Gandhian Solution to the Problem of Global Warming &Climate Change: The Surest and Perhaps the Only Solution.
Neither the great seers of our Indian civilization nor the great seers of various great religions would approve the present fundamentally unspiritual, extremely eco-hostile and out-and-out consumerist global market culture of unlimited desires for wealth and luxuries, which has caused through unethical use of science and technology disappearance of tens of thousands of plant and animal species and continues to cause greater and greater violence to our life-and-health-sustaining natural systems, (in the form of causing pollution of air, water, food , soil, global warming and climate change, depletion of non-renewable natural resources, depletion of ozone layer, etc.) which has devastating implications in the long run for our future generations as well as for the entire life-world. According to the 2014 Living Planet Report of WWF, our planet earth on an average lost 52 percent of the vertebrate species of its wildlife – mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians – in past 40 years between 1970 and 2010, due to human activities. On an average the vertebrate species declined by 58 percent between1970 and 2012, according to its 2016 report. On an average the vertebrate species declined 60 percent between 1970 and 2014, due to human activities, according to its 2018 report. Globally, nature provides services worth around $125 trillion a year, while also helping ensure the supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines, and more. (https://www.worldwildlife.org) We need 1.7 Earths to regenerate the natural resources we currently use and absorb our waste . This means it now takes the earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in one year. (https://www.footprintnetwork.org) Polluting the essential requirements of life such as air, water, food, soil, etc., and consuming the limited non-renewable natural resources at the cost of the essential needs of our future generations or of our fellow lower form of creatures for the sake of luxuries is highly unethical. They would agree with the Gandhian view that the modern civilization’s out-and-out consumerist global market culture of having unlimited desires for more and more wealth and luxuries and going to the ends of the earth with the help of science and technology causing great irreparable harm to earth’s life-and-health-sustaining natural systems in search of their satisfaction is satanic and suicidal. The Gandhian alternative to it (in terms of Gandhiji’s conceptions of village Swaraj, Swadeshi, Antyodaya, Sarvodaya, dignified body-labour, non-exploitative rural serving/ centric eco-friendly decentralized industrialization and urbanization, Satyagraha, character-building ethics education, enlightened righteous simple living and high thinking, Truth and non-violence, etc.,) does provide a non-violent form of development, which essentially involves retelling the basic ethics of our ancient civilization as well as of all great religions in the context of our present technological age, and which is the surest and perhaps the only long term solution to our impending catastrophic global ecological crisis, including the seemingly insoluble problem of Global Warming and Climate Change, along with the present all pervasive deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis. (For a discussion on this issue, please see the note “Gandhian Solution to Global Environmental Crisis” in our website, www. savegangamovement.org.”)
In the short term, we must urgently take along with other like-minded countries the necessary steps to avoid the globally devastating irreversible impacts of climate change such as deadly heat waves, wildfires, storms, erratic rains, floods, droughts, etc., burying of coastal villages, towns and cities due to the rise of sea level caused by melting of Antarctic and artic ice sheet and physical expansion of ocean water, Himalayan rivers turning seasonal rivers due to melting of the Himalayan snow, reduction of farm yields, vanishing of many living species of water, land and sky, etc. We must progressively decrease dependence on fossil fuel to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and increase dependence on renewable energy, and constantly try to bring down global warming to some desirable level with the help of science and technology.
The UNO-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its report released on November 3, 2014 in Copenhagen says that the global average temperature must not be allowed to rise more than 2°C (3.6°F) above preindustrial levels. It says that Global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to zero by the end of this century and that most of world’s electricity can and must be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050 to avoid catastrophic irreversible impacts of climate change. The IPCC says that a shift from the use of fossil fuels to renewals is technologically and economically feasible through planed coordinated action among all the countries. The UNO-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest report released in October, 2018 claims that nations must take rapid and far reaching transitions over next 10 to 20 years in land use, energy, industry, transport, etc., to cut global greenhouse gas emissions and reach ‘net-zero’ by 2050 to avoid catastrophic irreversible impacts of climate change. It says that we must not allow global warming to cross 1.5 degree Celsius rather than 2 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels. The IPCC scientists are now saying that to avoid the catastrophic irreversible impacts of climate change, Global green-house gas emissions must be reduced to zero by 2050, and for this purpose we must progressively reduce dependence on fossil fuel and replace it by increasing dependence on renewable energy by 2050. (The Times of India, Mumbai, October 9, 2018 and IPCC Report 2018 Summary: https://www.ipcc.ch>2018/10/08>sum…)
To begin with, let us Recycle and Reuse eco-friendly our waste, promote Reforestation where’re it is possible with zero deforestation as far as possible, Rejuvenate and preserve our great river mothers and their sources our great mountains and forests which are in the process of slow death, and try to Reduce our desires for luxuries, regulating our way of life ethically through character-building ethics education based on the fundamental ethics of our great living ancient civilization, which is essentially the same as that of various great religions(5Rs). In India, forest cover is around 24 percent, and we need to increase this to 33 percent to absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030 as part of our national action plan to counter climate change. Besides giving firewood, seasonal fruits, nuts, honey and material for making furniture, house, etc., and reducing storm run-off and the possibility of flooding, etc., our forests will remain invaluable for us forever as the natural preserver of our invaluable water, topsoil, medicinal plants, wildlife, absorber of carbon dioxide and producer of oxygen and also accounting for the great majority of inland rain through evaporation & transpiration by trees.
In the long term, we must make serious efforts to solve the problems of eco-hostile industrialization, urbanization, and population-growth, which constitute the root of our problem of environmental degradation, by a radical change from our current ideas of development and growth to an alternative form of development based on the Gandhian principles of Truth and universal non-violence, by trying to realize through Gandhian non-violent means the Gandhian conceptions village Swaraj , Swadeshi , Antyodaya, Sarvodaya, dignified body-labour, rural centric / serving non-violent development, character-building ethics education, etc., as soon as possible. Industrialization and urbanization must be rural centric and caring, i.e. in the service of rural India, and development must be non-violent with loving care of our fellow lower form of creatures and life-and-health-sustaining aesthetically and religiously invaluable natural eco-systems. We must not allow our population to grow beyond the limit which would cause great harm to our future generations or to our fellow lower form of creatures, and if it has gone beyond the limit we must try to bring it down in some ethical way to the desirable level. We must take time–bound decisive steps to solve the problem of forced migration of rural unemployed to cities by converting rural India into ideal places for leading enlightened ethical life of simple living and high thinking with dignified exhilarating and health-friendly body labor in an atmosphere of natural purity and beauty. Gandhiji said in 1945: “I believe that if India is to attain true freedom and through India the world as well, than sooner or later we will have to live in villages in huts not in palaces.” In Harijan on 4th August 1946 Gandhiji wrote: “When our villages are fully developed, there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short there will be nothing in life which will not be had in the villages. Today the villages are dung heaps. Tomorrow they will be like tiny gardens of Eden where dwell highly intelligent folk whom no one can deceive or exploit. The reconstruction of villages along these lines should begin right now…not on a temporary but permanent basis.”
We must build an ethically good society with the help of good governance and character building ethics education. In his Hind Swaraj, making a severe condemnation of the education system of modern western civilization, Gandhiji claims: “…it (higher education) has its place when we have brought under subjection our senses and put our ethics on a firm foundation. And then, if we feel inclined to receive that education, we may make good use of it. As an ornament it is likely to sit well on us. It now follows that it is not necessary to make this education compulsory. Our ancient school system is enough. Character building has the first place in it and that is primary education. A building erected on that foundation will last. … Religious, that is ethical, education will occupy the first place.” (M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Navajeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad-14, 2005, pp.77-9) We must introduce universal compulsory critical character-building ethics education with problem of the ultimate goal of life as its central problem from the beginning of our education system, which would be a major step in the direction to overcome our present deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis. We must study critically the views of great religions and of great teachers and thinkers of mankind about various fundamental issues of ethics concerning ethical values and the nature, value and means of ethically good life and good society. Knowledge about the fundamental ethical unity and truth of various great religions and the central place of ethics in religious life is bound to promote interreligious harmony and moral and spiritual growth of the religions. Without transforming the masses spiritually & environmentally enlightened through critical spiritual and environmental ethics education, it would not be possible to save mother Earth from the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis. Our masses are environmentally illiterate modern Kalidashes and our environmentally educated leaders are modern Dhritarashts, who are under the spell of the glamour of the modern civilization which Gandhiji called ‘A Nine Days Wonder.’
“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trumps action could push the earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid,” Stephen Hawking told BBC News. He deeply believed that life on Earth is at risk from a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, global warming, or other dangers humans have not yet thought of. According to Hawking Global warming and climate change is the biggest problem humans are facing at present. The extinction of human species from planet Earth due to misuse of science and technology cannot be avoided, because we do not know how to avoid the misuse of science and technology based on human selfishness, greed, stupidity, etc. Mahatma Gandhi would not agree with this view of Stephen Hawking. The great teachers and seers of our ancient Indian civilization explicitly accept universal non-violence, i.e. non-violence to both human and non-human life, to be the foundation of ethics. They see clearly that a perfect enlightened selfless ethical life of universal love and renunciation (desireless) constitutes the core of the ultimate goal of life, i.e. of liberation, and pursuit of selfless ethical life of love with detachment to the fruits of one’s actions, serving selflessly to society in the best possible way to the best of one’s ability through some work required for the general good and making constant effort to progress towards ethical perfection, constitutes the core of its means. They see clearly that enlightened unselfish desireless ethical life of love(i.e. enlightened selfless ethical life of love with detachment to the fruits of actions ) is intrinsically peaceful and blissful and that a liberated life is eternally the best form of life. They see clearly that any person through conscious effort can pursue liberation and progress towards it from evil to good life, from selfish good life to unselfish good life, from unselfish good life to enlightened selfless renounced, i.e. desireless, good life and from it finally to liberated life. Anyone can do experiment with Truth, like Buddha and Gandhi did, and test the claims of the theory of liberation in the laboratory of one’s life by making constant effort to progress towards ethical perfection and acquire direct scientific knowledge about the invaluable spiritual truths with the help of reason based on one’s own spiritual experiences. They explicitly accept that pursuit of wealth and pleasure within the limits of ethics is essential not only for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of life, but also for lasting development, prosperity, peace and happiness in society. Gandhiji, like Swami Vivekananda, sees clearly that all great religions also explicitly or implicitly accept the same. Gandhiji rightly considered the modern Western civilization to be essentially an irreligious false civilization in the sense that selfless ethical love, which constitutes the essence of religious life, has no place or only peripheral place in it, and what it considers to be the ultimate goal of life is essentially false; with deep conviction, he considered the ancient Indian Civilization to be a true civilization. (Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, Chapters VI & XIII)
Albert Einstein rightly said: “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” We must protect and take loving care of the delicate and holistic balance that exists in the ecosystems of nature which are invaluable from the view point of utility, aesthetics as well as religion, and try to restore wherever possible our degraded eco-systems: our pursuit of wealth and luxuries with the help of science and technology must not be allowed to cause harm to the life-and-heath-sustaining natural eco-systems. Protection of the Ganga, symbolizing all rivers, water bodies and aquatic life, and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizing all mountains, forests and wildlife, must be accorded highest priority in our national development process. Surely our civilization which is the only living great ancient civilization and which is the mother of so many great religions has the moral and spiritual resources to play the role of Jagat Guru and show the present spiritually dark world the path of Truth, the path of self-purification, self-enlightenment and self-realization, the path of realization of ethical perfection, which constitutes truly the essence of the science of Yoga. It does provide profound systematic knowledge about the means to discipline ethically our senses and passions and progress towards ethical perfection, and its message of enlightened desireless unselfish ethical action of universal love has the potentiality to save the world from the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis including the problem of global warming and climate change along with its present deep rooted all pervasive moral and spiritual crisis. It is deeply painful that in the present Global Market culture even Yoga has become a multibillion dollar business enterprise in the global market. Surely our living great ancient Indian civilization, which the Ganga has given to the world, has the moral and spiritual resources to provide the awareness necessary to create a mass Satyagraha to save the world from the impending massive ecological crisis, and surely India, the mother of this great living ancient civilization, is in far better position than any other country to create and lead such a movement. Let India, the land of many great religions, provide the world a culture of non-violence and Truth, i.e., the true Ultimate meaning of life, in the context of our present technological age, where all religions would grow harmoniously in spite of their differences in the realm of metaphysics on the basis of the knowledge about their fundamental ethical unity and truth and the central place of ethics in religious life, and where development would take place with loving care of the invaluable countless kinds of flora and fauna of our life-giving & life-and-health-sustaining aesthetically and religiously invaluable natural systems. Let us rejuvenate and preserve of our great ancient civilization of Truth and non-violence through completing the unfinished work of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of Truth and non-violence of our age, and save India and through it the world at large from the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis along with the present all pervasive deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis.
We must realize that the ecological crisis of the Ganga, which is the life-line of nearly 40 % of our country’s population and which crores of our people consider to be their divine mother, is the sign / symptom of the ecological crisis of our mother Planet earth, and the slow death of the Ganga is the sign / symptom of the slow death of our great living ancient true civilization. Let us begin our civilization-rejuvenation / revival work through taking the necessary steps to rejuvenate the Ganga and her tributaries and their source the Himalayas and introducing compulsory critical ethics education with character-building ethics education as its core and the problem of the ultimate goal of life as its central problem from the beginning of our education. We must realize that rejuvenating and preserving our great river mothers and their source our great mountains and forests which are in the process of slow death, is absolutely necessary to ensure lasting water, food, air and health security to our masses, and saving our national river mother Ganga and her source the Himalayas would be a major step in the direction to save all our other great rivers which are also in the process of slow death. They provide their invaluable services freely with Zero fossil fuel use.
With the help of soul force, let us build a new India rejuvenating and preserving our great ancient civilization of Truth and non-violence and establish a secular kingdom of enlightened spiritual righteousness (Rama Rajya, Kingdom of God) in the context of our present technological age and save India and through it the world at large from the impending catastrophic global ecological crisis along with the present all pervasive deep rooted moral and spiritual crisis. Under the spell of the glamour of the modern civilization, which Mahatma Gandhi called a Nine Days Wonder, let us not become modern Dhrtarastras. We must always remember: “Lust, anger and greed are the triple gates of hell, destructive of soul. Hence one must abandon these three.” (The Bhagavad Gita 16.21) We must choose the path of Truth. For it is straight and a very difficult way and very difficult to find, but it leads to life of lasting inner peace and happiness. But the path to hell (of Evil) is an easy way and easy to find, but it leads to destruction of soul. (The Bible, Mathew, 7.13-14) “That you cannot serve God and Mammon is an economic truth of the highest value. We have to make our choice. Western nations are today groaning under the heel of the monster-god of materialism. Their moral growth has become stunted. … Let us seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and the irrevocable promise is that everything will be added unto us. These are Real Economics. May you and I treasure them and enforce them in our daily life.” (M. K. Gandhi, The Voice of Truth, p. 328) Let us always remember the invaluable message of Mahatma Gandhi: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” “When there is both inner and outer cleanliness, it approaches Godliness.” Let us also always remember the invaluable message of Albert Einstein: “ The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Let us respect and critically examine the message of Swami Vivekananda about Buddha: “The life of Buddha shows that even a man who does not believe in God, has no metaphysics, belongs to no set, and does not go to any church, temple, and is a confessed materialist, even he can attain to the highest.” (Swami Vivekananda, Buddha and His Message, Adavit Ashram, Calcutta 14, 1992, p. 53) These were the last dying words of Buddha: “Workout diligently your own salvation. Each one of you is just what I am. I am nothing but one of you. What I am today is what I made myself. Do you struggle and make yourselves what I am. …” “Believe not because an old book is produced as authority. Believe not because your father said [you should] believe the same. Believe not because other people like you believe it. Test everything, try everything, and then believe it, and if you find it for the good of the many, give it to all.” And with these words the master passed away.(Ibid., p. 39)
Let us pray God to help us to walk always in the path of Truth seeking His righteousness through working to the best of one’s ability in the beast possible way for His Kingdom (Rama Rajya) on our planet mother Earth.
Gandhiji is the apostle of Truth and non-violence of our age. In the words of Einstein: “Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this, it may be, ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” (T.N. Khoshoo, Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology, p.63, Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi, 2002, p.630) “The moral influence which Gandhi has exercised upon thinking people may be far more durable than would appear likely in our present age, with its exaggeration of brute force. … We are fortunate and grateful that fate has bestowed upon us so luminous a contemporary- a beacon to generations to come.” (From the cover of The Selected Works of Mahatma Ggandhi, Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad-14, 1968) In the words of Rabindranath Tagore: “…peoples’ minds have been struck by the analogy of his (Gandhiji’s) character with that of greatest masters, whose spiritual inspiration comprehends and yet, transcends all varied manifestation of humanity, and makes the face of worldliness turn to the light that comes from the eternal source of wisdom.”(Ibid.)
Let us make an in-depth critical study of the Gandhian alternative and initiate a national and global debate on it before it is too late.
Smt Rama Rauta,
Founder and Convener, Save Ganga Movement
Former Member, Expert Advisory Committee, Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of WR,RD&GR, GOI
Former Expert Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Govt. of India
President, National Women’s Organization, Pune
*(This note is essentially based on the note entitled “Gandhian Solution to Global Ecological Crisis”, available in our website, www. savegangamovement.org)