Every religion defines God as the Creator of this universe, who could only be meditated upon and thought about, but His Creation is concrete. We can touch it, feel it, stand face to face to it, adore it and pray to it. That said, nature being a part of the universe, manifests Him/Her/It in different forms such as, the air, the sun, moon, sky, clouds, stars, oceans, rivers, forests, animals, birds, insects and all of us, the human beings and much more.
I believe our ancient Holy men were deep thinkers and prophets. They knew a time would come, when human beings, like us, a part of God’s creation, would exploit nature for personal gains, which would have destructive consequences, especially on climate. Thus, for the survival of nature, those prophets personified, idolised and elevated nature to the status of gods and goddess. Thus, the river Ganges is not just a body of water it is adored as a person, a mother — a living and breathing goddess.
The Bhagavad Gita, an internationally admired Holy Scripture, talks about Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, manifests himself in different forms of nature.
Rig Veda, the very first Indian Holy Scripture, (supposedly compiled around 1500 BC), breathes deep love and devotion for nature. The Gayatri mantra, is the most chanted and loved hymn, dedicated to the planet sun. in English it translates, “Let us adore the supremacy of that divine sun, the god-head, who illuminates all, who re-creates all, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, to whom we invoke to direct our understanding aright in our progress toward his holy seat.” (Translated into English by the renowned scholar of Sanskrit, Sir Monier-William Jones in the 1807.)
A report published in NEW YORKER; November 11, 2019, mentioned “Just like the Ganges, forests provide us not only food but shelter our wild life and give us roots, bark, seeds and herbs for the treatment of ailments to keep us healthy. India’s ancient system of medical treatment called, the Ayurveda depends on forests, another gift of nature. However, when our world leaders such as, President Bolsonaro of Brazil, do not foster any respect for nature, climate suffers. People suffer. In one of his speeches given to his Brazilian miners, President Bolsonaro said, “Interest in the Amazon isn’t about the Indians or the f… ing trees, it’s about mining.”
Furthermore, according to the Australian National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, “13% of bushfires every year are deliberate and 37% are suspicious; Jan 17, 2020.
Another study done in 2008 found that in Australia about 85% of fires were triggered by human activity – this includes arson and carelessness or recklessness.”
“The 2018 Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise (California), was the result of a broken high-power transmission line.” — Foreign Affairs; March 25, 2020.
Then, we have US President Donald Trump, who sparked unease through an executive order of April, 2020. He stated, “Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons;” meaning he has a right to invade it, exploit it and pollute it to make America Great Again. — The GLOBE AND MAIL; August 24, 2020
Then here is my eye-witnessed account of Haridwar, one of the holiest cities of India, goes back to almost seventy years, when I used to visit my grand parents during my winter or summer school breaks. This mountain town, situated on the banks of the holy Ganges, bowing in reverence at the feet of the Shivalik ranges, used to be an abode of tranquility. The beauty of its winter silvery snow-clad peaks, which used to turn dark green during monsoon season, is still firmly etched in my memories and my mind’s eye.
Haridwar, during winter, used to get biting cold. Moving forward more than half a century of getting used to living in the cold of Canada, when I return to visit the same town, I find those snow clad Shivalik rages standing shamelessly naked, looking depressed, dejected and deserted as though nobody loves them any more! And all those lush trees that kept them dressed in dark green during the monsoon season and sheltered their wild pets are not there any more.
Nevertheless, not every human being or a politician is a pyromaniac or filth lover. There are individuals like the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who launched six mega projects in Uttarakhand to clean up the River Ganges. President Barack Obama, who during his first term established a task force for religious organizations to address the effects of climate change on the environment and the American population. And Pope Francis, in 2015, urged Catholics and non-Catholics alike to focus on a broad range of issues and problems in the environment including pollution, climate change, biodiversity and global inequality of ecological systems.
Dr. Suresh Kurl is a former University Professor and a former retired Registrar of the B.C. Benefits Appeal Board