The Mahatma : Vocal about Local
Every Indian is aware of the Mahatma’s work in the freedom struggle, but few know of his relationship with the environment. 150 years after he was born, how relevant is Mahatma Gandhi with today’s environment? His face still adorns currency notes, street names & postage stamps. But do his values, messages or sacrifices reflect on the streets or economy or our interactions with the environment we live in? To some, his relevance with the present environmental damages may seem to be impractical or hindrances for progress. Gandhian thoughts on environment came with practice towards better air, water, land & quality of life. They were far ahead of time to be hash tagged as sustainable. They were not with extremism, as environmentalism did not exist before industrialism.
As early as 1924, Gandhi remarked, “In nature there is fundamental unity running through all the diversity we see about us”
The developed nations have chosen lifestyles at the cost of all resources of developing nations. To enlarge the gulf between rich & poor they continue to send in their waste to developing countries. Before India gained independence, Gandhi was once asked if he expected India to attain the same standard of living as Britain. Gandhi replied, “It took Britain half the planet to achieve this prosperity. How many planets will a country like India require!” On another occasion he said, “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million (population of India at that time) took to similar economic exploitation it would strip the world bare like locusts.” This thought needs to be mutually respected by today’s youth of developed & developing nations.
The Mahatma, was averse to India following the west blindly, but was for judicious use of science and technology for the good & well being of human kind as long as it did not ruin the balance in nature. To keep all the science simple he said, “The earth provides enough for everyman’s needs but not for everyman’s greed.” Those are simple words for today’s consumerism issues.
Comprehending the needs of progress Gandhian views brought in the understanding that production should be by masses & not mass production; production should be need oriented & not greed oriented.
I am born in the age where online shopping is a reality and these days it seems fashionable to call oneself environmentalist. Even if one were to uphold these modern day concepts one could practice Gandhian thoughts as he said, “all should make it a point of honour to use only village articles whenever & wherever available. Given the demand there is no doubt that most of our wants can be supplied by villages. When we become village minded we shall not want imitations from West or machine-made products.”
Shiv Vishwanathan’s interpretations on Gandhian science says, “Gandhi was never sentimental about nature. He realized that most forms of work involve some violence to nature but one must seek to minimize it.”
Dr. Khoshoo & Prof. Moolakkattu analyze that Gandian environmental thoughts and ideas of village self-sufficiency & self-reliance provide us a powerful way to resist the forces of globalization that are extractive and exploitative of people & natural resources.
This Gandhi Jayanti there is a need to ponder upon Gandhian values instead of merely garlanding portraits and try to translate his ecofriendly approach into real life.
To sum up with the Mahatma’s words “Wildlife is decreasing in the jungles, but it is increasing in the towns.”