July 11 is World Population Day. In this excerpt of a talk given in New Delhi on June 5, 2010, after accepting the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar from the Government of India, Sadhguru looks at how the fundamental problem humanity is facing today is that of population.
Sadhguru: I have been at any number of conferences where people talk of various dangers that we are facing, such as water and environmental conservation, but what pains me is, no government wants to address the most fundamental problem – population. In the early 20th century, the world’s population was 1.6 billion people. Today, a century later, we are 7.2 billion people. We are projecting that by 2050, we will be 9.6 billion people. I think this is just irresponsible reproduction of humanity. In India, in 1947, we were 330 million. Today, we are 1.2 billion. It doesn’t matter how many trees you plant, how many policies you change, what kind of technologies you bring, there is simply no solution unless we put a cap on human population.
Either we control our population consciously, or nature will do it in a very cruel manner. This is all the choice there is. In India particularly, right now, 60% of our land is ploughed, just to feed these 1.2 billion people. Our farmers, with rudimentary, totally ramshackle infrastructure, are producing food for over one billion people. This is an absolutely commendable fact, but still the man who produces food is not eating properly. That is not a commendable fact; that is not something to be proud of. The people who produce food for all of us, the rice or wheat that we are eating today, their own children don’t eat a full stomach. This is essentially because we have not taken the responsibility of deciding, “Okay, this much land – how much population can we support?” It definitely cannot support an endless growth of human population.
The Planet Is Not Made Only For Humans
This idea that the planet is made only for human beings is a very gross idea. It has been put into people’s minds, saying that “you are created in God’s image”. I am sure even a worm is thinking God looks like a large worm! Not for ecological reasons, just for the sake of your humanity, you need to understand, every creature on this planet has a complete life of its own. Even an insect has a total life of its own – a whole lot of things are happening in his life. Just because someone is smaller or looks different from you, thinking he has no right to live and only you have a right to live here, is a very gross way to exist for humanity.
Humanity devoid of humanity, that’s what humanity is today. Unless humanness is brought forth, I don’t think things like controlling human population consciously will happen. Of course governments have to make policies, but they cannot enforce these kinds of things in a democracy. It can only be done by a campaign and by bringing the necessary awareness, but definitely people in the government have to put that idea forth. Private agencies and NGOs can do something, but still, governmental action is needed.
Talking about ecology, land conservation or water conservation without controlling human population is just not going to make a difference because the kind of impetus that is there in the form of science and technology is making every human being hyperactive. You cannot cap human activity because that will amount to capping human aspirations. You can only cap human population.
Taking Charge of Birth
In 1947, the life expectancy of an average Indian was 32 years. Today, it has crossed 65. So we took charge of death, but we should have also taken charge of birth. Today, you neither have enough buses, land, toilets, temples or even a sufficient piece of sky for 1.2 billion people. The only thing we can do is – are we going to adjust our population to the resource that we have? That is something that every human being can do if the necessary education and awareness is brought into their lives. If that investment is made, we don’t have to plant trees. The planet is not in peril, it is human life which is in peril. This is something human beings need to understand. I hope we wake up to this fact and do what is needed.
Ecological conservation, green technologies, all these things are definitely needed, but addressing the most fundamental thing, that we have multiplied four times over and we have done nothing about it, and are still continuing to multiply, is the biggest problem.
Editor’s Note: To read more about the state of the environment and what we can do about it, download the ebook, A Tree Can Save The World.