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Ecological Harmony as Understood by India Sages

Incidentally, for information, the modern science has only begun to talk about the Environmental ecology and ecosophy, but it has badly missed evaluating the “mental ecology” and “spiritual ecology”.

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Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
One would be amazed to know how each individual is responsible for polluting the environment by mere use of, say a plastic bag, or even “using bottled water” or by consuming items in pouches which are done purely for our personal convenience.

By Salil Gewali, Shillong

The initiative often taken by a bureaucrat, Deputy Commissioner of Garo Hills (Meghalaya) to prohibit the use of bottled water is an outcome of a great awakening indeed. A long journey of 1000 miles starts with one small step. Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical. A proper understanding of the ecology that we are part of and the degradation that is happening to it, should make us “aware” of the contribution that we make towards its overall degeneration. If we dig deeper we can well realize that due to our own acts of commission we are being caught off balance!

Of course there are endless causes for environmental degradation, but the major causes is large scale deforestation, commercial mining (for our state I call it senseless-mining), rapid industrialization and urbanization. One would be amazed to know how each individual is responsible for polluting the environment by mere use of, say a plastic bag, or even “using bottled water” or by consuming items in pouches which are done purely for our personal convenience. So when we try to understand who is responsible for the environmental degradation, it would be a good thing to turn inwards and rectify things at our end as well.

Mostly we tend to argue, as “what a big deal about one plastic bag today” or “it is one plastic spoon, what harm would it cause?”.  At an individual level, it does not seem to make much difference but the challenge here is that there are too many people who think “it is just this one thing today”. For example, there could be instances wherein when stuck in a traffic jam, one might have felt out of sheer frustration “Why does everyone have to take out a vehicle? “. This is a thought process that most of us have, where the cause of the problem is largely shifted to others while completely failing to realize that we are also to blame for the problem. A little introspection, that could be a question to the self “why did I take out a vehicle?”

According to some sources, nearly 12 million tones of plastic are consumed every year in India. There are certain uses of plastic that are unavoidable, but something like a plastic bag has alternatives and we could do well by avoiding it. Equally harmful, sometimes more dangerous, are the pouched-items which decorate these days each individual grocery/pan/ shop. Countless fancy items, plastic toys, chips and cookies all are attractively packed in the plastic itself. Too regrettably, we easy-going-parents, instead of buying nutritious “grains/chanas/badam” and dry fruits for our kids, we rush to buy cheesy and fizzy chips, while we gorge ourselves with pouchy Rajnigandha, varieties of addictive gutka and zarda for our freshmen which were till recently wrapped in hard plastic paper. The ferociously intoxicating “zarda” is being sold as “Tulsi” which in fact is a name for a sacred herbal plant. This all shows how the government itself is blind and deaf to the thunder of obnoxious decadence!  Look at how we all, and the government system, are culpable for contaminating the Mother Earth and also the environment of our inner physical being.  One wonders when we shall resolve to change our lifestyle, our practice, our greed-guided consumerism which are only standing out as the formidable threat to the whole ecosystem!

India’s Literature: The Western Thinkers Spellbound by India’s Literary Wisdom

Incidentally, for information, the modern science has only begun to talk about the Environmental ecology and ecosophy, but it has badly missed evaluating the “mental ecology” and “spiritual ecology”. The latter two are far more significant, inherently with us, and subtly enduring which we “carry” along even after the death. Very interestingly, this vast discipline had been studied with one-pointed determination in India since past 7000 years back (even more).  Indeed, this knowledge has extensively been adopted by the Western knowledge seekers. The ‘Laws of KARMA’ give a partial insight into this “universally holistic study”. In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation. They realized that each being, after having taken the birth on this planet, must endeavor to bring the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions in “complete HARMONY” and “sail through” the worldly sufferings. The first step is to control the MIND and turn it into a “slave”, not like with us now — being the “slave” of our mind which is normally chaotically littered with material desires, and as result, the vision remain unclear. It only forms the “opinion”, often considers as “true”, based on personal likes and dislikes which need not be flawlessly right.

Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Once the MIND is controlled it obviously helps open the doorway to see the ultimate TRUTH as it is and also helps feel the ultimate bliss. This discipline of the Vedanta alone can make one capable to realize that all individual objects in the universe are “non-separable”, they are intrinsically interconnected, ecologically interdependent and supremely divine. The material manifestation is only the physical projection of the ALL-KNOWING-ENERGY. 

Frankly speaking, the understanding that most of us have about “environment” can be described largely as being paradoxical.
The ferociously intoxicating “zarda” is being sold as “Tulsi” which in fact is a name for a sacred herbal plant.

This grand KNOWLEDGE of SUPREME ECOLOGY of INDIA intensely inspired Erwin Schrodinger, best known as the father of Quantum Mechanics, he proclaimed: “Vedanta teaches that consciousness is singular, all happenings are played out in one UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS and there is no MULTIPLICITY of selves.” This knowledge of Vedanta of the East helped the Nobel laureate Schrodinger in conceptualizing his “Schrodinger Wave Equation” based on the “Dynamic Unity of all Entities” in the universe.

Next Story

Risk to Obscure Creature, Highlights Pangolin Seizures in Asia

The best recent journalism to appear in English on the subject of endangered wildlife in Vietnam was published on April 7 in The New York Times’ travel section of all places.

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Customs officers look at seized endangered pangolin scales displayed at a customs house in Hong Kong, following a record seizure of endangered pangolin scales, Hong Kong, Feb. 1, 2019. RFA

Huge seizures in recent years of trafficked pangolins have drawn worldwide attention to the threat of extinction faced by these armadillo-like anteaters.

It will come as a surprise to some that pangolins top the list of world’s most trafficked endangered mammals.

They’re much sought after in both China and Vietnam for their meat and their scales, which when ground up are believed to remove toxins and cure a variety of ailments, including everything from arthritis to cancer.

Users boil the pangolin to remove the scales, then dry and roast them.

Pangolins can be found in many Asian and African countries, although they are reported to have nearly disappeared from lowland Laos.

Many citizens in China, Vietnam, and Hong Kong believe that pangolin scales have medical uses, but experts, even including some of China’s traditional medicine practitioners, say that no scientific evidence supports this belief.

Some consumers claim that pangolin scales can improve kidney functions, treat palsy and skin diseases, and stimulate lactation, but here again scientific evidence is lacking.

They are also used in traditional African medicine.

Vietnam has passed laws banning the sale of pangolins but implementation appears to be weak. And while some pangolins are rescued, the country has limited capabilities when it comes to caring for them.

According to the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), more than a million pangolins were poached in the decade prior to 2014.

Over the last three years, high-profile seizures of record numbers of pangolin scales by customs officials indicate that smugglers, traffickers, and traders are still selling the scales in large quantities.

On April 3, customs officials in Singapore seized a shipment of more than 14 tons of pangolin scales in what experts described as the largest seizure of a single shipment of its kind ever recorded.

Citing officials, The Washington Post reported that the shipment, which originated in Nigeria, was worth about $39 million U.S. dollars

Some 30,000 pangolins were believed killed for the shipment, according to an official with the Pangolin Specialist Group, who was quoted by The New York Times.

An IUCN Species Survival Commission formed the Pangolin Specialist Group in 2012. It comprises 100 experts from 25 countries and is hosted by the Zoological Society of London.

In 2016, an international body in charge of regulating wildlife trading worldwide acted to ban pangolin poaching, trafficking, and sales.

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Some rangers were caught helping hunters catch or kill high-value animals, but those caught doing this were said to be severely dealt with. Pixabay

All 182 member nations belonging to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted in favor of the ban.

The IUCN maintains a Red List of threatened, vulnerable, and endangered species.

All eight species of pangolins, four in Asia and four in Africa, are included on the IUCN Red List, with their designations ranging from vulnerable to endangered.

Populations of all of the species are said by scientists to be rapidly decreasing.

The African connection

On Jan. 31 this year Ugandan authorities reported seizing 750 pieces of elephant tusks and thousands of pangolin scales being smuggled into Uganda from neighboring Sudan.

Officials from the Ugandan Revenue Authority said that the smuggled items were hidden inside pieces of timber carried by three big freight containers.

Two Vietnamese men suspected of belonging to a smuggling ring involved in the case were arrested, the officials said.

The Associated Press quoted officials as saying that the elephant tusks were likely collected in neighboring Congo.

In Africa, elephants are threatened by demand for ivory products in China and other countries, including Vietnam. Africa had 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s but has fewer than 500,000 today, the AP said.

China has officially banned the ivory trade, but some ivory products continue to reach the country from Vietnam and elsewhere.

According to the Hong Kong-based Asia Times, while Vietnam made the trade of ivory illegal in 1992, the country is still a “top market” for ivory goods. They are largely used for decorations and are also used in traditional medicine.

Pangolin trafficking is also banned worldwide under an international treaty, but smugglers are known to bring pangolin scales to Hong Kong and then on into China. In early 2018, reporters from the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that despite the international ban, Hong Kong shops were still selling pangolin scales, sometimes from behind stacks of boxes containing other goods.

The trade in pangolins shipped from the east-central African nation of Uganda is highly profitable. Smugglers can buy the pangolins at low prices in Uganda and sell them at high prices in China and Vietnam. Meanwhile, a market for them has also developed in Indonesia.

Before April’s record-breaking seizure of some 30,000 pangolins in Singapore, this year, customs officials made other sizable seizures in Malaysia and in Hong Kong in February. The Hong Kong haul included 8.3 tons of pangolin scales and 2.1 tons of ivory, in a shipment marked “frozen beef” from Nigeria, media reports said.

Why we should care about pangolins

First of all, pangolins, many of which are about the size of a house cat or small dog, are a threat to no one except to ants and termites, which they lap up with a long, sticky tongue.

They can fight off animal predators with their sharp claws and their scales, which act as a kind of armor when they curl themselves up into a ball.

But pangolins possess little defense against human predators, who can simply pick them up off the ground.

“They’re defenseless,” said Hongying Li, the China program coordinator with the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in New York which is dedicated to research and protecting people and animals from infectious diseases.

Li said that eating pangolin meat is “a way of showing off. It’s a way of saying I am very rich. I can afford pangolin meat.”

Li also said that pangolins are “very important to the environment, because they eat a lot of ants and termites…”

He described ants and termites as “a disaster for the forest.”

No celebrity status

But as Martin Fletcher of the Daily Telegraph in London explained in a recent article, pangolins “lack the celebrity status of elephants, rhinos, and tigers.”

That, he says, “helps explain why so few westerners even realize they exist.”

In reporting his story, Fletcher decided to check out zoos but found that not a single British zoo houses any of them. Leipzig is the only zoo in Europe that has one and is one of only six zoos in the world that houses them.

Pangolins are shy, nocturnal creatures and often inhabit forests where it is difficult to spot, photograph, or study them. In captivity, they usually fail to adapt well to alternative foods.

But some prominent figures in Britain have taken note of them.

In 2014, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, teamed up with the makers of the game “Angry Birds” to create an online contest aimed at helping the pangolin.

In 2015, the prince noted that “the humble pangolin…runs the risk of becoming extinct before most of us have ever heard of it.”

In an episode of the BBC program “Natural World,” David Attenborough said that the Sunda pangolin was one of the 10 species that he would like to save from extinction.

Attenborough recalled rescuing one of these pangolins from being eaten while he was working on a film early in his career.

He described it as “one of the most endearing animals I have ever met.”

The Sunda pangolin’s main predators are humans, tigers, and the clouded leopard.

The animal spends much of its life in trees and is classified as threatened.

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He described ants and termites as “a disaster for the forest.” Pixabay

‘Wildlife under siege’

The best recent journalism to appear in English on the subject of endangered wildlife in Vietnam was published on April 7 in The New York Times’ travel section of all places.

The author Stephen Nash travelled through a national park in Vietnam which is the home to many rare animals, including pangolins.

He concluded that “wildlife is under siege” in Vietnam and that national parks “are often no refuge.”

Nash learned that pangolins command $500 a pound for their meat and scales in folk-cure apothecaries in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Park rangers and others with whom he spoke at the Cat Tien National Park affirmed that the animal populations in the park were declining.

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Some rangers were caught helping hunters catch or kill high-value animals, but those caught doing this were said to be severely dealt with.

The rangers earn something like $200 a month, a relatively low salary, which makes poaching an attractive career option, says Nash. (RFA)