We have the power to transform the world
You might feel too small to make a difference. But small is beautiful.
I started my life in India. At the age of nine, I became a Jain monk. In my late teens, I became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi in the movement for land reform. With Vinoba Bhave and hundreds of thousands of people, we walked around India, calling for social justice.
Later, my friend and I were inspired by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell who was calling for nuclear bombs to be banned. We decided to walk from India to Moscow, to Paris, to London, to Washington DC. At that time, these were the four nuclear capitals. For two and a half years we walked 8000 miles, crossing 15 countries, connecting with people around the world. Because war comes out of fear. Peace comes out of trust.
So you're small…small is beautiful. Trees are made of thousands of small leaves. And the trees are made of thousands of small fruit. Humanity now is 7, 8 billion small, small, individuals. So every individual is equally important, never underestimate the value of your work you are doing.”
Do no harm
My religion is humanity, respect and love for nature. My activism is about compassion for all living beings, whatever your religion, whatever your nationality, whatever your background.
Doctors take the Hippocratic oath when they graduate and promise to ‘do no harm'. I would like to promote the idea of a Hippocratic oath for humanity. Wherever you are, whatever your profession, you are guided by the principle to ‘do no harm'. Do no harm to nature. Polluting our oceans with plastic, destroying the rainforests that are the lungs of the earth are acts of harm to nature. Do no harm to people. Cheap labour and war are acts of harm to people. If we do no harm then together we can create a safe world for everyone.
Climate change is affecting the poorest people who are least responsible for it. Therefore, social justice and climate action are deeply interlinked.
Fossil fuels come from deep down in coal mines and oil fields. I call it energy from hell. We have created climate change, which is like creating hell on earth. Pollution, poverty, waste and wars are all human-made.
What is made by humans can be changed by humans. We are creative and imaginative. Let's use more wind and water energy, which I call light energy coming from the heavens, from above. We have power to transform the world. We cannot change history, but we can change the future.
The real power is the power of the people
World leaders gathering at summits once a year is not going to solve the climate crisis. We have to create a strong grassroots movement of people to influence governments, business leaders, industrialists, economists to change course, and to make our world a safe place to live.
It's a journey. To be an activist, you have to be an optimist. Seeing all the young people around the world today demanding change and transformation gives me hope. They are taking the initiative. They will not be satisfied with a system that is causing climate change and destroying biodiversity. I hope that the pressure which the young people and grassroots movements are adding will lead to a much bigger change in the next five years.
You might feel too small to make a difference. But small is beautiful. Trees are made of thousands of small leaves. Humanity now is eight billion small individuals. Every individual is equally important. Never underestimate the value of the work you are doing. Whatever you do, do it imaginatively, creatively, lovingly, beautifully. That's all you can do.
Satish Kumar is an Oxfam GB Ambassador, Editor Emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist, and co-founder of Schumacher College in Devon where he is a Visiting Fellow.