To The Fresh Graduate: From one who was one, 40 odd years ago


We didn’t know so many things that are now known. And so much there was to see, we could not see or didn’t want to see.

   Economic Growth – in which our generation has contributed to various degrees, in different ways, has, in this period, been drawing on the mined bounty in its last legs. The supply of mined non-renewable resources – petrol, gas, diesel coal, all ores etc come in this category- keeps rising and peaks and then declines. We have used up the last of the rise.

   You stand on a new ground- very much different from ours. The entire capital infrastructure built for extraction – will be useless.

   A totally different set of resource bases, a different set of human resources, a different set of social arrangements, a different kind of economics, an altogether different kind of production, consumption, entertainment, employment, engagement are called for.

   One major fault in our approach has been isolating problems and working at it. This way of functioning is very good for multiplying problems and intensifying them. What we weren’t able to do and I fervently hope you will be able to is, bring every related aspect to the table and all the complex interlinkages. It may appear too much but when we actually work this way one good step brings returns from multiple quarters and the beautiful bottom-line of absolutely not generating problems with anything we do. Life can only get better.

   One handicap that you share with us – is what we have become in these times of heightened individualism. It makes us rather blind. It doesn’t allow for any sensitivity to see the repercussions of anything we do. Since the repercussions of what we did will visit you, you stand a better chance of acting wisely. Sorry we didn’t.

   Self centredness is at the root of all problems. Our work outside would need to be guided by the work we do within.

   You are at a highly critical juncture. What you do will have a far reaching effect. It can save millions of humans from great misery and save many life forms on this earth. I can’t even imagine how much of everything rests on you.

   Given habit, and pre existing short-sighted arrangements there will still be a trend pushing to continue past ways. Those far sighted will get off the destructive mores faster. Others will still continue the drag which you would need to bear and change.

   There have been many people in the past and now, who saw we were heading the wrong way. So we have something to draw on.

   I list some that I have come across (mostly books by them).

1. Kropotkin

2. Rachel Carson

3. Albert Howard

4. M.K.Gandhi

5. J. C. Kumarappa

6.  Bill Mollison

7. Wendell Berry

8. Mansoor Khan

9. Fukuoka

10. E. F. Schumacher

11. Ted Turner

12. Herman Daly

13. Amitava Ghosh

14. T. Vijayendra

15. Venkat

   Sustainable Future is inextricably intertwined with an Equitable Future.

   Equity is a tougher nut to crack. People who have drawn on Marx and/or Ambedkar too are combining ecology in their visions of an Equitable Future. I am yet to familiarise myself with this aspect.

   At a personal level I have drawn much inspiration from the Dalit community and derived a great deal of strength from them. Society will have to look to them to pick up knowledge, skills and attitudes that the major most task of repairing ecology will require. After majorly achieving this we can aspire for luxury of living simply like the Tribals. Right now the natural resource bases for that are just not there. We will have to regenerate them.

   For the transformation within, you may listen to J. Krishnamurti.

(Note: This was originally addressed to the fresh graduates of Institute of Rural management, Anand by Usha Rao who is a veteran alumnus (1982-84) of IRMA.

Usha Rao (1961- ) was born in Khadki, a cantonment town near Pune. She did her schooling in Kendriya Vidyalaya, her Maths. Hons. from Calcutta and post graduate diploma in rural management from Institute of Rural management, Anand. For the last 18 years she has been working on land, initially in Telangana and now since the last 6 years in Chikkaballapur, Karnataka. She finds it delightful to play tag with nature at making soil come alive and to get soil onto a growing fertility cycle. She is seriously worried that we are not making a society that can keep that cycle going. You can reach her: [email protected]


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