Capitalist Greed Pushing The World Into The Sixth Extinction


By Dr. Sawraj Singh

Recently Elizabeth Kolbert’s book “The Sixth Extinction” has been in the news. She was a correspondent of the New York Times. Now she is a science writer for the magazine “New Yorker”. There have been five extinctions in the history of the earth, when there was a large scale extinction of the species. In the fifth extinction, which happened about 65 million years ago the dinosaurs disappeared from the earth. Elizabeth Kolbert feels that we are now going through the sixth extinction. As opposed to the other extinctions which were work of nature, the sixth extinction is being influenced more by the human activity.

I have been trying for the last several years to bring out the fact that under the capitalist greed, man is trying to over exploit resources of nature and this will have disastrous effect on the environment and eventually on the survival of the planet and the mankind. I feel that the book has confirmed and reinforced some of my concepts. The book has made a very good case for holding the human activity responsible for the climate change and the environmental damage. However, I hold the western capitalism responsible for the human activity. The unbridled greed of the western capitalism is responsible in making people self centered, greedy and selfish. It is not the innate nature of human beings to have these traits. It is the Western Capitalism which has induced these changes in people.                                                                                                    Man is not born selfish, greedy, arrogant, extravagant or vengeful. He acquires these traits from the society he is raised. If a man is raised in a society or was fortunate to have company of good people where he is exposed to good ideas then he can become kind, compassionate, caring, humble and forgiving who likes to share his good fortune. The western capitalists instead of taking the blame for adversely changing the human being, have tried to blame the nature for creating such rotten human beings. They are lying because it is not nature but the western capitalists who are responsible for the degeneration of human values by putting economics above ethics. All other societies, at least in principle, upheld the concept that ethics should be above economics.                                                                                                                                                                                                           The western capitalists, motivated by their unbridled greed, have promoted the consumer culture. The two terms, western capitalism and consumerism have merged and they now seem to mean one and the same thing. In nutshell, this philosophy advocates that the essence of our existence is material and the purpose of our life is to only seek and enjoy physical comforts, to do that we have to earn maximum money in minimum time. All religions of the world, particularly the eastern religions (Hindu and Sikh) preach exactly the opposite that the essence of our existence is spiritual and not material. According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib which can be considered the Zenith of the eastern spirituality, the essence of our existence is spiritual. “Man Tu Jot Saroop Hai Apna Mool Pehchan”. (O mind you are embodiment of Divine light, realize your true self).                                                                                                                                Even though the threat of extinction as a result of environmental damage is real, yet this is not the only way capitalist greed can destroy the planet and the human race. Another way it can do that is by inciting a catastrophic war which can easily become nuclear. Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. It has already declared that it can be the first to use the nuclear weapons if its security is at risk (Putin Doctrine). In 1961, the Soviet Union conducted an atomic test (blast), Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated. This was 3000 times stronger than the atom bomb which was used in Hiroshima. One can imagine the strength of nuclear weapons now. If there is a third world war then there can be a total destruction before the sixth extinction. One way or the other, unless the western capitalists are stopped, the world and the mankind are doomed to a complete destruction or extinction.

The two of the world’s largest religions, Christianity and Islam, have started to try to stop the western capitalism from destroying the world and the mankind. Pope, leader of the largest religion of the world has taken a very strong stand against the western capitalism on its philosophy of consumerism.  There are two billion Christians in the world. Islam, the second largest religion (1.6 billion Muslims) has just taken a stand against consumerism and for saving the environment. It has given a call for not using fossil fuels and instead using renewable sources of energy. The oil companies have not only caused tremendous environmental damage by discouraging development of clean sources of energy, they have also pushed the world into many wars such as the Afghanistan war and the war in the middle east (Iraq Libya and Syria etc and the Arab Israel wars). Whereas the war in the middle East can be directly connected to the oil factor, it may be difficult to understand how oil played a role in the Afghanistan war. I feel the western capitalism wanted to bring oil from central Asia to the Arabian Sea through Afghanistan.

One of the saddest facts is that while Christianity and Islam have taken stands against consumerism, many followers of the Hindu and the Sikh religions seem to have become the most ardent and loyal supporters of consumerism. Philosophy of both these religions has emphasized that the spiritual aspect of life should be the dominant aspect. There are four aspects of life, (Char Padaraths)  Dharam (Righteousness) Arth (Economics) Kaam (Passion) and Mokash (liberation). Out of these, two are material, Arth and Kaam, while two others, Dharam and Mokash, are spiritual. Both the religions believe that Mokash is the ultimate objective of human life. However, the Sikh religion believes that Mokash can be achieved only in the totality of life and not thorough renunciation. In other words, one should achieve Mokash by fulfilling one’s family and social obligations and not by running away from them. Today the world needs this message if we want to save the planet and the mankind. Western capitalism has brought down the existence of a man from a human being to a consumer. We have to re humanize the man by changing him back from a consumer to a human being. In other words, we need a spiritual revival to restore the balance in a world which is heavily tilted towards crude materialism. The message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib can benefit the whole world and the mankind.  However, before the Sikhs can preach the message, they have to try to fully understand the message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. If we want to save ourselves and everybody else then we have to do it.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at [email protected].