A defining characteristic of modern civilization seems to be the disempowerment of most people. Farmer suicides, apathetic citizens unable to take care of their waste, water and air, the desperation of students to get into colleges and jobs and their inability to find their own livelihoods, the grabbing of land by the land and industry mafia - these are all signs for us to see. And in a global and massive way we feel helpless about the free fall to disaster that our economic system and climate change are leading us to.
The heartening side of the disempowerment is that it is waking people up – many communities are emerging that do not want to leave their lives entirely to governments and big corporates. The ecological and social transitions that people are beginning to seek are about re-empowering themselves also.
The transition movement, therefore is an idea whose time has come. Transitions, in the western world have come to mean community led responses to climate change. The idea of transition towns, pioneered by Rob Hopkins is spreading across the UK, Europe, the US and many other countries. There are over a thousand towns in the ‘Transition Network’, where the focus is on communities working together, envisioning the changes they need and implementing changes along with local agencies and institutions.
In India, our small towns still have fairly low-carbon lifestyles! However, all over the country, as elsewhere in the world, we have innumerable heroes of the new age, working for transitions towards organic farming, chemical free food, transitions for greater social equity, and generally, for a greener world. We have been presenting many of these stories of positive action in the Bhoomi magazine – from Kutumbakam and Hiware Bazaar to the Deccan Development Society and Ekta Parishad.
We see that a common thread running through the stories of transition happening across the country is that they aim very strongly at empowerment along with ecological living. Over 70 % of our population living in rural areas are engaged in farming, crafts and other rural livelihoods.This includes the most disempowered people in the country. Hence, movements and projects, be it building tanks in Rajasthan or farmers taking up organic farming in Sikkim have been successful because they have also empowered people to take their wellbeing into their own hands.
In cities and small towns too, there is a sense of empowerment in groups and small communities taking responsibility into their own hands for water and waste management, for participating in governance and resisting the corporate take-over of food and personal health.
What we need to be aware of in cities, schools and colleges is that this phenomenon of transition towards empowerment and ecological living is perhaps the most significant changes of our times.
Are our children aware of these realities? Do they know what has happened to our food and health systems? Do they realize how an out-dated, mind-deadening education system is coming in the way of their being in touch with the real world around them? Are they able to see ground realities of stories of hope rather than only read about grim issues like climate change?
As always, the Eternal Bhoomi hopes to fill the gaps in learning and exposure that our future generations face. We do hope that more teachers in schools and colleges share the stories of hope and the perspectives on life today that we present in all issues of our magazine.