Faith & the Arts at COP21

I just returned from Paris and am reflecting on my short but interesting visit. It was a real pleasure to be invited to speak to an international group of creatives at a fringe COP21 event at Place 2 Be. The Creative Factory located near Gare du Nord was designed to explore dynamic and truly innovative ways to explore retelling the climate change story. In my different activities and creative pursuits I meet a range of people who often do not have a clear idea of what climate change really is and how closely it links with their work and life right here and now. Some very high calibre and educated global citizen colleagues of mine even raised an eyebrow when I said I was going to COP; what does Harpreet know about climate change? This just demonstrates how language and thinking traps us, and how we need to put people in boxes regarding their work and knowledge. My passion and study of human security includes the planet and environment.

Climate Change. These two words conjure up images of ice, polar bears, trees, sinking continents, and the colour green (for many people). Many of us think it is an issue that future generations will have to deal with and suffer from. People working as specialists in this sector really do have a lot more work to do in terms of getting people to back their campaigns, change their behavior and lifestyle, and be more aware of issues effecting them right here and now. The idea is not to scare and create fear in people, but to educate and empower, to find solutions and gain buy in. Not political games but healthy engagement that leads to positive changes. I met many people from European countries working in Climate Change organisations saying that people they worked with and engaged with were often all similar to them demographically, and that this was frustrating.

My talent lies in seeing blind spots, thinking and creating with an interdisciplinary approach, and connecting cultures and peoples. The Creative Factory is currently running a 10-day event exploring system change through a range of themes. We co-created my brief to fit into a weekend exploring the role or the relationship of system change with religion. I shared my knowledge on the relationship between Sikhism, creativity and system change. What can the world learn from the faith I was born into, my travels around the globe, to design new approaches to tell the story of climate change, and create dynamic solutions that lead to behavioural change?

It was a nice reminder for me to acknowledge how many of my life decisions and voluntary work have subconsciously been inspired by my faith. Particularly the notion of 'sewa' ingrained in every Sikh, to serve the community, humanity and the world. A Sikh is fundamentally a learner and student, until the day we die. Aren't we all on this learning journey during our time on the planet? I shared my ideas on this theme with the group who responded with some solutions and practical ideas during the afternoon workshops influenced by my story about Sikhism, along with other stories they heard from other faiths and experts from around the world.

We can either see the doom and gloom in this issue, or take whatever steps we can in our lifestyle choices to make a difference. Not easy in a capitalist fast paced society where instant gratification, happiness, quick fixes and highs are sought increasingly, thanks to mass media messages to brainwash us. All of this whilst governments and corporations continue to kill and steal from people and planet at the cost of health, justice and equality. Let's start small, and what a great opportunity with the new year around the corner to reflect on the things you think you need for yourself and others. Review your Christmas shopping list for a start.