Thoughts on Earth Day

Our earth is a speck in the vast stretches of the cosmos, in­finitesimal in material substance compared to the mind-boggling mass of the universe.  Our awesome abode hurtles around the sun at enormous speeds and is carried around the galactic center by our central star at a million miles an hour.  During its few billion years of existence, our planet  has seen countless transformations: continents have shifted, rocks have been compressed and metamorphosed, hills and mountains have risen and fallen, streams and rivers have been forged and dried, ice ages have come and gone. Through processes not fully clear, the miracle of life has arisen here. 

After our ancient ances­tors emerged and became self-aware and questioning, they learned to  manipulate  matter and energy. Other life forms came under their sway. In a couple of mil­lion years, humans became creative and clever. Land and water, birds and beasts, elements and compounds, the savannah and the tundra, the heat of deserts and the cold of poles, fruits and flowers and minerals deep down,  coal and oil and gas, even the mighty forces that bind atoms and nuclei, all rapidly  came under our control. In an orgy of  exploitation of everything for creature comfort and monetary gain we unwittingly began to wreck the beauty of nature and the salubrity of our envi­ronment.

Less than two centuries since the ease-giving rampage of the Industrial Revolution began, we  began to realize that much harm has been done to land, water and air: Toxic fumes are permeat­ing the atmosphere, radioactive wastes are lurking  around, rain forests are being depleted, species are made extinct, the ozone layer was cracked open, coral reefs have been smashed by ships, acid is in­jected into rain-bearing clouds: Oh, the list goes on and on!

It is often said that we are destroying the earth. This is an arrogant appraisal of what we are doing, for we  can never destroy the earth. A billion years from now, long after we are dead and gone for good, this earth  will be dancing away merrily along its elliptical orbit to the tune of Keplerian tunes. All we can do is to destroy ourselves long before that, not the earth.

Why don’t we stop this suicidal behavior?  Our economic and international networks have metamorphosed so uncontrollably   that even with much goodwill and determination it is not easy to halt the harm we are wreaking. Every effort to control pollution adversely affects jobs and profits. Moreover, the danger and doom  implicit in reckless technol­ogy will hit hard only generations yet unborn. This gives little incentive for today’s self-centered hedo­nists.

We must act in sure but quick ways to dampen the damage and reverse the trends. For this we need  con­sciousness-raising and  global aware­ness. We must transcend  national and commu­nal conditionings and think in planetary terms. What is at stake is not the well being of this nation or that religious group, but the fate of the human family. The diseases of  racial hat­red, religious intolerance, and economic self-aggrandizement are major threats to our har­mony and existence. In our woeful inability to perceive the world as a habitat to be shared and nurtured by one and all, including other crea­tures of the planet, we pollute our minds and hearts too, and upset the ecological balance.

Enlightened industrialists and realistic ecologists must work hand in hand in a spirit of mutual respect to resolve the problems that we all face together. Through education, understanding, and enlightened values, through legis­lation and reasoning, and with the resources of science and technology, we must strive to increase our awareness of the assault on nature that  humans have been perpetrating.

Each week we devote a day to a planet on high, but only once a year do we have an Earth Day. We need to treat every day as Earth Day.

Published by:

Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.

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