On the International Mother Earth Day on April 22, 2022, the Secretary General of United Nations expressed concern that “Today, the Earth is facing a triple planetary crisis- climate disruption, nature and biodiversity loss and pollution and waste”. He further stated that “how badly humanity has been treating our planet and how we have been poor custodians of our planet”. Further, the United Nations proclaimed May 22 as ‘The International Day for Biological Diversity’ (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The focal theme of IDB-2022 is ‘Building a shared future for all life’. The net result of our poor custodianship is the temperature rise and climate change that leads to irreversible impact on rainfall pattern and is a cause for glacier-melt, sea-level rise, extreme weather-driven catastrophes, fatal health effects on all biotic and abiotic entities resulting into loss of biodiversity and habitable zones. Besides, rivers and other water bodies are becoming unsuitable to support life and health of soil and air has deteriorated to irreversible extent. Imbalance in the delicate relationship existing between climate and weather is responsible for temperature rise and frequent weather extremes and natural disasters. As a threat multiplier, climate change poses a direct risk to human survival, especially to the most vulnerable communities of the world.
European Environmental Agency report (2017) on “Energy and Climate Change,” reveals that two-third of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions are linked to fossil fuels burned for everyday use, with electricity usage alone accounting for an estimated 25 PER CENT of GHGs emissions
The long-term heating of the earth’s surface called global warming has accelerated due to anthropogenic activities since pre-industrial times and has increased the planet’s average temperature by 1.10C. Recent studies demonstrate that the Arctic is heating-up four times faster than the rest of the planet that will cause melting of second thickest ice sheet at an alarming rate resulting into sea-level rise and inundation of land areas that will lead to shift in existing habitat pattern. In order to mitigate climate change related threats, several countries including India have arrived at the consensus to restrict global average temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels through ‘Global Zero Carbon Emission’ approach. We need to pursue safe, just, equitable and net zero economic pathways in meeting this goal. Mitigating adverse effects of climate change is also essential for ensuring food and water security and global peace. COVID-19 offered an opportunity to humanity to redesign biotic and abiotic systems towards carbon neutrality through ancient Indian healthier, more resilient and climate-safe life-style.
‘India would achieve net-zero emission targets by 2070, country’s non-fossil energy capacity would be raised to 500 GW by 2030, and till then half of India’s energy requirement would be met from the renewable energy sources’ — Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Said while attending Conference of Parties (COP-26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Glasgow
European Environmental Agency report (2017) on “Energy and Climate Change,” reveals that two-third of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions are linked to fossil fuels burned for everyday use, with electricity usage alone accounting for an estimated 25 per cent of GHGs emissions. Adapting clean energy sources and reducing overall energy usage is therefore a crucial first step in mitigating climate change and achieving the Paris Climate Agreement targets. Successful transition to a low carbon economy is another crucial measure in this regard. Thus, for achieving global warming to the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement, the focus of energy and thus the economy has to shift from ‘OIL’ to non-conventional energy and to a green and circular economy. However, this requires global commitment as it will adversely impact oil asset owners and millions of those dependent on petro-dollars. This will help stabilise oil-prices and phase-out oil production. Developed countries need to build global trust in their commitment to achieve the 1.50C limit of temperature rise and in mitigating climate change impact. Besides, climate change will result in large scale migration of people to the less climate-vulnerable areas. Consequently, a large portion of our planet will become virtually uninhabitable forcing people to move en-masse to less vulnerable areas. This will lead to conflict over land and resources, widening gaps between the haves and haves not, and ultimately the disintegration of nation-states. Those nations having cultural connections across length and breadth of geographic extent like India are more likely to survive the onslaught of climate change.
India’s Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, while attending Conference of Parties (COP-26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Glasgow, announced that India would achieve net-zero emission target by 2070, country’s non-fossil energy capacity would be raised to 500 GW by 2030, and till then half of India’s energy requirement would be met from the renewable energy sources. He also stated that the carbon intensity of the Indian economy would reduce to less than 45 per cent by 2030. The roadmap for achieving above targets lies in ancient Indian civilizational narratives. India urgently needs to execute action plans to meet these challenges and to mitigate climate change impacts paving the way to a low-carbon economy by lowering GHGs emissions, providing greater access to clean energy solutions, striking a balance between the anthropogenic emissions and removal of GHGs through land-based sinks like forest covers and developing a credible roadmap for phasing out of coal energy production for achieving net zero emission declaration. We are also required to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) consistent with our target of achieving net-zero emissions. Climate mitigation finance is another cause of concern for India, like for any other developing and under-developed nations.
Sanatan Dharma are the set of doctrines governing our cultural and social lives. One of the greatest and unique strengths of the Sanatan Dharma has been its adoration for nature in its entirety for protecting all animate and inanimate components of ‘Mother Earth’ for preserving possible and probable habitats of all life-forms to flourish on the planet
Carbon budget (remaining amount of greenhouse gases that will be emitted before the planet warms up by 1.5°C or 2°C depending on the set clock), as the current trend goes by, is likely to increase. India needs to develop climate models that would help forecast possible future hypothetical emission and climate change scenarios. These models will help devise future trajectories of global warming. Representative Concentration Pathways incorporating the best-known emissions scenarios need to be constructed for understanding global warming at various hypothetical levels of GHGs emissions. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations are aimed at addressing climate change issues. However, the UN itself estimated that we need approximately three to five trillion dollars annually to make the SDGs a reality. Where will this money come from? For actualising (re-actualising in India’s context) this noble mission of the United Nations, the best way is to resort to a greener lifestyle as we were used to in ancient Indian times. Life style and life values indeed favoured protecting nature in its entirety on the premise that nature is the extension of the SELF and Acharya Shankar’s ‘Philosophy of Universal Oneness’ or ‘Advaita’.
The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and several other scriptures of Sanatan Dharma are the set of doctrines governing our cultural and social lives. One of the greatest and unique strengths of the Sanatan Dharma has been its adoration for nature in its entirety for protecting all animate and inanimate components of ‘Mother Earth’ for preserving possible and probable habitats of all life-forms to flourish on the planet. Perhaps, no other civilisational discourse, attributed so much significance and interconnectedness to various facets of nature as the Sanatan way of lifestyle, values and virtues. In Vedic culture, natural resources have never been considered commodities to be consumed for enjoyment and worldly pleasure as are viewed now. Contrarily, people were outlawed from the overexploitation of natural resources. They were mentored to worship the divinity and interconnectedness that exists in the animate and the inanimate world including trees, shrubs, herbs, animals, all forms of water-bodies, air, soil, fire, stones, hills, mountains and even extra-terrestrial entities. Sanatanis recognised, appreciated and preserved the purity and dignity of varied facets of nature in all their life activities. In essence, they practised nature centric civilizational and development discourse that ensured the longevity of human civilization alongside all living and nonliving entities. All the spheres of human activities centred on the purity of nature and were zero-emission and zero-waste based. Vedic people had a co-existential frame of mind with the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere. ‘Less is More’ and ethical use of natural resources were the two among several civilisation traits that governed our lives. The first shloka of Ishopnishad taught us Isavasyam idam sarvam, yat kinca jagatyam jagat; tena tyaktena bhunjitha, ma gṛdhaḥ kasya svid dhanam’ implying that every animate and inanimate entity in the universe is controlled and owned by the Almighty. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his share, and one must not accept other things, knowing fully well to whom those belong to. However, this Vedic culture, traditions and value system underwent stark departure and erosion. We have now fully embraced an individualistic and consumerist mind-set and lifestyle resulting in overexploitation of natural resources. We now operate our lives in the paradigm of ‘More is less’. The health of soil, water and air has now become extremely vulnerable owing to unhealthy and unsustainable livelihood practices. Consequently, we find ourselves standing in a cross-road and temperature rise and climate change are staring at us and all facets of earth are facing existential crisis.
The 75th anniversary of country’s independence provides us an opportunity to re-design and re-strategise the development model in vogue. Besides, it is easier, cost-effective and more productive to make rural settings climate resilient in the model of SMART Villages as compared to SMART urban settings. The idea of Gram Swaraj and Antyodaya can be practiced in this way
Embracing anti-nature industrial development models, and decades of poor and inappropriate land use practices including unsustainable agricultural practices and over-exploitation of natural resources are at the core of the temperature rise and climate change. It is a well settled fact that agriculture acts both as a source and sink of GHGs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that the composite effect of agricultural activities is approximately one-fifth of the anthropogenic GHGs effect. Thus, we need to create ancient Indian nature-centric agricultural and other livelihood practices and solutions that will allow ecosystems, biodiversity and humanity to prosper. We need to develop and implement region specific integrated ecological restoration and sustainable development models in conjecture with local, regional and national organisations and institutions as a catalyst for climate resilient life-styles of dwellings; climate-smart agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, gardening, landscaping, agroforestry, forestry; and other livelihood practices for restoring biodiversity, water and soil-moisture retention and carbon storage. Diversification of crops and cropping patterns, especially crops, that require less water without compromising with the quality and quantity are the urgent need of time. We need to reincarnate green, white, yellow revolutions etc. in a new avatar through climate resilient practices. This will also help regenerate natural ecosystems like free-flowing river systems and groundwater regime, green belts, climate resilient communities and landscapes. These efforts will result in more productive and profitable agricultural practices, providing small-scale farmers and rural communities with improved and diversified ways of livelihoods with smaller ecological footprints. The restoration of degraded landscapes and natural areas through agroforestry, and other types of regenerative farming will improve soil fertility and water availability and control soil and water erosion. Of course, we should celebrate India’s jump to 5th place in 2022 (from 10th in 2014) in terms of GDP. However, India and all other countries have to ponder upon how much is the contribution of the green economy in the GDP. It is in this context that the nature-centric development narrative of ancient India will help pave the way for a sustainable lifestyle (green economy) model of domestic products and economic growth as against non-green economy measures of GDP growth and thereby making rural India as a hub and spokes of hopes and aspirations for climate change mitigation.
The 75th anniversary of the country’s independence provides us an opportunity to re-design and re-strategise the development model in vogue. It is easier, cost-effective and more productive to make rural settings climate resilient in the model of SMART villages as compared to SMART urban settings. This will also help arrest migration from rural to urban settings- an immediate and urgent need. The idea of Gram Swaraj and Antyodaya can be achieved in this way. Pursuing integrated and sustainable development trajectory for villages, where the soul of India resides, will lead to ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. It is also for the good of humanity that we suffer for the time-being during the transition phase of switching over to climate resilient lifestyles as prevailed in ancient India rather than inflicting irreparable damage to the biotic and abiotic components of mother earth and keeping survival of human civilisation at stake. Commitment and collective actions by both, State and non-State players, such as private sectors, non-governmental organisations, civil societies and also individuals is a must in this noble mission that will ensure longevity of the oldest Indian civilisation on the planet.