Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
Since some years environment pollution has become a major problem for scientists, philosophers, intellectuals and all others. In the ancient era, there was no question of environmental pollution. In India, there was a kind of ashramite culture. People lived in the midst of nature and respected her as a benign deity. Nature was like a mother to the people. In ancient literature we come across instances galore to demonstrate the close relationship between nature and human beings. In Kalidasa’s Abhigyana Sakuntalam, we find wonderful verses describing the beauty and grandeur of nature. Sakuntala’s wedding with king Dushyanta was witnessed by nature. At the time of her departure to her husband’s home, Mother Nature bestowed on her jewelry, bridal dress and other wedding gifts. Perhaps you may say that it was the imagination of the poet. Possibly you are quite right. But the incident does demonstrate the close relationship between nature and human beings in the bygone era.
Paul Feyerabend realized the importance of that ancient wisdom. His anti-modern stance towards science and the leaning towards traditional knowledge are well-known. Regarding medicine also he had great faith on traditional knowledge. But his views were much debated and they brought ridicule from a section of people. However that may be, now it is very clear that all is not well with modern technology which is based on science.
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 nature. These metaphors not only extolled the masculine nature of science, but also treated nature as a female, suppressed by male science. But the conquest of nature 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 finally 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 unfortunately these development projects have also brought much suffering to the Earth and its inhabitants.
The construction of big development projects implies the destruction of nature to a great extent. The irony is that those who are far from nature are the beneficiaries. That is, they reap the fruits of development, brought about by science. But those who live near nature are the worst sufferers, yet they are deprived of the fruits of development. Poor people depend on nature and they do not benefit much from the discoveries of science. To state briefly, humanity is being adversely affected by the scientific 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 realize 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 also to the point of extinction.
Whenever I read ancient literature, the feeling comes to my mind that once India was a gorgeous country with magnificent flora and fauna 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. Resources have been desecrated without a care, and the scientifically and technologically advanced West brought out several miracles of science. They are still doing that. Nature has been sacrificed at the altar of science and the earth is facing terrible crisis. That is the irony of modernism.The problems are grave and difficult, but the solutions are even more difficult. Various proposals have been advanced from different perspectives. But the implementation of these proposals needs deep understanding of the relationship between development and conservation. Attempts are being made to solve the problem by various nations through awareness programmes. But the “green projects” have not been fully successful and they have only been partially successful, since the big powers have realized that they have to destroy the greenery in order to develop their scientific projects. They do not agree to conform to emissions and other norms that are necessary for tangible improvement. Environmentalists and the naturalists are trying to spread the message of imminent danger of deforestation, chemical and other emissions and excessive haphazard urbanization that destroy the natural balance between nature and human development. But in reality nothing much has been done. Trees are felled in order to build multi-storey buildings and for other development projects. Hence many forests have been lost. Unscrupulous miscreants cut down huge precious trees surreptitiously and make enormous profit by selling the logs. Wild animals have lost their habitats and hence they can be seen roaming around in search of food. They are also killed for personal gain. We often hear of rhinoceros being killed for personal 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.
One major remedy of the technological conquest of nature is to go back to the pre-industrial culture and its method of development, which were slow, but tolerant and eco-friendly. For that, several measures have to be adopted, though the people of this modern age may not be favourably inclined to adopt such primitive methods. 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 nature. We have a moral obligation to respect nature and protect it. We have also obligation to others. If we realize that and act accordingly, the earth will be happy and peaceful.