Sikhs the world over are leading the charge when it comes to reconnecting to nature. The Million Tree Project aims to plant one million new trees throughout the world, with tens of thousands already having been planted.
In what has been described as a “gift to the entire planet,” Sikhs have set out to celebrate the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, born November 29, 1469—550 years ago. The project is being coordinated by a Washington DC-based environmental organization called EcoSikh.
Rajwant Singh, EcoSikh’s president, hopes to celebrate the birth of Guru Nanak in way that will motivate Sikhs to reconnect with nature and improve their relationship with the planet.
“Guru Nanak was a nature lover. [He] had talked about nature as a manifestation of God and many of his writings talk about how we need to learn lessons of life from nature.”
The majority of Sikhs live in Punjab, India, where most of the trees already planted can be found. Sikhs can also be found in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Kenya.
According to Media Roots, “an estimated 500,000-700,000 Sikhs live in the US. Despite that, the vibrance of the Sikh community is rarely seen in US mass media or pop culture–further leading to a misidentification and misunderstanding of Sikhs and Sikhism, one of the most loving and inclusive religions in the world today.” In fact, a 2015 Stanford study revealed that as many as 70% of Americans misidentify Sikhs as Muslim, with 50% of Americans misidentifying Sikhism as a sect of Islam.
In 2017, journalist Abby Martin visited a Sikh gurdwara in Virginia to learn more about the Sikh culture and the challenges Sikhs in the United States face.
In the U.K., the Sikh Union Coventry has begun planting “native trees, shrubs and flowers such as hazel and hawthorn at Longford Park, and is exploring locations in schools, parks and recreation areas,” according to the Guardian.
The chair of the Sikh Union Coventry, Palvinder Singh Chana said:
“As Sikhs, our connection to the environment is an integral part of our faith and identity. Future generations will benefit from the fruits of our labour, symbolizing peace, friendships and continuity for generations to come.”
EcoSikh plans to plant more than 1,800 small native forests throughout the world. With the help of Afforestt, an organization that trains people to design and build small and fast growing sustainable forests, the target of one million trees should be reached by Guru Nanak’s birthday in late November.