Kids Corner


Sikhi's Green Philosophy:
Pavan-Guru Paani-Pita Maata-Dharat



I had a great conversation the other day with a friend who now works at Climate Action Network (CAN) about their new strategy in preparation for Copenhagen and beyond, and one aspect of the strategy particularly intrigued me: their planned focus on Sikh and Punjabi communities in south-central Ontario and the greater Vancouver areas in Canada.

I immediately thought this was a brilliant idea, as CAN quickly discerned that:

a) Immigrants are the future, and the new face of Canada. Sooner or later (if we have not already), greater than 50% of the population in these areas will be of a visible minority, many coming from immigrant families or immigrants themselves;

b) The climate movement is weak in the suburbs, and is critical to engage for a long-term climate action strategy;

c) The Conservatives and the Liberals know that both these areas are crucial to winning a majority government, hence they place a lot of importance on what people think in these ridings.

As a Sikh-Canadian with Punjabi heritage, I loved the idea of engaging members of my faith into the climate change discussion, especially since Sikhs have acted as a politically powerful group in those particular ridings in Ontario and Vancouver.

However, digging a bit deeper than politics and demographics, I especially love how the impending climate crisis has sparked fresh discussion on Sikhism's particular connection to the environment and its understanding as a "green religion."

Websites have popped up recently to discuss environmental issues within the cultural and historical context of the religion, including that just launched in June this year.

Some advocates have focused on the practical duties of being a Sikh and how they fit very much in line with the practices of environmentalists. Others (such as a peer of mine at the University of Toronto, Jagtaran Singh) have focused intently on the Sikh Scripture - the Guru Granth Sahib - on how the very foundations of the religion were built on a deep understanding of our relationship to the environment and the sacredness of it.

This quote from the Guru Granth Sahib is just one of many emphasizing this message:

Pavan guru paani pita maata dharat mahat ... "Air is the Teacher, Water the Father, and Earth the Great Mother of all." [GGS:p8 - M1:Japji, Salok]

Jagtaran's article in the BBC does much more of a service to the issue of Sikhism and the environment than I am able to here in this blog, but it's a topic that I'm certainly hoping to become more knowledgeable about, and am excited to see where the interconnections of religion, the environment, and politics can lead us in the future.

[Jasmeet is the founder of the Peel Environmental Youth Alliance (PEYA), a network of students in the Peel Region (Canada) working to implement environmental programs in all 220 Peel Region schools. She is a past member of The Toronto Star's community editorial board, and is currently studying Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto. In 2008, she was named one of Canada's 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women's Executive Network, and is a past recipient of the Top 20 Under 20 award. She previously blogged for The Toronto Star during the 2008 UN Climate Change Conference in Poland.]


Courtesy: The Toronto Star

July 22, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Navraj (London, U.K.), July 22, 2009, 9:02 AM.

Jasmeet, well done on the article. I think that everyone should be made aware of the importance of conserving our enviornment. The gurdwaras should highlight this important issue and it should be part of our religious practice.

2: Pritam Singh Grewal (Canada), July 22, 2009, 11:54 AM.

An interesting article drawing the readers' attention towards Sikh views on ecology. Besides 'Pawan Guru... ' there are many other gurbani verses dealing with this issue, such as - 'Dharati degh millai ik vayra bhag tera bhandari' [GGS:1190] and 'ban tiran parbat hai parbraham'.

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Pavan-Guru Paani-Pita Maata-Dharat"

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