Nature has been desperately trying to tell us something very important. When even desperate calls go unheeded, what does the caller do? It is likely that the caller will yell even more loudly, jump and throw around limbs and legs, and when all this fails, will even turn violent. This is exactly what nature has been doing recently—in the form of increasingly ferocious floods and cyclones, storms and wild fires.
But what exactly is nature trying to say? If only we care to listen, nature has been trying for several past decades to tell humanity, to plead to and to implore humanity not to place too much burden on her. It has been trying to say that I have been supporting you and other life-forms for tens of thousands of years, please do not respond to my generosity by ravaging and plundering me so badly. If you continue to do so, you will not just hurt and insult me very badly, you will also steadily diminish my ability to keep on supporting you and other life-forms, even if I want to go on doing so. With the kind of burden and plunder you are inflicting on me, you are steadily diminishing and ultimately destroying my ability to continue to support you in the way I have done for tens of thousands of years, and even much longer in the case of many other life forms.
If we listen to this desperate pleading of nature, then what exactly should we do with a sense of urgency? Clearly we should try to reduce this burden to a significant extent. So where do we make this beginning? Shall we do this among those people who are poor and deprived of meeting their basic needs? Certainly not. They need to have increased, not decreased access to various goods and services so that they are able to meet all their basic needs.
So to respond to nature’s plea for reducing the excessive burden on her, we will have to turn to those people who are indulging in such wasteful, excessive and even self-damaging consumption that this does not really add to their welfare or to the welfare of anyone else in any meaningful sense. We will have to find ways of ensuring that these people are educated not to impose excessive burden on nature, but if they refuse to be educated then various other means have to be found so that they can be stopped from imposing excessive burden on nature.
Then there is the question of which methods, materials and tools are used by humanity to meet its various needs. It is possible for people to use those methods, materials and tools which are protective towards nature to a large extent. When they are conscious of the need to be protective towards nature, they keep improving their methods, materials and tools keeping in view these protective objectives. However serious problems arise when some powerful persons gain control over some methods, materials and tools and then start insisting, for their selfish interests, that everyone has to use these only, even if these are proved to be destructive towards nature. When this happens, and this has been happening increasingly, then the burdens on nature and injuries caused to nature increase too much. More healthy food can be produced without injuring nature, more healthy clothes can be produced without injuring nature but powerful people insist on nature injuring methods for their selfish reasons and they are able to have their way. This has to be checked.
Nature is burdened too much, also ravaged and injured, not only because some of the people consume too much but also because they fight too much. The two tendencies are actually related. As nature does not have enough to satisfy the greed of so many people, those who over-consume have an instinctive (not natural) tendency to snatch the share of others, and this inevitably leads to fighting. As such human beings are often very clever too, they have been trying to find more and more destructive ways of snatching and fighting, which in turn also leads their victims to try to do. As a result weapons are becoming more and more destructive and the processes of manufacturing or stockpiling them and fighting wars with them are becoming more and more destructive and burdensome towards nature as well. In all this there is no addition to human welfare, only diminution.
Nature has been trying to tell us all this, has been trying to plead and implore, nature has been crying and wailing, but humanity has not listened so far, only gone on increasing its destructive ways, and the year 2022 has been particularly worrying in this context.
Is it possible to mend the ways of humanity, and in particular of its most greedy, self-centered, aggressive and destructive members who have been able to undo the noble and protective work of other members as a result of their greater power, before it is too late?
This is a question to which we must attend with the greatest urgency.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Planet, Protecting Earth for Children, A Day in 2071 and Earth without Boundaries.