Reflections on World Environment Day 2023


Dr Rao VBJ Chelikani 

The United Nations Organisation has declared this Day, after a series of consultations with member-states as well as with Non-Governmental Organisations across the world, in order to provide a platform for an annual review of the issue of our pre-occupation or the concept, as well as to a review of the past efforts for future orientation. The following remarks would be limited to challenging some old myths and inviting the readers to reflect afresh and adopt appropriate attitudes towards nature.

           Metaphysical Dialectics is a science of the general process of change and transformation, not only in society and in human thought, but also in the external world. That is to say, it applies to nature and society as we learn from astronomy, geology, chemistry, or biology. Apart from the Upanishads, ancient Jain and Buddhist texts have also dealt with spiritual, idealistic and materialistic aspects of dialectics. The most revolutionary theory of the Evolution of Nature as discovered by Charles Darwin is not without being referred to by the Puranic literature of the Gupta period in Indian history, as it is symbolised in its concept of the evolution of Dasaavataras. Our space explorations and scientific studies confirm that it is a cosmological phenomenon. Everything is in motion and is changing its form. Everything has its life span and then, it transforms itself into something else. Even planets, stars, galaxies and black holes have a life span. Hence, evolution is a universal fact, even though we still do not know why this is happening at all. As an integral part of it, the environment and the human beings in it are also subjected to the same evolution for the past several hundreds of crores of years. But, only in the past ten to fifteen thousand years, human beings started coming out of the forests and started wandering, and, especially when they started settling near the riverbeds and plains, this phase of evolution came to be recognised as man-centred, anthropomorphic.

             In other words, the changes in the human being are taking place at a faster rate than the visible and invisible changes in all other features and other phenomena in nature. Changes in human beings are causing changes in nature, as the human being is managing them to his convenience, comfort and aspirations. Consequently, mankind made immense progress in terms of its quality of life, by intelligently exploiting nature exclusively to his advantage. The cultivation of carbohydrate-rich potatoes by European farmers some three hundred years ago transformed the life of households. Similarly, the use of plastics consisting of organic polymers of high molecular mass and low-density alumini um metal has made the life of many millions of people, especially in developing countries, easy and simple. There is, hence no reason to feel guilty about the secondary effects. Industrialisation, however indiscriminate, has increased human security and longevity and practically eradicated deprivation, poverty and physical suffering among most human communities. If a community or a country has not benefited from this social progress, it is entirely the fault of their political leaders.

          Though there is an atavistic relationship between nature and the human being, since the human being came out of nature, we are, nevertheless, no more poly-theistic worshippers of nature and its thunders and lightings do not lead to awe and fear in us. At the same time, we cannot hold nature without changing itself. We should not entertain the concept of restituting nature, as it had been at any time in the past, based on our religious constructs that God had created it once and for all.

            Now, however, it is a fact that we are facing a global crisis due to accumulated negative effects on our Climate and due to various prevailing pollutions that were not foreseen by our last two to three generations who were eager to improve the material conditions of living. At that time, our scientific knowledge and technological tools were also not adequately advanced. But, now we have to urgently tackle the problems and avoid dangers we are likely to face. And we can tackle them, as we have mean while acquired adequate scientific knowledge, technical tools and human and material resources to allocate to solve our problems.


           But in this world, nothing is holier than the human being. In our immediate environment, we have to make many changes and nurture nature so as to avoid damage to human welfare. Now given the crisis, we have to mitigate some changes and adopt others and change accordingly our lifestyles, so that there is harmony in our living conditions. We can also change the negative changes that are occurring in nature. We can even prolong the life of the planet and protect it from any collision with any meteorite. Recently, we could successfully deviate slightly from the path of a meteorite with the help of rockets away from the planet Earth. If our governments invest more of our tax money on scientific research and technological development rather than in unproductive freebies, we can prepare ourselves to avoid all kinds of catastrophes. Yet, without waiting for the governments to give attention to these issues, we, as global citizens can express directly our will and cooperate immediately with our citizens locally and globally. Especially, the middle class urban residents who aspire for a higher standard of living and better quality of life have to constantly harmonise their lifestyles by mitigating and adopting the changes that are taking place in the environment and society. It requires positive actions, reactions, interactions and cooperation in the interests of human progress, which is uninterruptedly taking place at an increasingly faster rate for the past fifty years with the help of Information Technology. 


           All said and done, it is imperative that we continue to live in nature and with nature in close contact. We love nature for all the benefits it can procure to humans due to our very long contact in the past. Constant communication with nature with all its five clean elements is indispensable. We should make all the animals and birds in nature to continue their Evolution, while keeping them human-friendly; since their contact would have a smoothening effect on the human mind, particularly in the faster life that we are leading.     


II.       This year’s World Heritage Day on 18th April had as its theme "Heritage Changes." Since natural environment is also a part of our heritage since most of the communities identify themselves with the natural landscape in which once they lived or continue to live. On the occasion of the UN observance for World Heritage, including natural and material heritage, let us be practical, purposeful and visionary. All human achievements of the past that we want to remember and which procure aesthetic pleasure to us and cultural enrichment for future generations are only to be considered the heritage of the entire humankind. We cannot promote anymore specifically nationalistic history and culture in this globalised world. Anything, on the other hand, that belongs to a particular individual, a family, or a specific community cannot remain specific and unique without leading to eternal and universal values. Beauty is forever and for all times to come, and it is a contribution to universal values. Yet, we cannot guarantee the validity of our perception for the future. We cannot afford to select and project things that remind all the bad and ugly things that some of our ancestors have done, such as invasions, looting, destruction, massacres and oppression.


        The illicit trafficking of artifacts and cultural objects, pillaging of archaeological sites, and destruction of historical buildings and monuments caused irreparable damage to the cultural heritage of mankind. But, trying to preserve all that existed in the past and attempting to reproduce, repeat or rectify or even take vengeance for what had happened in the past would be a futile effort. The past has to be selected and made relevant to the present needs for building harmonious human communities. We all should abide by the international conventions adopted by UNESCO on the protection of cultural heritage and foster intercultural understanding while stressing the importance of international cooperation.  


              Before us, there is no other priority than striving for future transformations in nature, as well as in society. The Resident Welfare Associations, the Senior Citizens Associations and other civil society organisations, in short, all the urban residents in Hyderabad should reflect and act with such a dynamic and lucid attitude.        

Image courtesy : Microsoft Stock Library

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