth,” leading up to the 2019 global Climate Strike.
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