Ecosophy - the Future of Humankind
(Authored by Ms Monica Sagar, Principal, Shiv Nadar School Gurgaon.)
Twenty Nineteen and Twenty Twenty have been watershed years in terms of climatic devastation.Examples are rife; from the raging fires in the Amazon rainforests and Australian bushfires, both of which have scorched millions of acres of forest along with innumerable endemic species, to closer home in Uttarakhand, with fires in the Nainital district turning our exquisite biodiversity into ashes. Close on their heels has been COVID19, cyclones around the Indian peninsula, locust attacks, and a spurt of mild earthquakes with predictions of more to come. Time and again philosophers, leaders and scientists have cautioned humankind about the abuse of our lovely and unique Mother Earth. It is high-time we collectively look towards Ecosophy - the wisdom embedded in our very planet.
First used in the ‘70s by the French philosopher Félix Guattari and Arne Naess (the Norwegian father of deep ecology), the term ‘Ecosophy’ overturns the previously-held belief that Man is at the apex of the food chain. Ecosophy instead encapsulates the understanding that human beings are but a part of an intricate biodiversity, in which every living organism is inter-connected by delicate, invisible threads of co-existence, needed to create and sustain a vibrant, healthy planet. Gandhiji’s evergreen words, “The Earth has enough for every man’s need but not enough for every man’s greed” and his principles of non-violence, as well as the Buddhist practice of mindfulness are all conducive to the principles of Ecosophy. Simply put, Ecosophy is the philosophy of ecological balance.
In these times, as adults increasingly look towards ways of conscious living, there is a need, now more than ever, to introduce our children to the concepts of Ecosophy as well. It must run as a central theme in our academia to teach future generations the importance of seeing themselves as one part of a beautiful whole. We must lend our focus on the restoration and sustenance of the systems of nature, as opposed fulfilling human greed, by way of misuse and wastage of natural resources.
At Shiv Nadar School, we are sowing the seeds to make our students conscious citizens of the world. Take, for example, cross curricular projects during our annual Funkaar Week (a week fully dedicated to experiential learning and approaching concepts from a holistic & multidisciplinary point of view). During this time, students may be studying different species of trees, flowers and insects in Science, recreating them in Art/craft and weaving stories about them in Language and Theatre. The Early Years students learn to grow vegetables and herbs in small patches and movable trolleys. Vermi-composting, reducing pollution and water & power conservation have been perennial themes in Middle School. In Senior School, our Capstone projects have enabled students to weave science and technology in the creation of sustainable projects, like green lighting for dwellers of slum shacks, smart traffic light systems, vertical green walls with drip irrigation, hydroponic agriculture, recycling excess RO water, just to name a few. The need of the hour, however, is to encourage curriculum drafters across the world to create curricula with the spirit of Ecosophy as the central theme, as opposed to treating subject domains in silos.
In fact, along with their children, parents too can be travellers along the same journey of Ecosophy. Minimalism has taken the world by storm in the last few years. The rise of popular figures, such as Marie Kondo, has brought along with it a movement. It has taught many of us a different way of living – finding joy in simplicity and gratitude, as opposed to adding blindly to the clutter with things we rarely use. Some of us now avoid using vehicles for short distances, choosing instead to walk or even cycle.
Today, there is a dire need to alter the rapid pace of our lives to bring in more peace, joy and stillness for the sake of our children. Some suggested family activities could include observing and documenting, through photographs, the number of unique birds or insects visiting a tree near the house. Alternatively, to encourage scientific curiosity in our babies in the Early Years, they could be taught to observe and document birds and insects (with a magnifying glass) visiting their kitchen gardens and balcony plants. Lower primary children could do an ‘environmental audit’ of grocery lists with parents, in order to replace things in non-sustainable packaging as well as encourage locally sourced alternatives, so that we can minimise the family carbon footprint. We could also substitute chemical detergents and pest repellents used in our homes with organic alternatives. Upper primary students could look at recycling discarded RO water in their homes. Vegetable and fruit peels could also be segregated and vermi-compost prepared for your earthen potted plants. With time, many more such activities can be consciously woven into the very fabric our lives.
Somewhere, during the course of history, we have developed a notion that the idea of Ecosophy is counter-intuitive to the idea of Economic growth. Theories centred on ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘materialistic consumerism’ abound, having made us compete for survival with other species. We must now look at win-win outcomes, in which species can survive as well as thrive, collaboratively. We have been running our lives amassing symbols of ‘success’ that have been defined by the Industrial Revolution, some 300 years ago! Now, the time must come to mature as a species by moving past lip-service to eco‐science (Ecology) and instead, rising towards eco‐wisdom (Ecosophy).
A global endeavour beyond political short-sightedness and geographical boundaries is needed to create policies that help us joyfully learn from, and collaborate with, all forms of life to develop the Ecosophy of care. Thus, we must now look at raising the ‘quality of our lives’, rather than our ‘standard of living’. The time is ripe for us to attend to this particularly critical need of our children and their futures - learning to live in harmony with nature - much before we dedicate ourselves to ensuring their success as entrepreneurs, researchers, economists, doctors and engineers.
Jun 18, 2020 by Shiv Nadar School