By Jyots Bhattacharjee
Hundreds of writings have appeared in the news papers and innumerable discussions have been held in recent years on the issue of saving the earth from annihilation or at least in preventing its degradation. But most of these arguments are anthropocentric. They actually dwell on the evil consequences which would occur to human race if the degradation of ture continues. Then there are also arguments from the standpoint of “deep ecology”, which conceives ture as having spirit and hence ture should be treated as equal to human beings. This attitude has some resemblance to the traditiol view on ture. In the ancient era ture was regarded as a benign deity in India. Kalidasa, in his epic ‘Shakuntala’ depicts ture as a benevolent spiritual being, bestowing bridal gifts on Shakuntala, prior to her departure to her husband’s kingdom. ture also served as a witness to Shakuntala’s wedding with Dushyanta, which was performed with the exchange of flower garlands between the groom and the bride. It is clear from these ancient texts that ture was conceived as a divine deity in that era and desecration of ture could not even be imagined by people in that age.
But it is possible to hold that desecration of ture is wrong purely on ratiol grounds without going into either anthropocentric or spiritual factors. It is a fact that people generally are very much influenced by the anthropocentric factors, as our own safety happens to be our primary concern. It people come to realize that indiscrimite destruction of ture is detrimental to their own interests, then they could have a glimpse into a bleak future and possibly they would be careful in their activities. The anthropocentric factor assumes that human being is the central point of the earth and for the promotion of self-interest it must save ture. The philosophers say that God created man in his own image. It becomes obvious that man is the highest product in the evolutiory process. turally man believes that he is the focal point of the universe. Most ecological movements in the last few years emphasized the human point of view and exploited this attitude. The ecologists have been trying to save the earth through movements and slogans like “Save the green”, “Save wild life”, “Save energy” and other catchy phrases, which mainly focus on the dismal future of the endangered earth in which we live. It is obvious from these slogans that ture has to be saved not for its own sake, but for the conservation of the human species.
We have noted that there is another conception regarding ture. According to some people ture is spiritual and divine. They regard ture with religious fervour and state that the human and the non-human species of ture have the same rights. From the ancient literature we learn that in the primitive era some trees, mountains, animals and birds were given special status. They were regarded as sacred entities and in that way conservation of ture was easily accomplished. In the ancient era some exceptions were clearly stated; that is, some trees, animals, plants, which were not regarded as sacred, could be used or sacrificed. Undoubtedly the ‘sacred’ stamp on some trees, plants, groves etc do make people wary of wanton destruction of ture and this kind of thought process does help in conservation of ture. But this belief smacks of primitive awe and reverence for the unknown and the unreachable. At the present age of scientific and technological advancement the argument regarding the divinity and spirituality of ture seems to be incongruous and irrelevant. In this era people do not treat trees, mountains etc to have spirit and divinity.
Science and technology have made enormous contributions for human welfare and there has been tremendous progress in the sphere of knowledge. It is a fact that tural disasters to a certain extent can be thwarted by technological devices. There is a common belief that there is nothing impossible for science. Yet even the latest science and technology have not been able to check the tsumi, volcanic eruptions, excessive rain or draught, which are adversely affecting human lives. They also have not been able to control sea storms, weather change and many other tural events. These events have brought misery to humanity. Yet the scientists have been able to do nothing to save humanity from these tural disasters. Perhaps for modern development certain things like interference with biosphere, land and sea, indiscrimite deforestation are necessary. But for the humans and other living creatures it is a very heavy price to pay for the sake of development. Many varieties of animals, birds and vegetations have become extinct. In case of some of them, even if they exist, many of them may have lost some richness of their features. Some species have become rare. Now the scientists and intellectuals have been trying to discover new methods to save ture without disturbing the process of modern development. We have no idea if it will be possible.
The problem is: would it be possible to maintain ecological balance in the face of such large scale onslaught of the development on ture? Now the concept of development has become synonymous with the destruction of ture. For the benefit and progress of humanity, ture has been degraded by physical, chemical and other forces. Science must take the responsibility for destruction of ture. Of course we do appreciate the tremendous growth and progress of science and technology through the years after independence. We have to acknowledge the unprecedented growth of electronic research and development. We have to consider where the impact of technology can be regarded as an interference with tural growth and ways of traditiol life. In ancient era there was hardly any interference with the ways of ture. But increasing development implies increasing interference with the ways of ture. Modern innovations of satellites, aeroplanes and many other gadgets interfere with the atmosphere so extensively that it has adversely affected the atmosphere, weather pattern and also the inmates of the planet earth.
We often hear of various kinds of tural catastrophes hitting diverse places, which cause heavy damage to life and property. Dust storms, sea storms, tsumi, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes etc have often created havoc in diverse areas of the earth. Floods in some places, including our own state, have become annual events. Then we often hear of global warming and its devastating consequences. Numerous examples may be cited regarding the calamitous tural events and their disastrous consequences. But in spite of their tremendous progress science and technology have not been able to prevent the tural disasters.
The devastative earthquake in Nepal on 25th April, 2015, took toll of thousands of human lives and caused calamity all around with several aftershocks causing panic in the Himalayan region and other parts. Then on May 12 another earthquake of 7.3 magnitude and several aftershocks shook Nepal, killing several people and triggering panic in the Himalayan tion, already devastated by a massive tremor less than three weeks back. A second tremor of a 6.3 magnitude struck again about 30 minutes after the 7.3 magnitude quake that sent terrified residents running into the streets of the traumatized capital. The fresh tremor triggered massive panic among people, who had been staying in the open since the 7.9 magnitude tremor struck on April 25, 2015.
Now I am neither a seismologist nor a geologist and I have not the slightest idea why such devastations occur. But I have sympathy for all those victims of the earthquake and other tural disasters. In our state also we had several devastating earthquakes and may experience some more in future. The very thought frightens me to death. Some people say that it is due to the advancement of science and technology, so many tural calamities occur. Apparently too much interference with ture has brought these tragedies to earth. Not being an expert I cannot comment on these views. I only hope that our scientists would try to check some of these horrific tural disasters. We have heard that even mobile towers are affecting palm and coconut trees. The tural chain of eco-diversity is necessary for maintence and balance of ture. Moreover, the ecological destruction for development projects adversely affects the margil and poor people, who are not in a position to enjoy the fruits of development.
The process of development is irreversible. The 21st century has advanced from the previous centuries at an astounding pace. Technological innovations have greatly enriched our lives. But the question arises—how many people are benefitted by the development process? The crucial question is—what price do we have to pay for such development?
One sociologist, describing development in a frivolous manner said that development is “nothing but some construction, concrete or iron and steel.” It was said in humour no doubt. But it is a fact that modern development cannot be imagined without destroying ture in some form or other. It is also true that construction and fabrication of some kind are regarded as a kind of development.
Since the past few years people seem to have realized the impending disaster to earth. Certain measures have been taken up to combat the adverse effect of the destruction of ture for the sake of development. But they are totally idequate in comparison to the speed in which tural resources are decreasing and biosphere being adversely affected. People talk about pollution and “green movement” and the need to save ture. But the measures taken so far are not adequate. We are losing tural resources in an alarming way so fast that it can never be repaired. Our ruthless destruction of ture has been threatening life. Each of us adds to atmosphere degradation in some degree or other. The more we adopt the modern life-style the more we hasten the process of self-destruction.
Thousands of aircrafts and other civil and military equipments have intruded into the atmosphere. Besides that every day air-conditioners, refrigerators, vehicles etc have damaged the eco-system. Even sprays, mobile phone and its tower have done immense harm to the atmosphere. The earth is suffering a lot due to human callousness. Varieties of birds and some animals are hardly seen today. The earth is in danger and many factors are responsible for the crisis to earth.
Some scholars say that population explosion is the major factor behind the rapid destruction of ture. It is sad that ture is suffering intensely to meet the demands of human beings. We must also accept the ground reality of unequal distribution of wealth and tural resources. Because of the development process, the life style and income of the minority section is improving. Yet the majority does not have access even to the basic amenities of modern life, although it is due to their labour that development has become possible.
Only a very small section of world’s population is enjoying the maximum part of the world’s wealth and tural resources. It follows that if the doomsday comes, it will be due to the life style of a small section of people and their standard of living. The majority will have to suffer the most and become the early victims.
Scientists have warned us about the dangers of the destructions of ture and the subsequent calamity. Their warnings are grounded on reason and serious thinking. We should take their warnings seriously and act promptly to repair the enormous damage we have already done to earth before calamity strikes us and causes irreparable destruction.
Due to recent ecological movements people now are generally aware of these problems. But mere awareness is not enough. It needs serious will power and political support to check the destruction of ture. Moreover, we cannot go back to the pre-development days of “ashram life”. Till some years back there were forests, to which people could retreat to realize the ultimate necessities of life, without which we cannot live. But ironically all those forests have been destroyed for various construction purposes.
Human beings, the most powerful species in the tural world for their intelligence, violate the two fundamental principles of ratiol ecology, which happen to be minimum interference and maximum diversity. Man should protect ture at all costs. Eco-tours form a part of social culture, which should be checked, as it interferes with the freedom of ture. People and the tour-operators often abuse the facility granted to them on these excursions. Such tours are an encroachment on the freedom of ture.
Mahatma Gandhi had clearly explained the difference between need and greed. This can be given a modern twist by the distinction of “tural need and artificial need”. There are certain tural needs for nourishment, which can be easily satisfied if it is supplied—hunger by food, thirst by water and so on. But in human society there is a more compelling need for some other things, which are not essential, but powerful motivation for many of our cravings. They are called ‘preference’ or ‘choice’ in modern terminology. For example, water or some edible liquid can quench our tural need of thirst, but preference for Coca-Cola or a lemon drink or coffee are socially imposed. Similarly, social or cultural co-orditions impose numerous needs, which are not tural, but become more and more complicated with social and cultural progress. The more a society is ‘advanced’, or ‘developed’ or ‘modern’, there is increasing scope to meet basic needs. In traditiol societies or in poorer countries, the basic needs are the bare necessities. But modernity has brought some different kinds of needs.. It is clear that desecration of ture happens more with the pace of development. Powerful tions extract more from ture than what is essential for their basic needs. The less developed poorer tions and people exploit ture less for meeting their tural needs.
Saving ture does not necessarily need any emotiol support or religious background. A sense of fairness towards other species, recognition of ture rights and saving wastage can help the process of conservation. ture displays certain values, such as resilience and adaptability in conformity with the particular situation. These values are worthy of our respect. We value ture also for its own sake, as we find a tural object like flower, mountain, sea, lake or wild life to be more enjoyable and soothing than a man-made wonder. Is there a more enjoyable sight than multi-coloured chirping birds hopping around the garden? Hence all efforts should be made to protect ture from human onslaught.