What On Earth!!

We welcome Earth Day, which falls on 22nd April this year, with a feeling of shame and a sense of apology. Man, yet again, has proven to be man’s greatest enemy, leaving all of humanity praying for the ongoing Pandemic, which has claimed over a lakh of innocent lives, to tide over soon so that life can resume normalcy. Man’s greedy and selfish acts have unleashed upon us an unknown monster in COVID-19. Ruby Lilaowala shares her thoughts as we head towards ‘Earth Day 2020’.

Everywhere in Nature, there is perfect unity and harmony. Only humans are destructive. We destroy various species of birds, animals, even entire forests. Today, there are hardly any one-horned rhinos left in Assam because they have been ruthlessly hunted down, in the belief that their horns have aphrodisiacal properties! The number of migratory birds in India is dwindling due to pollution and rising sound-decibels.

Animals, trees, plants, birds, rivers and lakes are our natural resources, our national wealth. India was once among the top ten, mega-centres of biological diversity. Today, as per satellite imagery, we have only 15% of the land area as forests. Ecological destruction is a dangerous game we have been playing; we don’t seem to care for Mother Earth, who is worshipped in India as ‘Vasundhara’.

The great philosopher, Pythagoras, had declared that as long as man slaughters plants and animals, he shall know no peace or health. Today, trees are slaughtered to make helipads for the rich and influential VIPs ; animals are slaughtered in the name of religion, custom and cruel games. The question raised in the story of Prince Siddhartha and the swan is relevant today… he had asked, “Who is the owner of life? The one who destroys it or the one who protects and preserves it?”

From a legal standpoint, article 51 A (g) of  the Indian Constitution envisages the fundamental duties of an Indian citizen, as under, “To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.” And yet, the leather industry in Kanpur causes massive pollution in the river Ganges which results in ailments of body and skin, lung-damage, breathing problems, cancer, jaundice, heart and kidney problems. Due to the prosecution of factory owners, this menace has stopped to a great extent now, but not completely. The Ganga-Plan had obtained injunction orders from the Supreme Court to ban these leather tanneries – but what happened? Chalta hai, Hota hai – some factories are still not fully following court directives.

Our country, the land of sages, hrishis and munis has the great tradition of Ahimsa – kindness, compassion and non-violence. The Shanti Mantra prays for peace for everything on Mother Earth, all creatures, sentient beings, bipeds, quadrupeds and vegetation. Indians have never considered plants as lifeless. In fact, we worship the Banyan tree whose roots are supposed to be Lord Shiva’s hair. Indian women worship the Tulsi. In Abhigyan Shakuntalam, Kalidas describes how Shakuntala says goodbye to every plant in the Ashram by caressing it.

Earth Day is a commitment to make life better, not just bigger and faster; to provide real rather than rhetorical solutions. It’s a day to re-examine the ethic of individual progress at mankind’s expense. A day to challenge the corporate and government leaders who promise change but who shortchange the necessary programs… a day for looking beyond tomorrow and putting a stop right here, right now, to polluting factories and power-plants, sewage, pesticides, illegal constructions, toxic dumps, loss of forests, oil spills and loss of wildlife.

We all have major role to play in Mother Earth’s eco-system. We must respect the unity of all in life. We’re all made of Earth’s five elements and ecologically, the entire Universe, including various kingdoms – like plants, minerals, animals and birds, are inter-connected. Let each one of us commit to doing something, however small, to protect our home, our planet, Mother Earth who feeds and sustains us in Divine order!

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