It is generally easy to take sides, or sometimes take action, when we see direct physical violence being perpetrated. We see it every day in family squabbles and in the millions of cases pending in our courts. The world witnessed it on a massive scale when President Bush attacked Iraq, and the whole world seemed divided into those who supported him and those who did not.
Most literate people who know the word ‘biodiversity’ will agree today that it is essential for long-term survival of humankind. Tribals and traditional farmers and many others living close to nature probably know this truth in their bones. Biodiversity is essential for our basic survival needs of food and health.
Our modern globalised economic world has failed our children terribly. 1.5 million children die of hunger every year around the world, 28% of children in developing countries are malnourished, and millions are without drinking water, or in abject poverty. Why is it that a relentless focus on economic growth has not trickled down in all these decades as promised by economic globalization to those most in need? Even with middle-class citizens, while the modern world may have brought us many comforts, conveniences and toys, it has brought in many new problems and anxieties as well.
The state uses its muscle poer to quell the thousands of protesters in Koodamkulam, villagers in Omkareswar, had to stand for 17days in 'jal satyagraha' in the water to fight for their legitimate and constitutional rights for rehabilitation on being ousted from their lands and livelihood. Several people following Anna Hazare and others go on a fast every now and then to fight against corruption. A series of scams has only hardened the remorseless stand of the government.
There is an old story about a girl and her red shoes which illustrates well our modern civilization's struggles with a machine - dominated world.
'Bhoomi' is a space that we need in these time when the human race is faced with range of social, psycological, economic and other crises with the mind boggling climate change crises leading the way. The power center of the world do not seem to be able to deal with these crises with conviction and strength.
Our theme for this issue of Bhoomi is ‘Towards Ecological Sanity’. We have, after all, been insane in numerous ways. Fossil fuels, industrialization, consumerism are some obvious examples that come to mind. If we scratch the surface some more, we realize that there are many compulsions we have acquired collectively, which have got the stamp of public and global approval.
There is a delightful story of Birbal, who, on his way home, saw a group of people searching for something under a street lamp. What have you lost? he asked, and was told that a precious ring had been lost. Birbal got down on his knees and joined the group to search. After a while, it struck him to ask, where have you lost it? Out there, he was told, and the place was pointed out to him.
All around us, the notion of a ‘good life’ includes exotic foods, big vehicles, lots of travelling, big buildings, designer homes, and factories to produce an uncountable variety of things, and electricity, coal and gas to make all this possible - all to keep pace with our faster lifestyles. Individually, we may ‘seek happiness’ in a range of directions, but collectively most of the developed / developing world looks for a host of material comforts to lead a good life.
Gaia, the Greek Earth Goddess came into prominence in recent years after James Lovelock wrote his path breaking book of the same name. In beautiful, often lyrical prose, and with painstaking holistic science, Lovelock wrote of the miracle of Gaia. We felt we owed Gaia a Bhoomi issue in her honour. The concept of Gaia not being very well known in India, we hope our readers would enjoy this issue of understanding and celebrating our “living” planet Earth.