Five Indian theories that may influence climate engineering measurements
By: Dr. Pankaj Jain, Head of Department of Humanities and Languages and Chairman of India Center at FLAME University.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations scientific body mandated to study climate change, defines climate engineering as the deliberate modification of the climate system to combat climate change. The IPCC report 2013 suggests that many geoengineering technologies are a subset of mitigation, as mitigation involves both emission reductions and improved sinks. These corrective actions must be taken with knowledge, awareness and knowledge of the likely consequences.
Against this background, Indian traditions present an astounding diversity of religious and cultural traditions, which are still practiced in India today and are increasingly accepted around the world. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism offer ethical practices for climate engineering based on Karma, Vinaya, Ahimsa, Sanyasa, and Nyaya. Let’s analyze how each of these principles contributes to the activities mentioned above.
Karma – Action and consequence
Karma, one of the best-known Indian philosophical and religious ideas, suggests that our present existence and our cycles of life are the result of our past lives. Hindu, Buddhist and Jain texts accept that we have to face karma – the consequences of our actions. This karmic theory should be the guiding principle of all our interactions with all beings and resources in nature. When implementing geoengineering measures, we need to consider multiple aspects and balance them with care and sensitivity to avoid negative consequences. For example, the use of wind turbines as a source of energy production is welcomed by those who oppose fossil fuels to limit greenhouse gas emissions. However, Indian bird watchers discovered that these eco-friendly windmills were one of the reasons for the Rajasthan state bird near extinction. Windmills are blamed for killing birds elsewhere in the world. The creators of such turbines can bring innovation and design to create renewed products that can be safer and help protect surrounding flora and fauna. Unless we are aware of the likely consequences, we could continue to harm our environment, leading to more climate change.
Vinaya – Humility
The next Indic principle that we will consider when considering geoengineering measurements is humility – Vinaya. Ancient Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita teach that every being is divine and worthy of reverence. This “reverence for all” is exemplified in the Hindu traditions of the puja for Ganesha, Hanumana and their rituals for cows, snakes, rivers, mountains, trees, seasons and the five elements of nature. This spiritual unity with all forms and beings of nature leads them to practice Vinaya, humility always. This humility inspires many Hindus to recite a Sanskrit verse that asks forgiveness from Mother Earth for touching her with their feet as they wake up in the morning. In an 18e century Bishnoi, hundreds of people hugged their local trees to prevent their destruction long before the rest of the world coined terms like “biodiversity” or “climate change”. The theory of reincarnation further reminds Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains to be humble and to recognize all species as family members, as each soul can be reborn as any species on its journey to through several life cycles.
Ahimsa – Non-violence
In addition to showing humility towards our fellow human beings, Indian traditions encourage human beings to practice Ahimsa, non-violence, towards all species on the planet. Many Hindus, Jains and Buddhists are vegetarians and do not consume eggs, meat or seafood. Sometimes some Hindus may consume meat, but their staple diet consists of grains, lentils, fruits and vegetables. This low preference for meat-based foods in Indian communities keeps India’s carbon footprint much lower than that of other countries. India’s per capita carbon footprint is even less due to the sustainable eating habits of Indians, a manifestation of respect, humility and non-violence towards all beings. The latest research shows that livestock accounts for 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, one of the main causes of climate change and deforestation. With the knowledge of ancient Indian practices, the Indian diaspora spread around the world can become global advocates to promote vegetarian diet choices that can reduce the adverse effects of climate change.
Sanyasa – Waiver
Another Indian principle, Sannyasa, renunciation, discourages the accumulation and possession of natural resources and encourages a modest life, prompting people to consume natural resources with a sense of renunciation instead of a sense of right or ownership. We can become better stewards of our planet’s natural resources through the large-scale practice of non-violence and renunciation.
Nyaya – Justice
Jainism, another ancient religious tradition from India with a long history of engagement with Hinduism and Buddhism, brings a distinct perspective regarding justice for animals. According to Jain taxonomy, all five-sense beings are equal. Therefore, killing a mammal or a bird has karmic consequences similar to killing a human. Only minimal consumption of one-way beings i.e. earth, water, fire, air and plants is recommended for human survival. Among plants, consuming the root or stem of a plant is again unjustifiable from the Jain point of view as it would be tantamount to killing an entire plant.
In summary, Indian principles based on Hindu, Buddhist and Jain texts and contexts can inspire us to be more responsible, sustainable and moral to protect and preserve our planet and our nature. We must be fair and balanced with nature as we develop new technologies to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. Additionally, Indian teachings can help provide direction for contemporary policy makers in India and elsewhere to deal with climate change and other environmental threats.
The views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent those of the website.
Professor Pankaj Jain is an internationally renowned academic leader in sustainability, Jain studies, film studies and diaspora studies. He is the Head of the Department of Humanities and Languages and the Chairman of the India Center at FLAME University. Previously, he was the founding co-chair of India Initiatives Group and Associate Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Religion and Anthropology at the University of North Texas, a US level 1 university. He holds a PhD. from the University of Iowa and an MA from Columbia University (both in religious studies). Her BE was in Computer Science from Karnatak University, India. Professor Jain has over twenty-five years of professional experience in both academia and industry.
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