The importance of dynamism driven by inner peace for a sustainable future was emphasised on by the Art of Living founder and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in his keynote address at the Clean Air Games, hosted at Nobel Peace Center, Oslo. Sri Sri addressed the gathering, speaking on the topic 'Sustainability as a mindset'.
"The mindset of people is key in bringing any transformation to help us move forward," Sri Sri said in his address.
"We need to change the mindset from a consumerist one to one that looks out for the future too. And for change of mindset, one must listen. Listening is impossible if someone is stressed. Outer peace can come only if there's inner peace. Someone who is stressed in the mind will be too tired and exhausted to care about anyone or any cause. So, care for the planet comes from a peaceful individual, where one begins to see the planet as part of oneself. This education has to be brought (to more people)," he added.
Clean Air Games is a two-day international event that brings together the cause of environmental impact and sustainability with sports. Liv Tørres, who CEO of the Nobel Peace Center, and international sports commentator, Knut Skeie Solberg were also present at the event.
Addressing a mix of sportspeople, change makers, statesmen, policymakers and other stakeholders, Sri Sri shared the Art of Living's inside out approach to drive a social change. He said that it is people driven by inner spiritual peace and a calling to serve the society, who volunteer to make a significant impact.
He said that The Art of Living volunteers, who are present in 156 countries, have successfully planted 80 million trees and have worked on reviving 41 rivers (that existed merely on papers) across India. Over 50 million people have benefitted from this effort.
He also said that the volunteers reached out to 280000 farmers to discourage them from stubble burning which was one of the main causes of hazardous air quality and toxic pollutants being released in the air in and around Delhi region.
The farmers were instead trained in mulching practices to recycle the waste, also benefiting the farmers as it provided sufficient nitrogen fix that the soil needed, while keeping the air clean and breathable.
He cited the example of Latur, which was one of the first towns to be hit by the fierce droughts in Maharashtra. The town had to get portable water transported from other cities.
But the rejuvenation movement, driven by the civil society and led by The Art of Living, to revive the dead rivers and streams, harvest rainwater, build groundwater recharge structures and raise the water table helped increase the groundwater table, making a significant change in the lives of people of the town.
"Environment doesn't have any geographic or political boundaries. You cannot say we want clean air only in Norway. If there's no clean air elsewhere we're not going to have it here. We have one planet earth and we have one atmosphere. To care for that we need to create huge awareness throughout the world, for which spiritual tools need to be adopted," said Sri Sri.
Apart from the need for spirituality to create more environmentally conscious individuals and change mindsets, Sri Sri also shared practical inputs that can reduce the burden of environmental pollution on the planet.
While referring to the global fireworks that go off during New Year's Eve, creating massive air toxicity that makes air unbreathable, Gurudev instead suggested, the world community to adopt a possible environmental middle path of electronic (laser) fireworks.
He also challenged the misnomer that organic farming was uneconomical and that chemicals and GMO seeds were needed in the soil for quicker output, without which the entire population will starve.
"We've proved this is wrong. This is just a lobby trying to take money and power from poor people. So the poor farmers cannot maintain their seed banks. It pushes the poor farmer into dependence. We've demonstrated again and again in India that doing agriculture organically is sustainable," Sri Sri said.
During his interaction with Liv Tørres about courageous leadership needed for sustainable investments, invoking the Nobel Laureate-Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Sri shared, "You need the courage to face opposition from unknown corners when you are convinced that something needs to be done. Tagore gave a beautiful slogan-Ekla Chalo Re. You move alone even if there's nobody with you. But then everyone will come together, when they see what you are doing, is much needed."