The climate crisis is forcing the world to examine the human-nature relationship in a profound manner. The COP26 meeting held in Glasgow in November 2021, was an opportunity for the political leaders of the world to come together to address the crisis caused by the industrial activities of human kind. 

The real cause of climate change is unlimited human greed for endless economic growth and material prosperity which leads to huge amount of waste, pollution and carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Therefore, the climate crisis is also a moral and spiritual crisis. 

In order to address this problematic predicament of humanity Pope Francis invited the religious leaders and leading scientists of the world to come to the Vatican and speak with a united voice and urge the political leaders of the world, gathering in Glasgow, to take the climate catastrophe seriously, to rise above their narrow national interests and work together to protect our precious planet Earth, our common home. 

Representatives of Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Jain communities, together with a number of leading scientists, all together 65 of us, attended the conference held at the Vatican on the 4 October 2021. I was delighted to be invited to this esteemed gathering to represent the Jain community.

It was a privilege to be in such close company with the Pope Francis and other religious leaders in two of the most beautiful rooms in the Vatican. We were able to explore the connections between our respective spiritual traditions and exchange our views.  I gave my talk about the importance of Ahimsa, or non-violence in the context of climate crisis. In the Jain tradition our highest principle is non-violence – non-violence to ourselves, non-violence to other people and non-violence to nature. This is a crucial principle for us all to adopt if we are to survive. We all have to take the Hippocratic oath that we should ‘do no harm’. Pollution and waste is a violence against nature. By harming and damaging nature, we are harming and damaging ourselves. We need to start thinking differently.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Vatican and the British Embassy as well as the Italian Embassy to the Holy Sea. It was an honour to have Pope Francis in the audience listening to my talk. Following the conference, we enjoyed a vegetarian dinner at the residence of the British Ambassador. I don’t think that a few years ago it would have been possible to have an all vegetarian dinner at a British Embassy! Times are changing and people are responding to the crisis of climate change. I also had the pleasure of meeting fellow participants in the conference – Alok Sharma, the president of COP26 in Glasgow and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

It was wonderful to see so many religious leaders and scientists speaking with united voice to address the climate crisis. The fundamental message of this conference was that all of us, faith leaders, political leaders and scientists need to rise above our petty differences, be they political or theological, and work together in the shared interest of caring for our common home, the Earth.

Our house is on fire! Let us do everything to put this fire out – before it is too late.

You can watch Satish Kumar’s talk given at the ‘Faith and Science Towards COP26’ conference held on 4 October 2021 at the Vatican, here

Satish Kumar is Editor Emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist.