The official Durban Platform for Enhanced Action is a formula for punting all climate change policy actions down the road until 2020. The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the scientific community tell us that we really don't have that luxury and must make drastic changes in our energy usage patterns within the next five years if we want to avoid irreversible climate change.
The Durban Addendum to the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change is a formula for immediate grassroots action instead.
Consider these two facts:
1. The amount of solar energy falling on earth is 20,000 times the amount of energy required to run the global human enterprise.
2. Nearly one-third of the total ice-free land area of the planet is used for livestock production.
Even if photosynthesis has a conversion efficiency of just 0.5%, it is easy to see why Prof. Danny Harvey of the University of Toronto calculates that the amount of energy embedded in the food we eat exceeds the energy used for transportation and shelter combined (see Table 7.23 of Chapter 7 in Energy and the New Reality, Vol 1, 2010). Yet, it is very difficult to get even the most committed environmentalists to rethink their dietary patterns and go Organic Vegan to reverse the unfolding catastrophes on Earth.
At the UN COP-17 conference in Durban, SA, I was watching a very staunch environmentalist tuck into a heaped plate of tuna meat and mayo and order a second helping. He had also ordered an equally heaped plate of greens to accompany the plate of tuna to make his point that he was truly an omnivore and not a carnivore, but the food energy embedded in the greens was clearly dwarfed by that embedded in the plate of tuna. And eating tuna meat is like eating tiger meat, as that magnificent creature is at the very top of the food chain and is as equally endangered in the ocean as the tiger is on land.
It is very easy to get such environmentalists to sign declarations that read, "We commit ourselves to action – to changing our habits, our choices, and the way we see the world – to learning and teaching our families, friends, and faiths – to conserving the limited resources of our home, planet Earth, and preserving the climate conditions upon which life depends," as the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change reads. For when he signs such a declaration, he has internally convinced himself that he has already changed all necessary habits to fulfill that pledge, but it is other people that now need to change. This particular environmentalist was firmly convinced that airplane travel dwarfs all other activities in its impact on the environment and he had already cut that down to essential travel and was therefore entitled to a bit of indulgence when it comes to his food habits. And he was firmly ignoring all factual and scientific evidence to the contrary in the pursuit of this indulgence.
Generic pledges such as those in the IDCC are easy to sign, but make no difference in the outcomes on the planet. For everyone is convinced that they are already doing the right thing and it is others who are messing things up and need to change. Therefore, in order to truly make a difference, we must instead seek a specific, universal pledge that packs a cohesive punch and have vast numbers of people sign on to it and live by it. And this led to the formulation of the Durban Addendum to the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change.
The Durban Addendum reads,
"While Climate Change is a symptom, the fever that our Earth has contracted, the underlying disease is the disconnection from Creation that plagues human societies throughout our Earth.
We, the undersigned, pledge to heal this disconnection by promoting and exemplifying Compassion for all Creation (my emphasis) in all our actions."
At present, given our technological prowess, if we lack compassion for any part of Creation on Earth, we will destroy that part while converting it to cash as a routine consequence of our economic activities. And from this reasoning, it is easy to conclude that our compassion needs to be all-encompassing in order for us to leave a viable planet for future generations. Fortunately, all major faith traditions throughout the Earth are in complete alignment with promoting and exemplifying Compassion for all Creation.
The Durban Addendum was signed by 41 members of the Interfaith community in Durban, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, before it was handed over to Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC by Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, at a press conference on Friday, December 2. While the environmentalist continued to tuck into heaped plates of tuna in the days following this signing, the cognitive dissonance between his agreement with the pledge in the Durban Addendum and what he was doing was beginning to tell and distress lines were beginning to form on his face.
While Compassion for all Creation does not automatically imply organic veganism (e.g., the Inuit in Greenland who are forced to eat whales because there is little else that is edible around them), the consumption of animal foods can be compassionate only out of necessity, but not out of choice.
Therefore, it is probably just a matter of time before my environmentalist friend truly changes himself and becomes part of the solution instead of wasting his energies, finger-pointing at the politicians who have failed to take decisive action.
This is our only way out - to take decisive action ourselves. If Bishop Tutu can sign such a pledge at his advanced age in the cause of humanity and Life on Earth, how can we possibly let him down?
Photo courtesy: Saydoon Sayed of the World Council on Religions for Peace. Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, handing over the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change along with the Durban Addendum to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. From left, Bishop Geoff Davies, Executive Director of the South African Faith Communities Environment Initiative (SAFCEI), Sheikh Saleem Banda of the World Association of Muslim Youth, Dr. Sailesh Rao of Climate Healers, Ela Gandhi, Honorary President of the World Council on Religions for Peace, Rev. Kenneth Nana Amoateng of the Abibiman Foundation of Ghana, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC and Rabbi Hillel Avidan of the South African Union of Progressive Judaism. The top left signature is that for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which Bishop Davies signed during the Press Conference. The press conference can be seen in two parts at
Photo courtesy: Jaine Rao of Climate Healers. The Durban Addendum on the left with the signed document exhibited during the UN Press Conference on Dec. 2, with the text of the Interfaith Declaration on the right. The 41 signatures on the document are from:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Bishop Geoff Davies, Executive Director of South African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Catholic Church and Chair of KwaZulu Natal Inter Religious Council (KZN IRC)
Dr. Mustafa Ali, Secretary General of African Council of Religious Leaders
Bishop Michael Vorster, Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Natal
Rev. Jenny Sprong, Methodist Church of Southern Africa
Rev. Emmanuel Gabriel, Methodist Church of Southern Africa
Stewart Kilburn, HIV 911
Saydoon Sayed, World Council on Religions for Peace (WCRP) Coordinator, Secretary of KZN IRC
Rev. Sue Britton, Anglican Church of South Africa
Rabbi Hillel Avidan, South African Union of Progressive Judaism
Professor Hoosen Vawda, Nelson Medical School
Cannon Desmond Lambrechts, National Religious Association for Social Development
Dr. Sylvia Kaye, Secretary of Bahai Faith of South Africa
Dhunluxmi Desai, KZN IRC and Southern African Hindu Maha Sabha
Sr. Agnes Grasboeck, Sisters of Mariannhill/ WCRP
Jerald Vedan, Buddhist Representative for Inter Religious Council
Pundit Raj Bharat, Atman Universal Movement and WCRP
Sister Usha Jeevan, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
Seelan Moodliar, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
Ela Gandhi, Honorary President of WCRP
Isaac Wittmann, Young Adults in Global Mission - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Kristin Opalinski, Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa
Rev. Lumka Sigaba, Methodist Church of Southern Africa
Jaine Rao, Climate Healers
Dr. Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers
Mark Naicker, Catholic Youth
Stuart Scott, Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change
Paddy Meskin, President WCRP South Africa / Secretariat for KZN IRC
Moulana Abdullah, Inter Religious Council on Peace - Tanzania
Mahomed Yussuf, Sunni Jumait
Maulana Mahomed Ebrahim, Sunni Jamait Ulama
Priscilla McDougal, United Church of Christ
Shamim David, Inter Religious Council of Zambia
Mantanta Wasim, Inter Religious Council of Zambia
Sheikh Idrisa Mtembu, Muslim Association of Malawi
Sheikh Saleem Banda, World Assembly of Muslim Youth
Adam Makwinda, World Assembly of Muslim Youth
Fred Kruger, National Religious Coalition on Creation Care