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[Yojana Archive] Are We on a Cliff?

June 2021

Context

  • The world is facing gloomy times in midst of the pandemic, conflicts, and natural calamities.
  • Recently, we witnessed the horrors caused by nature in Chamoli district, the ground of the famed Chipko movement in Uttarakhand.
  • Nature’s warning is evident with visible cracks in its erstwhile harmonious relationship with humanity.

This essay/article emphasizes the need for building an ecological civilization and descending from the present cliff of uncertainty towards peaceful living and inclusive development and respect for nature.

The first industrial revolution that took place 250 years ago was primarily with coal and steam; the second with electricity and oil; the third with computers and its accessories; and now the fourth is a fusion of technologies in the physical, digital and technological worlds.

Civilizational chaos

  • The wave of industrial and green revolution marked a major turning point in earth’s ecology and humans’ relationship with the environment.
  • During the 20th century, with the detonation of the atomic bomb, humanity entered a new era.
  • Thus, we gained the power to destroy ourselves (mutually assured destruction), without the wisdom to ensure that we must avoid doing so.

Looming threats to mankind

  • Widespread industrialization, the proliferation of factories, destruction of forests for the construction of massive dams & power stations and the migration of people has all caused serious disturbances in the ecosystem.
  • The resulting climate change and global warming is a serious threat to the present as well as the future.
  • Both nature and world peace are under threat.
  • All these developments coupled with geopolitics have put humanity on a cliff and presents dangerous situations.

Future of Peace

The future of peace and harmony in the 21st century is likely to be directly linked to issues concerning five key realities of life today:

  1. Ecology, global warming, and climate change
  2. Nuclear weapons, the emerging technology of warfare and the continuing arms race among nation-states
  3. Geopolitics and nationalism
  4. Religious extremism and
  5. Poverty and inequality

We do not know how to retrieve the present dangerous situation away from its self-destructive ways. This needs to be appreciated in a threefold perspective:

[1] Nature

  • Today there is a credible threat to human survival from global warming and climate change with the potential to damage the lives and habitats of billions of people in different parts of the world.
  • The enormity of the challenge of conservation of ecology and halting climate change is formidable and calls for making changes in our behavior and thinking.
  • At the heart of the matter is: How do we move towards building fresh sensitivities for conservation in our civilizational processes?

Five events of the recent times need to be particularly referred to:

  1. Outbreak of pandemic SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in Hong Kong in 2002-03;
  2. Bushfires in Brazil and Australia of 2019;
  3. Continuous extinction of species
  4. Forest fires in California alongside the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and
  5. Coronavirus pandemic

These five events have given us signals that if ecology problems are not attended to urgently the world may not need world wars to destroy itself.

[2] Science

  • In the last decades of the 20th century, the focus of society has shifted decisively towards science and its domineering daughter, technology, both in the western and developing countries.
  • This has led to the globalization of products, cultural values, and information. It is integrating markets and trade.
  • But what becomes of environment and nature in such a scenario, remains a matter of great concern.
  • We have been brought to an alarming situation primarily on account of excessive greed, faulty planning, insensitive politics, and lack of imagination.
  • Technology, being value-neutral, has accelerated the pace of the downward journey.

Outcome: Climate change

  • Climate change and global warming are posing serious problems.
  • The biggest polluter has been the release of carbon dioxide.
  • To control it with speed, we have to change the terms of the market. It is based on the law of profit.

A change would mean rejecting the general line of dealings in the market in the world for the sake of the long-term interests of the human race. Are we ready for this major break? And, here wisdom comes.

[3] Wisdom

  • Wisdom is defined as ‘the ability to use one’s knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgments.’
  • Wisdom is a product of experiences and reflections not only of the present generation but of the civilizational processes of a nation and also of the world.
  • Human beings can destroy their environment as well as can rise above petty interests, use technology and reverse the process of destruction of plant species and minimize carbon emissions.
  • At the present juncture, if we do not make use of our cumulative wisdom, nature will be harmed and succeeding generations will blame us for our failure.

We have to keep the Vedic precept of ‘माता भूमिः पुत्रो अहं पृथिव्याः ’ (‘This earth is our mother and we are its sons.’) in our minds.

  • Thankfully, on 12 December 2015, the Global Climate Accord was reached among 195 countries of the world in Paris.
  • The Paris Accord as it came to be known, commits countries to actions and policies that would restrict the rise in global temperatures ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2100.

Way Forward

  • We have to generate hope, courage, and respect for nature.
  • We should employ science and human ingenuity with determination to overcome the present state of despondency.
  • If science, spirituality, and wisdom go hand in hand, one can create a better world on this earth. Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for every man’s greed’.
  • It should become the maxim of the post-Covid world, that it will need farsighted leadership and efficient institutions of governance.
  • There is an imperative requirement to contemplate and work towards building an ecological civilization that would outline the ways of living in harmony with nature.

Bahudha Approach is based on the maxim enjoined upon us by the Rigveda. It proclaims: Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti The Real is One, the learned speak of it variously.  This provides for dialogue among different religions, cultures, and ways of living. It celebrates diversity and respect for harmonious living and nature.

Conclusion

  • The post-Covid world would be a different world.
  • It has made evident that we are all interdependent and have to work for sharing economic benefits as well as fruits of science together, irrespective of religious, ethnic, economic, and cultural divides.
  • We have to move towards building an ecological civilization and descending from the present cliff of uncertainty towards peaceful living and inclusive development and respect for nature.
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