To mark the Sikh New Year and World Sikh Environment Day over 70 participants attended the inaugural EcoSikhUK virtual conference.
Dr Hardeep Singh Mudhar launched the conference welcoming the attendees and thanking the keynote speakers. Attending the conference, Dr Mudhar notes, was a step towards building a future of positive climate action and improving biodiversity.
Amandeep Kaur Mann, UK director for EcoSikhUK began with a brief reflection of EcoSikhUK. EcosikhUK’s current collaborations and networks with local and national groups are growing. Existing relationships with the UK Womens Faith Network, Canal and River Trust, Friends of the Earth, and the Woodlands Trust, as well as with individual communities such as Guru Nanak Gurdwara and Holy Trinity Church in Smethwick, and Sikh Alliance Yorkshire.
“Positive action for mother earth”Dr Hardeep Singh Mudhar, EcoSikhUK
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP for Slough and shadow railways minister addressed the conference with a discussion on why all communities need to care with the environment, sharing his personal journey, including ditching his diesel car for an electric vehicle, and the need for the UK to fully electrify the rail network as a low carbon transport technology.
Helena Craig chair of Black2Nature, and retired lawyer specialising in race equality, diversity and inclusion, talked about achieving equality of access to nature for minority communities. She has supported her 18 year old daughter Mya-Rose Craig (aka BirdGirl) with nature camps, race equality and campaigning.
“People can connect with nature and the environment in different ways.”Helena Craig, Black2Nature
Minority ethnic young children are less likely to visit nature. In 2015 Mya-Rose set up Camp Avalon putting a lot of effort in to getting inner city minorities to be inspired. Overcoming negative expectations, and the fear about visiting these spaces was important. Barriers need to be overcome and the environmental sector needs to be challenged to be more relevant to minority communities and youngsters.
An inspiring video from EcoSikh India’s Ravneet Singh discussed the Sacred Guru Nanak Forest, and the amazing success that has been achieved – 303 mini forests planted across the Indian subcontinent.
The next speaker to address the conference was Professor Yadvinder Malhi, University of Oxford Professor of Ecosystem Science, fellow of the Royal Society, and trustee of the Natural History Museum. The urgency and challenge of nature restoration was the focus of his talk, and how incredibly important this work is.
…with any metric of biodiversity there is a decline over time, which is accelerating over the last few decades in every part of the world.Professor Yadvinder Singh Malhi, University of Oxford
Conversion to agriculture, increasing intensified and overapplication of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides is destroying the ecosystem. Extreme weather, climate action failure, biodiversity loss, natural disasters, water crisis and human-made environmental disasters are the major sources of Global Risks to our society.
There are opportunities to reverse this, and lead a major renewal of the natural system. Professor Malhi explained how nature and climate change are interlinked, and that restoring and protecting nature is a key part of combating climate change. Nature-based solutions need to be implemented. To reverse natural decline we all need to increase conservation efforts, consume and produce more sustainabily.
Our final speaker was Rehmat Rayatt, award winning filmaker and photographer, whose work aims to amplify the voice of the disadvantaged. Her talk began with an airing of the trailer for Toxification, a documentary that has gained international acclaim for unveiling the problems that have consumed the farmers of Panjab.
“Our farmer is addicted, the same as our land” – linking the over fertilisation of the land and the drug problem with the youth of Punjab. The mandi system of selling crops was discussed within the context of the 3 agricultural bills, and the resulting Kisaan movement (farmers protests). The process of selling crops was difficult before, and it isn’t getting easier. Find out more about the Kisaan movement – SavingPunjab.Org.
Prubhjyot Singh of EcoSikh UK then closed the session, thanking the speakers and the attendees for engaging throughout the conference. The conference is a fantastic milestone, and we hope that all attendees will become friends of EcoSikhUK, working together to restore the global ecosystem.
The conference was ended on the Sikh acknowledgement:
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.