Climate change is a grave threat faced by humankind. Changes in the environment – reportedly largely due to greenhouses gases released into the atmosphere by human activity – threaten to make earth uninhabitable for humans.

Today, man and nature seem to be struggling to survive each other. It was not always so. Earlier, people were close to nature. They studied natural phenomena minutely, and watched in awe the creation, change and destruction caused by forces of nature, and so they attributed divinity to nature.

Myths from nearly every part of the world featuring gods and goddesses of trees, rivers and mountains are expressions of the value that the ancients attached to nature, and their gratitude for the sustenance it provided.

The Vedas contain hymns glorifying the earth as mother, and extolling air, fire and water for their power and the services they render to humans. It was understood that the well-being of the planet depended on conserving each of its constituent elements, so people took from nature only what was needed, not more. This kind of harmony between man and nature is one of the characteristics of Satyug, the Age of Truth, described in the Hindu texts.

People in ancient societies were more in touch with spiritual truths. Consequently, spiritual values such as purity, peace and generosity found expression in their actions, and they were not beholden to material desires. Over time, material inclinations began to inform human actions, and that changed man’s relationship with the natural world.

The unnatural climate change we are experiencing is the manifestation of a change in the climate of human minds over the past several centuries, whereby reverence for nature has given way to unbridled greed. The quality of the environment is shaped by the quality of our consciousness.

Industrialisation provided the motive and means for plunder of the earth for profit. While nature can replenish itself to sustain life, the mercenary appropriation of its resources and unchecked pollution of the environment have overwhelmed its capacity to do so, destroying the ecological balance that allowed countless varieties of creatures and plants to live on this planet for millennia.

Man’s greed lies at the root of the environmental crisis facing us today, and the solution to it is with each one of us. We can adopt lifestyles that encourage need-based consumption, sharing of resources and minimum wastage. Simple act, such as use of public transport and recycling, can make a big difference when done by large numbers of people.

Planting trees is another way we can help heal the wounds man has inflicted on the planet. Trees support life in many ways, absorbing and storing carbon, producing oxygen and providing a habitat for a wide variety of creatures.

When people begin to make ‘green’ choices, industry will follow suit. But for this to happen, there needs to be greater environmental and spiritual awareness. When we become mindful of the environmental cost of our actions and realise that taking from nature has its karmic consequences, we will make more enlightened decisions.

Only by befriending nature can we achieve lasting well-being for everyone. This friendship will yield life-giving succour and prosperity without poisoning our bodies and destroying the only home humankind has in the entire universe.

Written by B K Brij Mohan
Chief Spokesperson of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University

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