ISKCON’s Eco-Valley Project at the Copenhagen Climate Summit
Recently, ISKCON News reported that about nine devotees were arrested while chanting Hare Krishna outside the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. However, it should also be remembered that ISKCON had another type of presence at the Conference—with a much more fortunate outcome. While his fellow devotees were waiting for their fate to be decided at the police station, Radha Krishna Dasa (Zoltan Hosszu) from Hungary, oblivious of the events going on outside, was giving one of his five official presentations about ISKCON’s Eco-Valley project at the Climate Bottom Meeting: this time to dozens of curious Chinese environmental specialists.
The international meeting of civil activists and spiritual and religious leaders to which Radha Krishna Dasa, as director of the Eco-Valley Foundation, was invited, was held parallel to the big climate summit, aiming to influence and offer “windows of hope” to the political leaders. In fact, the decision-makers gathered in Copenhagen frequently attended the Bottom Meeting’s events, lectures, exhibitions and films where they learned about a number of sustainable cities and eco-village initiatives, as well as other fresh ideas to overcome the world’s ecological, social, spiritual and economic challenges. Many of them heard Radha Krishna’s presentation about the Eco-Valley farm community in Hungary, an internationally known and appreciated eco-village project that is based on the spiritual principles of sustainability established by the ancient Indian scriptures, the Vedas.
Following the instructions of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Eco-Valley (or Krishna-valley) was established in 1993 by ISKCON leader Sivarama Swami and a handful of dedicated devotees. Their aim was to create a community where members of each household can lead a sustainable, environment-friendly and God-centered life. Sixteen years later, there are 150 devotees living on 550 acres of beautifully cultivated land. They have built sixty-three buildings including a new temple, family homes, cow stables, a school, an art studio, a bakery, a guesthouse and several new roads. They grow their own grain, fruits, herbs and vegetables, and have planted 250,000 trees, which give shade to tens of thousand of tourists visiting and learning from them each year. The Eco-Valley community is 100% self-sufficient when it comes to food, producing ten times more grain and seven times more honey than its residents actually need. Their biggest challenge for the next couple of years will be to increase their energy sufficiency by planting more windmills and solar panels and taking advantage of the geothermic energy sources.
Although the Hungarian Eco-Valley project is considered to be one of the world’s most successful self-sustaining communities, Radha Krishna Dasa says that there are many similar eco-villages around the globe. ISKCON itself has several dozen, but unfortunately, it appears, there is not enough communication and cooperation between them.
“The Copenhagen Climate Conference was a great venue to meet similar-minded, dedicated people,” Radha Krishna says. “It inspired me even more to reach out and exchange ideas with all those who are willing to work together for a better future.”
Then, the question naturally arises: with all the good intentions, valuable presentations, yearlong negotiations and enormous efforts by thousands of people from all over the world, why did the Copenhagen Climate Summit ultimately fail?
Radha Krishna Dasa explains that as long as the main considerations of the politicians remain closely connected to economic gain or loss, there will be no breakthroughs in solving the critical environmental problems. “Unfortunately, the leaders of society are very reluctant to inspire people to change their habits and live more responsibly, get out of their cars and consume less. What to speak of asking them to become vegetarians and shutting down the slaughterhouses, which are responsible for 51% of the world’s greenhouse gas emission, and are even more polluting than cars.”
According to Radha Krishna, there are no shortcuts or easy ways out. The only solution is a substantial change of consciousness on the individual level: each and every person`s commitment resulting in actions towards a more sustainable life. “We should all pull our heads out of the sand, for one is not only responsible for what he does, but for what he does not do.”
Visit the Krishna-valley’s official website at http://ecovalley.hu/