Breathe in gently and breathe out gently. And when you breathe in and breathe out, remember that we are all breathing the same air. All of humanity is breathing and sharing the same air. And even the life beyond humanity. The animals and plants. All life is sustained by the same breath. With that sense of unity of life and connection with the whole, we breathe in and we breathe out mindfully and heartfully. And we enjoy the life-sustaining breath without which we cannot survive.
Diversity is the key to a healthy humanity and thus a new paradigm and a new civilisation. Evolution favours diversity. In the beginning of time – at the time of the Big Bang – there was no diversity at all. There was only gas and eventually water. And then slowly but surely, over billions of years of evolution, we have millions of different species: plants and animals. Biodiversity is a necessity for the flourishing of life. All life.
We have become confused. What should be the end has become the means and what should be the means have become the end. Everything is devoted to economic growth. Human beings have become the instruments of economic growth. Human beings have become the slaves of economy. And nature also has become an instrument of economic growth; a resource to be exploited for the purpose of economic growth. When we look at nature as a resource for the economy, then nature’s only value is how useful it is for the interest of human production and consumption. We are treating nature as a machine. As industry; as utility. Strictly valued for its economic usefulness. And so, we measure the value of nature in terms of money. And so, we sacrifice wildlife and wildlands for the sake of the economy; alarmingly diminishing biodiversity in every sphere and in every level.
It is good to know that this industrial paradigm – economy over ecology – is only a couple of 100 years old. Our indigenous brothers and sisters have lived in harmony with nature for thousands and thousands of years. They knew – and know – that nature is not an economic means. Nature is not a resource for the economy. Nature is a source of life. Our planet is a sacred source of life; a living organism that is the common home for us and all the other living species. Economy is a subset of ecology.
Nature has intrinsic value, and we should therefore actively protect biodiversity from the monocultural mass production and mass consumption that come with the industrial economy. I firmly believe in human rights, but we need to go one step further. We must say that nature also has rights. Rights of nature and human rights go hand in hand. Humans are as much nature as trees and animals. Humans and nature are not separate. Humans and nature are one. We are all one. This unity of life, this interconnectedness, interdependence, interrelationship need to be recognised and acknowledged. The rights of nature must be respected and must be integrated in the human constitution and law. We need legislation that protects nature, that protects the biodiversity.
We need to re-learn to give greater importance to well-being of the planet earth and the well-being of humanity; rather than putting emphasis on economic growth, production, consumption, profit and money. Economic growth, production, consumption, profit and money are means to an end. The end is well-being of planet earth, well-being of our biodiversity and well-being of human communities
We can create a new way of thinking. We can create a new paradigm. We can get the difference between what is a means and what is an end straight. By changing our motivation and intention, everything changes. Whatever we do, we can do as a service to all living beings; as an act of universal love and compassion. We can re-create a more harmonious relationship with our planet earth. We can re-feel one with nature. We can change our materialistic, consumeristic, economic world view into a and holistic world view.
We have to create a new economy; a natural economy. To build this new, natural economy, we can learn everything we need to know from apples. One apple seed becomes an apple tree. And that apple tree gives thousands of apples. Apple trees are so generous. They give without discrimination or condition. The apple tree gives the apples – its gifts – freely and regardless whether you are human, bird, wasp or worm. And each of that apple has the potential to become a new tree and give thousands of apples again. Nature is abundant. And unconditional. By nature. There is no waste in the natural abundance. The apples that are not being eaten, go back to the soil and fertilise the soil. It is a perfect system. We can learn everything we need from nature. All we need to do is understand nature. Nature is our teacher. Nature is our mentor.
So, it all starts with education. And with that, with our young people. Currently we are only educating our young people’s heads. Modern education solely focuses on the brain; on knowledge. I think we need to educate the hearts and hands as well. We need holistic education. Wisdom-based. If we want a new civilisation, a new paradigm, a new economy where humans and nature can live in harmony with each other, then we have to start with creating a new kind of education!
Satish Kumar is a former Jain monk and long-term peace and environment activist. He has been quietly setting the global agenda for change for over 50 years. He is Editor Emeritus of Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine. Prior to this he was the Editor-in-Chief of Resurgence for over 40 years. Satish is the founder of Schumacher College in Dartington. His autobiography, No Destination, first published by Green Books in 1978, has sold over 50,000 copies.