Value inclusion for development with conservation?
Author – Anuska Joshi (UNU-IAS)
Inclusive Development has been defined as “a pro-poor approach” incorporating and valuing all stakeholders, including marginalized group to address development issues, promote transparency and accountability, enhancing development cooperation outcomes through collaboration between civil society, governments and private sector actors (Oxfam, 2 0 1 8 ) . As the pillars of sustainable development, society, economy and environment are indispensable components incorporating each other to utilize the resources while sustaining them for generations, keeping their value intact during the process.
This incorporation has been followed ever since the era of cavemen, when the hunter-gatherers used the resources available while revering the natural environment. This reverence followed humanity when hunter-gatherers shifted their régime to cultivation, still making use of the additional resources while respecting nature. Even though this balance shifted towards material gain – resulting in the harm of nature –, revering nature can be seen as being inherent to human nature. Spirituality is assigned to nature and the environment as the belief that “each seed is awakened” and every living organism has the same right as the human. For instance, Native Americans have sacred sites, to which they refer as places of great healing and spiritual magnetism.
In Hinduism, nature is a very important component of spirituality, as mentioned in the various Vedas and Puranas. In these ancient scriptures,
nature is at the creation of God himself, with many Gods and Goddesses, being a personification of the different aspects of nature. For example, Lord Indra, who is the God of Rain, Lord Narsimha, a lion, Sesh Nag, the Lord of the snakes, and many more are the embodiment of what humans see in nature. Similarly, many animals are associated with different Gods and Goddesses, like Durga with tigers and lions, Saraswoti with the swan, etc.
The reverence of the Hindu towards nature has been a very integral part of the development of Hindu culture. So is the case with many other cultures. Many cultures thrive within close distance of a water source, which they worship and conserve. Since a very long time ago, people worshipped the land, bhumi, in gratitude for providing sustenance for our life, and as a way to ask for permission to use its gifts. Similarly, the earth, fire, water and air, basically all of nature, has always been worshipped. Most of human settlements were established along river banks because they were a symbol of purity, which helped in replenishing freshness. Even now, cremation is done on river banks, believing in the purification of one’s soul after being washed in those waters.
Buddhism also has a very strong reverence for nature. Lord Buddha himself was born under a peepul (Ficus religiosa) tree and gained
enlightenment under that tree. This already connects the birth of the lord with nature, which is peaceful and calm, just like the teachings of Buddha are. Buddhism is about finding one’s true nature, and meditating within oneself, and this is most of the time done in secluded natural areas. Also, Buddhists respect nature as the habitat of all living creatures; they believe in the non-harm of any living creatures, which can be equivalent with nature conservation. Cutting down a single tree means affecting all the birds that nest there, all the squirrels that burrow, and all the other smaller organisms that call that tree their home. There is a connection between nature and people’s lives in every culture on earth. From the Chinese belief of “chi”, the inherent energy flowing in all organisms, to the Sufism belief of humans being central to existence, thereby being able to cast light or darkness onto their surroundings, which are going to have subsequent impacts on themselves.
The testament of the ingrained reverence for nature is also seen on the effort of people to protect what they believe is sacred. We have seen cases of Native Americas fighting together to protect the land that they revere from being mined. From native peoples fighting against dams to protect their forest and the water that they venerate in Amazon to farmers allocating days to celebrate their harvest that they owe to the nature gods and goddesses, the testament to the importance of people standing to their values lies in how they become successful in conserving their nature.