In his talk at Bhoomi Network’s Yugaantar Conference, Satish Kumar says that the name Yugaantar is very symbolic of what we are experiencing today; the time is now to look for answers within for all the mess we have created on this bountiful planet.
Though I left India for England 40 years ago, I carry India in my heart and soul and continue to nurture the Gandhian way of living through the magazine Resurgence. It happened to me by chance when I met with the great E F Schumacher who had been looking for an editor for ‘Resurgence’ and he felt I would fit in well for the role and persuaded me to stay back and make ‘Resurgence’ a Gandhian magazine. ‘Resurgence and ‘Bhoomi’ are in that sense closely related as our mission is one and the same.
Coming to the theme of this conference, the name ‘Yugaantar’ has been very aptly coined. If we split it into two words ‘Yuga’ and ‘Antar ’, the word ‘Antar’ has many meanings to it, one of them being to go deeper within. This is very symbolic of what we are experiencing today; the time is now to look for answers within for all the mess we have created on this bountiful Earth. What are we made up of? We are the ‘pancha bhootas’ (the five elements) Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Sky; We have for some time now completely ignored these facts and have begun to imagine ourselves as the “masters of Nature”. This is a farcical notion that we are living with.
Ecology and Economics
The root of this notion is our inability to understand that Ecology and Economics go together. The word Economics is derived from the ancient Greek words ‘Oikos’ and ‘Nomos’. ‘Oikos’ means home, our planet and ‘Nomos’ means management, so the word Economics symbolizes management of planet earth. And Ecology means knowledge of the Earth. However Management schools around the world are churning out graduates who have no clue about the working of Earth.
They are flying to different parts of the world only to make a mess of the ecosystem. This trend continues in London School of Economics (LSE) as well. During one of my visits to the University, I was surprised to find out that they did not have a department of Ecology. The Professor there was offended with my enquiry and defended her stance by saying they only dealt with Economics and the rest was not their concern. Ecology and Economy go hand in hand and should not be ignored. The focus should be on what is spiritual, artistic; friendship and growth in relationships, and not just economic growth.
Devendra Sharma earlier mentioned Earthworms and their benefits. These amazing creatures toil from dawn to dusk to nurture the soil. They work without expecting any wages or leaves for round the clock hard labour. They work on the earth very gently and compassionately to turn about 6 tonnes of soil every month, where as tractors ruin the soil. Today these tender creatures have totally lost their well being.
The Rights of the Earth
Human Rights are the most talked about and discussed topic in today’s world, but I am deeply saddened to see that nobody ever broaches on ‘Rights of the Earth’ or ‘Earth Rights’. How can we have a healthy humanity on a sick planet? Well-being of a person and well being of a planet are interconnected. In this age of chronic consumption we have left our common sense behind. By plundering the resources in terms of drilling the earth, polluting the rivers and deforestation we are only walking towards doom. Human Civilization is more than 6000 years old and our ancestors kept our nature intact until the age of stupidity dawned in the form of Industrialization.
Now the big question looms over us as to where is this industrialization taking us? Are we going to only wake up when the pristine nature around us is totally ruined?
There are many interesting organizations started around the world to help nurture the idea of co-existence. Brilliant work has been done by Ashish Kothari through Vikalp Sangam which lists more than 100 alternative organisations across India; and ‘Blessed Unrest’, a book by Paul Hawken has listings of over thousand examples around the globe on Ecology and holistically just movements. These portals discuss the initiatives taken by thinkers and activists who are working closely towards reviving Nature.
James Lovelock created a science called ‘Gaia’, in this science, Earth is a body and we are organs of the same hence we constitute tiny bits of this cosmos. It also reminds me of Buddha’s concept of ‘Śūnyatā’ which means emptiness; the absence of an independent and substantial “self”. Hence we are not separate beings but one energy form. So, when this is the case even slight disturbances can leave lasting impacts on generations to come. Most of which we are experiencing at this moment itself.
We should move from the Anthro-pocene era, to what Thomas Berry calls Ecozoic era. Our local economies should be nurtured and encouraged. Our cottage industries have their roots in sustainability which harness goodness in Nature. This will help in bringing massive changes to the environment we are living in.
Time to Change
It is distressing to see the city of Bangalore being reduced to a garbage heap. The city’s vanishing lakes and disappearing flora and fauna speak volumes of the residents’ priorities. There is no magic wand coming from anywhere to clear up the chaos, each one of us has to work towards it. It’s time now to make the change. It’s time now to inculcate the fact into our children that nature and human beings are ‘One’. ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, whole world is a family, should be the epitome.
(This article includes extracts from Satish Kumar’s inaugural talk at the Yugaantar Conference organised by Bhoomi College at Bangalore, April 2016)