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Kehkashan Basu Addresses the Global Ethic Assembly

Kehkashan Basu addresses the Global Ethic in Action Assembly at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.

Thank you, Rabbi Rosen, and hello everyone. As the youngest trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in its 130 year history, I am truly delighted to share this space of healing, of love, compassion, and empathy with all of you. 

I speak to you today out of my lived experiences of over a decade and a half that has revolved around a commitment to a culture of sustainability and care for the Earth, which is in a sense the fifth directive of the Global Ethic that begins with the phrase “the world is an agony.” And it is this agony that I felt as a seven-year-old when I saw the image of a dead bird with its belly full of plastic shuddering at the thought of the bird’s agony in its death rows.

It actually acted as a cathartic moment for me and propelled me to take action, engaging my fellow children in a movement that over time evolved into the Green Hope Foundation, that is now a global social innovation enterprise spanning 28 countries and working with over half a million people whose mission is based on the principles of the fifth directive. Where young people are encouraged to look to understand that a good life is not a life of amassing material possessions or outsized consumption and that education about the environment and sustainable living should become part of the school curricula in every country of the world. 

But despite the fifth directive stating that the world is plumbing new depths of planetary agony with each passing day and as we sit here in this plush air conditioned auditorium, let us pause for a moment and include in our thoughts and prayers the countless faceless millions who are suffering from the onslaught of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Those who are suffocating in the sweltering heat waves across the world or drowning in floodwaters or those who are being pushed deeper into this morass of poverty exploitation hunger and abuse by this triple planetary crisis which is amplifying pre-existing inequalities.

And of course, having a disproportionate impact on women and girls. But despite all of this change is still possible and even though the window of opportunity gets smaller with each passing day of inaction it is possible to bring about change. It requires ingenuity and above all It requires intent and our work is testament to that. And as an example using clean energy innovation our solar grids have quite literally brought back light into the lives of thousands in marginalized rural climate vulnerable communities. In the least developed countries and small island developing states restarting schools that had shut down during the pandemic powering solar irrigation systems and drought-ridden communities that combined with our sustainable agriculture programs are providing livelihoods to the people within these rural communities, empowering women as entrepreneurs through our sewing centers, and a combination of all of these efforts has led to us being able to successfully implement local circular Bio Economies that not only regenerate the local environment but also ensure the self-reliance of the community driving progress in a way that is net zero. 

We see every day how important it is for us to have education for sustainable development as the driver of behavioral change so that we can ensure a commitment to a culture of sustainability and care for the Earth. Because many of our planetary systems are old-ready and in a state of collapse, thousands of species have already perished because of over-consumption and pollution. We live in a world where we may soon run out of clean drinking water, and that is not a faraway threat anymore. 

Even as we speak here, there are thousands of Indigenous people in Canada and the U.S. who don’t have access to clean drinking water. We see the forest fires at our doorstep, the typhoons and sea storms are battering North America and Europe with the same ferocity that they do coastal Asian countries. So the apocalypse that our movies have been made about, that may soon become a reality if we don’t act now.

And that is why the Fifth Directive of the global ethic assumes such ominous significance because it quite literally encapsulates the danger that we are facing now. Time is indeed running out, and it is absolutely imperative for us to act with love and compassion as stated by the Fifth Directive for fairness and justice for the flourishing of the whole Earth community.

Thank you.

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