Can India be a Moral and Spiritual Leader in Environmental Conservation

One Sun, One World One Grid, has been a slogan that captivated the minds of world citizens during COP 26 in Glasgow.

But even before India came with pathbreaking innovative semiotic presentation that still echoes in World Environmental Cirlcles

Poverty is the worst polluter in 1972 Stockholm Conference, and another one was, “Development is the best contraceptive”, in Bucharest Conference.

These statements do not merely are statements but are the product of mindset that has seen a civilisation in the truest sense of the term.

India with a 6000 year of long history had been a very obedient citizen of NATURE.

Indians accepted, adapted and adjusted themselves in a variety of ways to their environment.

Indians have been using of local water harvesting technologies like Ahar and Pyne in Bihar, Johad, In Rajasthan, Jing, Thingal in mountainous regions of India, and so have been numerous other names.

Environment in India was not an object of description rather it was a ritual, a religion to learn something, and to know the summary of living things.

River worship was symbolic in form to worship water as was evident in the names that has been used to denote them- Ganga as Mata, Yamunaji and all the rivers were female rivers, except Brahmaputra, Damodar that had been male rivers.

Trees in their natural form were glorified. Places were named after trees as a mark of respect for trees; for example-Champaran meant a place for Champa trees, Vaishali was named after Sal, and Sal was used for various types of buildings like Goshala, Pathshala, etc.

Names were based on this environmental symbolism rather than on functional entity.

Nature was something to be revered, respected and feared.

Disaster was perceived as valuable enough to learn from our mistakes, and as a tool to wipe out all our mistakes.

Cities were sustainable, and so was the cropping pattern and inland water transportation as well.

The availability and management of the resources were decentralised. Decentralisation was the core mantra of adaptation to environment, and to environmental management.

In Indian conditions, such symbolism offered a variety of benefits. There was decreased spatial interaction to save on movement of goods, there was increased spatial specialisation to help utilisation of resources in the best possible manner and a niche lifestyle suited to tropical conditions, like clothing line, fashion, clay-building evolved.

Why these perceptual distortions took place

The colonial imprint and the mindset brought about a lot of change in the thinking of the Indian masses.

Colonialism more than anything else, tries to bring about a change in the way colonised people think, it dents their psyche, makes them feel inferior, convinces them to be inferior in terms of their language culture, lifestyle, their identity itself so much so that they become slaves in their mind

The environmental management followed in India after independence was based on the thinking of the colonising countries and represented a western European mode of thinking.

European countries had no idea as to how Indian environmental sustainability that was linked to its livelihood and sustainability was managed. Moreover, the Western European countries had not had enough experience in managing their own resources and their environment largely on account of a shallow depth of their history, their low biodiversity, short history of development and insufficient trial and error through which the Europeans had gone for in trying to manage their own resources and environment.

The thinking of Western countries about the use of words was the product of and reflected the thinking of a society that was not rich in terms of values, or education towards environment, consequently they did not attach much significance to the choice of words and semiotics. The use of the words was careless.

India under the sedative influence of the British, abandoned its traditional wisdom, local genius, and adapted Nehruvian ideas of resources management whose mind, psyche, lifestyle, thinking, management was heavily under the British influence. Indians used to describe the nature and natural phenomena purely in terms of spirituality, purely wordly, purely sustainably but sedated by colonial injection heavily influenced by Nehruvian thinking they described every natural phenomena by being judgemental for example river inundation was described as flood, and an arid condition was described as drought affected region.

As a heavily influence colonial management mindset, Nehru followed everything that was western, often and most of the times ignoring and sometimes insulting the availability of local wisdom and genius. Everything was copied and copied from the West against Indian thinking and whatever India had learnt.

One of the greatest tragedies of so-called modern civilization has now taught Indians is to be judgmental towards nature, and looking down upon the very environment that created the Indians. Therefore Correcting our faulty perceptions and reviving our environmental philosophy and practices is likely to strengthen the foundations of our heritage. It is time not to be judgemental but to start being ethical towards our environment.

As a first lesson and ‘solution’ to any environment related aspect, and also as the first step to solve the problem if it is, is to require to change the perception of the people about their surrounding and their nature, about mother Earth and all the components of environment. People must be prompted to correct their perceptual distortions, or else nature over which no one can win will continue to be viewed in a judgemental manner. The reality is, in its essence, in spirit, in form it is actually NATURE that knows best. Environment is our life, It must be our love.

The perceptual modification that we require to undergo now is many.

Firstly Nature is to be seen as a learning form, as a teacher as a mentor and an all powerful and as an inspirer. Nature has been and is an institution, the best institution mankind has ever seen, observed and is capable of providing a lot of insights as well as intuitive learning. Intuition helps in coping with life’s unpredictability, uncertainty and undiscovered aspects of it.

Secondly, environment is not something, which can be modified, neither is it something that can be commented upon, nor something that always follows logic. Environment is to be seen as something that provides insights and intuition.

Thirdly, there are no problems in the environment that requires to be solved, there are no ailments that require to be corrected, there are no patches that required to be cleaned, and there are no complexities that are to be managed. There are only phenomena to be understood, respected and consequently desired.

It is in this light that volcanic activity in Indonesia is to be viewed, earthquake anywhere is to be viewed, tsunamis are to be appreciated. The volcanic eruptions are seen as creating problem for aviation or seen as a pollutant emanating toxic fumes into the environment. The fact is, without volcanic eruptions, the atmosphere would have lost a major chance of getting it replenished. Without a billion or so earthquakes, there was no way, that the Himalayas could have formed. The tsunamis that take place clean and replenish the whole of coastal areas….

None has described the volcanic eruption as ‘Majestic’ ‘Heavenly” or ‘Eternal beauty”. A volcanic eruption is the most awesome phenomena of nature; most astonishing, amazing, extraordinary, godly event. Expressions change the way people think and perceive their surroundings.

All the so called “hazards” whether volcanic, earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis, flood, droughts have been beneficial to mankind. Without these hazards, there was no way human beings could have lived on this planet. The base for human habitation and its activity has been set by earthquakes, volcanic activity, tsunamis and all those natural phenomena, which the modern civilization calls it as ‘hazard’.

Thus precisely, environmental problems are not a problem to be solved or managed. Environment is itself the best manager and can be managed best by adjusting to it, adopting. Nature is always changing- warming and cooling are part of it. Climate has not changed; it’s the people and their perception towards climate that has changed. Change is the only constant in nature. Neither there are any hazards; there are only perceptions and phenomena. Nature is not our facilitator but our heritage that commands us. It is not an object but our mentor. There are no issues; no excesses in Nature there are only marvels.

Any thinking other than that is a “perceptual distortion”. This realistic perception will help Nature to command respect that it deserves to support mankind, educate them and teach them.

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