Although we engage ourselves in our busy lives, how often do we stop to consider how much of an effect the environment plays on it? Now is the opportunity to think for a minute about the importance of the environment to our survival.
The two-atoms molecule of oxygen, very small in size, is the basis of our survival. It would take a couple of minutes for our bodies to collapse if we didn’t have it. This is simply one of the uncountable ways in which the environment plays a role in our lives. This article stresses the importance of living a sustainable life for the greater good of all.
The universe can be loosely classified into panchtattvas i.e. five basic elements - Earth, Water, Fire, Sky, Ether. These five elements form the warp and woof of everything starting from our body to the entire cosmos.
The fate of human consciousness will be decided by the fate of all these panchtattvas. For the collective good of humanity and every living species in our universe, protection of these panchtattvas should be the Dharma (righteous duty) of every conscious and evolved creature.
The law of karma governs the universe and nature is giving back humanity’s wrongdoings of the past in one form or the other. Climate change is a clear example of such a payback.
The extreme materialistic mindset of exploiting whatever we have to achieve profit is bearing fruit. Nature has its own ways and means of conducting itself and if an external force tries to meddle with it, it is rewarded with its extinction. In the right context, this extinction can be of the human species.
Climate has always been dynamic, but for the first time in the history of mankind, the change is a result of human efforts. The globe has warmed up by 1.2 degrees since pre-industrial periods with higher rates in the past 50 years. Glaciers and large bodies of ice are melting, contributing to the increase in the water levels around the coasts.
Locations like California and Florida will soon be gone if we don’t take this problem seriously enough. The primary contributors are ever increasing CO2 and CH4. Given the problem, the world is moving in a direction to lower the Carbon footprint by reducing the use of fossil fuels which are the primary contributors of greenhouse gasses.
In this arena, we as individuals can achieve more than the billion-dollar investments. As per data from The Millennium Project, the livestock sector emits 14.5-18 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions compared to 14 per cent from the transportation sector. By those numbers alone, our current system of meat production is extremely damaging and eating less meat is much more easily accomplished than converting our entire country's infrastructure to run off of renewable energy although we still need to be moving in that direction.
Our future is in our hands. Currently, there are roughly 50 billion chickens alive whose fate is destined to be in your local supermarket. The similar effects are caused by the consumption of livestock such as pigs and cows and other animals.
Certainly, there are some economic benefits of meat consumption for poor populations such as high protein density and essential vitamins like B12. However, meat consumption has health negatives such as colorectal, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even early death. Besides, these meat products come with really good and Umami taste, which may be another reason for an individual’s inability to give it up despite knowing the consequences. Processed meat is already termed as “carcinogenic to humans”. Considering the water footprint of crops versus meat, vegetables and starchy roots require 10 times less water as bovine meat, one-third of chicken meat, and half of pig meat.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to reform our diet and make it in sync with nature.
There are many ways forward that can potentially mitigate the crisis and bring back the primitive earth. The focus on sustainable development with initiatives on green energy and adapting to a way of life that is more natural to the environment will eventually lead to a greater good for all.
The first one is doing its bit. However, we are still far away from the way of life which we should be living. We have a lot to learn from our history and some of our ancient practices.
The way of one’s life should be such that it is complementary to the environment rather than being a burden on it.
We should look back to the great practised values by our ancestors such as ahimsa and sambhav, which translates to “nonviolence”, and “treating each species equally respectively. These values are very important to establish deep harmony among all the living creatures and the environment.
It is high time to look forward to the teachings of the Vedas which always stressed the conscious use of nature, but not exploitation. Let us all have a look at the Advaita Vedanta philosophy which believes that the soul and the universe are a part of the divine almighty, meaning each and every living species has a part of the divine in itself.
A book by Anupam Misra Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talab shows an inspiring tradition of saving and conserving rainwater by ponds carried out by various tribes throughout India 300 years back.
Similarly, there are many documented practices in Hindu tradition which can also help us guide the way forward. One such example is the Bhoomisuktam meaning ‘hymn of the mother Earth’ of the Atharva Veda. Written more than 3,000 years ago, Bhoomisuktam is the oldest documented environmental protocol.
In conclusion, the article underscores the indistinguishability of environment and dharma. If an individual practices dharma, the wellbeing of the environment will be its consequence.
Authors want to thank Praneeth Madhu for his help.
Anshul Kamboj is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan (UM), Ann Arbor. Akshay Jajoo is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of computer science at Purdue University.
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