Painting The World, One Green Thumb At A Time

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Nisha JamVwal gives us the importance and consequences of environment protection and conservation.

I remember the impact of the movie Erin Brockovich, and I believe that the part of the success of the erstwhile film was that it was a movie about us, you and me. And the message that while just one company and its lack of concern for the environment can do damage to very large populations, we are the ones, individually and collectively, who need to be watchful and prevent this carelessness and ravages against nature and look out for our carbon footprint.


I find that the level of concern and interest in India is way below than that in the West. I feel passionate about environmental issues – be it global warming, pollution, noise, denudation of forests, extinction of flora and fauna, waste of resources and energy, over-population or traffic emissions. We need to control and soften our impact on the environment. Most environmental issues are reflective of the lack of concern for the next man’s needs or those of the next generations. Perhaps it comes from a lack of concern about what happens after we’ve ‘gone’? Some people tend to dismiss these issues with the attitude that a single person is helpless and what difference can one person make. I am dismayed at the callousness of these egotistical individuals with so little spirit. There is so much each one of us can do, and Erin B is a good example- it is based on a true story. Environmental issues should be a burning concern and have to be urgently addressed if, as mankind, we are to make peace with our conscience.

In the times of the Vedic Aryans, the consciousness of forests and trees as sources of well-being for man was understood at all levels. An entire branch of science revolving around these aspects developed in the Vedic times – called “Vrishayur” – vrish meaning tree and ayur meaning health. 

There were sacred groves appropriated to temples for preservation and propagation. Certain trees were sacred to certain deities and may not be cut. Many grew to be hundreds of years old. It is believed that the tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment still lives in Sri Lanka, from a branch graft carried there in emperor Ashoka‘s time.


Certain flowers too are sacred to particular gods or “Devtas”- thus ensuring their planting and propagation. Many flora and fauna were given a specific persona and treated with love and respect. There is a charming story in a play of Kalidasa where the lady protagonist Shakuntala is bidding good-bye to her “sisters” the trees, as she leaves to be married, instructing her friends to care for them. In the same play elsewhere, we have an ascetic in a hermitage, restraining the reigning monarch, Dushyanta, from releasing an arrow upon a deer, saying, ”Your weapon was meant to protect the weak, not smite the innocent!”

Indian mythology abounds in tales largely structured around such harmonies – Krishna revealed in the forest “vanas”. Rama, during his exile in the “Ramayana”, displays a relationship of harmony and loving co-existence with nature. The “vana” nurtures him with fruits, berries, nuts, and roots, and bark for clothing, the birds and animals are his devotees, friends, and aides. The Mahabharata too depicts a world of lush forests of fragrant beauty, abodes of sages and saints. The message projected is that of the environment is a meeting point between man and nature and man and his spiritual self. An ancient work of literature called “Mangalashtaka” mentions a grove of ten trees and expresses the hope that this flowering grove full of fruit trees may herald the well being of the whole world!


In this land of ”Karma” where every cause is said to bear irredeemably upon the effect – every wasteful neglectful, unconcerned act that causes, however remotely some loss or damage or hurt somewhere, is as much a part of my karmic-record as another’s. Yet people gleefully fling plastic bags around roads causing death to innocent cows. We waste electricity, water, and energy, choking the cities with a surfeit of cars when less would do.

We must feel strongly about all this and remind ourselves and others of our beautiful heritage which teaches that all things that exist – plants, animals, humans, are made of the same “Prana” or vital breath. We must gratefully nurture the environment that bountifully nurtures us. And, however modest the scale, any effort at concern beyond one’s own self will make a difference. Just as a ripple follows a ripple when one throws a stone in a still pond. Today I think of my brother, tomorrow of my neighbor, the day after of the world.


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