Brahma Kumaris at COP28
Food systems and Sustainable Lifestyles
10 - 12 December, 2023
Climate change is creating severe pressure and risks for the agri-food and water systems that underpin human well-being. At the same time, these systems are also key contributors to climate change: one-third of all human-made GHG emissions derive from agri-food systems, and 70% of freshwater consumed worldwide is used for agricultural production.
Our events in the closing days of COP28 focus on promoting sustainable food systems and how to change mindsets and habits so that we begin to make lifestyle choices that are good for us and the planet.
Our guests in the Climate Wisdom studio bring the series to a close by sharing what they thought had been achieved at COP28.
Healthy and Sustainable Diets for Nurturing People and the Planet
This event was hosted by the World Health Organization Pavilion and provided an extensive lineup of speakers from the fields of health, data science, policy advocates, government representatives and youth. Some of the key highlights of the discussion featured how modelling and analysis can aid policies in designing healthy and sustainable diets according to regions. Scientists and researchers presented how policymakers can better understand the scenarios on the planetary boundaries for food production through assessment tools that consider equity and social justice, and a more just transformative action. Other experts also recommended regional adaptation of the planetary health diet. Among all speakers, there was a strong voice pointing to the need to further assess diet and food production.
Priyanka Patil, the Brahma Kumaris youth representing YOUNGO Agriculture Working Group, delivered the final speech and emphasised the importance of regenerative principles to address food production’s negative impact on the planet. She said, “If I can change my plate today, I can change the world.” Priyanka commented that food is not just something physical, but it is more communal, spiritual, and social. It is a very subtle system.
“We need to look inwards and ask, who really feeds us? It’s not the farmers – there are lots of creatures that help bring food to our plate.” She suggested that we need to look towards nature and the ecosystem and create a type of habitat that is inclusive by design in terms of policies, and consider all the regenerative principles so that we flourish in our future.
Link to the online video: http://tinyurl.com/3ttvu5bx
Feeding the Future - Erosion and Food System Resilience - Childrens and Youth Pavilion
Priyanka Patil and Shantanu Mandal, Brahma Kumaris, asked participants to share their favourite foods, which included potato leaves, cassava, matoke (green banana) with sauce.
They were asked to write one “food erosion” (a food that they could no longer access easily) that they had experienced, on coloured sticky notes, which were used to create a picture of a flower. These included:
Traditional foods like arrowroots, yams, cassava and sweet potatoes which were no longer tasty due to soil degradation and the use of fertilisers.
Traditional fish and other local foods are difficult to find and more expensive.
Seafoods are less accessible and more expensive due to pollution.
Because of dryer weather, certain plants can’t grow.
Participants were also asked to write down solutions for the challenges, on sticky notes. Shantanu said that “In ancient wisdom it is said, you see the problem because you know the solution”.
Preserving soils by practising ecological farming practices like agroforestry
Preserve original quality seeds and not use GMOs
Leaving the fruit and vegetables to ripen fully.
Planting more trees will increase rainfall.
Giving farming it’s proper value so that people want to be farmers and are paid properly.
A video was shown of a Brahma Kumaris project with farmers who were only growing wheat and potatoes. They showed them how to grow nutrition gardens which have 50 species of vegetables. An 82-year-old lady who grows vegetables shared her seeds with people in her village. Many younger people had left for jobs in the city. They introduced climate smart foods like cassava that don’t need much but give a lot of nutrition.
Care, Share and Inspire at the Climate Wisdom Studio
The delegates gave their views on the way forward and how to build on the work being carried out already by their organisations.
Kehkashan Basu, MSM, Founder-President, Green Hope Foundation: It is heartening to see that at COP28 there are more young people at the table, and in government too. More needs to be done to recognise what the young are doing. We will not see the results of the work we do, there is too much damage already. There is no single solution, it is too complex. But there will be results one day. The younger generation will keep the work alive at ground level and seeing immediate results in small contributions keeps hope alive.
Kanika Dewan, Chair/Founder - Ka Ventures, Ka Design Atelier & Group President - Bramco Group: I have noticed hope in business with public and private partnerships at this COP. Heads of state are becoming more open to non-hierarchical systems of working. They are understanding what industries have been doing for ages. Keeping workforces happy has shown how projects are finished well, on time and waste is recycled back at the factories. The environmental crisis needs a restoration of balance. As individuals we create an energetic field around us, so if we as individuals can change that energy field to one in balance then we can trust that the universe will guide us.
Maureen Goodman, Programme Director for the Brahma Kumaris, UK: We need to shift our vision from external to internal and recognise that life is sacred. That is the first shift of awareness that will have an impact on how things develop. We are one human family. If we get back to the essence of who we are we can connect to the Divine Source, an unlimited source of love. We can then fill matter with the vibrations of love that heals.
World Council of Churches: Interfaith Cooperation on Climate Justice Press Conference
Rev. Henrik Grape, moderator, highlighted the pre-COP inter-faith Talanoa dialogue. Today is to show what faith leaders have been discussing at COP28.
Lindsey Fielder Cook, Quakers, spoke about just transitions. This primarily has been about workforce transitions. At this COP the transition under discussion is the equitable fossil fuel phase out. There is a moral call to conscience to those whose wealth is based on fossil fuels to equitably reduce.
Maro Maua, Lutheran World Federation, spoke from a youth and global south perspective. He highlighted concerns around Loss and Damage. It needs to be considered in context of a global stocktake; account for non-economic L&D; and needs clear implementation tracks and accountability frameworks.
Tamsyn Kereopa, Anglican Church, one of the ethics of justice in the Interfaith Statement is the rights of indigenous people. Their inclusion, visibility and hearing of their stories and cosmologies is essential. COP needs to take a broader perspective and look at non-financial solutions, such as, seeing the connection between indigenous rights and land restoration.
Shantanu Mandal, Brahma Kumaris, spoke about youth representation. A lot has been achieved, but the inclusiveness needed isn’t there yet. He called on leaders to understand that youth aren’t here to take your space, but by including youth you become an inclusive leader.
Elena Cedillo, Lutheran World Federation, highlighted human rights. Climate change impacts human rights. We need to protect those who are disproportionately impacted. She called for the inclusion of human rights language and accountability, guarding of indigenous rights, and prioritisation of climate justice and equity.
Faith Sebwa, age 12, spoke on behalf of children and children with disabilities. She is hearing impaired and her message was that children have a vision of the world we would like to live in; are capable of decision-making; to accelerate phasing out fossil fuels; and not to forget disabled children who face double-barriers. Let’s make the world a clean and beautiful place for us all to live in.
Care, Share and Inspire at the Climate Wisdom Studio
Today the discussion covered the health impact, particularly women and children; transdisciplinary knowledge; why women need to be in negotiations; technical solutions; and the spiritual solution.
Dr Flavia Bustreo, Chair, Governance and Ethic Committee in Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, shared about climate changes’ impact on health, particularly women and children's health. Countries need to be aware of and plan for this. The importance of women in negotiations was highlighted; the right to health in the Paris agreement was due to a strong female involvement. She shared about the importance of inclusivity and that they use an interdisciplinary framework. She is inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of young people and the power they have to speak truth.
Prof Mark Lawrence, Scientific Director, Research Institute for Sustainability, Germany, shared about trans-disciplinary knowledge. When we bring in all types of knowledge we create a bigger framework, co-creative processes and a setting for transformation. On the technical solutions front, he said, solutions are being developed but we still need to phase out fossil fuels. The division between science and spirituality was also discussed. We now have research on how meditation increases coherence and positive brain changes. They are researching the connection between inner and societal transformation, and have created a networking platform for inner transformation and scientific communities to interface.
Maureen Goodman, UK Programme Director, Brahma Kumaris, felt that this is a spiritual as well as a climate crisis. Faith-based organisations bring in the bigger picture and highlight the need for long-term thinking. Technological solutions need to be combined with lifestyle changes. Asked about war, peace and climate change, she shared how wars directly destroy lands. We need to think about where the roots lie? The first violence is to suppress our innate inner peace and goodness. We need to come back to our original and natural state of being. This is a long term solution.
Replay link: Youtube Link
Pathways to Transform: Safeguarding the Cryosphere through Mindset and Lifestyle Shifts
This session recognized the importance of how small changes in mindset and lifestyle can ultimately secure the future of the cryosphere.
Pam Pearson, Director, International Cryosphere Climate Initiative: The cryosphere is changing faster than any other aspect of the planet, considered to be ‘the canary in the coalmine’. Need to understand the importance of the cryosphere and its impacts on low level countries and communities. What we do/don’t do now has an influence for many generations to come. Need to have more of a multigenerational mindset as happened in the past. “We all know how to live sustainably but do we do it?” Need to change before we are forced to change and recognize that our lives would improve in many ways, so not to look at things being taken away but at what is being given to us.
Prof Mark Lawrence, Scientific Director, Research Institute for sustainability: All our systems are tightly tied together: systemic structures and individual systems are connected. Individual lifestyle changes influence step by step the structures around us, such as food and agriculture, which in turn influence the cryosphere. It takes strength and will-power to make sustainable choices that go against the norm but “don’t let the perfect be an enemy of the good”.
Golo Pilz, Renewable Energy Adviser, Brahma Kumaris, tells of his journey with solar energy which has led to the BKs becoming the largest institutional user of solar energy in India. He also built a solar energy house with his own hands using mud bricks. All steps to reduce one's own personal footprint which inspires others to follow. The biggest challenge is changing mindsets and habits as any change creates resistance in the self and in others. Meditation helps us to think out of the box and create newness.
Care, Share and Inspire from the Climate Wisdom Studio
Today is the 14th and final broadcast from the Climate Wisdom Studio. The guests shared their thoughts on what had been achieved at COP28. They agreed that positive results were:
food systems being on the agenda; the Sustainable Agricultural Declaration and their being more attention on plant based food during the conference
the Health and Climate Declaration
the new Faith Pavilion; the increasing recognition of the contribution of faith-based organisations and how they can highlight the moral and ethical priority
the bigger inclusion of indigenous and youth voices
the L&D fund being made operational
They also agreed on the need for phasing out fossil fuels, and there were questions around how these items will be actioned.
Charles Ian McNeill, Senior Adviser, Forests & Climate Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, UNEP, shared the situation with the tropical forests. They are a major part of the solution. Their loss is driven primarily by our food systems, particularly the demand for beef. Brazil has been implementing solutions, still need legislation, land protection and returning rights to indigenous peoples. We can influence this by what we buy and shifting to plant based diets.
Lydia Mcchaka, Energy and Extraction Officer, CIDSE, spoke about climate justice; the need to shift from our extractive economic model to a new non-polarising one; and the four strands of environmental psychology. Also, the Pope’s appeal in 2015 to all individuals to recognise the gift of life and the planet. To appreciate, not exploit. She encourages governments to focus on the common good.
Golo Pilz, Adviser Renewable Energy, Brahma Kumaris, shared about the Brahma Kumaris solar projects. He asks why, when the science is clear, we are still debating fossil fuels. He feels this is because the inner dimension is missing. If we individually reconnect to our innate goodness our actions in the world would change. The change needs to be an inner paradigm.
The series ended with a meditation from Golo for the negotiators and planet.
Replay: Youtube Link
Learn more about Brahma Kumaris @ COP28