FLAME in the news

Indic climate ethics can address energy poverty | March 22, 2022
Article Intro Image

‘Energy Poverty’ is a stark reality for around 1.3 billion people globally. And the age-old Indic climate ethics can provide solutions and practices to mitigate many climate issues we face today.

Indic traditions consider nature as powerful and divine, seen in practices such as revering the rivers, mountains, trees, animals, and the earth. Although the famous Chipko (tree-hugging) Movement led by women is one of the widely known examples of exemplary Indian environmental leadership in recent times, numerous other environmental practices being followed for generations can help shape energy ethics for the planet even today.

Notions on energy conservation suggest that:

  • The five elements – space, air, fire, water, and earth – are interconnected and provide us with renewable energy sources that can continue to support the web of life on earth. Hence, we must practise our dharma in harmony with the earth to protect and conserve energy resources rather than destroy or misuse them. Each local and national community can advocate for an end to exploiting the earth through polluting, extractive processes.
  • Simple living is a powerful enabler for developing sustainable economies, and energy must be consumed sustainably and responsibly by and for humankind. Our treatment of nature and usage of energy directly affect our karma. We can choose to protect energy resources in the future, replacing destructive karmic patterns with good ones. Gandhi ji is an inspirational model for simple living. His entire life can be seen as an ecological treatise – his every minute act, emotion, and thought were aligned with the Indic values of truth, non-violence, and simplicity.
  • Belief in the cycle of rebirth, wherein every being travels through millions of cycles of birth and rebirth in different forms, depending on their karma from previous lives, makes people respect every form of life on this planet. A person may reincarnate as a human, animal, bird, or another member of the broader community of life and traverse through many lives before achieving liberation. Reincarnation creates a sense of solidarity between humans and all living beings.
  • For example, several rural communities such as the Bishnois, Bhils, and Swadhyayis have maintained strong practices to conserve their local ecosystems, such as water bodies, flora and fauna as part of their daily lives. When Bishnois are protecting animals and trees, the Swadhyayis are building Vrikshamandirs (tree temples) and Nirmal Nirs (water harvesting sites) and the Bhils are practising their rituals in sacred groves, they are simply expressing their reverence for nature according to Indic teachings and not “restoring the environment”. They and several other communities do not view religion, ecology and ethics as separate but as an integral part of their dharma to treat nature with respect.

The one important environmental message Indic traditions can share with the rest of the world is that human beings must be grateful and protective towards energy resources as we stand to benefit from their proper usage. Ancient beliefs and traditions are a strong indicator of Indic climate ethics and are closely linked to the well-being of the people and environment on this planet. It is time the rest of the world embraces these practices.

- Prof. Pankaj Jain, Department of Humanities & Languages.