Long-term Sustainable Development: How Reverence for Nature Can Revive Society

By Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar┃Posted: October 16, 2018

Development is imperative, but short-sighted approaches often cause great harm. Sustainable development keeps in mind the long-term effects and benefits of any program.

Short-sighted development is a disaster.

A long-term vision

Ravaging natural resources without a long-term vision will destroy ecology, which is the very source of life. The purpose of development should be to support and sustain life. With the bigger picture in mind, all development plans will factor in ecology, sociology, and psychology. Then the very process of development will become a conscious endeavor to preserve the planet and its resources. The health of our planet is of utmost importance.

Environmental consciousness is inbuilt in the human system. Throughout history, nature has always been adored in India; mountains, rivers, the sun, the moon, and trees have been revered. In fact, ancient cultures all over the world have exhibited a deep reverence for nature. For them, God wasn’t in temples or churches, but was inherent in nature. It's only when we start moving away from nature that we start polluting. Today there’s a pressing need to revive the ancient practice of honoring and conserving nature.

Many believe that damage to ecology is an inevitable by-product of technological progress. But that’s not necessarily so; actually, sustainable growth is assured only if ecology is protected. Science and technology should not be regarded as anti-environment; rather, we need to find ways of maintaining harmony in the environment while progressing in science and technology. This is the biggest challenge of this century.

The elements of nature

Just observe nature; the five elements of nature are opposed to each other. Water destroys fire, fire destroys air. Then there are so many species in nature - the birds, reptiles, mammals; all these different species are hostile towards each other and yet nature balances them out. We need to learn from nature; how nature digests waste material and produces something more beautiful. Similarly, it isn’t technology and science that pose a hazard, but the waste material generated by technological and scientific processes.

We need to find methods to consume waste and develop non-polluting processes, such as harnessing of solar energy. A return to traditional methods such as organic, chemical-free farming, will go a long way in preparing the ground for healthy development.

Revival of tradition, technology, trade, and truth

Tradition, technology, trade, and truth are four key factors that need to be revived time and again. Unless they’re revived, their whole meaning will be lost; ancient and modern methods should be synergised.

Despite advances in the field of chemicals and fertilisers, the ancient Vedic technology of using cow urine and cow dung continue to be among the best ways to cultivate crops. Several studies have shown that natural farming leads to enhanced yield.

The latest technology may not always be the most economically viable or efficient technology. We need to look into the merits; just because something is new, it’s not necessarily good and just because something is old, it needn’t be discarded.

There can be no sustainable development in a society full of stress and violence. A disease-free body, a stress-free mind, a violence-free society and a toxin-free environment are vital elements of sustainable development. If we have to keep opening more and more hospitals and prisons as society develops, it doesn’t bode well. Access to more hospital beds and availability of more prisons aren’t signs of development.

Freedom from crime and greed

Sustainable development also means freedom from all types of crime. Destroying the environment, cutting down trees, dumping toxic waste, and using non-recyclable materials are also crimes. The environment is our first body, then comes the physical body and mind, the mental sheath. You have to cater to all three levels.

In reality, man's greed is the greatest pollutant. Greed stops man from sharing with others. Greed also obstructs the preservation of ecology; man is so greedy, he wants to make quick profits and achieve quick results. This greed not only pollutes the gross, physical environment but also contaminates the subtle atmosphere; it stimulates negative emotions in the subtle mind. These negative vibrations, once compounded, give rise to unrest in society. Negative feelings of hatred, anger, jealousy are the root cause of all disasters and misery in the world, whether they are economical, political, or social in nature.

Sensitivity to sacredness in nature

People should be encouraged to treat the planet as sacred, to treat trees and rivers as sacred, to treat people as sacred, and to see God in nature and in people. This will foster sensitivity; and a sensitive person can't but care for nature. Basically, insensitivity makes a person act callously towards the environment.

If a person is sensitive, he’ll nurture harmony with the natural environment, thereby eradicating pollution.

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