After the recent floods in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, wherever I go, one question I’m repeatedly asked is:
want you to understand, a cyclone or a flood is not a calamity but just a natural process that can happen anywhere, and at any time. Two-thirds of the earth is under water anyway, so a little extra gets displaced now and then due to natural reasons or maybe because of global warming. But what is a calamity is that so many people have died and so many more have been displaced, their lives shattered perhaps to a point where they will never be able to put it back in their lifetime. This could have been avoided to a large extent, if we only managed our lives better.
The present devastation by floods in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka is not sudden or unforeseen. In 1998-99, when people in this region complained of lack of rains, I said that the way we were progressing in another 5-6 years there would be too much rain. It does not take any great intuition to say this because if there is any slight disturbance in climate over the oceans, a certain low-pressure area will get created over a dry peninsular tract of land with oceans on both sides and with insufficient green cover. This will naturally attract enormous amount of rains.
If there was enough vegetation, it would have held the rain and let it out in small drops to become streams and rivers which we could have enjoyed. But unfortunately, we have stripped the land completely of green cover so the rain, which should have been a great blessing, has become a curse upon us. This is just a natural progression; it is neither God’s wrath nor is it some unforeseen force acting upon us. We are the cause for the effect that we are facing right now.
The human tragedy due to these rains is because the land is also overpopulated. In the beginning of the twentieth century the world had a population of only 1.6 billion people. Today we have grown to 6.7 billion, which is an enormous and unprecedented increase. So wherever there are any small changes in nature like earthquakes, tsunami, floods etc, human beings are badly hit, because they are everywhere to die. This has become our condition today.
This is because, through the advancement of medical science, to a large extent we have taken death into our hands. So it is all the more important that we also take birth into our hands. But today various vested interests in the form of religions and other forces are resisting any kind of control over the growth of population. So the pressure on the land will be high with more forest being cleared resulting in more devastation.
We can create human societies either with conscious action or nature and other situations will force us to act in a certain way. It would be worthwhile if we act consciously and see that such situations, such pain and such devastations don’t happen to human societies. One of the most important things that we must do right now, as a nation, is to aim for reduction of population by at least one third in the next 50 years. We must also ensure that a minimum of 33% land is under green cover. If these two things happen we can largely control such calamities.
As a part of our efforts in this direction, Isha Foundation started Project Green Hands. I must say, since 1998 we have been making efforts to plant trees in people’s minds and in the last six years we have been transplanting it into the land. We have planted millions of trees in Tamil Nadu where the green cover according to official figures, has actually increased by 4.2% in the last 5 years. This is probably the only geographical entity of its size in Asia where the green cover has actually gone up in the recent years, everywhere else, it has been going down. It is not enough if we do this in one state. Everywhere the political leadership, the citizenry, the religious leaders, media and everybody should come together and make sure that our goals on population and environment are achieved.
This is the yaga and the yagna that needs to be done.
For every calamity that we bring upon ourselves there is no need to look for cosmic explanations, this is a local disaster. When I say local I’m talking about what we have done to our surroundings and the planet. This has nothing to do with the cosmic phenomena and is very localized to our planet and to our country right now. So this is something we have to handle and there is no need to look for any cosmic solutions or divine interventions.