Sayandip Bisoi, Goaltore, West Midnapore
“History is opaque. You see what comes out, not the script that produces the events, the generator of History. There is a fundamental incompleteness in your grasp of such events… This disconnect is similar to the difference between the food you see on the table at the restaurant and the process you can observe in the kitchen.”
~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his The Black Swan
And before you rub your eyes and yawn for the 5th time after reading the quote… and start thinking whether you should move on from this essay, let me tell you this is what I produced after uprooting 93 hairs from my scalp during the composition, and at the end, you may bag home some food for thought.
A topic like ‘Environment and Us’ is what you, that boy in the carrom board, and I, all have known for a long time and perhaps it is on the verge of being a cliché. Buthave we ever wondered what compels us to repeatedly talk – write – recite – flash mob – raise awareness campaigns – land with a parachute in a Euro match hosting stadium – clap with emojis on Twitter sharing Greta Thunberg’s ‘How dare you…?’ speech in the UN and last but not least, have we ever wondered what makes our Prime Minister Narendra Modi interested in having a ‘tasty dinner’ with Bear Grylls — just for hustling about Environment?
Yes, I did and perhaps at some point we all did (maybe during the evening Bongaon Local’s intellectual call bridge gossip? Who knows). It has to be hustled about because of the simple fact: we can’t ignore it. Everything we are, everything we do, everything we have is destined to be affected by our ENVIRONMENT. Every year on 5th June we have the formal occasion to recognize the fact and share a few glossy posts on our social media accounts and fill our WhatsApp status with green imageries (ok, and a few lines).
Let’s revise some recent exciting news about the Environment that dominates our attention spans:
The accelerating average heat of our Planet has already exploded the safety roof. Nations are taking oaths like ‘In the name of God we promise to achieve NET ZERO CARBON EMISSION’ in the CoP summits. Putin allegedly doesn’t know which of his Red Army Men bombed on hazardous Chornobyl site. And Omg, Elon Musk is determined to burn his entire $216B net worth in the altar of terraforming on Mars.
Back here in India, BSE, and NSE are issuing Green Bonds, and various prize is created to boost Climate enthusiasm like The Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar(IGPP). South Africa and Namibia sent cheetahs to India to reintroduce them after almost seven decades of their extinction. In every public place, Gandhi’s glasses are bearing the oath of Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan. The creation of more Biodiversity sensitive zones is now a routine incident. The Bhadra Solar Plant in Rajasthan is all hailed (with a 56 MW output, wow!). Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw promised to introduce Hydrogen Trains by the end of next year. Oh yes, just in the times of cyclone the Mangrove enriched West Bengal and Odisa plants Sundari saplings. And this is for the emotion of Adhyayan’s hometown, Siliguri : Municipalities like SMC are taking initiatives to ban plastic and styrofoam.
Yet, very few are addressing the fundamental threads that control those dilapidations at first.
The environment of civilization is beyond just the health of its green vitality. There are a few undercurrents that often get no light, yet exert their effect on our Environment in a most profound way. This drags me back to Taleb’s quote – we see the most dramatic event ignoring all that preceded it.
Apart from the cliched ecological and climatic environment, we need to take a glance at the factors that constitute the iceberg… the tip of which is our depleting Ecological environment.
- Economic Environment: The rising tide of consumeristic culture is adding to our appetite for ‘more and more’ amounts of goods and services. Although we are now in an all-time high stage of food surplus, we don’t care that with more creation of crop fields, deforestation is on the rise. And two decades into the 21st century, Africa is still starving. A mania of ‘vehicles per head’ among millennials is fanning the exhaustion of Petroleum. The same happens with rising electricity demand and coal exploitation by deforestation (take the case of Deucha Panchami of Birbhum, WB as an example). Tycoons are howling to convince us, especially Gen Z with modern advertising tactics ‘You must need this product/service to stay ahead’ ( iPhone craving ?). The dawn of the Modern world, the Industrial Revolution is the founding stone of today’s catastrophic outcomes. Oh, and add the imperial colonization of Europe with the above malefactors.
- Political Environment: Welcome to the most responsible hand behind our surroundings: our Political environment. From ancient times we saw annihilation of the nature to boast of power. You win a war, occupy an area, cut the trees, and build a fort. Feeling bored? Let’s go for Mrigaya. The priest is demanding a gift? How about giving him 500 cows?
And in the modern world, nature has become a matter of electoral/ ideological disputes. A world war was fought on who got to control the Alps and Prairies. America’s nose is too big to not interfere in the Middle East for its oil… all in the name of Uncle Sam’s ‘War on Terror’! Everyone is interested in whatever happens in the South China Sea… yet nobody cares that over 500 coral reef species have gone to oblivion there. Border disputes are the breakfast of today’s breaking news, but very few care about the environment there. Teesta and Indus are beyond a river today. They play a key role in the general elections of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan but they have almost none to take care of their perenniality and navigability. Same with Cauvery between Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Apart from this, the dominating Political ideologies play a vital role in defining the perspective of a nation toward its Nature.
- Spiritual Environment: The shine in the image of a particular environment depends on the values that guide it. In India, this case may be the most vibrant in the world. We never separated nature from us. The fables of Panchatantra and Aesop are the gems that sow the seed of a maternal relationship with nature within us. Thousands of instances are there worth mentioning like illustrations of Nature in Ramayana Abhijnanam Shakuntalam and many more.
As a result, we are inherently rich in natural riches.
In modern times too our founding fathers laid the spiritual bedrock for an amicable relationship between the State and Nature. Tagore introduced Shantiniketan as a substitute for the contemporary education purview of the Utilitarian principle. The Spiritual thought of Mahatma Gandhi seemed to have anticipated our current concerns. Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed”
But back on today, natural habitats are stripped of their greenery in the name of founding ashrams. Many activists had criticized Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudeva and his Isha Foundation for conducting illegal constructions in the Velliangiri foothills situated in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore. The compass of culture in the spiritual dimension is a crucial matter in navigating the health of their environment.
- Social Environment: ‘Man is Social Animal’(Aristotle) … his conduct will be determined by the society he lives in is natural. You see, the Adivasis intricately include nature in their everyday affairs as they are programmed that since the genesis, for which their environment eludes us. And the boring skyscrapers are peeking their heads in exchange for water bodies and trees in the cities. Gone are the days when Calcutta used to birdwatch migrant Polar or Mediterranean aviators.
And if you are still reading, you got my point: all these dimensions are interlocked. Each affects the other and ultimately determines the relationship between Environment and Us. Our natural environment is the result of the aforesaid spheres, so to extend any betterment we should treat those causes first individually rather than the outcome. The process seems to be much easier and more effective as each of these layers is easy to be treated separately.
Take comfort, I am not gonna bore you anymore… that is the task of our intelligentsia, A.I., Governments, and a few Elon Musks. Yet, let’s conclude this epitome with Immanuel Kant’s Theory of Humanity: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”
Nature also works on the principle of ‘Tit for tat’ (with a delayed effect). It waits and gives chances for course correction. Let’s grab the moment and promote rationality in the treatment of our surroundings (not merely as a means, but as an end). That is LET’S BE HUMANE TO OUR NATURE, AND LOVE IT UNCONDITIONALLY…to get the same treatment back.