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Religious Heritage and the Environment

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Well in the last lecture we had given the thought on the role of rituals religion and its relationship with ecology by citing some examples particularly among the Tsembaga tribe in New Guinea and in that we have witnessed how ritual in a way is being played out in a specific environment and how helpful it is. Now slightly moving away from what we had discussed in the last lecture today on this theme religion in an age of environmental crisis, just trying to introduce and brought you to a different perspective of bringing in some religions mainly Christian religion, Buddhism and Hinduism.

And we would be looking at how they have historically tries to make sense of their environment who their religious beliefs. Now if you look around to set the tone and the background we would perhaps look into some of the definitions or the opinions which are being raised in the world by the world Commission on Environment and development which perhaps seems to have acknowledged to reconcile with human experience with natural laws by trying to raise the importance of culture and how this cultural and spiritual Heritages can in some way or the other reinforce or reshape or rethink are economic interest and survival imperatives.

Now this sounds quite promising and interesting in some way, but to what extent it is being accepted or how it is being able to be implemented in the practical sense is something which we would be looking on. And for quite some time the role of this cultural and spiritual heritage which is mentioned by the WCED is supposedly seem to be something which would be useful for the environmental protection at the same time sustainable development but unfortunately this has been ignored or sidelined by many of the international bodies and the policy planners and even many of the environmentalist.

Now one of the main anxiety and fear which these communities or these organizations have felt was in some way if the cultural and the spiritual aspect is being brought into the domain of environment and sustainable development, it might in some way tends to compromise with the rationality of science and as I said many tends to be pretty much apprehensive of trying to assuring in these ideas of religions or the classic text in the spear of this environmental movement which perhaps is seen to be a threat because, they might compromise the objectivity and scientific temperament and professionalism of or so to say the democratic values. So for this reason for quite some time this idea of religion is being sidelined if not ignore.

Now this idea of rejection also led some groups of communities to even lead to a complete rejection of religion to even incorporate them in the domain of this environment and similarly the issue was being raised by some of the recent feminist critique of religion with perhaps identified this patriarchal biases, which is seem to be more close to the Western science or perhaps which is more led by the Western patriarchal capitalist development. So therefore these are some of the issues which perhaps has been witness an encounter even after the ideas which is posited by the WCED to incorporate this religious and spiritual heritage.

Now if you try to contextualize historically religion in a way tends to not only teach us to perceive and to act on the new non-human nature in terms of the particular human interest beliefs and social structures, but this might not necessarily be the case with every religion, so therefore we will try to look at some of the claims and counterclaims which are seen in the classic text of many religious books in the upcoming lectures. Now through religions myths and laws have in a way we have socialized nature and harming it or maybe we tend to situate or contextualize them in our own human terms that is the way we perceive the way we maintain the kind of relationship, and the way we sort of meted out certain kind of actions or maybe let us say harming them. Now and to a large extent we have in a way done so far as so to satisfy our basic human needs or rather greeds and abilities and power relations.

Now for quite sometimes when we talk about the sustainability the question is to what extent resources we have encountered are in a position to satisfy our needs rather than our greeds, but we all know that a human needs in a way is unlimited and Beyond for more and more and as a result of this we tend to engage in exploiting the resources in a large extent.

Now the question remains how for this religion shape our understanding and also our conduct towards nature and the second question is and how has this environmental crisis what we are facing currently challenge and transform modern theology and spiritual practices. Now these are some pertinent questions which perhaps can be raised and it is also interesting to look at how the kind of religious beliefs or teaching is also being set by the cultural and social environment to which it is being shape up.

Now therefore religion in a way is not something we tends to follow whatever is being included in the religious or the classic text rather we humans tend to frame religion in our own ways and then in our own interest. So therefore when we talk about the Christian religion in particular since it is being borrowed and then it has its origin from the Western culture, so that part of the western culture influencing on Christian religious teaching in a way is seen to be something different from what it is being interpreted from the classical biblical text.

Now for instance if you look at the portions on the classic text of the Genesis that is the first part of the Bible it many writers in a way quote these particular words in order to have some kind of a debate, if not their disagreements man's rights that is to master the earth that is how human is given some kind of inenable rights to control or if not act in a way what they like on this earth and or more importantly the surroundings and this perhaps since seem to have created an essential source of havoc which wreaked by the western societies upon the earth.

Now as we all know how industrialism and capitalism evolved and immersed and in one of my lectures I had also mentioned about how the Christian religion or the Protestant ethic is particularly responsible for the rise of these western capitalism. Now in some way these all at ups and then the kind of culture brings or up bring where one comes from in a way has an impact that is there in this belief in a way has an impact or impinge upon the character and attitudes
and behavior of human towards nature.

Now contrary to what it is being seen here in the religious text we could also find out a different issues here that is the spirit of democracy and also the critically intellectual tendencies which are embedded in the Enlightenment philosophy and modern science also caused heavy doubt on any particular religion claims to absolute truth.

Now when we looked at the period of this Enlightenment which is more or less based on scientific reasons and it tends to debunk the whole idea of religious belief. And these religious beliefs are seen to be a myth and irrational and which are seen to be un scientific therefore the spirit of this enlightenment and philosophy and modern science in a way has sort of create a serious doubt on the particular religions claims to absolute truth. Now the ideas or the belief which is based primarily on this religion is seem to be something which is which cannot be proven and which is not based on reason therefore it cannot be accepted as an absolute truth.

Now this idea of how modern science and technology emerges together in a way has to some extent shape not just a new way of perceiving the earth or the universe, but it in a way has sort of brought a negative changes to the graphical space where humans tends to sort of exploit the nature much more in a much more intensity. Now similarly there are also in the recent times the Ecotheologians who tends to brought in this idea of these traditions or let us say the cultural beliefs and then certain other ideas which are enshrined on a classical text tends to major attempts to sort of reinterpret, so that which can perhaps help us in solving this current crisis which we are facing in the current environmental contacts.

Now the Ecotheologians for that matter tries or attempts to bring in certain religions, so that we in a way have a certain kind of beliefs which can be useful in trying to drive the humans closer to nature which perhaps has began as it was in the past but it has dramatically change over time perhaps because human tends to be lit by the materialistic desire and so is the relationship between human and the environment or natural resources has changed drastically. Therefore in fact if the significance of this religion is sort of increased because of these several guiding lights of modernity have become increasingly suspected.

Now for instance people tends to have that negative notion against who are being religious or terming them as rather fanatics or radicalistic or maybe fundamentalist. Now therefore even among the same faith or the same religion there is this sort of antagonistic feeling among humans now keeping aside that even the faith in science and this materialist or these are so-called liberal democracies has in a way being undermined by the political violence, technological disasters and culture bankruptcy in the late 20th century that is the post Second World War.

Now if you looked at that is purely from the secular radical politics point of view it in a way have rendered some kind of doubtful mainly by the kinds of economic failures and also the totalitarian political excesses of this communism. This in a way have tends to see the failure of the political affairs around the world how the communism have failed and how totalitarian has in a way has not been able to deliver what it promises and this sort of chaos and the kind of anarchism is being witness has in a way led to certain kind of an economic disaster.

Now therefore this spiritual perspective is sort of seen as an alternative way or maybe as a source of some kind of a social directions as well as a personal inspiration. Now this religion as I said can in a way deliver some kind of interest if not an alternative way from all these chaos and problems which we have witnessed today.

And now from the perspective of many world religions that is on the abuse and exploitation of nature for human immediate gain is perhaps perceived to be sort of unjust, immoral and unethical. Now for example if you look back at history that is the ancient past particularly the religion like in the Hindus and Buddhists where in a way observed to be more careful and then they are more or less engage with the moral teachings regarding their attitudes towards nature that is plants and animals normal.

And even the many of their leaders that is their rulers and the kings were in a way pretty much followed the kind of principles and guidelines and also in a way they have create an example to their fellow subjects and citizens. Now for a sense you can perhaps maybe highlight the great King Ashoka wherein his son violence after the war of Kalinga and the followers that is he took up the religion or profess the religions of Buddhism and he later on becomes to be pretty much well known a missionary of Buddhism.

Now that sort of extreme steps which are normally being taken up and then for that method like the religion of this Buddhism in a way is founded by none other than the prince Siddhar that is who later on came to be known as Gautama Buddha who in a way has spent much part of his life in the forest or closer to nature and therefore there are some living examples or maybe legends who we can in a way pinpoint of how they are in a way able to set certain kind of examples in the past in the distant past particularly even in the Indian context.

But now if you look around may be particularly in the 20th century these ideas or this attitude of this materialistic orientation which is more or less being influenced by the Western culture has equally affected the cultures of the east that is it has in a way not only influenced through this process of this modernity modernization or the globalization process. This whole idea of Western culture has not I want indoctrinated but then to some extent has influenced the cultural behavior and attitudes of the east to some extent.

So more or less the modern science of which is purely occidental in away has sort of have an impact on the Orient that is the Orientalist. Now therefore theme team on the historical roots of our ecological crisis which is pretty much propagated or strengthened by none other than the historian Lynn white. Lynn White in a way tries to look at or trace the genealogy of or the historicity of religion by bringing in the Judeo- Christian religions in trying to look and locate how it in a way has evolved and the kind of relations between human and nature has changed drastically over a period of time.

Now of what he tries to look at or locate is this injunction or the kind of Alliance which is being seen between the science and technology. That is the theoretical and the emirical approaches to our natural environment has to some extent drastically change that is beginning from the Enlightenment period and how this western science or the modern science is seem to be sort of the only answer to our problems and whereas sideline the other beliefs or principle as something which is illogical and irrational.

Now this emergence of the widespread of these practices of the baconian creed that scientific knowledge means technological power over nature can in a way scarcely be dated before the 1850 that is the 19th, the mid19th century. Now these ideas of how scientific knowledge or western science is since be much more dominant and then much more powerful or in terms of against dominating the nature in a way has sort of shaped our ideas or our attitude towards nature for example if you look at the inventions And the evolutions of event arms and ammunitions for instance when the first cannon was fired that is way back in early 14th century you could perhaps imagine the kind of far reaching impact
it has on the ecology or the environment rather. How and to what extent Natural Resources has been exploited by simply using this first cannon you all know like what cannon is made of it is not just an iron but also the kind of ammunitions which is being required and the amount of sulfur and charcoal which is being required in order to build a cannon.

Now therefore superseding all these surpassing all these ideas of how these the evolution of arms and ammunition in a way has to some extent tends to not only led to the ecological disaster but also it has to some extent to a very innumerable extent it has led to a deforestation. Now this in a way has led to some a certain kind of erosion and also deforestation because the demand for this iron ore and charcoal or sulfur rather which is being mined from the forests or from the mountains has been in much more demand.

Therefore it has to some extent affected the environment in a great manner. Now how is this alliances between the science and technology is to be perceived, science which was traditionally perceived to be much more aristocratic in the sense it is more based on the controls or the dominance of the elites and which was more of speculative also and intellectuals in intent whereas technology was more of lower class or empirical and action-oriented. Now when we talk about technology before the alliance between science and technology, technology has in a way in existence in a much much more earlier period than the first form of both of production like the simple technology of plowing and so and so forth and as a result of the its injunction an alliance with science technology has becomes much more finer and finer and this evolution of technology itself has to be seen and located in the context of how harmful and
impactful it is for the environment in general.

Now this fusion of the science and technology which happened towards the middle of the 19th century that is after the ideas of this baconian creed of the scientific knowledge which is seem to be dominant over nature. Now this sort of fusion between science and technology has in away reduce the kind of social barriers which tended to sort of assert a functional unity of brain and hand.

Now earlier it was more of an empirical or an action-oriented and it was very less guided by the sort of rationality or maybe it was more based on logic rather than the intellectual intent. Now with the fusion of the science and technology now people tend to use not just the hand but the brain and this sort of combination happens to be pretty much lethal and we eventually have witness and resulted to the ecological crisis which we are facing. Now this ecology crisis in a way is a product of an emerging, entirely novel and Democratic culture.

Now therefore if one looked at how does one tries to contextualize the historical roots of this that is the ecology crisis which we are facing. One can perhaps not just go back to the fusion or the injunction between science and technology but since the theme which we are discussing is primarily based on religion we will try to pick how some religion in a way influences or are able to bring certain kind of changes in terms of human relations towards nature.

Now before adding on that if you look at the western traditions of this technology and science more or less this the modern technology which we are using and the modern science are perceived to be distinctively Occidental is that is Western in nature and as this technology and science which begin from the West in a way also has been influenced by the Western ideas of understanding or perceiving nature and therefore the leadership of the West that is the Western world both in terms of technology and in science and also in far older than the scientific revolutions of the way back in the 17th century or the so called industrial revolution of 18th century.

And how it is able to utter in this amount of changes in terms of not just the scientific revolutions but also the Industrial Revolution and to what extent this industrial revolution has changed the face of the world or the earth rather and as a result of this industry why is industrial evolution always important when we looked at the advancement of this modern science and technology because as a real of this industrial revolution it in a way has resulted to the colonizing more and more countries and for quite some the period beginning form the 18th century till the latter part of the 20th century is seem to be more of a period of imperialism and this colonialism. How the Western countries were in a way in competition to colonize countries, so that they were not just politically but economically subjugated and their natural resources are being ushered into their country now therefore this idea of this western tradition in a way by having the upper hand with the use of this technology and science can be in a way seem to be rather in a different context. Now if you look at the idea of this medieval view of men and nature that is much more before how this advancement of this modern science takes place.

Now agriculture perhaps happens to be one of the main ship occupations even in the present times but then any change in the method of the use of technology or till it has a far-reaching impact on the kind of how we use the soil. Now agriculture for quite some time as I said not just in the present context but happens to be the first form of how human sustenance naturally begins. Now if you look at the earlier forms of how this agriculture is operated people tend to use the plows which were normally being drawn by animals that is maybe a couple of oxen and which did not normally have much of an impact on the soil.

And only the upper crust a layer of the earth is being scratched by this use of this particular tool or the early plow let say. Now by a later part of the 7th century AD that is particularly in Europe or maybe the northern countries normally peasants were using much more of a new kind of plow which is perhaps seen to be more equipped with a vertical knife or a tool which in a way can cut the lines of the furrow
that is the soil and the friction of this particular plow with the soil was so impactful that it normally required maybe half a dozen or maybe 8 oxen which is particularly different from the earlier ones when they use this, the plow which is being reckoned by the maybe 2 oxen.

Now therefore the more number of these animals are being required and since people cannot afford such kind of this the new kind of plow so they normally tends to pull together and then go on with this kind of agriculture practices. Now in this what is being witnessed is that it tends to have a certain kind of impact on the land to such an extent that the cross plowing was not actually needed and the fields tended to be shaped in long strips and how acres and acres of land were being plowed in a pair of few moments.

Now what we can see from this context is that the kind of land how it was being distributed earlier that is the fields were normally distributed in minutes that is which were more of capable of supporting a single family that is more or less based on subsistence and subsistence farming was perhaps the regular practice and in that period of time. Now as we have discussed how the use of these the much more of a sharp blade in terms of the harmful of those thing and even more efficient plow that is peasants tends to pulling together their oxen to form a large plow teams.

Now therefore this distribution of land was no longer based on the kind of how the family can afford or rather based on the needs of the family but based on the capability or capacity of power machines to till the earth that is those who are in positions or who are in positions to own a machine in a way can deal the land to the extent they possibly want it. Now therefore it is not based on the family owning such ratio of land but rather if somebody is in the position to possess a powerful machine he in a way can own much more of a land.

And therefore this there is disparities in terms of distributions of land at the same time in terms of acquiring and possessions of wealth. Now that is a sort of background how humans relationship with the soils has in a way of profoundly change and also how the earlier forms that is when the simple technology was used men were seem to be much more closer to nature or has been part of nature and rather evolves and emerge as an exploiter of nature that is how men eventually tooks not just something which is dependent on but rather become a master.

That is how the baconian creed of the scientific knowledge in a way also saved the minds of humans that is the dominance or power over nature is being witnessed way back from the 17th century. Now what people do about their ecology the kind of actions or attitudes which are being made out to the environment also normally depends on what we think about themselves that is in relations to things around them that is usually how we perceive ourselves in relation to things around them that is the ecosystem. Now in a way we have at longer discuss about the human ecology already so I need not really going to the details again.