sonam wangchuk

“We are in third world war without guns, daggers and arrows” Sonam Wangchuk

“Faiths of all kinds have taught us peace, non violence, because lawlessness, violence must have prevailed. But today there is hardly any death due to physical violence. Today violence of physical nature is 26th or so in number, but number 1, 2, 3 killers are all environmental, lifestyle related, pollution, emission and Climate Change.” Renowned Engineer, Educationist and Social Innovator Sonam Wangchuk spoke about the effects of Climate Change while receiving the 7th Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios Award.

He was conferred with the honour for outstanding contribution in Creative Innovation and Sustainable Development. The award function was organised at St Thomas School Grounds in Gazhiabad, Delhi. Former recepients of the award were towering personalities and great humanitarians like His Holiness Dalai Lama, Baba Amte & Varghese Kurien.

Sonam Wangchuk achieved worldwide attention for his efforts to uplift the humanity of Ladak. And also for the innovations for a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle in the mountains. His work gained him many prestigious awards internationally including Magsaysay Award and GQ Men of the Year for Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

“All faiths have to upgrade to version 2.0” sonam wangchuk

“In my own Ladakh, glaciers are melting, which is causing flash floods killing thousands in the past decade alone. Similarly in many coastal areas. In the coming years there will be many more deaths due to environmental reasons. So all the colourful faiths have also to upgrade to the next version of Christianity 2.0, Hinduism 2.0, Buddhism 2.0, where the violence of our lifetime is also acknowledged and addressed to.”

The ultimate killer called pollution

The weapons and killers have changed in these times, says Wangchuk, religion and lifestyle need enhancement. “Today we are not running around with daggers, arrows and bows, but every time we drive our huge cars, clean looking cars, we are dropping a bomb of roughly 4kgs of carbon dioxide every kilometer. Now this is the violence that we need to see to this in all faiths and bring peace.”

The silent killer called pollution

He says that the number of people killed by Pollution every year matches the figures with World War fatalities. “Today roughly 7 million people in the world die every year of air pollution alone. World War I & II together killed 100 million people over a period of 10 years, which comes to 10 million people a year. Air pollution alone is killing almost that many. If you add the other impacts of climate change, we are actually in the third world without guns, daggers and arrows.”

Our over consuming lifestyle

He reiterated the urgency of mending our ways and cutting down on the excess lifestyle followed in modern day “Because of our lifestyles where we over consume. There was a time when we didn’t have enough food, enough houses. But now we are overdoing it. Housing and agriculture are said to be two of the biggest contributors to climate change. If we do not throw off the food we take, we could reduce this by half. “

A word of request for the city dwellers

Finally, Wangchuk requested the city dwellers to lead a simple life so as to make life easier for those in the mountains and environmentally fragile areas. “If we do not set our air conditioner to 18°C in 45°C Delhi, making a Ladaki feel cold in a hot summer in Delhi, we can change things. So I appeal to you all today as I always do from the mountains of Ladakh, my message would be “please live simply in the big cities so that we in the mountains may simply live.”

Sonam Wangchuk receiving the 7th Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios Award from form Vice President of India Venkiah Naidu Pic Courtesy: Santhosh Joy

In his address, Dr Youhanon Mar Demetrios, the Metropolitan of Delhi shared his experience of visiting Wangchuks projects in Ladak “His works has to be seen to be believed. You have to believe what his ingenuity and coupling of engineering and environmental concerns produced in Ladakh. His environmental concerns connected to reverse the demerits of present day tourism. Building habitats that do not require ceiling fans or air conditioners or air coolers is a marvel to experience.”

Wangchuk shares the ideals and features of Mar Gregorios

His Holiness The Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews III, the Supreme head of the Church said “Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios Award was a profound thinker of the Orthodox Church. Imbued with ideals  drawn from his Orthodox faith and appreciation of India’s cultural and philosophic pluralism, he endeavored tirelessly to promote interfaith dialogue and harmony and to establish development in a context – sustainable use of natural resources. We see these very features and ideals in the person of Sonam Wangchuk.”

He further said about Wangchuk, “His efforts to use traditional knowledge for sustaining the environment and use education as a tool to trigger innovation and entrepreneurship among the youth is price worthy. This world needs more leaders like him.”

Paying tribute to a great soul

“We reflect and remember and pay tribute to a great soul. The late Metropolitan Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios, In terms of reviving, reiterating and underscoring his vision of humanity. In that doing something, doing something, extends that vision to our own times and perhaps in times beyond by recognizing the same quality and element in the aspirations of Sonam Wangchuk.” Salman Khurshid, Former Union Minister delivered the keynote address

“Sonam Wangchuk’s tireless endeavours and continuing efforts to reform the architecture and technology of Ladakh habitats by making them environmentally friendly and his ceaseless pursuit of educational reforms and pedagogical innovations have produced young men and women occupy leadership positions in all levels of society are truly commendable.” Said Venkaiah Naidu, former vice president of India and the Chief Guest at the Award function.

Adding to what Sonam Wangchuk said about Climate Change, Mr Naidu said “We should really work for environmental protection. Safeguard ourselves to safeguard our future and future generations. I am happy that heads of different countries have come together to safeguard the environment. Nature, culture together for a bright future. That’s my advice to the younger generation.”

While delivering the vote of thanks, Fr K M George, addressing Wangchuk he said “Had Mar Gregorios been living today he would have definitely travelled to Ladak, stayed with you, in order to learn from you about your work for the poor students, youth and the village community. Himself an educator and a lifelong learner he would have joyfully related to your innovative simple style, and method of nourishing community living in a natural environment. You would have given him new insights for his architectural vision of a new human civilization urging ecologically self-sustaining and peaceful for all life.”

The award ceremony was attended by many dignitaries from various walks including education heads, public servants and religious leaders from different faiths. There was a large gathering of people witnessing the ceremony who came from various part of Delhi, NCR.

“Endowed with a versatile mind, Dr Paulos Mar Gregorioswas a lifelong seeker of knowledge and a daring visionary. In all his voluminous philosophical and theological writings and speeches he built on the theme of shaping the future. The future of the human race. Future of our nation. Future of God’s creation at large. He suggested that we must continually practise the subtle art of making the image outlining the image of the future of humanity. Mar Gregorios called for a new concept of the human and a new paradigm for a new civilization. As a humanist committed to the well being of society and of all creatures big and small in our world, he affirmed all humanity as one single pluralistic unit. He believed in people in relationships and in community. And in the network of communities. Rather than in individuals and individual aspirations for success and achievement. Characterising his vision of a new civilization, mar Gregorios constantly advocated equal freedom of all human beings irrespective of gender, nation, language or religion. His style was ‘search for the common good’ understood especially as justice, peace, and a healthy environment for all life was geared to a new manava dharma rooted in Ahimsa and Karuna. He called for a deep and genuine respect for all religions and for secular options as well. In his well known inaugural speech at the 100th anniversary of the world parliament of religions in Chicago in 1993 Mar Gregorios stated “not one religion for all humanity, but one humanity for all religions.” 

A few words about Dr Paulos Mar Gregorios by his eminent student Fr K M George

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