Paul Watson Asks us to Redefine Intelligence
Cetologists observe, document, and decipher evidence that points to a profound intelligence dwelling in the oceans. It is an intelligence that predates our own evolution as intelligent primates by millions of years. – Paul Watson
I had a profound experience while kayaking in Hawaii this past winter with friends. We were visited by a whale and there is no doubt that this majestic being was coherent, aware of us, and enjoying our company as much as we were enjoying his. We put our snorkeling masks on and jumped in and could easily see the whale gently make eye contact with each of us. With one thrust of his tail he could have left in an instant but he stayed with us for over an hour. A mammal with a brain bigger than ours and complex migration songs that change every year, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of thoughts could be going through his mind. The recent piece by Dawn Agnos on UPLIFT about a conversation with a horse shows that emotional intelligence and empathy are a language that many animals understand. It was only recently that terms like emotional intelligence emerged and it is interesting to consider that there are many different kinds of intelligence. Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd makes a good argument in a recent Facebook post that perhaps humans concept of intelligence is anthropocentric and lacking in breadth.
Watson starts early in his essay with the bold assertion that, “Biological science is provoking us to shatter our image of human superiority.” Though indigenous wisdom has always considered humans a part of the circle of life rather than above it, that sentiment has almost been completely destroyed by generations of colonial indoctrination. The very roots of colonial indoctrination not only conclude that humans are superior to all other life forms, it also considers some humans as superior to others. Social Darwinism, a myth, was an effort to use science to validate the behavior of employing superior weaponry to oppress other humans. Though we owe much respect to western science we must also understand the cultural and religious backdrop from which this discipline emerged. We must also be willing to explore the assumptions within science if we are to evolve it.
Rupert Sheldrake attempted to do this during a TED Talk entitled, The Science Delusion and his presentations was banned. This is not to say that Sheldrake is right and all of science is wrong, that is too simplistic. It is merely an opportunity to open a dialogue about assumptions within science that the scientific community may or may not be willing to consider. I mention it in the context of considering the humble notion that humans may not posses the highest form of intelligence on the planet. If for no other reason than amusement, just open your mind and consider…
Mammals like us, who have been on the planet a whole lot longer than us, who also have larger brains than us, is interesting to reflect on. We humans pride ourselves on technology, on creating tools, gadgets and machines. Of course it is easy to consider that intelligence is based on technology. Then there is the idea of emotional intelligence which acknowledges a form of intelligence which is internal, can not be easily measured empirically but plays a major role in the success of an individual. Intuition, compassion, empathy are usually considered feelings, but these are skills, non-physical tools that we can use to ascend the social ladder. Meditation could also be considered a non-physical tool that changes our biology, reduces stress and opens the mind. We may be at the very beginning of understanding that tools do not need to be physical or easily measurable by traditional science in order to be valuable.
We willingly accept the idea of intelligence in a life-form only if the intelligence displayed is on the same evolutionary wavelength as our own. Technology automatically indicates intelligence. An absence of technology translates into an absence of intelligence.
Dolphins and whales do not display intelligence in a fashion recognizable to this conditioned perception of what intelligence is, and thus for the most part, we are blind to a broader definition of what intelligence can be.
Evolution molds our projection of intelligence. Humans evolved as tool-makers, obsessed with danger and group aggression. This makes it very difficult for us to comprehend intelligent non-manipulative beings whose evolutionary history featured ample food supplies and an absence of fear from external dangers. – Paul Watson
Again it is important to recognize how this attitude has not only been applied to animals, but also to indigenous people historically. How we define intelligence is restricted to our definition of intelligence. Are we willing to broaden our definition of intelligence?
Intelligence can also be measured by the ability to live within the bounds of the laws of ecology — to live in harmony with one’s own ecology and to recognize the limitations placed on each species by the needs of an ecosystem. Is the species that dwells peacefully within its habitat with respect for the rights of other species the one that is inferior? Or is it the species that wages a holy war against its habitat, destroying all species that irritate it? What can be said of a species that reproduces beyond the ability of its habitat to support it? What do we make of a species that destroys the diversity that sustains the ecosystem that nourishes it? How is a species to be judged that fouls its water and poisons its own food? On the other hand, how is a species that has lived harmoniously within the boundaries of its ecology to be judged? – Paul Watson
Watson gets very in-depth and cites the research which compares cranial capacity, and brain complexity between humans and sea mammals. At the very least this information is humbling. Paul Watson has given us a lot to think about, but probably the greatest gift in his essay can be summarized by this quote:
It’s not enough to understand the natural world, the point is to defend and preserve it. – Edward Abbey
Watson is not merely a philosopher, he puts his words and beliefs into action. For 35 years, Captain Paul Watson has been at the helm of the world’s most active marine non-profit organization – the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I highly recommend reading the entire essay which is available here.
To even consider that we are not superior to other species is delightfully humbling. It can restore a child-like sense of awe for life which also inspires a desire to preserve our environment. Our tools are wonderful, our science is also wonderful, but it should be used to celebrate and elevate all of life. We must consider that the unconscious, disrespectful use of our tools and science can create unimaginable destruction for ourselves and other species. A healthy future includes humans who are aware of this and who live within the bounds of their ecosystem. We have the ability to create worlds or destroy ourselves. How do you want to live your life?
WORDS BY JACOB DEVANEY
The post What if Humans Aren’t the Most Intelligent Creatures on the Planet? appeared first on UPLIFT.
Source: Uplift Connect
Three hundred forty two miles west of mainland Costa Rica lies an oceanic island so spectacular Jacques Cousteau called it the “most beautiful island in the world.” Cascading waterfalls cut through lush foliage, the symphony of a thousand seabirds echoes in your ears, and the surrounding deep waters host a diversity of wildlife found almost nowhere else on the planet. Isla del Coco’s extreme wild beauty appears Jurassic – and was in fact used in the movie of the same name. It seems as though you’ve gone back in time, to a time before humans.
Our ship, the Argo, was greeted by spinner dolphins who leapt and twirled at her bow as we entered the boundaries of Cocos Island Marine Park. After two days on the open ocean, the green towering mass of land before us was a most welcome sight, but the real anticipated pleasure was beneath the surface – the chance to dive with many species of sharks. Cocos is known for its shark populations; many species migrate throughout the Eastern Tropical Pacific from Galápagos to Colombia, Panama and finally to Costa Rica. Schooling hammerhead, Galápagos, and silky sharks are frequent visitors, as are tiger and whale sharks. There is also a large resident population of white tip reef sharks. Together, these top predators shape the food web and maintain a healthy ecosystem.
The expedition is led by Mission Blue founder Dr. Sylvia Earle and Nicolás Ibargüen, environmental correspondent for Fusion. Like me, many of the others onboard are experienced shark divers: shark conservationist Ocean Ramsey, I AM WATER Ocean Conservation Trust’s Hanli Prinsloo and Peter Marshall, Shark Angels founder Julie Andersen, Undersea Hunter co-founder Avi Klapfer and Mission Blue’s Director of Photography and Expeditions, Kip Evans. Also with us are a couple of new shark divers who are excited to have some encounters, including actor Adrian Grenier and editor-at-large for Bloomberg News Stephanie Ruhle.
Originally, our intent was to visit Cocos to highlight the success of this World Heritage Site, which has been a sanctuary for wildlife and a bucket list dive destination. Unfortunately, a week before our trip we heard from PRETOMA – one of Mission Blue’s nonprofit conservation partners in Costa Rica – that the Costa Rican government’s Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) had allowed the export of endangered hammerhead shark fins despite international commitments not to made by the previous president, Laura Chinchilla. The two shipments were sent to Hong Kong to feed the seemingly insatiable market for shark fin soup in Mainland China. Sources estimate that the number of sharks killed for these shipments was representative of close to 2,000 hammerheads.
The two species of shark included in these shipments were the scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) and the smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena). The Eastern Pacific population of S. lewini is considered endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Both S. lewini and zygaena are listed on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II – a resolution to which Costa Rica signed on in 2013, making it a violation to import or export these species without first verifying that the animals are being fished sustainably with legitimate certificates of origin.
Randall Arauz, President and founder of PRETOMA, reported that the new government of Costa Rica, which is nearing the end of its first year in office, allowed these recent shipments of shark fins without the necessary verification, violating its international obligations and further threatening an already endangered species. However, under pressure from Costa Rican citizens and the international community, the Ministry announced on March 2nd that it would abide by CITES and ban shark fin exports pending a review that will likely occur in the next six months. In the meantime, catching, landing and slaughtering hammerhead sharks continues unabated in Costa Rica, and Mr. Arauz expects that shark fishers are stashing fins for export anyway, stating, “The [fishers] are going to dry these [new] fins and stash them. What happens if the [CITES review] says they can’t do it anymore? They’re going to use the same argument that the sharks are already dead and there is no conservation benefit in not allowing the fins to be exported.” The Ministry will have the ability to stop this action, but many environmentalists are not optimistic that they will given that the declared customs value of one ton of hammerhead fins is worth more than $100,000. Arauz expects the new government to prioritize profit over conservation.
Given this ominous news, our expedition to Cocos Island became about shining a light on this abuse of the legal framework for shark protection, and protesting the trade of shark fins – ironically by the very government that the world has come to applaud for protecting them. We sought to create media that would help engender support for shark protection, and spark outrage that these shark fin exports could happen in a country that prides itself on its environmental stewardship.
We did several dives each day, many times below 95 feet looking for hammerhead sharks. Though we saw many white tip reef sharks, we saw very few hammerhead sharks. Just a few years ago I saw hammerheads on every dive here, but now they were scarce. We did catch glimpses of them, and on the last dive at Alcyone we saw a school of about 25 swimming deep below us, but nothing like what we had hoped for.
We found fishing lines in the Marine Park and saw hooks in the mouths of Galápagos and silky sharks that were feeding on bait balls. We can’t prove that the fins that were exported came from sharks in the Park, but we can say that there is poaching there; the park rangers told us so and we saw evidence of the longlines. Randall Arauz later informed us that The Ministry of the Environment “has a list of all the illegal boats they see fishing in Cocos Island. And it turns out that one of those boats was seen at Cocos Island fishing and a week later that boat landed its products in Puntarenas and those hammerhead shark fins got exported.”
For our expedition team, it was still thrilling to dive in Cocos. Some were expert freedivers and could get really close to dolphins, schooling jacks, groupers, eels, and all kinds of reef fish. We also had spectacular Galápagos and silky shark encounters during a bait ball event, and I even spotted a whale shark on one deep dive! But if the government of Costa Rica doesn’t step up to protect hammerhead sharks, I’m afraid they won’t be here at all the next time I visit Cocos. Will these magnificent animals only be seen as floating fragments in Chinese soup? The only way to ensure their survival in the wild is to impose absolute bans on hammerhead shark fishing, landing, commerce and the export of shark fins from Costa Rica to prevent poachers from being able to trade. Enforcement reforms in protected areas are also badly needed; many poachers even when caught are not prosecuted. And the Costa Rican fisheries management agency, INCOPESCA, needs scientists advising on the catch limits of allowed species, not just the fishermen that run it today.
As our voyage came to an end and we returned to the mainland, the beauty and fragility of Cocos’ diversity of life played on in my mind. I resolved to do what I can to help protect this special place, and you can help too!
Join Mission Blue in urging the Costa Rican government to enforce hammerhead fishing and fin export bans. Sign the petition and donate to support Mission Blue and PRETOMA in this fight. Together we can save sharks, save the ocean, and thereby save ourselves.
Source: Mission Blue
Reflections on the sacred element of water with Tim ‘Mac’ McCartney
Several years ago my surfboard shaper shared with me why he believes riding a wave is such a special (and for many, metaphysical) experience. He described to me how waves actually begin as a pulse of energy thousands of miles away in the Earth’s atmosphere. How they enter into our weather system as wind, moving across the surface of the sea, how wind swell eventually builds into a ground swell which travels in deep ripples across vast expanses of ocean building in size and power, and how when a wave finally reaches the shoreline and rises to a curling peak… this is the culmination of a truly epic journey. To have the gift of meeting and riding this energy at the very climax of its existence is one of the things that makes surfing the magic experience it is.
Having grown up skiing in the mountains of Colorado, I had often contemplated the parallel journey of snowflakes en route to arriving as powder on the peaks. Only recently did I realize that these two epic journeys share one thing in common: the element of water.
In a recent conversation with the founder of Embercombe Tim ‘Mac’ Macarthy, I had the gift of listening to him share some of the many ways that our connection to the sacred element of water informs, inspires and activates our relationship to LIFE itself. The very way Mac shares and speaks of this element feels like being with him in the currents of a river – winding its way peacefully, powerfully from the mountains to the sea.
The following are excerpts from our World Water Day interview (video below), in which Mac reflects upon his and all of our connection to the waters of life:
I would say that it is in us deeply to gravitate always to the element of water… There is no element that has quite the same capacity to delight and to terrify.
The great waters are always associated with our dreaming. We gaze to the horizon and over the oceans and in our imagination everything becomes possible.
It amazes me that when we look out into outer space and we dream of new lands and new planets, the first question always that we ask of this new place is: “Is there water?”
Water is in our myths and in our legends… From the north of Britain, the Celtic lands, the Selkies were a mythical water being. The Mermaids, the Kraken of Scandinavia… All of these call to us and have that same deep mystery of water.
Water, I think, is one of the four great powers of our world and seems so connected with our emotions, with our deep longing… We talk about the waters of life. Water sits at the very fountain head… The well head of our spiritual knowing.
When we gather and sing around water we are calling and singing to life.
We are singing to our cells and we are singing to every other part of life, and in that there is a great upwelling of joy.
There is a such a sense, I feel, growing around the world. We want to go home.
People of all nations, all creeds, all beings. All of our relatives in the animal world and in the plant world and in every other world. We circle our hands, and we will know, as we do it that we are part of one bigger circle. I am sure that will bring much joy to all of us, including me.
Mac McCartney shares insight into our sacred connection with water with UPLIFT host Chip Richards
WORDS BY CHIP RICHARDS
An urgent message from representatives of the original people of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Having people visit here, like these elders – they don’t do this sort of trip for nothing. They get their directions straight from the Mother.
– Jarmbi, Githabul/Ngarakwal tribe
In late 2014, representatives of the original people of La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta came down from their sacred mountain in Columbia to deliver an urgent message and sacred invitation to Humanity on behalf of Mother Earth. The following shares a glimpse into the origin of their mission and the vital essence of their journey to bring us back into alignment with Life Originating Principles.
Just 42km from Columbia’s Caribbean coastline and rising up to 5,700m above sea level (nearly 19,000 feet), La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an isolated coastal mountain range with rich volcanic soil and a diverse ecosystem. To the four indigenous tribes who live there, La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the beating heart of the world.
When the Spanish first arrived in Colombia in the 16th century, they found an advanced civilization practicing sustainable farming and producing extraordinary gold and pottery work. When these people were driven into the mountain by conquistadors in the 16th century, they chose to stay there in isolation in order to protect their culture and maintain the ecological and spiritual equilibrium of the mountain.
Living by a deeply ecological philosophy (which they call the ‘Law of Origin’) that guides their relationship to nature, animals and the movements of the planets and stars, the original people of La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta have continued to live much in the way they have always lived from the very beginning. Through daily meditations, sacred ritual and spiritual discipline, they maintain a deep connection to Mother Earth and a commitment to preserving and restoring her vitality in the region and the world.
Known to many as Guardians of the Earth, the four tribes of the region believe that La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a barometer for the rest of the planet… If rivers run dry or animal species disappear in La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, so too will rivers run dry and animals disappear in the rest of the world. In recent decades, the encroachment of modern civilization – including land development, deforestation, mining, drug crop cultivation and civil war (to name a few) – has called the people to come back into the World with an urgent message.
Mamo Miguel Arroyo and leader of the Iku Nation Ñankwa Chaparro
Late in 2014, Elders of Munvwameke and Numaka, Nabusimake sent representatives (including spiritual leader or ‘Mamo’ Miguel Arroyo – Iku and leader of the Iku Nation, Ñankwa Chaparro) to join with elders and wisdom keepers of other tribes and lands to initiate a ‘Unification Process for the awareness in collective consciousness of Life Originating Principles’. They came with the focus of activating healing in key sacred sites and to call forth humanity to realize that it is time to reclaim our connection to the Original Constitution of Mother Earth. The Earth is calling for our help and it is time for us all to answer.
Many of us are working for human rights and the rights of nature within legal frameworks locally and nationally. Yet even before any of these legal frameworks were created, Mother Earth was birthed with her rights to her natural constitution… Just like when the human being is born we are born with rites… So the mission statement would be to return the original rites of mother earth back to her natural constitution. Understanding too that we are part of this natural constitution of Mother Earth.
– Nelson Caraballo, in function of the Mother as well as the Spiritual Authority of Munvwameke.
Joined by representatives from the Otomi and Mexica in Central America and Diné from North America, the Mamos journeyed to sacred sites in Durango, Colorado in the US; Mt. Fuji, Japan; and Uluru, Australia. There were two fundamental aims: to bring healing and activation to these key energetic centers of the planet and to raise human consciousness toward the need for unification; calling forth humanity to join them in a deep personal commitment to heal and restore Mother Earth.
Uncle Bob Randall
The whole aim of both our cultures is to let the world see that they too belong to the same family and to start caring for the land, for the environment, for the waterways, the mountains, trees and every other living thing on the land as their brothers and sisters and other family members… That’s the way our people teach us when we are growing up. You are not owners of anything. Mother Earth owns you and you look after her just the same way that you would look after your mother here.
– Uncle Bob Randall, Yankunytjatjara Elder and a traditional caretaker of Uluru
During their time in Uluru, the group (including representatives of the original peoples of La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in conjunction with representatives of the Otomi and Mexica from Central America and Diné from North America) together wrote a formal invocation to humanity which has been titled The Declaration to Restore Mother Earth.
From Uluru, the group journeyed to the easterly most point of Australia in Byron Bay, where they were greeted by members of local and regional indigenous tribes and welcomed to UPLIFT 2014. On Sunday the 14th of December, the festival participants and webcast audience around the world paused in profound silence, joining hands in a great circle as The Declaration to Restore Mother Earth was read aloud. Each person was invited to listen deeply to their own unique calling and to recognize the critical role we each play in bringing about the healing and restoration of our planet.
Joining hands during The Declaration to Restore Mother Earth at UPLIFT
As a first step, the representatives of the people of the Earth of La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta invite us to join them in signing the Declaration to Restore Mother Earth. As a second vital step, we must each be willing to examine our own relationship to Mother Earth and discover the simple yet profound steps we can each take to contribute to the healing and vitality of our planet on a daily basis.
If you knew that that your thoughts and actions, energy and intentions played a critical role in the vitality of our planet, what simple action could you take today to honor your relationship and the sacred rites of Mother Earth?
WORDS BY CHIP RICHARDS
THE GRACE OF MOTHER GANGA
The cycle of life is intricately linked to water; it is even, perhaps, embedded in water. From our first nine months swimming in a womb to our ashes being immersed in a sacred river or scattered across the ocean, from the essential nectar we drink to that which turns apple seeds into apple trees, water is an integral part of our very existence. However, unlike oxygen which silently, invisibly, maintains the breath in our lungs and the beating of our heart, water is a visible, tangible presence and one with which we interact – directly and indirectly – throughout the minutes of our day and the days of our lives.
The nature of humans’ relation to water is multifaceted and deep. The exchange of oxygen between the air around us and the cells in our capillaries is unconscious and involuntary. Our exchange with water, however, is the subject of poetic literature. Countless novels, poems, sonnets and songs have been written about our love affair with water. Whether that affair is one of awe, nurturance, poignancy, solace, inspiration or fear – it nonetheless captures both our hearts and our minds. From Hemingway to Huck Finn, our lives are inseparable from the water around us.
The crystal-clear, blue, rushing waters of Mother Ganga cut through the foothills of the Himalayas, carving out the most sacred riverbed in the world. Her riverbanks are lined with rocks, softened and smoothed by Her waters, large ones upon which one can sit for hours, medium-sized ones that fit perfectly in the palm of one’s hand, for holding and meditating upon, and small pebbles, one or two collected by the pious so that Mother Ganga may flow through their home as well.
Where the river ends and people’s lives begin is impossible to discern. Ganga is as inextricable from the lives of Indians as the very blood flowing through their veins. Whether She is a source of tangible water for daily drinking, bathing and cooking, or whether She is a source of intangible inspiration and liberation prayed to with each morning’s bath in innumerable cities across the world, She is fundamental to the lives of more than one-seventh of the world’s population.
People bathing in and blessing Mother Ganga
PROVIDER FOR ALL
Mother Ganga irrigates not only the hearts, minds and souls of Her one billion devotees around the world. She also irrigates the farms that feed more than one-third of India’s population. More than 450 million people receive the means for their very existence from Her waters. The Ganga Basin supports the greatest population density on Earth – it is home to more than one-twelfth of the world’s population. Ganga is the water they drink, and with which they bathe, cook and irrigate their crops. She is both the apple of their eye and the apple on their tree. Her irrigation canals span approximately 18,000 kilometres, a network of channels running as the arteries of life for one-third of India.
Yet, today, tragically, the waters of Mother Ganga are in peril, and the peril is borne not by Her alone but rather by all whose lives are inextricably linked with Hers as She journeys 2,500km from Gaumukh to Ganga Sagar.
The volume of waste dumped into Her waters is staggering. 1.3 billion litres of wastewater from domestic and industrial sources are dumped directly into Ganga each day. The raw sewage of more than one hundred cities flows directly into Her running waters. This is only the liquid waste – the untreated sewage, agricultural run-off and chemical effluents from factories. The solid waste, the actual trash which individuals and municipalities toss into Her stream each day is immeasurable.
GRACE OF THE WATER – SHE FORGIVES
The grace of water is that it keeps flowing. Stagnant water dies quickly. The nature of live, fresh, life-giving water is its movement. In that movement there is forgiveness. The trash I toss nonchalantly into Ganga here, in this moment, is replaced in the next moment by fresh, clean, unpolluted water. My trash has been carried downstream, and I –here in this spot in this moment – am given another chance. No constant reminders of my trespass, no immediate dire consequences, each moment is new. Of course, my brothers and sisters downstream are reaping the bitter fruit of my trespass, are drinking and bathing in my wanton disregard; however, that moment is fleeting, even downstream. The river forgives. She keeps moving, keeps flowing, keeps providing us with a fresh, clean slate as She pours out of the glacier. There is still time. The molecules of water locked into the Gaumukh glacier and the Himalayan snow cover are still clean and pure. The water saturated with our pollution of yesterday will empty into the Bay of Bengal tomorrow and merge into the mighty ocean by the day after. Fields and crops irrigated by toxins will take longer to recover, but a heavy monsoon can easily carry away a huge amount of polluted topsoil. Those who have died and those on their deathbed from illnesses carried upon Ganga’s waters can, of course, not be restored, but next year’s deaths can be prevented.
When a loved one dies, they return to the Ganges to consign the ashes to her custody.
The answers are actually more simple than we realize, or more simple than we want to realize. Complexity absolves us of responsibility. Complexity requires new infrastructure, new systems, the passing of legislation and the enforcement of legislation passed. For those of us without a personal sphere of influence affecting municipalities, cities and states, we shrug our shoulders resignedly and say, “Someone really should do something.”
Simplicity, on the other hand is both empowering and also frightening. If I could make a difference, why am I not? Simplicity holds the mirror of responsibility uncomfortably close to our own faces. Today, however, we cannot afford to turn away. The world today requires us to look into that mirror, not with guilt, not with disdain, not with judgment, but simply with awareness of what we could and should be doing.
Whatever area of environmental, ecological or sociological crisis one studies, the meat industry plays a critical role. One pound of grain can be turned into one pound of bread, or one pound of pasta or one pound of rice or corn. However, in order to produce one pound of meat, sixteen pounds of grain are required. That means, of course, that infinitely more land is required to grow grain for livestock than grain for people. If we must grow sixteen pounds of grain in order to obtain one pound of edible meat, then every time we eat meat rather than grain we are – essentially – eating for sixteen.
The production of a pound of meat takes approximately 2600 gallons (approximately 10,000 liters) of water. This is due to the exorbitant amount of water used to grow the food for the livestock, the water they drink and are bathed in and then the water used to try to wash the blood, urine and feces out of the flesh to be sold in grocery stores or restaurants. Tens of thousands of farmers across the ‘developing’ world are collapsing on their desiccated fields. There is no water for their parched mouths or withered crops. Many commit suicide, unable to face the prospect of a tomorrow with no means to feed themselves and their families. Many others are taken, unwillingly, by sickness and death. Others abandon the fields of their ancestors and flood the already overpopulated cities to eke out a meagre existence in a slum on the muddy outskirts of a third-world metropolis. And a typical small family consumes the equivalent of 2600 gallons of water during one meal of hamburgers.
The world of the twenty-first century cannot live in a vacuum. We don’t have to be quantum physicists to understand the way that our personal choices and actions directly impact the rest of the planet. What I purchase, use and eat today in Rishikesh or Delhi or London or Paris or Los Angeles is having a direct effect on the lives of my brothers and sisters in other countries. Every pound of meat that I don’t eat frees up sixteen pounds of grain and 2600 gallons of water for other purposes.
When I first came to India one of the most remarkable aspects to me of the culture and the country was the peace on people’s faces – the rich, the poor, the old, the young, the homeless, the hungry, the educated and the illiterate. It was as though one’s lot in life was simply part of the ‘package deal’ of human birth. It had very little connection to one’s sense of self or self-worth. However, today there is an epidemic and feverish clamoring for more and more, better and better, newer and newer.
An inevitable and inextricable part of production is waste. There is a direct, linear relationship between the volume of goods produced by a factory and the volume of waste cast by that factory into local rivers, lakes and groundwater or spewed into the air. As we rush exuberantly toward unbridled consumerism, we must be prepared for a rapid devastation of our air and water quality. This tragic prophecy is already a fact. As we clamour for more and more, newer and newer, as we continue to associate our self-worth with the knick-knacks on our counters, as we employ TVs and computers as baby-sitters, we are rendering our natural environment unliveable.
Basic infrastructural issues such as sewage, solid waste, and garbage collection should certainly be taken care of by local and state municipalities. However, we all have a serious role to play as well – both in the problem and the solution. Every new product we purchase, every gram of plastic packaging, our leather car seats, purses and shoes produced in these factories has a direct impact on the levels of toxins in Ganga and therefore upon the health of our brothers and sisters who live downstream. The exorbitant amount of electricity required to run the factories at warp-speed, at all hours of the day and night, necessitates construction of dams on the river. It is a tragic lose-lose situation, a cycle of violence — violence to Ganga and violence to those whose lives depend upon Her waters being clean and free-flowing.
Every religion of the world exhorts us to view the world as our family. Can we? Can we do more than shake our heads in disbelief as we watch the news? Can we realize that the ‘sacrifice’ of living simply, of being vegetarian of consuming less so that our starving brothers and sisters may be fed, so that farmers’ lands may be irrigated, so that trees may continue to grow in the Amazon, so that the rate of global warming and environmental devastation may be checked, so that Mother Earth may continue to have fertile land for growing crops, may we realize that this is a natural choice to be made and not an excruciating sacrifice? Can we truly feel the same Oneness, the same sense of family, for those who are not ‘us’ as we do for those living under our own roofs or within our circle of friends?
This is the great challenge and great gift that we have been presented with today. That which today our world requires us to do is very much what all the religions of the world have been urging us to do for millennia: live simply, live with awareness and consciousness, share with others, love thy neighbor as thyself, practice non-violence and reap not the spoils of violence. By doing that which is right for the Earth, we are actually doing that which is right for ourselves. Every undergraduate psychology student knows that greater happiness is actually attained by giving than receiving, by sacrificing for another than by indulging oneself.
The current tragic state of our Earth is forcing us out of our indifference, out of our cocoons, forcing us to break the boundaries by which we have narrowly defined our ‘self.’ If we can step up to the challenge and redefine our priorities, our values, our goals and even our understanding of where ‘self’ ends and ‘other’ begins, then this time in history will mark not an era of devastation but an era of rebirth.
Mother Ganga: Interview with Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati
The post Reflections on Water from the Banks of Mother Ganga appeared first on UPLIFT.
Source: Uplift Connect