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Waste of Our Heritage

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
April 2013
Waste of Our Heritage

with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

In your column on Gandhian environmentalism, you make it seem as if India is a sweet-smelling bed of roses. But I recall reading a while back that Bangalore, that glorious example of “India shining,” is overflowing with garbage. You seem to like using quotes from famous people, books, and newspapers, so here’s one from the New York Times:

“Bangalore, the capital of India’s modern economy and home to many of its high-tech workers, is drowning in its own waste.... Trash is India’s plague. It chokes rivers, scars meadows, contaminates streets, and feeds a vast and dangerous ecosystem of rats, mosquitoes, stray dogs, monkeys, and pigs.”

So what would Mr. Gandhi say to this shameful state of affairs?

Dear Friend,

“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” (M. K. Gandhi)

It may seem odd to suggest that trash can be a form of greed, but it is. There is a direct correlation between how much we consume and how much we dispose. And modern India has become addicted to consumption. As many of us know in America, garbage cans overflow, especially right after holidays when gift-wrapping, cardboard boxes, Christmas trees, and even unwanted presents line the streets for the garbage company to pick up and drop off at a landfill. While we feel good about recycling paper, glass, and plastic, we also succumb to the buy-discard-buy-discard cycle that takes us from the very visible glitz of the shopping mall to the invisible stench of the landfill.

Perhaps I should have provided the full quote from Ramachandra Guha’s How Much Should a Person Consume? in the previous “Satyalogue” column on environmentalism:

“The Hindu sacred books say there’s no happiness without trees. [This suggests]—contrary to what modern historians might say—that the ancient Hindus were the first environmentalists. A precocious ecological consciousness was manifest in their myths, folklore, and ritual practices, where gods played with animals, where humans attained salvation in the forest, and where lowly plant and insect species were treated with reverence. According to this view, where the Western world has succumbed to godlessness and materialism, and deracinated Indian intellectuals have followed it down that polluted path, the environmental wisdom of the Hindus is still embedded in the living practices of peasants in the countryside.” (italics added)

Please note the italicized section. It reinforces Gandhiji’s belief that there is enough for our need but not for our greed. Greed for more, more, more does result in a materialistic outlook, which leads us down the polluted path.

While we may not be able to go back to living in villages, perhaps we can take what was best about rural life (imperfect as it was) and apply it to our high-tech, low-conservation lifestyle of a new iPhone every year or two.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj.oza@sbcglobal.net.]


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