October 2009: The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
I have long held the view that Gandhiji’s life and death were wasted on India’s Independence. We who inherited the fruit of his endeavours learned little from the gentle man who walked silently and carried a large stick. Yes, we deified him. Yes, we continue to hang portraits of him in government offices. And yes, we have successfully media-managed to keep his name alive across the world. But, no, we have not internalised his teachings, nor do we practice his philosophy of treading lightly upon the earth.
Re-read his quote at the top of the page in the context of climate change. India is capable of arresting deforestation to reduce our carbon emissions. We are capable of taxing oil and coal to subsidise wind, solar and biogas. We have the capacity to quadruple investments in public transport and tax private cars. And to make organic food cheaper. But we seriously lack the vision and purpose to rise to our potential.
Despite overwhelming evidence that climate change will dramatically and adversely affect food production, power generation, housing and public health, we drag our feet hoping to out-perform the British, about whose ambitions Gandhi wrote: “It took Britain half the resources of this planet to achieve its prosperity. How many planets will India require for development?”
Hopefully, India will display Gandhian leadership on the global stage rather than gouge an eye for an eye in the race against the industrial north to carbon-assassinate the globe.
Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, October 2, kicks off India’s National Wildlife Week celebrations each year when humans exhort other humans to act to save the world. Meanwhile, our planet’s true maintenance engineers, such as this grasshopper, seen using its ovipositor to deposit its eggs safely underground, continue to perform to their fullest potential, just as they have done since the dawn of life on Earth. Little wonder Gandhi had such innate reverence for life.
Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXIX No. 5, October 2009