The transformation in our own heart is the key to transform our society. This principle is underlined by a quotation of Dr Daisaku Ikeda, the president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, can even enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”. A similar message is also echoed in the preamble of the Earth Charter, calling for a united effort from all part of the society to.. “..join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”. Building on this commonground, the Earth Charter Initiative and the SGI have continued their partnerships which, among other things, led to the joint creation of the exhibition “Seeds of Hope: Visions of sustainability, steps toward change”.
Since its creation in 2010, the exhibition has been displayed numerous times all over the world. It has been exhibited in 34 countries, translated into 13 languages and seen by some one-and-a-half-million people.
Earlier this year, the Seeds of Hope exhibition was displayed in the Netherlands, at Radboud University, Nijmegen. The exhibition took place between 14th and 17th May 2018 as part of the Green Week on the Campus, an annual event of the university that promotes the sustainable practices and environmental ways of living among the students. This year the event also coincided with the European Green Capital 2018 in Nijmegen, which showcases the best practices of sustainability within an urban setting.
Learn, Reflect, and Empower
The main aim of the Seeds of Hope exhibition is to empower its viewers to overcome any feelings of powerlessness in facing challenges within their immediate environments. It highlights the fact that a single individual can initiate positive changes within their society by transforming themselves. With the message “It starts with one” at its core, the exhibition showcased how different individuals become the impetus of change. It draws examples from Dr Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel laureate, and Hazel Henderson, a futurist and co-founding of Citizens for Clean Air, among other inspiring individuals.
The exhibition uses the formula “learn, reflect and empower” outlined by Dr Ikeda in his 2002 Education for Sustainable Development Proposal, written at the time of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2). He believes the education for sustainable development should be promoted with the following three goals in mind:
- To learn and deepen awareness of environmental issues and realities.
- To reflect on our modes of living, renewing these toward sustainability.
- To empower people to take concrete action to resolve the challenges we face.
Seeds of Hope @ Radboud University
The Seeds of Hope exhibition at Radboud University was opened by Hubert Bruls, the mayor of Nijmegen. After the opening, Irene Dankelman, a representative of the Earth Charter, gave a short opening speech, focused on the Earth Charter principles as guidelines for our actions. Her talk was followed by Johan van Kreij, a representative of SGI-Nederland (3). Johan highlighted the importance of ‘inner revolution’, which is an impetus requirement for a truly sustainable transformation.
The twenty-four colourful panels of the exhibition were on display inside the Student Church, situated in the stretched out beautiful green university complex. The exhibition and supporting activities were organised by the local members of SGI, who also provided an interactive guide to those visited the exhibition. This effort was made with a recognition that a heart-to-heart dialogue can be the most effective tool to imparting hope and inspire each individual to take positive action. Consequently, apart from dealing with organizational matters, the action committee also studied the Earth Charter, as well as the importance of dialogue as expounded in Buddhism.
On the final day of the exhibition, a series of public lectures took place. The talks emphasised on the importance of dialogue as a crucial mean to share and reflect our personal view, as well as learning from others. First, Alide Roerink (Earth Charter), introduced the Earth Charter initiative in her talk. She presented its ideals, the multilayered aspects of its works, and its latest initiative in MAPTING (4), a mobile app. The MAPTING initiative is a recent partnership project between the Earth Charter and SGI. The initiative aims to facilitate citizens of the world to share and discover the locations of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) related projects in their vicinities, amplifying the idea that each individual’s action can make a difference.
Next, Irene Dankelman (Radboud University) shared her thought on the exhibition and called for a form of education that enables us to think beyond boundaries and to recognise the environmental challenges we have before us. Johan van Kreij (SGI-Netherlands) then discussed the dynamic of our individual self and our environment from the Buddhism perspective and how we can maintain our commitment toward making changes happen. Finally, Ayaka Okumura (SGI-Netherlands) shared her experience of living in Fukushima after the Tsunami and Nuclear disasters in 2011. She shared with the audience how the event shaped her determination in working to contribute toward a better environment.
After the lectures, the participants organised themselves into small groups to discuss what they learnt and shared their renewed determinations together. At the end of this session, everyone shared their personal determination of how to create change—even on a small or even modest scale—by taking the first step and in the process challenge themselves.
“Change occurs when people of vision, undaunted by the world in flames around them, continue to emerge and persevere. They are able to remain undaunted because they choose to nurture the flame of hope burning in their hearts. As Dr. King said during the height of the civil rights movement, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” It is a similar sentiment that inspired the joint creation of the “Seeds of Hope: Visions of sustainability, steps toward change” exhibition by the SGI and Earth Charter International (5).”
5. “Seeds of Hope: The Power of One” by Barbara Jenkins, SGI-USA.
Written by: SGI Netherlands