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OPEN LETTER TO LEADERS ATTENDING COP26

Dear Leaders attending COP26,

COP26 is perhaps one of the most important events of our lifetime; as a leader of society responsible for our collective wellbeing and making peace with nature, we will be planting 108 peace trees dedicated to you and each of the other leaders attending. We will plant the mangrove trees in the delicate ecosystem of the Sundarbans in Eastern India.

The Sundarbans is home to the beautiful Bengal tiger and is teeming with biodiversity. Unfortunately, like delicate ecosystems worldwide, the region has been disproportionately affected by climate change and has suffered greatly from flash flooding and cyclones. Deforestation, global warming, biodiversity loss, all of these mixed with poverty create a desperate situation living there.

I started Go Dharmic 10 years ago here in the UK with a simple mission of creating a platform for ordinary people like myself to serve and help people in need. Our Dharma is to be compassionate to our Earth, ourselves and all of our fellow living beings. Today our organisation Go Dharmic has delivered relief aid and over 5 million meals to vulnerable people globally and have been helping people living in affected regions, who all too often find themselves in disastrous situations. We have seen families neck high in water, homes destroyed, children desperate for food. Although I’m proud of the relief work we do during the most challenging times, there is undoubtedly a better way!

We must prevent these catastrophic events by causing less harm to nature. Nobody is left out. We see floods across Europe, forest fires in the United States, disasters across Asia. Each and everyone will be affected. All of our relief efforts will not be enough if we continue with our current modes of living and development. So I request you to consider the idea of Ahimsa as a rule for governing our societies. Ahimsa (non-harming) is one of India’s great gifts to the world. We need to embrace this idea of Ahimsa at every level. This is not a rule just for Hindu yogis or Buddhist monks; this is a way for all of us to genuinely live in a symbiotic, cyclical way with nature, not just consuming and polluting her but nourishing each other and leaving as light a footprint as possible.

With every choice you make, do you ask the question, how can I cause less harm? Animal agriculture and factory farming, including meat and dairy, are the most significant contributors to climate change. Breeding billions of animals for slaughter is violence to our Earth. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, a lead researcher on Climate Change at the University of Oxford. But yet, we ignore this advice and animals are being served even on the plates of our leaders at COP26.

I humbly request you to be and make the changes in your own lives such that we may follow your lead by abandoning the consumption of animals and their products altogether. The plant kingdom has enough for us all. Climate change and the destruction of nature is not just the concern of the developing world. I grew up in a low income, immigrant household in Luton, only 20 miles from one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Around 35% of children live in poverty, but over 45% of food gets thrown in the bin. This is an unfortunate situation that could easily be fixed by outlawing mass food waste. It is violence to be so wasteful. Our harmful way of living needs to stop, and we need to reconnect and replenish nature through non-harming.

We were fortunate to grow up playing in gardens and parks, and I remember so many bees and butterflies and other pollinators. But, unfortunately, today, we are seeing a mass extinction of species caused by us, with a staggering 1 million species currently facing extinction and a 70% reduction in wildlife since 1970. There is still lots to be hopeful about. Our youth are showing tremendous leadership and concern for the Earth.

Together we can correct our course and change our priorities for the future system towards less harm. We need the edict shared in the ancient Mahabharata by Tulhadara states, ‘Causing no harm to any living being, or at least as little harm as possible is the way of life which represents the highest expression of Dharma. This is the rule by which I live.’ So please accept our Gift of 108 trees in your honour and our request to bring to the fore the philosophy of less harm which is nothing but the law of Love. Non-violence has been used for civil rights by Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi and others to significant effect. Now we must apply it to protect our Earth.

Yours Faithfully,

Hanuman Dass