Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati Ji, Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance,
Pujya Swami Saraswati Ji, President, Parmarth Niketan,
Mr Erik Solheim, former Executive Director of UNEP,
Respected faith leaders, distinguished guests,
Colleagues from the United Nations,
Namaste and good evening.
The Bhagavad Gita says “All actions take place in time by the interweaving of the forces of
Nature; but the individual lost in selfish delusion thinks that he himself is the actor”.
The Quran advises, “Do no mischief on earth, do not waste by your excess, and do not cause
corruption of the earth.”
The Bible tells us, “You should not pollute the land on which you live.”
The Mitzvah of Bal Tashchit prohibits the destruction of trees with an axe.
When we talk about bridging science and faith, especially in the context of the environment,
we find these bridges already exist in the most ancient of our moral codes.
All sacred traditions venerate nature, seek balance between human beings and ecosystems,
and they all warn against destruction of the earth’s wealth.
We must remember to practice this wisdom to strengthen our global effort toward
sustainable development, to better protect and preserve our global commons.
I am so happy to join you this evening for this World Environment Day event.
And I’d like to warmly thank and congratulate the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and the
Parmarth Niketan for the meaningful work you do in the fields of sustainability and
equitable development, bringing together science and faith.
This year’s World Environment Day theme is biodiversity.
As home to 6 percent of the world’s wildlife species, to 4 global biodiveristy hotspots, as a
country where high human population density and biodiversity meet head to head, India’s
biodiversity matters a great deal, for India and for the world.
The country’s biodiversity is perhaps best known globally for some of its emblematic
endangered species – the magnificent Snow Leopard, the regal Asian tiger, as well as the
Ganges River Dolphin, and the great Indian Bustard.
These are, indeed, awesome creatures that must be protected. Biodiversity is definitely
about them and their wellbeing. But it’s also about much more.
It’s about the food we eat every day
It’s about the water we drink; the air we breathe
It’s about the natural systems and cycles that link the diversity of living things on our
planet together into one, single, great, interconnected biosphere.
It’s about life itself. Life, both in its scientific interpretation, and life in a deeper
Molecular scientists who study the tiniest particles of nature, and astrophysicists
who study the movement of celestial bodies, both know well that everything is interrelated.
And when we study the ancient Vedas, the tenets of Buddhism, we find the same principles
of interdependence. Gandhi and other wise men knew this well.
We don’t call nature ‘Mother Nature’ for nothing.
So, on this WED 2020
as we launch the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restauration,
as India Chairs the COPs for two of the UN Environmental Conventions — the
Convention on Desertification and the Convention on Migratory Species,
as we struggle to come to terms with COVID 19, a zoonotic disease that jumped
between animals to humans because of our blatant disrespect for nature
at this time, this event, this dialogue could not be more welcome and more relevant.
The role of faith, and the interface between science and faith is critical:
Can we mobilize faith-based networks to inspire a new love and connect with
When an Indian Court conferred the status of legal person on the rivers Ganga and
Yamuna, which speak to the long tradition of people’s faith and the revered holiness
of rivers. Can we reignite this connect?
Can we leverage the incredible work your organizations do, especially in the water
and sanitation sectors, to make the circular economy a way of life for all?
Can we bring science and faith together to write a new normal of interdependence
and interconnectedness with nature?
Can we build greener and more sustainable lifestyles – sustainable production and
consumption – sustainable work cultures?
Can we use our ancient traditions to build a new global mindset, not only of
harmony with nature, but of global solidarity and cooperation with each other,
overcoming hate and stigma, building equitable and just societies?
I think we can. And to help us, we already have a global To Do List, which nearly 200
countries adopted back in 2015: the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Great progress has been made on these goals in India, there’s no question about that. But
much also remains to be done, particularly post COVID 19.
I look forward to learning from all of you, from the wealth and wisdom of the world’s great
religious and spiritual traditions, so we can strengthen our collective efforts to make our
interconnectedness, with each other and with Nature, a living reality.
Thank you for your kind attention. Happy World Environment Day. It’s time for nature.