Community is Nature's Way

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Ananth Somaiah

This issue marks the completion of two years of our journey with Eternal Bhoomi – and this has coincided with the historic civil society movement in India led by Team Anna. Over the two weeks of high drama and sheer grit, the movement saw several small communities spontaneously forming across the country and stoking the fires of revolt against corruption; there was anger converted to determination and the people of India felt that they had discovered their voice. There was rejoicing, people roughing it out together, sharing food, reading poems and singing, enjoying themselves as if it were a festival. There was an unmistakable sense of community as strangers in buses, shops and on the roadside talked to each other of what was happening in the country.

The last year has also witnessed several protest movements across the world – communities of people have emerged and threatened governments and dethroned established dictators. Cyberspace has also been used to form innumerable online communities – for personal contact, activism and a range of common interests.

Nature too works in communities – but we know them more as eco-systems – sometimes one ecosystem embedded or directly connected with another, overlapping with each other or sometimes apparently separated but connected through air, water and other unknown ways. Human communities are much the same, except that belonging to communities has often alienated us from Nature and divided us – because the bonding factor was wealth, religion, race or caste. The last few decades have seen ever widening gaps of wealth, food availability, power, status and so on. Two major issues clouding the future of ‘modern civilization’ are concerned with human rights on the one hand and Ecological, Sustainable Living on the other; all other issues, be it terrorism, war, social injustice or climate crises are linked to these two major issues.

The surge in re-configuration of communities that is seen today, seems basically to address the issue of worsening gaps of resource usage. People are going beyond their earlier community affiliations and re-aligning to fight in these two areas: human rights or ecological wisdom – which are two sides of the same coin. Just as the intuition of a person can lead her to make the right choice or move, the intuition of the world seems to be leading us to form communities which bring in justice and sustainable living. Samudayam or samuday, is the word for community in Sanskrit and many Indian Languages. It means to rise (udaya) equally (sama). Rising does not mean more earnings or more development and ‘equally’ does not mean equal ability, equal strength or equal prosperity. Samuday, rising together, needs to be interpreted as all species, all people, all elements of the Earth evolving together.

In this issue we focus on how communities work together as a Samuday, offering perspectives on the importance of consciousness change, on the need for education for preserving the commons and ‘communal sufficiency’; also a few examples of communities in diverse settings, seemingly small in impact, but an expression of Nature’s way nevertheless.