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  • Writer's pictureMeenakshi Sharan

Fighting climate change the Bharat way: Vedas hold the key

The attitude of a Hindu is reverential towards all life, from the smallest being to the tallest tree, from the mightiest mountain to the vastest river to the stars as well as planets

Did anyone ever ask how and why did Bharat have a big famine every two years after she came under the British Crown in 1858?

The British plundered and exported 320,000 tons of wheat to England during the famine, more than six crore Indians lost their lives courtesy British crimes.

Tea, opium, indigo, jute, sugar, wheat plantation are some examples of exploitation and environmental destruction by the British in India. They declared our forests as ‘Protected Territories’ treating them as wilderness, they increased the cultivated land area to 6.7 million hectares between 1880 and 1920 for revenue generation, to feed their growing urban population and for raw material for industrial production.

To meet their requirement for wood as fuel to run locomotives, they destroyed our forests, each mile of railway track required 2,000 railway line sleepers; forests disappeared as railway tracks spread throughout Bharat.

Who is responsible for global warming?

France, Germany and the UK had cleared their land for farming and coal-fuelled industrialisation before the 1850s. The US, Russia and China were cutting down their temperate forests for agriculture and fuel. The rainforest of Brazil and Indonesia were deforested for growing rubber, tobacco, cash crop, palm oil plantations, logging and cattle ranching in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The European region bears a significant responsibility for its historical contributions to global warming pollution. The US alone has released more than 509Gt CO2 since 1850 holding the largest share of historical emissions — 20% of the global total. China stands at the second position with 11%, Russia 7%, Brazil 5%, Indonesia 4%, Germany 4% and the UK accounts for 3% of the global total.

Meat and dairy production account for a minimum of 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions — eighty times more warming than carbon dioxide, one third of human caused methane comes from cattle farming!

Deforestation, rapid growth of population, exploitation of natural resources, fossil fuel emissions, animal agriculture – blame it all for the escalated frequency and severity of natural catastrophes, courtesy the so-called developed Nations!

How real is UNFCCC COP?

Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC commonly known as COP make policies to address Global Warming, much was discussed in the 27th session- COP27 held in Egypt from 6 to 18 November 2022, by representatives from more than 190 countries.

While private jets were landing in Sharm el-Sheikh ahead of the COP27, Nepal was hit by four earthquakes from 9 to 15 November, its tremors were felt in many parts of India, a 4.5 magnitude earthquake hit Uttarakhand on 9 November, an earthquake measuring 6.1 struck off the southeast coast of Japan, an earthquake of 5.6 magnitude jolted west Java on 21 November. Total, 18 significant and many smaller ones rocked different parts of the world in November 2022 alone.

Around 400 private airplanes brought the delegates including King Charles III, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos of Amazon to COP27. Not to forget, an average private jet emits two tons of carbon dioxide per hour in flight. And not that the two-week summit only had a plant-based menu, it had high environmental impact beef, chicken, fish and Salmon flown in from thousands of miles away, the Atlantic. Pro-meat and dairy discourses happened but animal agriculture was not talked about.

Time to learn from the Vedas

The entire universe is looked upon as Ishwara, teach the Vedas. “ईशावास्यं इदं सवर्ं”- Shukla Yajur Veda, Ishavasya Upanishad 1.

From Brahma to every blade of grass, each being has a role to play and is considered important. Living in accord with the cosmic order for the benefit of all is Dharma, the Hindus hence to date, feed all living beings everyday which is called Bhuta Yajna- one of the five Nitya Karma enjoined upon every Hindu. The attitude of a Hindu is reverential towards all life, from the smallest being to the tallest tree, from the mightiest mountain to the vastest river to the stars as well as planets.

The Earth, Bhu Devi, for the Hindus is the divine goddess, whom they first thing in the morning beg forgiveness of, for placing their feet upon her:

समुद्र वसनेदेवी पर्वतस्तनमण्डले

विष्णुपत्नी नमस्तुभ्यंपाद स्पर्शंक्षमश्वमेव।

Protecting the nature is a duty of every Hindu

ईशावास्यमिदंसर्वंयत्किञ्च जगत्यांजगत्।

तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्य स्विद्धनम्॥ – Isha Upanishad, verse 1.

Meaning, everything within the universe, not only conscious and living beings, also trees and rocks are pervaded by Ishwara/ God, hence consume from the abundance of nature, only what is necessary for yourself, don’t hoard and deprive the fellow beings.

Forest conservation was inculcated in the Hindu society by the vedic seers as Dharmik. The Rishis mastered the science of weather forecasting, recognised and categorised different types of land from Cultivable land to barren, from waste land to forest using them as designed by nature and exploited none.

Maintenance of soil potential was of major concern to them, they knew that the lost nitrogen can be restored by crop rotation, they cultivated legumes to restore the nitrogen in the field exhausted by grain-crop cultivation. They’d discovered natural root promoters, seeds treated with honey before sowing being an example. Mantras were recited while sowing, Ploughing, reaping and harvesting, treating the entire process as worship and the yield as a blessing of the good Karma done on auspicious days.

In gratitude and to honour the Gods as well as to attract good crops to feed humanity, the Hindu farmers performed Chaturmasya Yajnas in which offerings of herbs, grains, ghee and aromatic raisin from trees was offered. Yajnas not only cleanse the air, they even form clouds that bring about good rainfall.

Since Vayu, one of the five elements connects and affects everything in the universe, the Rig Vedic Rishis made certain Yajnas mandatory for every Hindu.

Agriculture itself was passed down the generation as a Dharmik activity to the Hindus by their ancestors.

In fact, Shri Krishna taught conservation and protection of the forest through Govardhan Pooja.

Cutting of trees was prohibited, strict norms and rituals were to be followed if at all they had to be cut. Planting one Peepal, ten Tamarind, three Wood Apple, one Bael/ Stone Apple, three Amla, five Mango trees in one’s lifetime along with certain other trees was enjoined upon every Hindu as a duty.

Praying and seeking permission of the tree for plucking its flowers, leaves is a must, even if it is for worship:

मा नुशोकं कुरुष्व त्वं स्थान त्यागंच मा कुरु। मम इष्ट पूजनार्थाय प्रार्थयामि वनस्पते।।

Five essential elements

Springs, rivers, mountains, caves, forests, groves, celestial bodies, animals, birds, Hindus have been worshipping all, exploiting none. Hoarding and depriving others is strictly prohibited since all beings emanate from Panch Mahabuta/ five elements and are interconnected and interdependent. We humans are intricately replicated from the identical principles of the Cosmic Nature;

Earth is the most fundamental element in the making of our physical selves.

Agni is the sacred fire that energises, purifies and destroys impurities.

Jal is the source of life

Vayu governs all movement.

Aakash is the layer beyond the other four gross elements and is responsible for the transmission of sound.

Imposition of ecologically-lethal Green Revolution

Hindus were made to believe that the ancient wisdom of decomposing and using leaves, cow dung and other such materials for manure, using wood chips of Terminalia Arjuna, husk of barley and sesame blossoms for removing defilements from arable land and to fix nitrogen in soil etc, was unscientific and outdated. They were made to believe that the ancient wisdom passed down through generations was unscientific and unproductive.

In the name of rapid agricultural production, the chemical fertiliser dependent Green Revolution funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation changed agricultural practices forever.

Their extensive stock of DDT in the U.S. after World War II, was promoted as a pesticide for increasing productivity, following which their production leaped from 4,366 tons in 1944 to 81,154 tons in 1963.

Our soil started deteriorating, because pesticide resistant crops, pests as well as soil degradation demanded ever stronger chemicals, our ancient agricultural systems collapsed. Chemicals not only affected our food and water supply, they polluted our lands and streams and destroyed our bird and animal population. For example, we had about 30,000 varieties of rice before the Green Revolution and sadly have around ten today.

Expensive mechanised agricultural tools, requisite irrigation systems and chemicals drove small farmers into poverty and debt, resulting in farmer suicides.

The nature worshipping Hindu

The Vedic rishis knew that changes caused by indiscreet human activities would result in imbalances in seasons, rainfall patterns, atmosphere, crop, degrade the quality of water, air and earth resources; hence nothing in the Hindu scriptures or traditions suggests that biodiversity can be traded as an economic commodity.

We ate on banana or Sal leaf, brushed our teeth with neem twigs, palm leaves etc. were woven into bags, we used cloth bags too. We cooked and stored our food in earthen, copper, brass pots.

We wore pure breathable cotton, silk and wool, coloured with plant based dyes. The first ever mention of growing, spinning and weaving cotton into fabric goes to Rishi Gritsmad in the 2nd Mandal of Rigved. We’ve had a long history of trading in textiles with the rest of the world.

“India’s textile industry has shown unparalleled workmanship and artistry…the pure Muslin is so fine, as though crafted by some superhuman forces, say elves or butterflies.”- Edwards Bainz wrote in 1835.

From plastic toothbrushes to eating and drinking from plastic containers to the worst offenders of polyethylene shopping bags, none was invented by us Hindus. Plastic was patented by an American entrepreneur Nathaniel Wyeth in 1973, the Celluloid Manufacturing Company founded by an American Daniel Spill in 1862!

It was the British who flooded our markets with cheap, machine-made Polyester textiles made from plastic by imposing Draconian taxes on Indian fabrics imported into Britain and relaxing tax and duty on the export of British textiles to India.

Unbalanced ecosystem

The Earth element is being thrown out of balance by deforestation, mining, building more roads and tunnels instead of controlling human population; making mountainsides and mountaintops scars, clearing vast tracts of land for agriculture and timber thereby causing habitat loss and extinction of many species.

Akash, the element of Ether is being thrown out of balance through constant and excessive noise of vehicle traffic, blaring loudspeakers, air conditioners, televisions, etc.

Industrial activities, exhaust of internal combustion engines, greenhouse gases, fossil fuel power generation etc is causing Vayu/ Air imbalance which is interfering with Agni that heats the air in its solar form.

Jal Tatva/ Water element is thrown out of balance by disposing human sewage, non- biodegradable trash and plastics, industrial effluent, chemical fertilisers and pesticides into streams, rivers and oceans; causing acidification, coral bleaching and glacial melting.

Rivers are diverted by building massive dams at the expense of fish biodiversity, of people and of wildlife living in the watersheds. The fish eaters too are to be blamed for the reduced numbers of the fish and the degeneration of river water quality.

Vishnu in his Matsya avatar cleansed the polluted waters, and the lands in his Varah avatar. It is the time that the world takes the responsibility of protecting mother Earth and nature at large by believing like the Hindus, “The Earth is my mother, Parjanya/ the Rain God my father and I, their son…”

भूमिः पुत्रो अहंपृथिव्याः

पर्जन्यः पिता स उ नः पिपर्तु॥ – Atharva Veda, Bhumi Sukt, 12

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