Malankara World

General Interest Reading

Sustenance of Life and Spirituality

by Rev Fr. Dr. K M George
Translated from Malayalam by Prof. Mathew George

(This is a translation of Malayalam article ‘Jeevante Nilanillppum Aadhyaathmikathayum’ from the book ‘Jeevante Vismayam’ by Rev Fr. Dr. K M George, Principal, Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam. Translation by Prof. Mathew George, Retd. Principal, Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta)

It has been only in the recent past we have realized that the greatest; the first and foremost threat to the sustenance of life on earth is the untoward activities of man himself. It can be easily noticed that the harmful ecological changes happening around us is the by-product of the perverted life style of the modern man.

The mass destruction of tropical forests, which is the cradle of life, to promote timber business, plantations, resorts and tourism has adversely affected the nature of mother earth, seasonal rains, water resources and disturbed all terrestrial life. From the Amazon forests that used to envelop half the South American continent to the thick forests of Sahyadri in India, are at the brink of total destruction, only due to the greed of man. Once upon a time water used to be in plenty in the rivers of Kerala. It is not the result of melting ice as in some north Indian rivers. Water used to bless our rivers during the summer season with water stored in the rain forests. During rainy season in the absence of trees and its root to moderate the water flow, the water gushes to the plains resulting in widespread landslides and flooding. The thick forests of the glorious past became mere waste land and in turn give rise to unexpected draught and flood.

The emission of carbon dioxide and toxic carbon monoxide from motor vehicles is increasing day by day causing different types of lung diseases and certain types of cancer. Further, these lethal gases that increase the atmospheric heat cause a phenomenon called 'green house effect'. The greenhouse gases absorb radiation from the planetary surface and re-radiate in all directions, transferring part of the energy to the lower atmosphere. It makes the entire atmosphere like a green house where plants are kept during winter season. This phenomenon which occurs on a global scale results in global warming, which in turn will cause unprecedented changes in the global climatic conditions. It will cause the melting of huge chunks of ice in the north and south Polar Regions which will increase the level of sea water and in course of time many low lying places like New York, Mumbai or Bangladesh may submerge under water.

The most important reason of global warming is the unfettered use of energy for human convenience, luxury and pleasure. Such mammoth energy consumption releases large quantity of toxic gases into the atmosphere. All efforts of international organizations like United Nations to curb this suicidal tendency has proved absolutely futile. Nations like USA, a forerunner in the excessive use of energy, are reluctant to enter into treaty obligations that initiate certain legal control to limit global warming. All forget that the environmental disaster would cause hundreds of visible and invisible threats to human life. The danger to the existence of life due to destruction of the environment is staring at us as a stark reality.

In Genesis God blessed humans and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that
moves on the ground" – Genesis 1:28. This blessing given to man by God as narrated in the book of Genesis has been misinterpreted and turned into a self-destructive curse by man himself. Such a criticism has received wide credence these days. This diktat has been misused by man to exploit nature and other beings.

In Judeo- Christian tradition, God created humans in his own image and humans stand at the fullness of his creative process. Ignoring God’s love for all living creatures, man has tried, and to a great extent succeeded in enslaving nature and other beings. Unless this attitude to manipulate everything for his personal and selfish ambitions is stopped, the world will become a place sans pure air, water and resources and it will become an uninhabitable barren place.

The natural state of Mother Nature provides the most conducive climate to life on earth. If it is disturbed the eco-system will be disturbed. Suppose we have a pond of fresh water in our compound and the water from it is used for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing clothes. Certainly the pond has mud at its bottom. If the mud is disturbed the water from the pond cannot be used anymore. Many plants like lotus and water lily grow in it, frogs and fish breed in it. Birds like kingfisher may frequent the neighborhood. All these put together give a natural ecological status to the pond and its surroundings. A vibrant living environment is created around the pond through this inter relatedness. Man can enjoy the fresh water in the pond but he should not forget that birds, fish, frogs and plants also have the same right.

As the pond is in his private property, if he thinks that it is his and his only, a serious problem begins. If he makes the pond impure with washing soap or other chemicals, the water becomes unhealthy and ultimately he will have no drinking water. If the water is exploited to make beverages in large quantity it will adversely affect the ecosystem.

Global eco-system is also like this. Many thinkers feel that the future of the world is very bleak if we have world-view which is purely man-centered. God expects man to consider all creatures as fellow-beings. The book of Genesis gives us a graphic picture of different types of animals and birds crowding around Adam to get them named. The birds and animals found it safe to be near them as they were vegetarians. Chapter 9 book of Genesis states that humans became non-vegetarians after their fall from grace to the quagmire of sin. The Bible tells that animals and birds became scared of man after that.

The predicament continues. Many activities of man done under the labels of progress, development and tourism, ultimately end in threats to human life. But it does not call for an inactive life. If the ecosystem that nurtures life on this earth is to be maintained in all its pristine purity the modern man has to change his present style of life. The scholars remark that man should control his insatiable urge for material pleasures and follow the path of responsible sustainable development so that the God-gifted treasures of the world can be enjoyed by man and his fellow-beings, generation after generation.

Really this is more a spiritual problem than a material one. A new life style is to be initiated. It is possible and effective only if a new relationship based on love, justice, sacrifice and true partnership with God and fellow-beings is shaped. A blighted future, not in the distant one, is waiting for mankind if he regards wealth and worldly pleasures as his only motives. A theological branch of study known as eco-spirituality closely examines the links between spirituality and ecology.

Self-control, kindness, sympathy, love, mutual respect and the spirit of sacrifice are the most important and relevant values of life to have a new world order. It can be asserted without doubt that it is the solution, the one and only solution, to survive this probable catastrophe.

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