यस्यामिदं जिन्वति प्राणदेजत्सा नो भूमिः पूर्वपेये दधातु .
Yasyaam-Idam Jinvati Praannad-Ejat-Saa No Bhuumih Puurva-Peye Dadhaatu
In Her (Mother Earth) indeed is alive all Lives, May She bestow us with that Life. (Athervaveda)
Today when the dreaded virus of minuscule size has engulfed the whole world causing massive and unprecedented havoc, miseries of umpteen proportions killing more than 1.6 lakh people and infecting nearly 24 lakh people, bringing the world economy to a standstill besides leaving millions of people inside their homes with no work and with no sign of early recovery, people have started to accept this unexpected upheaval and fury as a retaliation of the Mother Earth in response to misdeeds of man and unabated onslaught on her.
Long back in 1970 under the guidance of Gaylord Nelson, the people of US celebrated first earth day on 22nd April in response to their protest against the industrial revolution which was later renamed by the United Nations in 2009 as International Mother Earth Day to celebrate to recognise and remind that Earth and its various ecosystems are the base of existence of human race and hence are required to maintain perfect harmony with Nature. Despite having known all negative consequences of continued exploitation of Earth and its varied resources to meet both the need and greed in the guise of development, globalization and consumerism, we have continued to plunder and exploit earth beyond its carrying capacity and without giving a little time for it to rejuvenate. Gary Gardner Director of research for World watch rightly states that “Most of the environmental issues we see today can be linked to consumption,". Anthropogenic induced global greenhouse emission has resulted into various catastrophes such as climate change, biodiversity extinction, reduced food security, melting glaciers, heat waves, and droughts, thereby putting enormous pressure on Earth with painful boomerang effects. The theme of this year’s Earth Day (2020) while celebrating its 50th anniversary is also focussing on action on climate change which is identified as the biggest challenge for the survival of human being.
The continued supremacy of development over the environment and lack of priority and concern for various environmental challenges among policymakers has also aggravated this onslaught of varied proportions on Mother Earth. This supremacy of development coupled with audacity has made man to declare himself as a Supreme species. This is evident from one of the narrations of René Descartes (1596–1650) where he said that “we might also apply them(fire, water, air, the stars, the heavens) in the same way….and thus render ourselves the lords and possessors of nature”.
Like a caring and loving mother, Earth had been responding with anger through signals of varied nature in the past at regular intervals be it an earthquake, floods, Tsunamis or raising of water levels and last but not the least, epidemics/pandemic of various kinds including the last one of SARS. However, we humans have never cared and dared to introspect a little to look back and to listen to those signals and warnings with far-reaching implications. In one of the studies, it was established that nearly two-third of infectious diseases including SARS, MERS, EBOLA, AIDS etc originate from wildlife and the possibility of the link between consumption of wildlife and present COVID-19 can not be ruled out which reflects direct impact of the destruction of biodiversity and habitats by human beings. People across the globe have now started realizing the delicacy of maintaining a balance between earth and human mistreatment of the environment due to this pandemic.
Though it is too early to comment as to when we will be completely free from this pandemic, this has forced us to think and look back to introspect and revaluate as to how we should respond to this crisis.
It is sheer human tendency to forget once we overcome any critical phase such as this pandemic. However, we should be wary of the fact that if the actions and corrective measures are not complemented with serious commitment without camouflaging or greenwashing of such actions, then the human race will not be in a position to handle a similar situation in future.
Let’s celebrate this Mother Earth day with renewed commitment and concern that apart from our personal and community efforts, we should ensure that we take genuine and visible actions at various levels including policy interventions and commitments post-COVID-19, and aim towards maintaining a delicate balance between development/consumerism and fragile environment, for a long-cherished goal of sustainable development. Only genuine concerns in this direction with committed efforts duly promoting a holistic approach to harmony with mother earth can act as a silver lining at the end of the existing dark and gloomy tunnel. Humans need to devise new mechanisms using technologies and brains in areas where we have plundered resources and come out with rejuvenating and pro-environmental interventions aiming at our peaceful coexistence with mother earth. This soul-searching act alone will be a befitting response at this juncture.
Mohan Chandra Pargaien
Senior IFS officer of Telangana State, India
(Views are personal)