By Divesh Maharaj
Durban, South Afirica
The 5th ISKCON Vedic Ecology Convention was held recently at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. The event was attended by a diverse audience which included school learners and educators, university students and members of the public. The programme was officially opened with a prayer and short address by Her Grace Prasuti Devi Dasi, a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder of the Hare Krishna Movement.
The keynote address was delivered by His Grace Syamsundara Das, a senior and long standing member of the Movement. His focus was on the theme of ‚Äúpure consciousness, clean environment‚ÄĚ and he spoke about the “physics of the soul” - living entities being spirit souls interact with each other and the natural world. He explained that living off the land and planting fruit and vegetables with one‚Äôs own hands leads to a physical and spiritual connection to nature which in turn connects one to the Creator. He went on to highlight, “The source of our problem is the desire for sense gratification beyond the consideration of anyone else’s rights. These rights are the rights of the child in relation to the father. Every child has the right to share the wealth of his father. So creating a brotherhood of all creatures on earth depends on understanding the universal fatherhood of God”
The second speaker was Tammy Fry, initiator of the “Meet Free Monday” programme in South Africa. This is a very successful programme that encourages people to abstain from eating meat on Mondays and has gained popularity in around 50 countries worldwide. The programme highlights the positive benefits to the environment and health. Tammy quoted the example “every 250 burgers produced requires the size of a football field of cleared land to grow feed for the animals.” The results are catastrophic in terms of global warming and other natural disturbances.
His Grace Vibhu Caitanya Das, co- Temple President of the Hare Krishna Temple in Chatsworth shared a few words of wisdom with the guests. He explained that in Vedic culture the Earth is regarded as a mother and in order to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, one must revere and protect Mother Earth. He mentioned that Conventions of this nature gives one the inspiration and knowledge to go out into the world and implement practical ideas that help the planet.
School teacher Krsni Devi Dasi was the next speaker with the topic “Environmental Pollution has a Spiritual Solution”. She quoted a verse from the Vedic scripture known as the Sri Isopanisad, ‘Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself and set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.‚ÄĚ She also quoted from Srimad Bhagavatam” Whatever is taken from the Earth ‚Äď either from the mines, surface of the globe or from the atmosphere-should always be considered the property of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and should be used for Yajna- Lord Visnu…‚ÄĚ S.B. 4:18:13. Krsni Devi Dasi expanded on the deep significance of these verses and its relevance as a spiritual solution to environmental pollution.
Sara Rohton, a Phd student at the University spoke about “Sustainable Sanitation” with respect to water resources. Her presentation focused on three aspects, our relationship with water, water and the nutrient cycle and sustainable sanitation. Sara, a resident of New Mexico in the USA, explained that she came to Durban to study technologies that recover nutrients from sanitation sewer systems, preserve and protect water, and return nutrients to the soil, closing the nutrient cycle.
Yashna Maharajh and Pierre Basoon presented on the use of sustainable energy talking about global environmental problems and how the use of alternate energy can reduce the carbon footprint. They focused on both new and existing technologies in the market-place and ways in which the general public can have access to these technologies. They covered wind turbines, solar panels, LED lighting, rain -water harvesting, etc.
Radha Damodar Das and Divesh Maharaj then spoke about “The Yamuna - A River in Crisis”. They presented some background information, discussed some quotes by Srila Prabhupada related to the Yamuna crisis and quoted some scientific details. It was explained that the point where the Shahdra Drain meets the Yamuna River, the Central Pollution Control Board of India in its January 2010 report gives an average of 51.3 BOD (biological oxygen demand per liter). The maximum permissible for bathing is 3. Lead and other heavy metals like iron and zinc together with various pesticides, arsenic and NDM1 virus (a gene that is immune to all known antibiotics) is present in the water in quantities way beyond the maximum acceptable limits.
Carla Higgs of the Green Office, a company specializing in providing professional advice and guidance for the implementation of green ideas in the corporate sector, presented on toner cartridges and recycling incentives available to schools and other social and faith-based organizations.
The final speaker was Noleen Durgapersadh, a primary school teacher who spoke about the “Ecology of the Heart”. Noleen explained that Earth’s production of food depends on the quality of our behavior and attitude towards her. ‚ÄúWe need to be aware of the spiritual relationship between humans and the Earth if we are to find abundance” She also quoted various verses from the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures.
The Convention concluded with a short summary of the papers by Shraddha Rajcoomar and a presentation of tokens of appreciation to the various presenters.