I spoke to an endocrinologist-diabetologist once and told him that I had been able to stop taking anti-diabetic medicine by eating more fruits and vegetables, minimizing cereals and fats and by eating the right foods at the right time. He took it as an insult to modern medicine and fumed, “Modern medicine has increased the life span of people, especially in degenerative diseases like diabetes. Do you know that if you stopped taking medicines you would have to eat more than a quarter kg. of vegetables a day?
This issue marks the completion of two years of our journey with Eternal Bhoomi – and this has coincided with the historic civil society movement in India led by Team Anna. Over the two weeks of high drama and sheer grit, the movement saw several small communities spontaneously forming across the country and stoking the fires of revolt against corruption; there was anger converted to determination and the people of India felt that they had discovered their voice.
Grassroots action is often thought of as something a few idealistic people do, or something that happens far away in villages and forests. The word ‘grassroots’ for the average city-dwelling student for instance, has rarely figured in school and college, since life revolves around books, class rooms and exams. Cities get a whiff of grassoots action when we find people joining Anna Hazare’s movement or start a cycling group or protest against the cutting of trees.
From the early years of the 20th century, there have been several great visionaries who realized that our modern civilization was overstepping its limits of exploitation and consumption on earth. From Tolstoy and Gandhiji to Schumacher and the Limits to Growth report, there were several warnings that we were headed towards disaster, unless we changed course to a more sustainable path.
We need to question our prevalent capitalist economic system more deeply and intensively. If we take the trouble to join the dots, we find that it is connected to many of the ills of our world - be it the rampant ecological destruction, the ever increasing urban sprawl, aggression against women and the underprivileged, or an oppressive and frenzied education system. We also need to study alternatives and ways to take our own positive steps towards dealing with them.
Ideas can be powerful. The idea of perpetual material progress has captivated human beings, especially during the last two centuries. Yet, the notion that it is natural for human beings to seek constant progress or growth – material or otherwise - is a relatively new one. For many millions of years, humankind has evolved without being enchanted by the idea of outer progress. Many thousands of communities, even today, do not care for it.
Seeing the Whole Elephant
Educational Institutions and policy makers need to play a role in preparing youngsters for the future. And the future will be determined by the decisions we make about our current development path - whether we shift to a low carbon way of life or not.
We of the older generation are not handing over Planet Earth in very good shape to our children. Worse, we have handed over dreams of success and achievement that are not going to help them with real issues in their lives – real issues of dealing with cleaning up and cooling down our earth.
The first issue every year has the same theme as the Bhoomi Conference (or Unconference) – this year, the focus is on the Campaign for a Million Eco Projects. The web portal www.millionecoprojects.com will be integral to this campaign, to document eco projects and faciliate the end user to explore, connect, act and share.