22 April is Earth Day.
Dattatreya and King Yadu
There is an ancient story from India about when a king called Yadu meets a boy called Dattatreya. The story can be found in one of India’s three great epics, the Srimad Bhagavatam. Dattatreya is a legendary Sage in Indian mythology and revered for his wisdom. King Yadu saw Dattatraya wandering in the forests but was surprised with Dattatreya’s countenance, which was happy and free of worry. The king intuitively knew that Dattatreya was a special soul, so he approached Dattatreya eager to find out about the secret to his happiness.
Approaching Dattatreya, who was blissfully alone and appeared to have no one else to care for him or guide him, the king asked Dattatreya, “You are alone, no family or teachers but yet you look so happy, what is your secret?” Dattatreya responded, “I have taken shelter in twenty-four teachers.”
The King was surprised with Dattatreya’s confidence and by the number of teachers he had at such a young age. The king enquired further, “Who are these teachers so I can learn from them?” Dattatreya then listed his teachers. They were all aspects of the natural world. They included, the Air, it touches everything but itself is untouched and in this way it remains free. In this way I have learned to be free. The Sky is omnipresent and sometimes it becomes overcast or filled with smoke and dust but it remains untouched and retains its colorless self, in this way I have learned to be untouched by the world. Fire burns everything it is offered and provides heat and light. In this way I have learned to take everything that is offered to me and transform it into the heat and light of knowledge.
Dattatreya goes on to list his remaining teachers from the natural world and explaining the wisdom they have taught him.
The first teacher Dattatreya named was in fact, Earth. He explained the Earth endures everything and yet it continues to digest all of humanity’s waste and provide food, nourishment and sustenance to animals and humanity. The Earth is trod on, ploughed, it takes all kinds of waste, witnesses humanity’s beauty and ugliness yet it endures and continues to provide. In this way, Dattatreya explained, he learned how to endure and be patient but continue to be productive and share his inner wealth.
The Anthropocene Age
The Srimad Bhagavatam was written many thousands of years ago and humanity has come a long way since then. The Earth is now supporting and enduring the whims of a global population of 7.9 billion people. 200 years ago, the Earth’s population was estimated at 1 billion. Between 1800 to 1970, it saw an increase of about 3 billion and in the last 50 years, has seen a growth by 4 billion.
At this rate of growth, can the Earth be expected to continue to endure and provide as it has done? The Earth is losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year and it is getting worse. With this comes rising sea levels, sinking land, eroding coasts, and unpredictable weather systems. This is an example of the effects of an increasing population on the Earth.
Scientists now see humanity as a force of nature because of their impact on Earth’s geology and eco systems. Geologists, ecologists and climate scientists are reporting the Earth has entered into a new and less stable geological epoch known as the Anthropocene Age (from Anthropo human, and -cene new or recent). Humanity has become a collective and globally significant geo-physical force with far reaching consequences. More nitrogen is added to ecosystems by humanity to increase crops through fertilizers than what is added by all-natural processes combined. Each year humans move more rock, sediment and soil than all natural forces. At least three times as much water is held in reservoirs than in rivers and at least a third of land has been appropriated by humans. Each year, humanity extracts at least 7 million tons of bush meat from tropical forests (2009), 96.4 million tons of fish from the oceans (2020), razes 1.3 million sq Km of forest between 1990 and 2016. Humanity is leading into the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history.
The United Nations, in their 2019 report titled, Nature’s Dangerous Decline Unprecedented; Species Extinction Rates Accelerating, report in the introduction.
“Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating, or vanishing. The essential interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed. This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human wellbeing in all regions of the world.”
Humanity can be regarded as a fifth force of nature alongside earth, water, fire and air.
Earth Day 2021
22 April is Earth Day and the theme for Earth Day 2021 is to restore our Earth.
Earth Day celebrates its 51st birthday this year. In 1970, it was organized as a nationwide “teach-in” across the United States, eventually coalescing into a week-long teach-in at the University of Michigan. The goal was to educate people about the growing environmental movement and offer opportunities to organize and get involved in taking care of the earth. Since the first Earth Day, the event has gained considerable support all around the globe, and Earth Day activism has helped to drive environmental policy, raise awareness of issues regarding the natural world and the environment, and get people involved in caring for our planet.
Earth Day activities now makes up the world’s largest example of civic engagement. Each year, more than 1 billion people across 192 countries participate in Earth Day activities. The official message of Earth Day in 2021 is “Restore Our Earth."
If humanity is to be regarded as a force of nature, then its capacity to help restore our natural world can be tremendous. Earth Day is one example of how we can organize ourselves as a collective. We all must see ourselves as an important part of this collective with the capacity to make a difference. All it requires is Will and Action.
Will and Action
On 26 March 2021, newly elected President Biden invited 40 world leaders to the Leader’s Summit on Climate, which will be hosted during Earth Day week on the 22nd and 23rd April 2021. Its aim is to galvanize efforts by major economies to tackle the climate crisis. This will be followed later in the year by The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November in Glasgow.
At last, it appears that a global political will has started to coalesce and take the issue of the climate seriously. The climate must become a central plank in any economic planning. But this must be followed by action. It is only when we act, that humanity will wake up and act because we are a part of humanity.
Activities which Earth Day have organized can be found on Earth Day’s website. This is one way you can get involved. You can also join a live streamed 3-day event https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2021/ starting 20 April to become aware of what you can do to “Restore our Earth”.
Sahoja is a causes-driven community of people, brands and charities all working to make the world we inhabit a kinder place. Two of the causes Sahoja actively supports is The Natural World and Sustainability . The Sahoja community is directly involved in restoring our Earth through projects such as tree plantation programs, educational programs, selling products that are ethically sourced and made, and its Currency of Kindness. Sahoja is working hard, as a part of humanity, to play its part in restoring our planet. But we must all do more.
What would Dattatreya say about the lessons he learned from humanity as a force of nature if King Yadu approached him today. Is it one framed with the wisdom that humanity took and took until it took away its future, or will it be one framed with the wisdom humanity gave and through giving, restored its future?
The answer to this is in our hands.
Rajesh Rai is a UK barrister, who qualified in 1993 and specializes in human rights law. In this time, he has been director of a number of human rights organisations including JCWI, director and treasurer of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, founded and acted as a director of Global Legal Technologies Ltd (GLT) pioneering LPO, which he exited in 2006 and in 2012, he was appointed to the Council of Experts of the Democratic Progress Institute. Between 2016-2019, he was treasurer and chair to the finance committee of his present Chambers and is now it’s joint deputy head of chambers.
As a social entrepreneur, Rajesh founded and acted as a director to Human Energy (Uganda) Ltd (HEU). HEU developed nursery plantations for renewable energy crops. HEU was taken over by RIBEC Plc. He is a founder director of HI Cameroon, an NGO based in NW Cameroon and he recently founded, in 2017, an NGO in Ivory Coast (HIIC). He was an exec director of an AIM listed Company, where he managed the company’s renewable energy portfolio. In 2013, with his family, he founded the first Indian vegetarian restaurant in Worcestershire, which was featured in the Nov 2013 edition of the Waitrose magazine.
Rajesh has taught meditation since 2012 and in 2015, he took over Poulstone Court Retreat Centre. In 2016, he founded and promotes his initiative; a global non-stop 7-day meditation for Unity.
Last but not least, he is the co-founder and President of Sahoja Inc, a platform for connection, supporting ethical brands and shopping and spreading kindness.