Legacy of the Mahatma
IN THIS ISSUE of Resurgence we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi with a special feature which reminds us of his visionary thinking, much of which is incredibly pertinent to our global situation today.
In his article ‘The Gandhian Trinity’, Satish Kumar examines how, through the principles of equality, self-governance and local economics, the Mahatma set out the template for environmental sustainability, global peace and economic justice. Societies could work much more effectively by practising these principles today.
In Bhikhu Parekh’s article ‘Servant of the People’, we learn that Gandhi foresaw the perils inherent in the anthropocentric worldview much of the developed world has now adopted. Gandhi believed that humanity should see itself as located in the wider cosmos, related to its other members as equal tenants. Gandhi intuitively knew that Nature should never be reduced to ‘environments’ or ‘resources’, as that would ultimately lead to an industrialism that would “strip the world bare, like locusts”.
In Richard Branson’s article ‘Try Nonviolence’, we find out how Gandhian principles are at the heart of The Elders initiative that works behind the media glare in places like Darfur, using nonviolent conflict-resolution techniques.
Gandhi professed not to be interested in the future, only in the present moment. Yet if humanity had paid heed to his words, much of our current predicament could’ve been averted. The principle of ahimsa or the ‘Way of Nonviolence’ is one that could still guide us towards a more just and ultimately sustainable future. It is obvious that war, with all its associated needs for oil and weapons, utterly devastates the planet simply to further the dominance of that ‘locust-like’ paradigm. Yet two recent reports published by the Food Climate Research Network and, previous to that, by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, show that the agricultural livestock sector – the absolute antithesis of all Gandhi stood for – emerges as one of the top three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems including climate change.
The livestock sector is responsible for “18% of greenhouse gas emissions measured in carbon dioxide equivalent, which is a higher share than transport”. This means that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. The livestock sector accounts for 37% of methane emissions too, from the enteric fermentation of ruminants. This is a serious figure as methane is twenty-three times more potent at trapping heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. This is to say nothing of rainforest depletion for ranching, fossil-fuel use for pesticides, fertilisers and farm equipment, water usage and pollution from livestock excreta (“livestock in the USA produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population every day”) or indeed the abhorrent cruelty endemic in the massive-scale factory farms that most developed countries deem
If everyone who eats meat made a conscious decision to reduce their intake by 50% this would have a huge, immediate, positive impact in reducing carbon emissions. As Gandhi said, “We have to be the change we want to see in the world”