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Man of all faiths fights for climate

08 april 2011, 10:52
As grim-faced negotiators feuded at UN climate talks in Bangkok this week, self-appointed spiritual advisor Stuart Scott scouted nearby Buddhist temples for some monks who might be able to help, AFP reports.

Scott, a 62-year-old American who was born Jewish but now regards himself a man of all of faiths, believes the forces of religion can make a positive impact on the tortuous diplomatic efforts to resolve the global warming crisis.

"My mission is to mobilise the faith community in these meetings," Scott told AFP during the talks, which were due to end later Friday after four days of acrimonious debate between rich and poor nations.

"I try to focus the spiritual energy, through religion and meditation, on what is going on with these talks."

Scott's work for the week culminated with a prayer session outside the talks venue on Friday morning involving the monks he had sought out at the temples, as well as local Hindu, Sikh and Christian leaders.

The UN's climate chief, Christiana Figueres, met the group and received a copy of the "Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change", which Scott conceived as a way of uniting people of all faiths in the fight against global warming.

"Today our faiths stand united in their call to care for the Earth, and to protect the poor and the suffering," part of the documents says.

"Strong action on climate change is imperative by the principles and traditions of our faiths and the collective compassion, wisdom and leadership of humanity."

The declaration, originally published in 2009, has been endorsed by a range of faith-based groups and individuals, including the Dalai Lama and the UN-linked World Council of Religious Leaders.

It has also finally given Scott a vehicle to pursue his passion for trying to save the environment, after a lifetime of frustration at never quite becoming the green force for good that he had always wanted.

"Since I was a small kid my drive was environment... every five or 10 years I would be overcome by some inspirational environmental project, which I would run with as fast, as hard as I could," he said.

"But it's very difficult to get traction, not having the funding or an advanced degree in the environment."

One of Scott's previous efforts came while he was working with Merrill Lynch in 1978 that he said would have made him the first environment stock broker on Wall Street.

Flyers promoting solar technology companies he handed out at an Earth Day event in New York back then received an enormously positive response, but his bosses knocked back the idea, he said.

"A lot of my ideas are 10 years ahead of their time," Scott lamented.

Scott, who has a Masters degree in computer science, has had a remarkably varied career that in its early stages involved travelling around the United States in the 1970s hippy era as a street minstrel.

He later ran his own IT consultancy, taught at high schools and colleges, worked as an IBM executive and consulted to big banks, all the time following the self-enlightenment teachings of Bolivia's Oscar Ichazo.

"Mine has been a rather chequered past, with parts in the norm and parts way out of the norm, whatever that norm might be," he said.

Scott eventually found a platform to begin preaching his environmental passions through Al Gore, the former US vice president who won the Nobel Peace Prize on the back of his "Inconvenient Truth" documentary about global warming.

Inspired by the film, Scott in 2007 applied to be trained by Gore's people to lecture on global warming.

After initially receiving no reply, Scott wrote to them and said he would attend the next training session regardless.

"I figured they wouldn't turn me away if I just showed up," he said.

"Why would they possibly turn someone away who is so devoted that he would come not knowing if he had a seat"?

Scott was then accepted and, while working part time as college teacher in Hawaii, spent the next year delivering over 100 climate change presentations to government departments, schools and lecturers across the island.

"I really launched in with a vengeance," he said.

Fuelled by the success of his Al Gore presentations, Scott decided to start trying to help religious groups and individuals around the world unite to influence negotiators at the UN's climate talks.

He turned up at the annual UN climate summit in Poland at the end of 2008, managed to get accreditation as an observer in the non-government organisation category, then launched his Interfaith Declaration the following year.

Scott, who relies on income from renting rooms in his home in Hawaii to get by, is this year aiming to continue gathering more religious groups behind his cause.

If he can attract a benefactor or otherwise find a means to pay, he intends to spend a few months in Africa delivering lectures and building support ahead of this year's annual climate summit in Durban in November.

"I want to create an interfaith gathering in Durban that will be of significant proportions. That is my work for the year," he said.

The full Interfaith Declaration can be viewed at: www.interfaithdeclaration.org .

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