Since last seven months, we have witnessed numerous life-threatening natural and manmade disasters. However, with Covid-19 we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation. Sudden halt of all the human activities has reduced human interaction with the nature to a negligible level. Subsequent improvement in air & river water quality and reduction in pollution levels are proof that current human interaction with nature needs revaluation. Though the improvement has been widely noticed and acknowledged, these improvements may be short lived. In the aftermath of Covid-19, all the nations including Indian government will be under tremendous pressure to revive their economies. Various reports and historic data suggest that sudden economic growth in the aftermath of a major economic crisis have led to the destruction of the environment in an unprecedented way.
As we all are aware, manufacturing and infrastructure development have always been at the core of the push. With negative sentiment towards China, I believe India will become the preferred destination and Make in India will get the much-needed push. If we recall, a similar push post-2008 crisis led to great environmental deterioration. Thus, we need to work on an approach towards a better economic and environmental future. To ensure long term sustainable positive environmental effects and no further degradation, our approach towards nature needs a complete rehaul.
The humans have been extreme self-interested for quite some time and the efforts to integrate with the ecosystem have been minimal. Such an approach is affecting the humans themselves, and I believe it’s time to change that approach and adopt a comprehensive more comprehensive model, “Vasudhinity”. This term is a mix of Vasudha (Sanskrit): Earth + Unity. This word incapsulated the Gandhian principle of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”. The idea of “Vasudhinity” revolves around the balance between the ecosystem and human interaction. Under the Vasudhinity approach, collectivism rather than individualism is prioritized. Currently, all the corporates have been focusing on higher returns at the cost of environment. Though environmental standards have been created they are often challenged in the backdrop of job and economic loss which fails the entire purpose of those standards. This leads to monetization and depletion of common resources such as lakes, seas, oceans, air, forests, etc. The human greed has already expedited the extinction of thousands of animals and plant species and destruction of numerous ecosystems.
Currently, the world is reeling under Covid-19 pandemic, and all the economic packages announced by various nations will act as band-aids and quick fixes. However, the world needs a new model (or probably the old form), which is deep-rooted in the cohesion of the humans and nature. For instance, the ancient treatment practice of Ayurveda, which has been gaining momentum recently, addresses the problem at it roots through natural ways. It is also important to note that the treatment also focuses on over all improvement of the immunity, and thus in turn also resolves various other ailments. In a similar manner, the earth and all the organisms living in it need an economic ‘Ayurvedic treatment’, which not only heals the wounds but also does it in natural way and helps strengthen the world at large. I believe that Vasudhinity has the capacity to transform into such treatment and lead the world to be a better place for both humans and nature. Some economists and thinkers are working towards new economic models with the concept of Vasudhinity as the current theories have failed to provide holistic development.
The current economic policies have not only pushed people and countries across the world to inequality but also caused the degradation of environment and nature. These policies have led to famines, an increase in natural disasters, and mass migrations. It is ironic that food gets rotten across the world in warehouses but is not distributed at lower prices as letting it rot is more economic in comparison to saving fellow human lives. Adoption of Vasudhinity, as a philosophy, will change that. The philosophical transition from humanity and human-centric approach to a collective approach of Vasudhinity will not be an easy. Collectively, we all will have to change from economic centric approach to Vasudhinity centric approach. In this approach, we shall not see humans above nature but as a part of it. We need to understand that our unique ability to think and invent must be utilized for the upliftment of the society as whole and not affect nature’s settings. Thus, food wastage will not be evaluated from the narrow view of economics but from a broad view of existence, balance, and conservation of nature.
The current policymakers and corporates function with an extremely narrow vision of 5-10 years. They do not envision that the repercussions of our actions today will be borne by future generations. Though there is a lot of discussion surrounding how we sustain future generations, are we doing anything really? The core idea of Vasudhinity resonates with the oneness of nature, and when we become one with nature the exploitation of nature becomes our own exploitation. In this philosophy, the policy and corporate planning will shift from the narrow vision growth of 5-10 years onto the long term repercussions of current decisions.
During the current lockdown, we are witnessing a social change, and all the citizens across the world are now leaning towards coexistence. People have got the opportunity to understand and see the impact of our mindless actions on our own physical and social health along with nature. Various examples of reduction in pollution levels, rekindling of natural life, increased sightings of rare animals have motivated everyone to think about the impact of human activities on nature. Many people across the world are realizing that the idea of unity and equality with nature is critical not for our existence but also for the better future of coming generations. They are considering the possibility of a healthy coexisting ecosystem. “Vasudhinity” as an idea and as a word may act as a guiding principle for all those people. The philosophy of Vasudhinity also believes in the fundamentals of unity and equality of human species as a whole and not fragmentation based on lands, caste, creed, colour, sexuality, etc. As nature always accepts every animal, plant and species without demarcation, we humans will also have to embrace the nature in the same manner. Such equality will be the first step towards the core idea of oneness with nature.
I belong to the holy town of Haridwar in India, and in the last 32 years I have witnessed the exploitation of ‘Maa’ Ganga and poor tourists at the hands of corporates and capitalists. The visual transformation in the rivers is proof of the level of exploitation. I believe that the philosophy of Vasudhinity might be instrumental in bringing a change. It may help bring a transformation by which we might start to understand our interaction with nature at a greater level. Currently, we treat nature as a separate entity and thus shift our responsibilities to other institutions such as government and administration. However, if we treat nature as our own extension, the intrinsic sense of belongingness will translate into responsibility. In addition, if the idea of Vasudhinity grows into a community thinking, many people will start giving weightage to the core principles behind it and may even start following the same. For instance, people along the riverbanks including tourists must be made to understand that the amount of waste generated by them directly impacts the waste in the river. If they think on those lines, we might see a decrease in the overall waste production. One might argue that people already know such conservation principles but chose to ignore them. However, if we apply Vasudhinity as an overarching principle in the economy, people might follow it.
Quite a few philosophies and ideologies propagated across the world fall under the core ideas of nature, climate change, and equality. On the other hand, Vasudhinity goes further and encapsulates everything into existential change. And this existential change is not just for humans, but the entire nature. I believe the current situation is apt for the philosophy of Vasudhinity to be promoted, thus pushing for economic and environmental integration. Vasudhinity may act as an umbrella for the other philosophies too, and therefore, it must be the global guiding principle for the post-Covid-19 era. This may mark the beginning of global resolve towards existential equality.
-Rahul Garg (One of the prize winners of Covid-19 Article Writing Competition in the 25-34 years age group)
Picture Credits: krishnauniverse.com