Mahatma Gandhi-An environmentalist by nature

In this article authored by Vinay Lal, a professor of History and Asian American Studies at University of California, Los Angeles, he comprehends the ecological dimesnions of  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's thinking. 

First, he was of the considered opinion that nature should be allowed to take its course. The environmental crises and “extreme weather events” that are upon us have been precipitated by the gross and appalling instrumentalisation of nature. The earth is not merely there to be mined, logged and hollowed out. However, we have to first preserve the ecological equanimity of the body. Nature’s creatures mind their own business; if humans were to do the same, we would not be required to legislate the health of all species. 

Second, Gandhiji mounted a rigorous critique of the “waste” that is behind modern industrial civilisation in more ways than we imagine. In contemplating his life, his anticipation of the Anthropocene is striking. “God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom [England] is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts,” Gandhiji told an interlocutor in 1928.

Third, as is well known, Gandhiji was a staunch vegetarian, and he would have been pleased with a great deal of modern research which has established that the meat industry has put extreme pressures on the soil and water resources and the massive increase in levels of meat consumption when people start entering he middle class in countries such as India. But to be “ecological” in sensibility also means harbouring a notion of largesse towards others; it is a way of being in the world.

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