Our theme for this issue of Bhoomi is ‘Towards Ecological Sanity’. We have, after all, been insane in numerous ways. Fossil fuels, industrialization, consumerism are some obvious examples that come to mind. If we scratch the surface some more, we realize that there are many compulsions we have acquired collectively, which have got the stamp of public and global approval.
Such as the attitude of considering continuous growth to be a sane and obvious prerequisite for any ‘successful’ human being, adult or child. Around us, children are being encouraged to grow in terms of performance in standardized exams, in limited compartmentalized subjects. Adults are encouraged to keep ‘doing better’ in terms of money and career growth. Countries are encouraged to keep improving their Gross Domestic Product. Those falling behind are “less developed”, if not failures. One of the few things of which people all over the world are now saying “Stop this growth” - is carbon emissions. But we want to reduce carbon emissions and degradation of Nature without reducing economic growth - and the two are inextricably connected. Can we say enough to various other things that will help us reduce carbon emissions? We definitely know it is possible to cope from the Cuba example – Cuba was forced to say ‘Enough’ and live with embargos on oil and other imports – and has gone on to become the only country in the world which has achieved food security with organic agriculture, which in turn has led to environmental sustainability.
Cuba has also achieved a high ranking in terms of health, which is not surprising, since almost everyone there gets fresh fruits and vegetables from their own or community gardens. But is limiting growth of carbon emissions along with a healthful but non-extravagant life only possible in a non-democratic country like Cuba? How can democracies wake up and say “enough” of eco-cide?
David Suzuki likened the world’s response to climate change as a carload of people heading for disaster in the form of a massive brick wall – but not changing direction since they were all fighting about which seat they wanted. Perhaps only when calamities force us to wake up, we will change direction, or perhaps when political leaders decide to understand the seriousness of these issues; or perhaps when a large enough number of us Saying “Enough” learn to say ‘enough’ to the ‘goodies’ responsible for the ecological crises today and demand change from the power centres. Woody Allen quipped “One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly!” How do we wake up to other choices? We need to educate ourselves about another choice of creating opportunities and possibilities when we are faced with a crisis. (It’s interesting to note that the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is said to be the same as the word meaning ‘opportunity’!)
It is still considered naïve and non-practical by many to focus on low-carbon lifestyles. “The Governments needs to change, the West needs to change etc.” are the responses we get. But around the world, people and communities that care, are changing and gradually making Governments take notice. All non-violent change has to start with small groups of people. And it is possible to find ways of living a more fulfilling life and commit ourselves to a more responsible and earth-reverent lifestyle. We can include traditional varieties of nutritious and delicious low-carbon millets in our diet, and say ‘Enough’ to monocultures of water-glugging cereals. There are immense possibilities of enjoying community gardening while we say enough to shopping at the mall. There are great opportunities of enjoyment of art and craft activities that reduce stress and medical bills. We can reduce long hours of work that we find undesirable, and focus on our families, neighbourbood, hobbies and personal growth and wisdom.
We can say ‘Enough’ to factory processed and packaged foods which slow-poison our bodies anyway, while we look forward to enjoying meals cooked by family members together. We can say ‘Enough’ to pushing children to do well in subjects they hate and spend time helping them discover their true calling. This issue is all about some of the perspectives we need to turn saying “Enough” on its head, and say “More” to ecological wisdom and personal fulfilment.