February 22, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Nature based resilience to climate change: the message from the eastern wisdom

The Nepal Weekly
June 20, 2023

By Sunil Kumar Manandhar and Shirish Ballav Pradhan

Climate change is nothing but the result of excessive human activities or the over exploitation of the mother Earth or nature. We can identify two main causes of climate change: one is through natural process and the other is through human intervention. Our Earth has passed through many phases like cold period also known as ‘Ice Age’ and warm period also known as Interglacial, which occurs in rotation over the period of hundreds of thousands of years. These are natural changes on the pattern of climate, which takes place gradually. But with the intervention of humans these changes take place in a faster speed. Therefore, scientists have warned that if the current trend continues the Earth’s average temperature may rise by 2 degree or above as compared to the pre-Industrial Revolution era. The greenhouse gasses omitted by vehicular smoke, freeze, air-conditioners, air-coolers and burning of coal are the main causes of such green-house effects. If the Earth’s surface warms up in an abnormal way, then the ice caps in the mountains will melt, glacial lakes may burst and the sea level may rise resulting in many devastating effects in human life.

However, our Eastern culture, religion and philosophy teach us to respect mother Earth and the Nature. The Eastern philosophy calls for preservation of biodiversity and conservation of nature. In Hindu religion and culture, we worship dogs among mammals, crows among birds and snakes among reptiles in special occasions. Similarly, cow is worshiped in the form of Goddess Laxmi as she gives nutritious milk, her dung is used as fuel in rural areas and her urine is also believed to have medicinal values.

In the Vedas, there is mention about eight forms of Gods, whom we worship during our day to day life such as Earth, Sun, Moon, Water, Air, Fire, Sky and all the creatures in the form of Ashta Murti or eight types of Gods. Special plants and herbs like Pipal tree and Tulasi leaves worshiped by both the Hindus and the Buddhists during auspicious occasions have high oxygen content as well as medicinal values.

In Atharva Veda there is a hymn under the section of Bhumi Shukta, which goes on saying, “Earth is our mother and we are her sons, the clouds are the father, who protects us.” In this way our religion and our culture teaches us to respect and protect mother Nature and the Earth. Thus, we need to respect Earth as our mother and preserve her for the future generations. The Atharva Veda also elaborately describes about how the Earth gives us life, energy, vitality, water, food, shelter and many more. We worship Earth, water, fire, Sun, Moon etc. for their valuable contributions in making our life healthy, happy, prosperous and peaceful.

In Bhagwat Mahapuran, there is a story of the Earth appearing in the form of a cow before King Prithu to teach him the lessons on conservation during the time of famine in ancient period, which is even relevant today. As King Prithu reigns the Earth taking the form of cow hides rice, herbs and other valuable items saying that, she has kept them for the future generations. Before releasing the natural gifts to King Prithu, she teaches him lessons on conservation. She says she has preserved things for the future as bad people started looting everything including food items and herbs without thinking about the future. She asks the King to dig the Earth and manage water for irrigation and allocate separate land for habitat, animal husbandry, agricultural cultivation, forest and so on.

There is a hymn in Ishawashyopanishad, which says, “Ishawashyomidamsarvam Yetkinchajagatyamjagat, Tentyaktenbhunjitha Magriddha Kasyaswiddhanam.” The meaning of the hymn is as follows:

Everything in this Universe, movable and immovable thing, is overwhelmed by God or Ishwara. Therefore, consume whatever you need with an attitude of renunciation, don’t be greedy and accumulate things unnecessarily because, whom does these wealth and consumable things belong to, neither me nor you. Thus, the Vedas teach us to fulfill our minimum basic needs and leave the rest for other people or creatures. In this way the Eastern philosophy teaches us to live a balanced life maintaining harmony with the nature. The Earth not only nourishes us, but also nurtures us and does whatever needed to support life on this planet.

The Vedic philosophy envisions three worlds: the physical Earth or the visible world, the Sukshma Sansara or the subtle world consisting of our mind and intermediary space and the higher space or celestial being. This has corresponding relationship with the individual, who have physical body or the body made of Anna or food, the mental and emotional body and the innermost part or soul. Nature based resilience to climate change is the message of the eastern philosophy.

There is a concept in the Vedas which says Yat-Pindey Tat-Bramhande. This means whatever exists within the body also exists outside in the Universe. It suggests us to strike a balance between the Macro-cosm and the Micro-cosm.

So, if we go for exploiting the resources available in the nature only to fulfill our unlimited desire, then one day everything will vanish from the Earth or there will be scarcity of everything, from water to food, from fuel to oxygen. Therefore, we need to consume minimum things that is needed for our survival. Continuous exploitation of Nature will take us nowhere. Today we are witnessing many extremities in the Nature. There is extreme heat in one region and extreme coldness in another region, extreme rain and flood in one place while extreme drought and desertification in another place. These days we are having untimely rain, unpredictable flood, untimely drought, unusual heat and so on. We human beings are responsible for all these abnormal happenings.

We are making more and more wastage as we make progress in life, we are disposing garbage hither and thither without taking care of the nature. Our cities have become concrete jungles and our villages have become dust-bean for plastics. This way we are making the planet unhealthy and unlivable. We are handing over the dirtiest, ugliest and disaster-prone Earth to our sons and grandsons. Then how can we call ourselves developed or civilized human beings?