Apr Jun 2011

Apr Jun 2011
Gaia ~ Our Living Earth


Gaia, the Greek Earth Goddess came into prominence in recent years after James Lovelock wrote his path breaking book of the same name. In beautiful, often lyrical prose, and with painstaking holistic science, Lovelock wrote of the miracle of Gaia. We felt we owed Gaia a Bhoomi issue in her honour. The concept of Gaia not being very well known in India, we hope our readers would enjoy this issue of understanding and celebrating our “living” planet Earth.

In October 2008, custodians of sacred natural sites and territories from the four continents declared that the whole Earth is sacred. They gathered prior to a World Conservation Congress to examine the growing threats to the Earth and to sacred natural sites. All agreed with Danil Mamyev, a shaman from Altai in Russia, when he said: “The whole Earth is sacred and there is a network of especially sacred areas like acupuncture points around the body of the Earth.

In his argument against granting India her Independence, Sir Winston Churchill had ominously said, “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber & men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air & water would be taxed in India."

The corporation is a nameless, faceless entity, has the characteristics of a psychopath, takes over the commons to extend control, and has the single-minded aim of profit – that, in essence, is the story behind Corporations of the world.

With commentary from critical thinkers, scientists and philosophers like Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky among others, this movie examines the role of the corporation from many different angles – the good, the bad and the ugly.

We need a new paradigm for living on the Earth. An alternative to the present paradigm is now a survival imperative for the human species. And the alternative that is needed is not only at the level of tools or technologies: it is at the level of our worldview. How do we look at ourselves in this world? What are humans for? Are we merely a money-making and resource-guzzling machine? or do we have a higher purpose?

For many years, before humanity became aware of the dangers of climate change, Wangari Maathai was advocating the planting of trees. Her work was based initially in her home country of Kenya in order to redress the imbalances created by the imposition of a Western paradigm of progress on a country and people whose inherent wealth and wisdom went unrecognised.

My 16-year-old friend’s eyes gleamed with joy. She had just bought a new pair of shoes. Her older sister wanted to try them on. “Don’t touch them, they are mine,” screamed the little sister. The mother stood by helplessly, consoling the older girl by saying, “Don’t be upset, you can have one too.” Between the two girls, they had almost 30 pairs of shoes and although they had the same shoe size, they never shared them. Why do we as adults encourage such ‘himsa’ behaviour?

I am now seven months into my experiment of living without money and fossil fuels for a year, and my journey so far has been fascinating. When I first decided to go money-free last year, I set about putting in place the basic infrastructure I would need to survive. The first essential part of this jigsaw was shelter. For this I turned to an amazing project called Freecycle, and through it I found a caravan that someone else didn’t want any more.

There has been something unconvincing about orderly shapes like triangles and squares: we find them in textbooks, in the way children in schools are made by teachers to assemble and disperse, but never in life itself. Life is actually wild, messy and labyrinthine, no matter what sort of  lens we view it through. The branches of a tree are bit like its roots – and also like the path of a river and the inside of our lungs. The question of form, of patterns of patterns, becomes a suddenly universal one, at once abstract and extremely realistic.

I was a social worker for many years, often going from village to village, telling the people who live there how to ‘better’ their lives. My work involved talking a lot of jargon, pointing out ‘problems’ and how we could go about ‘improving’ them. In all that time, I never  contemplated my own weaknesses, for I considered myself an educated and aware young man. I fell prey to what consumes most of us who like to call ourselves educated – conceit, which stops one from learning.