Missing the wisdom of Red Indian chief

Missing the wisdom of Red Indian chief

Economic model of development requires extracting an ever increasing amount of natural resources.

A long time conservationist and US senator Gaylord Nelson launched the idea of Earth Day in 1970. The main objective was to demonstrate nationwide concern for environment protection and to shake the political set up to initiate action.

The idea originated at a conference held in Seattle. Ironically, the initiators of the move had no clue that the chief of the original inhabitants of the United States — the Red Indians — pronounced the testament to protect mother earth two centuries ago by declaring that “the earth is our mother, not an enemy to be conquered. The white man treats his mother, the earth and brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered and sold like sheep. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.”


Unfortunately, the wisdom of the Red Indian chief has been ignored time and again and we have shown how we pillage the earth to meet our greed and leave behind deserts through our unending appetite for materialistic development.

For those who are part of the ancient civilisations that survived for several thousand years, every day is an ‘earth day’ in which the respect for the nature was the foundation for all the actions. The ones who neglected these basics were wiped out from the earth.
In contrast to these ancient civilisations that survived for several centuries, the industrial civilisation has not even passed the test of three centuries. Within such a short lifespan it has created immense problems that have global implications, threatening the very existence of other life forms on earth, including that of the human being.

Earth Day indicates the global celebrations and commitment to conserve environment; it has been able to satisfy the need to evolve a new ritual to celebrate, to elicit response from common people towards protecting nature. In four decades of its existence, it has been endorsed by the industry and the media, but reduced to a symbolic act. In reality, the omnipresent political implications of decision making to destroy the natural resources take precedence over this symbolism.

The epidemic of ‘affluenza’ has engulfed the well off sections of people from developed and developing countries. The high GDP growth, a panacea for removal of underdevelopment is leading to unprecedented levels of material accumulation and over consumption leading to environmental and social disintegration.

The over emphasis on economic model of development requires extracting an ever increasing amount of natural resources. According to an estimate, this is 60 billion tonnes annually, or it is like consuming 112 Empire State Buildings every day! More than half of the extraction of the resource takes place in Asia.

These glaring facts do not move the common man to act, neither do they motivate the world leaders to initiate actions to find alternate path. The failure of Copenhagen is a clear indicator of how narrow-minded our leaders are, the fixation they have to continue high extraction of natural resources to meet the affluent members of earth.

The hope generated by Barack Obama as president of the US has evaporated into thin air. It is ironical that after a year in office he sounds like Bush III. Under these circumstances, it is obvious that the Earth Day launched four decades ago has had very little impact at the highest political levels.

This also indicates how globalisation invents new rituals like Earth Day, replacing the old culturally-rooted rituals like ‘Bhoomi Hunnime’ celebrated in some parts of Karnataka on a full moon day in which the farmers worship the earth for bountiful harvest. As we become global netizens, we need to find new ways to celebrate, and with media blitz, it becomes a new trend, where erasing older rituals is a non-issue.

The true sprit of Earth Day is to live in harmony with nature, attempting to tread carefully, with the minimal ecological foot prints to leave behind. However, those indigenous societies who practice this idea sincerely are treated as ‘primitive’ to be replaced by the high consumption models of development. It is doubtful if the world leaders are willing to profess the ways of simple living and high thinking.