The United Nations Climate Change Conference, (COP21) will take place on November 30 – December 11, 2015, in Paris, France with the goal of reaching a global agreement about climate that will be legally binding under international law. Given the high level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, it is understood by most climate change scientists that this is humanity’s last chance to prevent climate catastrophe. Leading up to the COP21, political and technical negotiations were accelerating, and pressure was building to prepare the agreement that will emerge from the conference in December. Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the President of France for the Protection of the Planet, organized The Summit of Conscience in anticipation of the main event bringing together well-respected spiritual and moral authorities from diverse faiths and traditions from all over the world.
Amma was invited to contribute to this important conference however was unable to attend as she was in the midst of her 7-week tour of North-America. Instead, she delivered a video message and sent her senior representative, the Vice-Chairman of Mata Amritanandamyi Math, our parent organization, Swami Amritaswarupananda, in her place. He was accompanied by Brahmachari Shubamrita Chaitanya and Brahmacharini Dipamrita Chaitanya, Amma’s representatives in Europe.
On the evening prior to the first day, Swami Amritaswarupananda and Brahmacharini Dipamrita Chaitanya along with the other invited guests attended a dinner at the official residence of François Hollande, the president of France. The following morning, Swami Amritaswarupananda, Brahmachari Shubamrita Chaitanya and Brahmacharini Dipamrita Chaitanya met with Mrs. Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland. Mrs. Robinson is also the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and is currently the Special Envoy of the UN General Secretary on Climate Change. She shares the conviction that it is of the utmost importance to alleviate the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable members of society. They agreed on the need to bring a new dimension to the climate crisis, one that goes beyond technical and political aspects.
To start off the main event, the President of France spoke explaining that he felt tackling the climate crisis only in the secular scientific and political communities was not enough. “The climate crisis and more generally the ecological crisis cannot be brought down to the scientific, technological, economical and political dimensions only… The deeper cause for the degradation of the climate and the environment is a way of life, a way of producing goods and a way of consumption that is no longer compatible with human development. Our relationship to the planet has to be thought over, and it is an ethical choice that must be shared”
Swami Amritaswarupananda addressed the assembly stating that, “our organization, under Amma’s leadership is striving to bring the lost love and reverence towards nature back into people’s hearts, thus impacting the community and the environment.” He also said that “through the InDeed Campaign we have been able to organize the planting of more than one million trees since 2001, with people from 40 countries around the world participating,” and that, as a recognition of the outstanding effort undertaken under the Clean India Campaign, the “Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, requested our NGO to undertake construction of toilets for all the villagers living on the banks of the river Ganges as part of the Prime Minister’s ‘Clean Ganga Project.'”
He concluded his speech by saying that “Amma says each of us is like a small candle. While a single candle is insufficient to vanquish the darkness, if all of our candles come together, there is no way we cannot triumph.”
Martin Palmer, the facilitator of the event, said “Yesterday, we had a preparatory meeting with all the participants in the Summit. I think Swamiji summed up this event for us: we cannot change the environment unless we change ourselves.”
During his closing address, Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet and main organizer of the event, stated that one speaker’s words had particularly touched him, and then reiterated Amma’s allegory: “a single small candle cannot relieve us from darkness, but many candles brought together can show us the direction.”
Among other leaders who attended the summit were Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch; United Nations former secretary-general M. Kofi Annan; Nobel peace laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus; Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hahn (represented by Sr. Chân Không); Sheikh Khaled Bentounes, who is the spiritual guide of the Alawiyya Sufi brotherhood (Algeria); Philippines Senator Loren B. Legarda; UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova; Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace President Cardinal Peter Turkson; American Jewish Committee Director (Interreligious Affairs) Rabbi David Rosen; Brazilian politician Marina Silva; former Ireland president Mary Robinson, who is Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Climate Change; and M. Janos Pasztor, who is Assistant Secretary-General of the UN on Climate Change.