By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
June 5 is observed as World Environment Day. Since some years environment pollution has become a major problem for the scientists, philosophers, intellectuals and all others. Paul Feyerabend, the iconoclastic philosopher of science, believed that people from the East knew about the preservation of environment long before the western people became aware of it. He termed the western civilization as “late comer”. In his autobiography he mentioned an anecdote about his first introductory class in physics at Berkeley. He wrote that there were tive Indians, Chinese, Mexicans and other young men from the Indian subcontinent among the students. After observing them he thought that perhaps they knew more about the subject he was going to teach than himself. Suddenly a question came to his mind. He asked himself, “Who am I to tell them how to do science? They have solved their problems for thousands of years! And now the “late comer” western civilization is claiming to know ture better than them”.
In ancient era there was no question of environmental pollution. In India there was a kind of ashramite culture. People lived in the midst of ture and respected her as a benign deity. ture was like a ‘mother’ to the people. In ancient literature we come across instances galore to demonstrate the close relationship between ture and human beings. In Kalidasa’s ‘Abhigya Sakuntalam’ we find wonderful verses describing the beauty and grandeur of ture. Sakuntala’s wedding with king Dushyanta was witnessed by ture. At the time of her departure to her husband’s home Mother ture bestowed on her jewelry, bridal dress and other wedding gifts. Perhaps you may say that it was the imagition of the poet. Possibly you are quite right. But the incident does demonstrate the close relationship of ture and human beings in the bygone era. The hermitages were full of tural flora and fau. Their fasciting beauty was admirably described by poet Kalidasa. If you go through this epic, you would surely be spellbound by the magnificence of ture as described by the poet. ture was regarded as a living deity in that age.
People were closely connected with the forests and they often went to the forests to serve pence. Lord Ramachandra, along with his wife Sita Devi and brother Lakshma went to the forest to serve 12 years’ “Vanvas” in order to fulfill his father King Dasaratha’s pledge to his stepmother Kalikayi. Mother ture was very kind to them. In Mahabharata too we find that the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi, went to the forest to serve 12 years’ “Vanvas” after being defeated fraudulently in that infamous game of dice in the royal court in Hastipur. Forests were the abode of the people in that era at the time of any emergency or problem. People after a certain age used to go to live in the forest to meditate. It was the custom to practise ‘Vanprastha’ and ‘Sanyas’ in the last part of life to achieve liberation. They lived with ture and died in tural ambience. Such was the close relationship between man and ture. They could not even dream about vandalizing ture. For them ture was a benevolent deity. People in that age used various tural products to cure diseases. Anyway, diseases were rare in that age, since there was no pollution and people lived in perfect tural atmosphere.
Francis Bacon was a great supporter of modern science. He was the person to start the euphoria of the advent of science. Bacon was also a great philosopher, who attempted to make philosophy free from prejudices and uncertainties and to give it a new direction. As a philosopher of science he advocated the empirical theory of knowledge. It can perhaps be said that notably he was the prophet and protector of the dawning scientific revolution. Bacon not only glorified science, but projected it as the master who conquered and chained ture. These metaphors not only extolled the masculine ture of science, but also treated ture as a female, suppressed by male science. But the conquest of ture by scientific knowledge gave rise to lots of problems and these problems have assumed such enormous degree and they have become so disastrous that the scientists, philosophers and intellectuals are trying hard to find a way out of the ill effects of development, as scientific progress may filly lead to the total extinction of earth and humanity.
Frequent floods, earthquakes, landslides, change in weather condition are causing tremendous anxiety not only among the common people, but they are also causing apprehensions among those involved in science and technology. They have realized the disastrous impact of science and technology on the existence of Earth. If we consider the matter, we have to admit that science has made several invaluable contributions for the welfare of humanity. But unfortutely these development projects have also brought much suffering to the Earth and its inhabitants.
The construction of big development projects implies the destruction of ture to a great extent. The irony is that those who are far from ture are the beneficiaries. That is, they reap the fruits of development, brought about by science. But those who live near ture are the worst sufferers, yet they are deprived of the fruits of development. Poor people depend on ture and they do not benefit much from the discoveries of science. To state briefly, humanity is being adversely affected by the progress.
Since the 1990s electronics and digital innovations have undergone a dramatic change. It is the age of “instants”, another contribution of science. We have instant cooking, instant noodle, instant connection and everything instant. There is instant internet connection among the countries and literally many problems are solved instantly. But again the question arises: Do we realise the long-time effects of such instant connection via mobile phone, computers of various degrees of sophistication and cooking devices like microwave ovens? Mobile towers can cause pollution that affects fruits, flowers and birds. They can affect anything to the point of extinction.
Apparently the countries in the East were very much progressive centuries back. Their conceptions were scientific and according to some intellectuals they knew quite a lot about science and technology before the westerners did. I have read some translations of origil Ramaya and Mahabharata several times. Such is the beauty of these texts that you never get bored with them even after several repetitions. Whenever I read them, the feeling comes to my mind that once India was a gorgeous country with magnificent flora and fau and it was very much advanced in science and technology and in other aspects of life. Perhaps some other countries in the East were also very progressive. Space exploration has become another miracle of modern science. We are awestruck by the amazing discoveries of astroutics. Now we have learnt certain facts about space from the astrouts who have travelled to space. Certainly it is an incredible achievement of science and technology. Yet in the ancient texts it is found that in the primitive era people visited different places in the space. Deborshi rad apparently visited diverse planets in space. The question does come to my mind—did people go to the space so easily in ancient era? There were apparently many things in the ancient era like divine weapons used by the warriors which can be compared to the modern nuclear weapons perhaps.
But sadly enough the curious feature is that the ancient countries which saw the rise of civilization and scientific knowledge much earlier than the “new comer West” (in Feyeraberd’s parlance) are now downgraded to the status of under-developed or developing countries. This is due to the various complex factors like rigid social and epistemological systems, colonization by western countries, apathy towards new-fangled ideas and so on. Western technology flourished steadily after the industrial revolution. Colonization of countries rich in tural resources also helped them in their phenomel progress. India lost her glorious position when the country was ravaged by civil wars and disharmony amongst the people. Various states were conquered by the foreign rulers and filly the English took over the whole country and once the glorious and prosperous India fell down from her pedestal. The country became backward and poor and lost much of her splendour. In contrast the western masters became richer and their country swiftly turned into a very progressive region. The west became very much advanced in science and technology. Many great scientists and intellectuals emerged in the western region, while the eastern region slowly and steadily slided backward.
tural resources were desecrated without a care and the scientifically and technologically advanced West brought out several miracles of science. They are still doing that. ture has been sacrificed at the altar of science and the earth is facing terrible crisis. That is the irony of modernism. Now the westerners have realized what havoc they have brought to the earth by their ruthless destruction of ture. They have tried to overcome the immediate pollution and desecration of ture to some extent by adopting the right policies and by strictly adhering to laws. But the former colonies and other countries like India are still suffering the brunt of development without its rewards or without the clean environment of the pre-industrial days.
The problems are grave and difficult, but the solutions are even more difficult. Various proposals have been advanced from different perspectives. The implementation of these proposals need deep understanding of the relationship between development and conservation. Attempts are being made to solve the problem by various tions through awareness programmes. Environmentalists and turalists are trying to spread the message of imminent danger of deforestation, chemical and other emissions and excessive haphazard urbanization that destroy the tural balance between ture and human development. But in reality nothing much has been done. Trees are felled in order to build multistoreyed buildings and for other development projects. Hence many forests have been lost. Wild animals have lost their habitats and hence they can be seen roaming around in search of food. They are also killed for persol gain. We often hear of rhinoceros being killed for persol gain. Apparently their horns are sold at some astronomical price. In the same way elephants are killed for their tusks, tigers are killed for their skins and many other precious animals are destroyed for various reasons. We can term it as cruelty to animals. In ancient times they were regarded as friends.
We often hear of global warming and it has happened due to deforestation according to the environmentalists. Ironically so-called development projects have pushed the earth to the brink of disaster. One major remedy of the technological conquest of ture is to go back to the pre-industrial culture and its method of development, which were slow, but tolerant and eco-friendly. Awareness programmes and various campaigns have at least made people conscious of the problems of degradation of ture. They have become aware of the dangers of too much exploitation of ture. Such expressions as ‘pollution’, ‘eco-friendly’ etc. are understood by everybody. But that does not help in implementation of the norms. Legislation against desecration of ture cannot be effective unless the people understand the deep significance of the problem and conform to the ways to solve it.
One major problem is that the difference between public and private is misinterpreted in our country. In western countries public places are not misused by the people. Parks and other public places are kept clean and green in those countries. But in our country they are made dirty and obnoxious by the people. In our own state there are various places with magnificent flora nd fau. Diverse parties go to these places for picnics. After taking their meal they leave the place littered with dirty paper plates or plantain leaves, throw-away food and all that rubbish. In our country people think that they can use any public place as they wish. This tendency leads to various problems. Respecting the rights of others is the keynote of all ecological principles. But unfortutely though we are steadfast in asserting our rights, we do not recognize the fact that others also have the same rights. It is our ture to throw garbage by the roadside. People take green coconut juice and throw the shell on the road. Our streets are littered ba peels, orange peels, ice-cream cups and other rubbish. Our people are addicted to betel nut and they spit anywhere they please, including staircases in public buildings.
People have to be taught the values of life. They must not harm others by their irresponsible behaviour. In a free society one has to adhere to some values. Awareness of others is a part of our lessons about ture. We have a moral obligation to respect ture and protect it. We have also obligation to others. If we realize that and act accordingly, the earth will be happy and peaceful.