Serious concerns regarding the growing disparity among and within the nations were also raised by Joseph Stiglitz in his seminal work ?Globalization and its Discontents? in 2001. He had argued that globalisation was not working in the interest of the poor nations and of the poor within a nation. However, Stiglitz had suggested that this situation had arisen because globalisation was not being managed properly. In my opinion this ever-growing disparity was not due to any mismanagement of globalisation but due to the wrong fundamentals on which globalisation was operating. It was in ultimate analysis a consequence of continued unsustainable consumption by the one sixth rich population of the world. Consumption patterns in the industrialised world have assumed staggeringly high levels which can not be sustained. If these very levels are to be attained by the remaining five sixth of the world population the demand for energy, water and other natural resources both renewable and non-renewable would result in the total collapse of the ecosystem. It is evident that the existing techno-economic model can not sustain the type of global economic development which has hitherto been propagated.
Stiglitz has further stated that the West, acting through the IMF and the WTO that has seriously mismanaged the process of privatisation, liberalisation and stabilisation, and that by following its advice many Third World Countries and former Communist states are actually worse off now than they were before. What more evidence is required for the inadequacies of the techno-economic system professed and practiced by the West. Intelligent minds have to ponder seriously about the impending crisis and if it is agreed on the basis of the above facts that the present developmental model is not providing and perhaps cannot provide sustainable consumption levels to the entire population of the globe and is working against the poor then search of a new paradigm must begin in right earnest.
One wonders why it has not been possible to provide proper solutions to this predicament of mankind, especially when the world today has all the tools of analysis and necessary resources to do so? The roots of this predicament lie in the fundamentally flawed world-view adopted by the West. The reductionist approach, as propounded by Newton-Descarte required that in order to understand life and problems one had to reduce them in to smaller and smaller components and then to reassemble them to provide a clear picture and tangible solutions. Further, Bacon'sphilosophy that science was all about torturing nature for revealing its secrets and to enslave her, produced a permanent conflict between human kind and nature, a conflict between Mother Nature and her creation. It also gave a legitimacy to exploit nature and use its resources indiscriminately. This laid the foundation of an exploitative and violent world-order. What is astonishing is the fact that even now many scientists have not realised the grave implications of this approach. However, in the middle of the twentieth century several scientists started questioning the basic tenets of the cartesian philosophy which had created a deep divide between matter and consciousness. Nobel Laureate physicist, Werner Heisenberg pointing the influence of the cartesian divide had said, ?This partition has penetrated deeply into the human mind during the three centuries following descartes and it will take a longtime for it to be replaced by a really different attitude towards the problem of reality.? It is the Newtonian Cartesian approach, in my opinion, which produced a world view which in ultimate analysis is responsible for the faulty developmental model based on unlimited growth on a limited planet and thus creating a serious imbalance in human society and also between man and environment. It is time now, that we should seriously examine the postulates of the present day techno-economic order; failure to do so would seriously impinge upon the rights of the future generation and to sustain their lives on earth.
The problem is created when we consider science and technology in isolation disregarding the fact that all problems, social, economic, cultural, political and ethical interact with each other and can not be considered in fragments. Life and its affairs can not be discussed in parts, there has to be a holistic approach. If, however, one continues to pursue the fragmentary approach, then as David Bohm says, a confusion is bound to be created. He argues, ??. however, men who are guided by a fragmentary self-world view can not, in the long run, do other than to try in their actions to break themselves and the world in to pieces, corresponding to their general mode of thinking ?. Likewise when men try to separate some aspect of nature in their practical, technical work a similar state of disunity will develop. The same sort of thing will happen to the individual when he tries to separate himself from society. The unity in the individual and between man and nature as well as between man and man, can rise only in a form of action that does not attempt to fragment the whole of reality.? It is, therefore, evident that the roots of this widespread range of crises, social, political, economic, environmental, psychological and even moral and spiritual in the individual, groups of people and humankind as a whole lie in the fragmentary or mechanistic world view approach. The solution lies in adopting a holistic approach.
It was towards the last quarter of the twentieth century when scientists started thinking seriously about the dangers looming large due to the rapid degradation of environment and the indiscriminate exploitation of the natural resources. It was realised that there was no coherent vision of the planet Earth. However, some scientists including James Lovelock, who in 1972 proposed the Gaia hypothesis have vigorously argued about Earth being a self-regulatory system. The idea was accepted by the scientists from the four international research programmes gathered in a meeting held in Amsterdam in 2001. A declaration was made stating, ?The Earth system behaves as a single, self regulating system, comprised of physical, chemical, biological and human components. The interactions and feedbacks between the component parts are complex and exhibit complex and multi-scale temporal and spatial variability.? (emphasis added)
The Atharva Veda has a long chapter on Earth and the Vedic Rishi announces categorically that Earth is his mother and he is her son. In one of the hymns [12.1.12] he sings, ?what is thy middle, O! Earth, and what thy navel, what refreshment arose out of the body, in them do thy set us; be purifying towards us; Earth is mother, I am Earth'sson; Parjanya is father let him save us?. The parameters of using the natural resources are defined in the hymn [12.1.35] which says, ?what of thee O Earth, I dig out, let that quickly grow over; let me not hit they vitals, nor thy heart, O cleansing one?. Yet in another hymn [12.1.45] the Rishi recognising that people with diverse languages, laws and customs inhabit this planet, ?requests the Mother Earth to yield a thousand streams of affluence like a steady unresisting cow?. How close is the Amsterdam Statement to the Atharv Veda is indicative of the Bharatiya wisdom and their realisation of the holistic world-view in the early days of our civilization.
The entire Hindu approach towards Mother Earth has been one of deep reverence and gratitude for sustaining life. The Hindu approach was to draw sustenance from Mother Earth and not to exploit it. Just like a child can have a feed from his or her mother but can not be allowed to torture and bleed her, the Mother Earth should not be subjected to torture and exploitation. Nobody rapes his mother. The Vedic Rishis considered world as a family and not as a market. And this family included the entire living and non-living, animate and inanimate, organic and inorganic along with the entire biosphere sustained by the Mother Earth. Modern earth scientists have yet to recognise this wisdom of the Ancient Indian Genius. However, they do recognise the need for protecting and preserving the environment and preventing the indiscriminate and rapid exploitation of natural resources. Sustainable consumption is then the new paradigm and not the mad race for growth in the name of sustainable development.
The holistic world view, therefore, offers a new approach to look at ?nature?. It recognises an unbroken relationship between humankind and the ecosystem. The relationship is organic and symbiotic. In consequence, the holistic paradigm completely prohibits the exploitation of nature. The principle of organic relationship among socio-economic systems and the ecosystem does not permit to seek solutions to problems in parts. In other words the dynamic balance between humankind and ecosystem should not be disturbed beyond a certain limit. Socio-economic systems built on this concept are, therefore, based on a set of values. Any human activity not based on value system will ultimately produce unbearable stress and strain leading to a violent collapse of the system. Moral and ethical codes of conduct are necessary concommitants of a holistic approach and provide an inbuilt ability to harmonise the conflicts as and when they arise. As a result the socio-economic systems based on ?holism? are both ?non-exploitative? and ?non-violent?.
Who can then harmonise? The answer to this very important question lies in having an inviolable code of conduct. According to the enlightened Hindu seers and philosophers it is the ?innate law? or ?Dharma? (not the rituals) which decides the propriety of individual and social behaviour in a particular situation. It is Dharma which strikes the balance between the ?whole? and its ?parts?.
The inescapable conclusion of the holistic world-view is that the whole is not merely the algebraic sum of its parts but is something more than that. The all pervading cosmic consciousness provides a fundamental bond between ?whole? and its ?parts?. There is no conflict between the ?whole? and the ?part?, between the society and the individual. Both are organically and symbiotically related. They sustain each other. Degradation of one is the degradation of the other. Concepts of growth and development hitherto in vogue have to be redefined. Science and technology should serve entire humankind and not a particular group alone, neither it should degrade the environment nor should it dehumanise the society. Technology, according to the holistic approach, should have a human face and should serve both human society and nature. Technologies, apart from developing a society materially, also effect its social and cultural lives. We have seen how the techno-economic system based on cartesian paradigm has produced a value system resulting in a highly insensitive and individualistic society propelled by the market forces. Concept of unlimited growth on a limited planet is untenable. Concern, for the suffering humanity and a sense of compassion for it, needs a different value system at individual, societal, national and global levels.
(Excerpts from the speech at first National seminar organised by Arundhati Vashishtha Anusandhan Peeth. The writer is former Union Minister for Human Resources Development, Science & Technology and Ocean Development Government of India.)
(To be concluded)