UN Secretary-General urges action to slow global warming and protect the planet
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, April 18, 2015 – Activists of environmental organization EcoSikh joined thousands of other concerned citizens on the National Mall and Washington Monument grounds for one of the largest and most important movements – Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day: Protecting our Planet and its People.
It is estimated that over 250,000 impassioned souls flocked to this rally on a summer-like, picture-perfect Saturday putting the spotlight squarely on environmental issues. In a special address, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored that it is imperative to take action on climate change now, warning the huge crowd there is “no Plan B because there is no Planet B”.
He implored the gathering to speak up and get involved to make a difference. “I want to hear from you”, said the UN chief, making it clear, “It’s our last chance to slow global warming. Will you support our global goal to empower women and girls?”, he asked. “Will you speak up to get every child in school? Will you raise your voice for people and our planet?”
Earth Day is on Wednesday, April 22. This year, the focus is on the dual issues of mitigating the harmful effects of Climate Change and eliminating Global Poverty. The rally on Saturday marked the 45th anniversary of this global movement to protect and preserve our environment, and to ensure development for all.
Donning green-colored, symbolic tee-shirts, members of EcoSikh, an organization geared towards responding to threats of climate change and deterioration of the natural environment, made their presence felt at the monumental event. Spearheading the efforts were Dr. Rajwant Singh, Sumeet Kaur, Meenu Nandra, Gita Pabla, Dimple Sandhu, Jyoti Tulsi, Manranjan Singh and Imneet Brar.
It was a heart-warming sight much to the surprise of many. At the outset, Kirtan was performed in front of the Smithsonian’s popular National Museum of Natural History. Then volunteers of EcoSikh, in keeping with the tradition of Langar (free community meal) and ‘Vand Chakko’ (share with others), distributed free food – Pooris (deep-fried bread) with potatoes and ‘chole’ (chick peas), fresh fruits, juices, bottled water, chips – to scores of Americans on the National Mall.
A practicing Sikh, Dr. Rajwant Singh said, “Our faith teaches us that we must care for this God-given gift: Mother Earth. It is a gift for generations to come and we must take action to preserve it and keep it as beautiful as we have found it. This is the viewpoint of an enlightened soul like Guru Nanak Dev Ji (the first Sikh Guru and founder of Sikhism) who told us ‘Pavan Guru, Pani Pita, Mata Dharat Mahat’ (Air is the Teacher, Water is the Father, and Earth is the Great Mother of all). So, we have to care for our Mother, Father and Teacher”.
Dr. Singh admitted that he was concerned about “corporations and political leaders who are not taking decisive steps to change the way we have operated so far. Even science is telling us that things are going from bad to worse”, he pointed out.
Regarding the remedy, Dr. Singh believed, “all of humanity needs to speak in a concerted voice that it is already too late, we cannot wait any more, we must act now. We must force our political leaders to take action”, he said, adding “that can only happen if we all vote for the right candidate who can make a decision to act on climate change”.
All of 15 years old, Hana Kaur is passionate about the environment. “God gave us such a wonderful earth and keeps giving us resources and everything we need”, she noted. “The least we can do is take care of it. What bothers me is that we prioritize building things and whatever will generate revenue, rather than caring for our Mother Earth”.
At 17, Jagjot Kaur believes that the solution lies in “making small changes in our daily lives because they all add up”, she said, stressing on the needs to recycle and to save water.
On the sprawling and scenic Washington Monument grounds, the eight-hour Earth Day rally, beginning at 11:00 am, included a good number of speeches interspersed by musical performances. A highlight was the evening concert featuring celebrated artistes such as Usher, Mary J. Blige, Will.i.am, and No Doubt.
Addressing concert-goers, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon emphasized that 2015 offered the international community its best chance to end global poverty, to act on climate, gender and development issues.
“You have the power”, he said. “Your generation can make it happen! Be a global citizen. Take your passion and compassion and build a better, sustainable world and, together, let’s make our global goals a global reality”.