This article is part of the opinion column – Beyond the West – where we explore an indigenous perspective on the Indian diaspora.
The environment is a universal concern.
However, universal environmental protection is short-sighted, monopoly and hegemonic. It overlooks native and indigenous solutions and, as such, is a recipe for disaster.
We all relate to our surroundings differently. However, today’s environmental protection is based on the anthropocentric approach of the West. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, anthropocentrism as a religious and philosophical doctrine states that “human life has an intrinsic value, while other beings (including animals, plants, natural resources, etc.) are resources that can rightly be exploited for the benefit of mankind. ”
The destruction of ancient paganism was a turning point in environmental protection. Before the advent of Christianity, both as a religion and as a political power, there was no distinction between nature and the divine in widespread pagan societies. Pagans believed in God’s transcendence in the elements of nature. The term “holy grove” is, however, a foreign word in the West. Furthermore, Marxism, liberalism, neoliberalism, etc. are also an extension of the same anthropocentric ideology. They consider humanity to be central and the most important in the world.
What is considered modern and scientific in our daily life today is primarily based on Christian theology. The implicit belief in constant progress dominates our lifestyle, our behavior and our future planning. Within this paradigm, man’s fate is to hope for a future shaped by science, technology, the promise of more progress, and the doomsday prophecies.
Modern technology is also a means to an end. The more urgent the attitude and the will to control nature become, the more the technology threatens to escape human control. In the end, we strengthen our political class as it promises to make things better with newer advanced technologies, as well as catchy phrases and slogans.
Such thinking was unknown neither to pagan Greco-Roman antiquity nor to the indigenous civilizations of the so-called Orient. The indigenous care of nature goes far beyond the shrill environmental protection. This care is deeply rooted in culture, “religion” and spiritualism. Native cultures like Hinduism have long lived in harmony with their surroundings. They take into account ecological limits, constraints and the limits of nature and do not withdraw more from nature than necessary. There is an element of awe of the earth and other elements of nature that guide it. Native cultures have developed a complex system for using and maintaining ecology. The use of low intensity burns, regenerative harvesting, etc. by Native American communities are examples of indigenous environmental protection.
Bishnoi wife (Image from Permaculture News)
As for Hindus, long before a modern environmental protocol was ever signed, it is the Bhoomisuktam (hymn of Mother Earth) of the Atharva Veda that provides a framework for environmental protection. Bhoomisuktam was composed more than 3,000 years ago and is considered the oldest environmental protocol. The sukta consists of 63 verses. These verses provide a framework for understanding and respecting Mother Earth and her environment. The Sukta recognizes the earth for all of its gifts such as plants and herbs; Rivers and farmland for food; and animals for milk, honey, etc. But the caller of the verses goes a step further and states that despite receiving all of these blessings, he has no intention of harming Mother Earth in any way. The Sukta gives Mother Earth the assurance of a rational use of her resources.
According to Hinduism, much of our interaction with the elements of nature is based on Dharma: the rules of ethical behavior. Such behavior is not based on rights, but on obligations. Pankaj Jain in his book Dharma and ecology of Hindu communities describes three communities in India that have actively and consciously worked to protect and protect the environment as part of their cultural and religious ideology. These communities include the Swadhyayis, Bishnois, and Bhils.
The Swadhyayis reject environmental protection. Her mission is to “create and spread awe of people, animals, trees, earth, nature and the entire universe in general”.
Similarly, the Bishnoi community was founded by a 15th century Guru Jambheshwara who spread the teachings of protection and living in harmony with nature. Bhils, on the other hand, have protected their sacred groves for generations.
According to Indian environmentalist and author of the book Good news IndiaDV Sridharan: “One does not restore nature, one only watches against the interruption of the relentless act of nature to establish a fair and lawful balance.” Hindus believe that an avatar “offloads” the earth when the imbalance reaches a critical point and the balance beyond salvation is broken.
Unless the environmental concerns enable individuals and communities around the world to find their indigenous solutions locally, the answer to these concerns will always evade us.
Avatans Kumar is a columnist, speaker and activist. He frequently writes in a variety of media on the subjects of language and linguistics, culture, religion, Indian knowledge and current affairs.