Many winters back, Shri SunderLal Bahuguna made a presentation at our house in Delhi . It was a simple slide presentation and not a Power Point presentation. But, with extreme finesse he homed in on the point of denudation and degradation of the Himalayas. Shri Bahuguna pioneered the Chipko movement. Today we are a witness to the cataclysmic events which have occurred in Kedarnath , Nepal and other places in the Himalayas as predicted by Shri Bahuguna and as to how unprecedented deforestation has caused irreparable damage to the ecosystem.
In a matter of few days, my father (then working with FICCI) organized Shri Bahuguna’s talk at FICCI. The capitalist class and their well –heeled and coiffured women were quite aghast witnessing the presentation. This had two positive fall outs’. FICCI set up an environmental subcommittee and a close friend of mine Panduranga Hegde, then pursuing Master’s in Social Work from Delhi University , decided not to appear for the Civil Services Examination ( much to the chagrin of his guardians )and plunged headlong into environmental issues. He became the southern face of Shri Bahugunna by launching the “ Apikko” movement. Appiko is the Kannada corollary of Chipko movement.
Those were my first lessons in environment protection. Over the years I have realized that there is an internal and an external environment. When we are at peace with ourselves, we project positive thoughts and energy make the world a sacred place to inhabit. However if we are contracted from within, we spew only negativity.
The internal environment expands through Sadhana . This could be through self –healing techniques, yoga, pranayama or meditation . It is maintaining both mental and physical hygiene. Such individuals revere Mother Earth.
Practitioners, of the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique begin by bowing down to the angels ( while doing Disha Pranam) , then to Mother Earth ( which nourishes and sustains us) and to Sun God for providing us with vital “prana.” By bowing down to angels we submit all our emotions of greed , jealousy, anger, arrogance, lust , obsession , attachments and entanglements. Sadhaks who practice this regularly start appreciating the beauty of the nature . Sudarshan Kriya is a rhythmic practice of breath. But the efficacy of this powerful and beautiful tool gets negated if the environment is impure and we inhale only toxins and noxious agents.
It is important to appreciate the concept of ecological footprint. This is a measure of human impact on the Earth’s ecosystem. It is typically measured in an area of wilderness or the amount of national capital consumed each year. The carbon foot print is 54% of humanity, overall ecological footprint and is a rapidly growing component. Worldwide the human ecological foot print is 2.6 global hectares per capital compared with a total worldwide bio capacity of only 1.8 gha/cap.
The ecological footprint is the number of planets humans would require to sustain everyone with the current model of capitalistic, commercial and globalized world. If the footprint were 5, we would need 5 planets to sustain everyone.
The single most common cause of global warming is electricity and power generation followed by the meat industry. Statistics reveal that in order to produce a vegetarian meal we need 3,000 sq ft,while to produce a non –vegetarian meal, humans require 44,360 sq ft, that is equivalent to 7 acres of land. Further, we can feed more people through vegetarian fare as compared to a non vegetarian meal. In the US alone 90,000 cows are slaughtered in abattoirs daily. To sustain the meat industry forests are being razed indiscriminately.
It has been empirically proven that a maximum of 10 people can eat a meal of chicken at a time. During its lifetime a chicken consumes around 20 kgs of gram. Now 150 people can partake this grain, whereas only 10 can consume a meal of chicken. Therefore the numbers are clearly stacked against non-vegetarian fare.
“If we are destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff , there’s got to be a powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more kindness ,more compassion ,more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that “,writes environmentalist Ellen De Gennes.
However those advocating rapid industrialization question that the environment and ecology suffered degradation in the past. Yes, glaciers melted, tectonic changes took place, there were floods, storms etc:but these were not man made.Today man is also contributing to the destruction of our environment.
In this context one wonders about the disappearance of the Indus Valley Civilization. Climate change (perhaps man made) contributed to its eclipse. As the Indus script has not been deciphered, the disappearance remains in the realms of myth and mystery.
However certain positive steps are being taken by the international community at a macro through Paris Climate Change to reduce temperatures by 2 degree Celsius . At the micro level humans need to moderate their wants and perhaps adopt the Gandhian way of living . Shri SunderLal Bahuguna has done that .
“ The ideal of behaviorism is to eliminate coercion to apply controls by changing the environment in such a way as to reinforce the kind of behavior that benefits everyone”, writes BF Skinner.
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