Greetings from BSG Chairperson
Let us act now to make the world more sustainable
Dear Members of Bharat Soka Gakkai and All Readers,
I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to everyone on the occasion of the release of the inaugural issue of the ‘BSG for SDG’ bi-monthly ‘Sustainable’ newsletter. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your daily efforts to make this world more ‘Sustainable’ so that future generations can freely savour the beauty of this world, just as we and our ancestors have been able to do.
In his Environment Proposal submitted to the United Nations in the year 2002, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda shared three goals to be kept in mind in order to promote the concept of Sustainable Development. These are:
- “To learn and deepen awareness of environmental issues and realities.”
- “To reflect on our modes of living, renewing these toward sustainability.”
- “To empower people to take concrete action to resolve the issues we face.”
Taking inspiration from President Ikeda, the ‘Sustainable’ Newsletter has been divided into 3 sections, namely, Learn, Reflect and Empower, which will help to understand the SDGs better.
In the ‘Learn’ section, we discover and learn about the various aspects of SDGs in a simple manner. In the ‘Reflect’ section, we study from President Ikeda’s writings to understand and reflect upon how we can undergo our own human revolution (inner transformation) to be able to contribute towards the actualization of the SDGs through our daily efforts. And in the ‘Empower’ section, we get empowered by reading the powerful testimonials of BSG members on how they have been contributing to the SDGs in their personal lives.
The entire focus and objective of this newsletter is to help us understand how we, as ordinary individuals, can manifest sustainable human behaviour in our everyday life, that is, how we can undergo our human revolution (inner transformation), in order to create a sustainable world where the dignity of each life is respected and where each individual life is able to thrive and grow to their full capacity.
The world today is facing rising issues of global warming, inequalities, discrimination, among other crucial challenges. If we don’t act now, then we will be depriving our future generations a chance to have a happy, safe world to live in.
Working on actualizing the SDGs is therefore not an option anymore, it is critical that each one of us without exception does our bit towards making the world more ‘Sustainable’. The target date set by the United Nations to actualize all the 17 SDGs is the year 2030. Let’s each one of us make a fresh determination today to commit ourselves to achieving the SDGs in our own unique way. Let’s each of us act now!
I am certain that you would greatly enjoy reading this newsletter, and that you would feel inspired to share it further with your friends and family. The ‘Sustainable’ newsletter is a humble beginning, but I am sure it will go a long way in becoming the driving force for each member of BSG to create their own wonderful story towards actualising the SDGs much before 2030.
My deepest gratitude for your ceaseless efforts towards creating a New Age in India and a New Global Civilization towards 2030.
Please take good care of yourselves
On 25th September 2015, all UN member states signed up to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of solutions for the biggest human-made challenges impacting people and the planet. While progress has been made, it is still not good enough given the speed and scale at which the world needs to deliver on these goals. We are living in complete imbalance with nature upon which we depend for our very existence. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand from nature in a given year exceeds what the planet can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day for 2021 fell on July 29. In comparison, in 1970 this day fell on December 30. We are beginning to witness even worse impacts of climate change with the last decade being the hottest on record. Floods, cyclones, and forest fires are becoming increasingly rampant and Antarctica recorded its highest temperature this year at 18.3 degrees celsius!
We still live in an extremely unequal world. While over a billion people have been lifted out of poverty over the last decades, around 10 percent of the human race is still living in unbelievably harsh conditions. The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people! Intolerance over race, religion, gender, and opinions has exacerbated particularly with the rising use of social media. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to slow down progress on the SDGs. To accelerate the realisation of the SDGs, the UN has declared the crucial decade towards 2030 as the ‘Decade of Action’ and urges mobilisation at three levels: ‘global action’, ‘local action’ and ‘people action’. ‘People action’ suggests that each one of US has a role to play in generating an unstoppable movement for transforming the world we live in because there is no planet B!
The Three Pillars of Sustainability
The three pillars of sustainability are the society, environment and economy, also referred to as people, planet and profit, respectively. This suggests progress on all these three pillars is required to create a sustainable world now and for future generations.
Environment (Planet): We have just one planet that sustains our existence by providing us with natural resources. These include renewable resources such as forests, wind, water and solar energy; and non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and mineral resources. We need to be mindful of how and how much of these resources we consume without destroying the regenerative ability of the earth to restore its renewable resources, or jeopardising the ability of future generations from meeting their needs.
Society (People): All members of the society must be able to live a life of quality and dignity, with equal access to food, shelter, clean water and sanitation, electricity and decent work, and be able to lead a flourishing life, free from fear and want. Issues such as inequity, deprivation, poverty and violence that prevent certain sections of the society from fulfilling their needs must be addressed to create a just and prosperous society.
Economy (Profit): Economic growth today is taking place at the cost of damaging the environment and negative social impacts particularly on vulnerable communities. This has to change, and businesses, governments and consumers need to act responsibly. What is good for the economy must also be good for people (such as benefit to local communities through local job creation), and for the planet (such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, waste, pollution and damage to forests).
“GEO-6 for Youth”
Browse through this interactive e-publication by the United Nations Environment Programme written by youth, for youth, to inform, engage, educate, and lead youth towards environmental action.
The Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
We are what we eat. This book traces the history and growth of the American fast food industry, its close ties with the meat processing industry, its assembly-line culture and exploitative labour practices, as well as the shift it brought about in people’s relationship with food and their lifestyle. Must read if you love eating fast food, if you are concerned about the health impacts of junk food, or simply curious about what makes fast food simply irresistible.
“Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times”
This short film was created by the United Nations on its 75th Anniversary in 2020, to mark five years since the adoption of the SDGs. The film highlights 4 key areas where we must take action:
(i) Climate and Planet, (ii) Poverty and Inequality,
(iii) Justice and Human Rights, (iv) Gender equality.
Podcast of Soka Gakkai President, Daisaku Ikeda’s 2021 Peace Proposal: ‘Value Creation in a Time of Crisis’
President Ikeda explores three approaches to overcome the current COVID-19 crisis and generate solid momentum for building a global society of peace and humane values: (i) the determination to leave no one behind; (ii) need for countries to transcend their differences and work together in finding a solution, and the (iii) need to prevent misinformation regarding COVID-19 to curb resulting discrimination.
The clock is ticking and urgent actions are needed for us to sustain as a human race. It can only be described as a mystic coincidence that the target year for the SDGs and the centennial of the Soka Gakkai are both 2030. The UN Decade of Action coincides with what Soka Gakkai President, Daisaku Ikeda refers to as the ‘crucial decade’ upon which the future of humanity hinges. President Ikeda says, “….unless there is peace and security in “the four quarters of the land”– society as a whole–our individual or personal security will prove illusory.” (Peace Proposal, 2012)
This way of thinking is rooted in the Buddhist concept of dependent origination. President Ikeda explains, “As people, we share this one planet which we will eventually pass on to our children. A clear and vital awareness of the full dimensions of life’s interconnectedness must be the basis for all our actions.” (Peace Proposal, 2012) It is time to ask ourselves, what is the future we want? How can we contribute to a future where all actions are based on respecting the dignity of all life and the natural environment that sustains us? How can we create a world where all people can say, “I enjoy living in this world”? (Peace Proposal, 2012)
There is power in every decision we make. The decisions we make in the next 10 years will determine the quality of life for the coming centuries. Let’s be convinced that the human revolution each one of US wages will have far-reaching impact in the world. Historically, pandemics have created an opportunity to break out of the past (the ‘old normal’) and imagine the world anew (the ‘new normal’). On our path of recovery from COVID-19, basing ourselves on President Ikeda’s vision for a peaceful and sustainable society, lets actively engage in the “challenge of construction” (Peace Proposal 2020) to create a new normal where each of the 17 SDGs will be actualised.
Believing in the Power of One!Surabhi Kim Andrade| Young Women’s Division| Mumbai
In my previous job I observed wasteful use of resources. This did not feel right. Instead of letting mountains of single-sided printed paper to be discarded, I would take this paper home and reuse the blank sides as personal notebooks and diaries. As part of consumer research, fresh bread and sauce would be purchased, but most of it would go to waste. After a 12-16 hour work day, I would pack the sandwiches and distribute them to those in need. At times I doubted whether this little effort on my part would help make a difference, but then I would remind myself of the ‘power of one’.
I have realised the 17 SDGs are not just an agenda for big organisations or governments, but must also be accomplished by us in our daily lives. I do simple things like carry a metal straw and a shopping bag with me at all times, and use a newspaper to clean up after my dog rather than plastic bags. I also wondered what I could gift to my friends for their birthdays that could be of enduring value. Soka Gakkai President, Daisaku Ikeda says, “….planting trees is planting life…”. My friends and I decided to gift trees to each other, and we have supported the plantation of 23 trees this year. Another friend of mine sponsored a young girl’s primary education for a whole year as my birthday gift. From mindfully shopping to supporting our domestic help with medical and other aid they require, it becomes clearer to me daily that the SDGs can be realised through wise daily conduct and action. Through my own life, I am determined to inspire many fellow youth to make the SDGs a reality through their own enthusiasm and action.
Transforming Farmer’s LivesPranjal Jain| Men’s Division| Gurgaon
I work as the India business development manager for an NGO that aims to connect disadvantaged cotton farmers and workers directly with consumers, promote fairer trading conditions, and empower them to lead a life of dignity, free from poverty and fear. Having no prior background in sustainability, I challenged my initial apprehension about my ability to deliver on this role by realising that my own work is exactly aligned with two SDGs in particular.
SDG3, Good Health and Well-being: My organisation promotes cotton production in a chemical-free environment, which helps both farmers and the consumers. SDG12, Responsible Consumption and Production: My organisation helps businesses source cotton from farmers who practice organic farming and we ensure this cotton is procured at premium price, so the additional earnings by farmers can be invested in local community development.
While travelling extensively across the country to meet business houses for securing more clients, I shifted focus from ‘how to increase the turnover of the potential clients’ to ‘how many farmers’ lives can be transformed’. Gradually over the last 4.5 years, I have expanded the client base in India from 1 to 10 and been able to impact the lives of 1000 farmers. So far, my organisation has been able to impact 2 lakh farmers across the world, including 15,000 in India alone. Through the additional premium amount they could secure, one of the farming communities purchased and installed two water purification machines in their childrens’ schools which now provides clean drinking water to over 200 school children. Even during the pandemic, in spite of the economic uncertainty, I was able to onboard India’s first High Street brand in our company’s portfolio, which will impact many more farmer’s lives. I am determined to work for sustainability throughout my life.
SDG Tip for Daily Life
Composting kitchen food waste can reduce your impact on the planet!
Seeds of Hope & Action (SOHA) Exhibition: Making the SDGs a Reality
Since the beginning of 2021, BSG has been organizing this exhibition virtually every month in various schools and colleges of India, with the aim to spread awareness about sustainability to the young students of the country, encouraging them to overcome feelings of powerlessness, and highlight the fact that a single individual can initiate positive change. The SOHA exhibition, which is a joint initiative of Soka Gakkai International and Earth Charter International, raises awareness on climate change, the SDGs and the role of youth.
In July 2021, around 300 students of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Mumbai viewed the SOHA Exhibition virtually. A group of BSG Campus group students presented the panels to the audience with great enthusiasm. The viewing of the panels was followed by a lively interactive session. The students asked many questions, on aspects such as the “Power of one individual”, “How we need to take action for SDGs now!” and “How students hold the key to our future”.
More updates on all the recent virtual SOHA Exhibitions can be found here. If you are a student or educator and want to understand how your school/college can organise a SOHA Exhibition, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .