Ahimsa – the ultimate winner



[Speech at the Parliamentary Earth Summit on June 7th, 1992, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.]

Acute awareness of ecological crisis provides humanity with a challenge and an opportunity to bring about a change in the value system and orient itself to global thinking. Global survival depends on regarding the world as one with an integrated vision.

At the Parliamentary Earth Summit, we have in the last two days heard very powerful spiritual voices and profound observations of the leading Parliamentarians of the world. The other voices – the theme of today’s deliberations – are equally important. They need to be heard. They need to integrate.

In this wide and varied world, there would always be a diversity of views, but we cannot and should not divide them into watertight compartments. We must emphasize what unites us more than what may seem to divide us.

In each sector of economic, social, political or cultural activity, humans have a tremendous responsibility to recognize the dangers inherent in the drift towards ecological decay and to act swiftly to remedy it. Human thinking has to become more outward looking and more comprehensive. We cannot remain self-centered and selfish. Let us integrate all the voices -the voices of spiritual masters, the voices of political leaders, the voices of the industrialists and businesspersons, the voices of artists, the voices of the media, the voice of the women, and the voices of the children and the voice of the indigenous and tribal people. Let a single stream emerge from the confluence of these different streams and help us develop in our respective spheres of work a more liberal and a more mature perspective. This would provide the key to the evolution of a new Earth Ethics.

Ecology has to be given the place it deserves in economic planning in the expansion of industries and in preventing over concentration in crowded urban areas which have become highly polluted on account of population pressure, ecological unsafe slum habitats, contamination of air, water and greenery, industrial wastes, insanitation and overall ecological degradation.

For the world of business, profit motive and considerations of ‘eco-efficiency’ have been the guiding factors. Often patchwork, make shift, make do arrangements are made from an ecological point of view. They are, invariably seen more in terms of meeting local government’s directives than as integral part of economic planning.

Society has paid dearly for such neglectful and niggardly attitude. Bhopal Gas tragedy is a classic example. An attitude amounting to irresponsibility and lack of ethics resulted in generations of poor employees suffering physically, mentally and psychologically. Compensation paid was also too little and too late. Such pollution and ecological damages can never be fully compensated for. They leave a permanent scar on the face of humanity and emerge as the worst examples of brutal violence and wanton exploitation.

We have begun to talk about sustainable development. Industrialists need to keep in view sustainable environment also by laying down highest standards. In fact they would find that in the long run, ecology and anti-pollution oriented attitude would lead to higher profits and feeling of contentment among the labour force.

I have been associated in India currently with an industry in the steel sector called the Steel Tubes of India at Dewas in Central India. The top managements has put so much premium on ecology that the German collaborator during a visit to the beautiful lawns surrounding the plant complex said that it looked more like a Pharmaceutical factory than a steel plant!

There can be no two views that ecology in economic and industrial sectors has to be viewed globally. It must be borne in mind that most of the highly polluting industries in the developing countries are based on technology imported from Western industrialized countries. They made their own surroundings cleaner and safer by dumping these technologies to others. Even today, export of dirty technologies continues and even World Bank experts have, now and then, connived at it.

At the summit in Rio, let the industrialized countries make a solemn declaration that they will, henceforth, not permit export to developing countries of pollution -intensive technologies. This would have a salutary effect on arousing a sense of ethical responsibility in the global economic thinking.

For industrialists, it is necessary to evolve a new global standard of “ECOLOGICAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT” and the TQM (Total Quality Management) concept must necessarily include ecological angle also. Ecology must become an inseparable part of industrial planning, and industrial areas and belts must become green areas. Urgent preventive and corrective measures are required to eliminate industrial pollution of air, water, toxic gases, chemical, dumps and garbage and industrial waste.

Industrialized countries must show the way and take the lead. Advanced countries have caused most environmental damage that has caused global impact. They drive most of the cars, which burn petrol (gas) and send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming. Most consumer goods are produced by industries to which burn fossils fuels (Coal & Oil). These chemicals falls back on earth as ‘acid rain’ killing tress, spoiling land and harming all living beings. Excessive use of chlorofluorocarbons has led to the depletion of the Ozone layer that protects the world from the cancer -causing rays of the sun. Carbon dioxide is emerging at the rate of 8.5 billion tones a year. All this is leading to global climatic changes.

It is said that U.S. industry releases annually about 10 billion pounds of toxics into streams & river in 49 out of 50 states of USA. Underground water reserves are also getting contaminated from underground chemical storage tanks and toxic leakages from landfills. Due to intense infiltration of toxic it is said that the rate of cancer is rising by 2% each year in U.S.A. If this is happening in U.S.A, one could well imagine what may be happening all over the world.

Thus, industry in north and south, east and west must become alive to the ecological discipline. A stringent code of conduct is called for, and public opinion mounted to bring ecological awareness in fullest perspective in the economic sphere.

Peace and Security is important, but incomplete without development. Development in its turn must become sustainable in terms of forging a constructive equation with environment protection needs. Ecology and Economics must go hand in hand in the interests of social welfare and climate of peace and tranquility.

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