The Adventures of Peacefull

Perceptions of Waste and Wealth, MK Gandhi Institute

I received this article today from the MKGandhi Institute, info@mkgandhi.org, as I am in a wilderness area I am contemplating consumerism, waste and environmental balance. This article gives voice to my musings. Recycling as a human activity is not close to the natural recycling, which is 100%. The gap in my view, is how far we have to go to live in balance with the natural world.

Converting waste into wealth
Dr. S. V. Prabhath, Chairman, NCRI

Waste and wealth are a matter of perception. The perceptions are influenced by our social and economic environment.

We cannot be immune to changes that affect us. The consumerist economy has, in fact, overtaken us. And it also shows how callous and inhuman it has made us. Consider these statistics. The money spent per annum on pet food in USA and Europe amounts to US $ 17 billion. The money required to provide health and food for all the human beings on earth costs $13 billion a year! USA spends $8 billion on cosmetics each year. Basic education for every child in the world would only cost $6 billion. If USA saves the money spent at Christmas for just one year, it would pay for food, water, and basic education for the entire world for 16 years! The sums spent on defence are mind-boggling. They run into several trillion dollars each year.

Indian psyche is catching up with the West instead of vice versa. There are advertisements that show a fruit drink to be better than the fruit and the use of the mobile phone better than direct communication. As concepts, waste and wealth can be extended to various aspects of life. The application of this thinking to human resources and nature is perhaps more important than its application to objects. This may relate how we treat old people or how we react to people afflicted bye certain chronic ailments. Gandhian philosophy for socio-economic development can be a good guide to action in this regard.

By treating certain resources as waste we are forgoing the opportunity of creating wealth and generating employment to many.

In this regard, the roles of many educational and rural institutions come into focus; they can help to train students and youth on how to understand and develop creativity in certain applications. They can, in fact, mould their very outlook of life itself. Many societies are realizing today how wealth can be created out of waste while, at the same time, maintaining environmental balance also. The possibility of tuning waste into wealth, for instance, production of bio-gas from cow dung and other refuse of the village or production of bone manure through bone digesters, soap making out of non-edible oils, etc.., that will provide scope for the development of village industries or creating certain objects into useful artifacts and by recognizing those things which in common parlance are treated as waste.

Scanning so many things happening in the country in terms of cultural flaws, fault lines and social taboos get deeply entrenched and increase in intensity until they stat undermining the notions of reality. We are unable to overcome many problems which have an unsettling effect on us. It is important to separate the grain form the chaff. But we should also know what can be done with the chaff. In fact, this very thinking that something is not un-usable can be applied to human resources as well. I consider this a very important process for building micro-foundations for a Non-Violent Society. There was a time when people affected bye some chronic diseases were treated with a certain contempt or derision and kept away from the society. With education and awareness, this thinking has been replaced by a more constructive and pragmatic attitude to treat them as human beings with certain worth; ‘creatures small or big’ have intrinsic value. This is also reflected in our Indian philosophy and the reflections of great philosophers. A person affected by Parkinson’s disease would be consigned to a corner and nobody would take him seriously, but look at Shri Stephen Hawking, a great physicist who, in spite of his serious handicap (Motor Neurone Disease and Amyothophic Lateral Sclerosis), continues to do wonders. This is the important message that we have to incorporate into school curriculum in order to make our children appreciate the worth of human life in whatever form it exists.

We don’t have to see everything from a business decision-making perspective of cost-benefit analysis. This is something people in the industry adhere to, as a standard operating dictum. Peter Drucker was talking about converting social problems into business opportunities. Contrary to this, we should follow the Ganhian perspective. How do we look at intractable problems and view them as innovative opportunities, like waste management, for instance? Examples abound of people converting waste into items of utility.

We often focus on problems and fail to see that there are numerous opportunities right in front of us. We should only think about how to turn things around in the face of adversity. There is a familiar saying to the effect that a practical human is one who, when bricks are thrown at him uses them to build a house!

All our efforts should have relevance in addressing immediate problems without losing sight of our commitment to future generations. Too much theorizing and muffling the practicality will defeat the purpose for which such an attempt is being made. We have too many concerns for a world we would like to create for ourselves and for our posterity.

The accelerating spread of mammon worship, galloping commercialization of science, technology and the academia, along with the crumbling of traditional norms that upheld social conduct, have all combined to produce increasing evidence of worrisome abuse and misuse in all channels of life-flow. The resultant clogged and contaminated life-flow is hardly a worthy legacy to hand over to posterity.

In a world where reality is projected as images of the mind like in a matrix, we have to be careful about what we are grappling with. We cannot be paranoid doom predictors or rabid optimists. A pie-in-the-sky attitude isn’t very realistic. Are we dreamers in a dream with a pre-determined outcome? Or, are we dreamers dreaming the dream forward in such a way that each dream influences ‘The Dream’? The crucial question we are faced with is how do we move beyond this into a saner, yet progressive milieu? Do we, as Gandhi suggests, return to the simple life and follow a strict code of conduct? My belief is that we should.

We should all aspire for a higher standard of life, a higher standard meaning a life that is more intellectual, more humane and more spiritual that it is at present.
Source: Ailaan, NCRI Newsletter, Vol. 1, Issue IX, September 2010

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”

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