BBC Radio 4:Dr Chetna Kang - 09/06/2018


Plastic is the children’s word of the year. It was the most commonly occurring word in around 137,000 essays entered into BBC radio two’s young writers competition. I expect this is because of the increased public awareness about the impact plastic is having on our environment, particularly sea life. I wasn’t at all knowledgeable as a youngster about the environment perhaps because I didn’t have access to social media or the Internet. Nor did they teach us anything about the environment in school other than avoiding basic littering.

There are different ways of understanding any issue but I find that solutions are closely related how we view the problem. So the solutions we find to the environmental CRIsis will vary according to whether we view it as problem of economics, resources, or as a problem in our relationship with our planet.

Vedic theology teaches that we have 7 mothers. Planet Earth - Mata Bhumi - is one of them. Like our human mothers she protects, nurtures and provides for us. Just like our human mothers she also needs rest and nurturing, so the relationship is two way. And, like our human mothers she is aware that her children will sometimes exploit her. In one of the Vedic Texts, the Srimad Bhagavatam Mata Bhumi expresses this to a pious King as follows

“Just see how these kings, who are actually playthings in the hands of death, are desiring to conquer me. For the sake of conquering me, materialistic persons fight one another. Fathers oppose their sons, and brothers fight each other, because their hearts are bound to possessing political power.”

Perhaps as people wake up to the ways in which we are damaging the planet we are finally growing beyond childhood and entering adolescence in our relationship with Mother Earth. Maybe we’re becoming a bit less self-centred and are trying to reduce our immature behaviour of making demands of Earth beyond her capacity and often only changing when she reacts to our provocations. As we are growing up can we consider how to accept her resources without causing her harm? Just like our relationships with our biological mothers come full circle with us caring for them in their later years, so our ageing planet will need us to restore and renew her for future generations as she will outlive all of us.

I think if we consider taking care of our environment as part of a reciprocal relationship with our planet it can become something that we do right from the start of any process that requires the earth’s resources.

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