Apr Jun 2010

Apr Jun 2010
Towards Ecological Sanity


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.

I live in the village of Pastapur in the southern part of Medak District in Andhra Pradesh. The soils here are highly unfertile and at some places, as shallow as 8 inches. The annual rainfall is an average of about 600 mm; that too is uncertain in these years of climate change. Most of the small and marginal farmers with whom I work through the NGO, Deccan Development Society [DDS], grow millets on their poor soils. But in the last 25 years since I started living here, not a single millet farmer has committed suicide.

Why do we who spend time in rainforests “become enmeshed in our perceptions and thinking about them?”

In the fourth World Rainforest Report, Queensland zoologist Peter Dwyer noted that the New Guinea highlanders find the rainforest wildlife not only good to eat, but also “good to think”.

He goes on to say that “Whilst we don’t eat our rainforests, we do become enmeshed in our perceptions and in thinking about them until they suddenly and vividly possess for us values that we can only identify as symbolic, intrinsic and - with some desperation - as spiritual.”

The GPI is a more accurate measure of a country’s progress since it takes into account the environmental costs of economic activity

Seed monopoly, patenting and arm-twisting by large transnational corporations in cahoots with government policies are engendering a new colonialism where we are losing our right to food sovereignty. The fact that 6 TNCs are controlling 60 to 80% of seeds, grain processing and trade in food crops is definitely leading to the disempowerment of the farmer as well as the city-dweller.

In recent years, there has been a serious disconnect between the consumer and the farmer. By the time we finally consume food, not only has it travelled a lot from the plot to the plate, but it has also undergone so many modifications that what we finally get is a mere ‘product’. Many of us would have hardly met or chatted with someone who grows our food; much less visited their farms and understood what it takes to grow food.

The transition from software in Texas to growing food in Wayanad is teaching important lessons on Nature, life and happiness.

Today, more than ever before, education needs to be for the future, not only for the present or the past. Education also needs to focus on real life, rather than only on text books and exams.

The Indian Education System, especially the school system is much talked about these days. The CBSE (Central Board for Secondary Education) which has made the board exams optional at the 10th grade level may be one step to reduce meaningless rote learning – but we need to focus on what helps make learning more meaningful, relevant and holistic.

How a small group of people can deal with the economic, ecological and social realities connected with building water consciousness in a community.

Water supply to citizens is supposedly the duty of Governments and municipal corporations. Yet there are enough indications today that very soon many communities and neighbourhoods would have to manage it themselves – protecting their sources of water, regulating its usage and treating it properly for reuse or safe disposal.

Life is best enjoyed when lived fully, when we participate wholeheartedly in it, when the inevitable passage of time is filled with daily doses of fun and joy; and life becomes enjoyable when relationships are rooted in trust and love, and when the income-generating work that we choose to engage in makes play look contrived in comparison.

‘Quaker’ is just a nickname. The real name of Quakers is ‘Friends’, collectively called members of the Society of Friends. George Fox founded this movement in 1650 in England. He experienced enlightenment after persistent, quiet contemplation and taught his followers that they did not need organized church or priests between them and God, for He was within all of us. Quakers meet on Sundays for silent worship in what they call the Meeting House, or in homes of members.