The morning news reminds me that today, the 5th of June, is World Environment Day.
Many years ago, I came across this encouraging perception- that if we have in any manner made things easier for a single living creature, we have not lived in vain. That’s certainly a thought to make many of us swell up with a sense of virtue, because we have all done some manner of good at some time. By the same analogy, nothing can absolve us of the far greater damage we consciously and unconsciously cause in the mere fact of existence- the unseen pain we inflict on fellow living creatures in their utilities to the human race, and the continuous devastation we occasion the planet in the satisfaction of our most seemingly innocuous needs. There can never adequately be a payback time for even the most eco-conscientous of us, but we must strive in our own large and small ways to compensate for the carbon footprint of our very being.
While reading that eminently relevant book, “The World is Hot, Flat and Crowded”, I encountered the interesting distinction between “fuels from heaven”- solar, wind power and all the renewable good guys, and “ fuels from hell”- coal, petroleum and the hydrocarbon gang from underground whose villainy is the root cause of global warming.
It was a reassuring moment to discover I’ve backed the heavenly hosts all along. My business entities own and produce some 6 million units of windpower annually. There are arguably more remunerative businesses to be in, considering that the Indian government’s policies to make the renewable energy sector viable are fragmented and halfhearted, but it’s still an emotionally satisfying endeavour, one that we hope will continue to keep our planet a hospitable place for our grandkids and great grandkids, and all living creatures. We’re also endeavouring to introduce some eco-friendly features in Aristaa, our upcoming offering in Mangalore’s residential sector, even though it’s unlikely that prospective buyers of apartments are significantly wooed by green add-ons which nevertheless will enhance intangibly the quality of life. In opting for a second home in another city, we ourselves consciously chose a project with eco-friendly features of rainwater harvesting, solar heating and lighting panels. We’ve often turned down lucrative real estate opportunities if I felt they were ecologically indefensible.
In my maiden blog on Mother’s Day, I made the passionate point that we should include a sentiment of gratitude for Mother Nature in the galaxy of maternal figures that we revere. It delights me to come upon thoughtful initiatives- like the Rainwater Harvesting Project in my daughter’s school( Lourdes Central School, Mangalore). I was also inspired to write a little verse drama for children on the subject, enacted by my daughter and her peers.The woods around my ancestral home in the heart of Mangalore are a sanctuary for wild creatures in the very heart of town. It delights me every morning to feast on the sight and sound of various birds. I visited a butterfly park in Malaysia, only to later discover gossamer winged beauties with varied hues fluttering around my own berry tree.
Our family will always treasure their safari to Africa as a watershed in their sensitivities to wildlife. This was followed by a tryst with the endangered orangutans of Malaysia, and we intend to constantly renew our rendezvous with rare flora and fauna. One of our most poignant experiences was visiting conservationist Jane Goodall’s orphanage in Kenya for gorillas- these magnificent primates were victims in the crossfire of various civil wars on the African continent. I feel extremely apprehensive about the growing Red zone amidst green forests, as the Maoist insurgency constantly assumes a nasty turn and with it, the firm response mandated to the Indian government for a decisive military solution.. I fear that there will be more red than just the colour of ideology- not only the blood flow from loss of human life, but equally devastation of beautiful creatures in these jungles
that must suffer the firepower traded on both sides. It may seem a peripheral consideration when the sovereignty of the Indian state is threatened, but one hopes that ecological imperatives affecting voiceless flora and fauna are not obscured in likely
I also firmly believe that many of our religions could be profitably infused with eco-morality. To love one’s neighbour or to share in a universal brotherhood should not remain abstract. There should be a clear realization that one’s environmental excesses translate into floods and famines that afflict humanity elsewhere on the planet. Encouraging procreation, a frequently encountered religious tenet may swell the ranks of respective faiths for a show of numerical strength, while seriously endangering an already stressed out planet, portending more disasters to afflict the already bloated numbers.
As an Indian I feel proud to be a legatee of an ancient heritage that reveres nature as divine- where trees and rivers are venerated for their life sustaining benevolence, where compassion for animals flows from their symbolic status as deities or vehicles of deities, where changing seasons and natural phenomena underlie colourful festivals. Undoubtedly, the land’s fertility and geographical diversity have given Indian systems of belief their underlying ecological wisdom, perhaps considered unnecessary in faiths rooted in harsh desert terrain. Mahavira and Buddha formulated their own benign creeds of compassion towards all living things- a singular mandate rarely encountered in other faiths and societies. If carried forward in thoughtful ways, this attitude of compassion/ reverence for the natural world will surely reinforce the green message.
We need to take Environment Day beyond ritual evocation on the 5th of June, to habitual modes of sensitive living.
– Giselle D Mehta