According to ancient Indian philosophy, everything in the universe is make up of five elements- earth, water, fire, air, and space. All living and non-living creatures are myriad expressions of the same consciousness. Everything in nature is intrinsically connected. As human beings, we should respect and protect the environment of our planet. All the ancient cultures all over the world preached to treat our origin as sacred. If we have a strong sense of love and reverence for the ecological integrity and biodiversity of earth, it will not only be beneficial for our planet but also will save us from various physical and mental issues.
Nowadays, one of the causes for people being depress so much is that they are disconnected from all living and non-living elements of nature. Our life completely depends on various natural resources. The human body is a cumulation of food, drink, and energy. All of these come to us from nature. The air inside us and outside us is one and the same. If we are not aware of these truths, while harming our planet, we will simultaneously bring long-term detrimental impacts on ourselves. Despite being egocentric, we all must follow the broader perspective of ecocentrism to attain a healthy, happy, and sustainable future.
What is ecocentrism?
Ecocentrism is a philosophy or a system of values that places intrinsic values on every living organism and the natural environment. Ecocentrism is the broadest among all worldviews. It includes biocentrism, zoo centrism, and in a broad sense anthropocentrism also. Contrary to self-centrism ecocentrism strives for the betterment of the whole ecosystem. When the climate of the earth is suffering from the side effects of unconscious human activities, an eco-centric worldview can offer hope for providing solutions to the environmental crisis.
Origin of ecocentrism-
Ecocentrism is called ‘the key pathway to sustainability. The term was etymologically derived from the Greek word ‘Oikos’ (house) and ‘kentron’(center). The perspective considers the earth as the house for every creature. Ecocentrism has started evolving since the birth of humanity. Many indigenous cultures all over the world speak of eco-centric worldview through their law and lore.
In his ‘The Land Ethic’ ecologist Aldo Leopold has written the classic evocation of ecocentrism. In 1973 philosopher Arne Naess coined the term ‘deep ecology’ that expresses a similar sentiment. Ecologist John Stanley Rowe believed that ecocentrism is the ‘‘only promising universal belief system’’ that can help to solve the environmental crisis.
The eco-centric approach of ancient India and environmental laws-
Opposed to the narrower anthropocentric branch of thought, ecocentrism takes a holistic vision of the environment. Though a few decades ago the Indian and international judiciary were incline towards human-centrism,
gradually with time they have shifted towards ecocentrism. but in the cases of Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India, the center for Environmental law, WWFI v. Union of India the Indian courts elaborated on the significance of an eco-centric approach.
The Upanishads written in ancient India elaborately discussed ecocentrism. Different parts of nature were worshipped as different expressions of the same divinity. In their scriptures, ancient rishis in India emphasized the harmony between every species. They did not think that any particular species has a right to intrude on the rights of other species. Indian philosophy has influenced many international treaties and conventions such as the Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources, 1980, the Protocol to Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection, 1998, the Berne-convention on Conservation of European Wildlife, and Natural Habitats, 1982, etc.
In earlier times international environment protection declarations like the Rio Declaration of 1992,
the Stockholm Declaration of 1972, etc. were essentially humancentric. Their focus on the environment was wholly based on the sake of human needs. But with time new generations of people are now becoming more sensitive about their environmental ecosystem.
Role of ecocentrism to solve the environmental crisis-
Ecocentrism is a roadmap that guides us to do our duties for the environment of our planet. Nature-based ecocentrism is completely contrary to self-centrism. Ecocentrism reflects the idea of our evolutionary heritage. It reminds us of the evolutionary process of homo sapience. Being evolved out of the rich web of life of the ecosphere of our planet we have a biological kinship with all other living creatures. A homocentric conservation ethic alone is not able to conserve biodiversity.
Though we as human beings claim to be the greatest creature on earth, we are responsible for all the commodification
and exploitation of natural elements. Now the only solution is the cultivation and implementation of an eco-centric mindset. From childhood, we should teach the younger generation to build a relationship with nature.
but they must know what types of activities can cause damage to the environment.
Organizations should think of balancing their profit with environmental and ecological considerations. but they all should have some awareness of the greenhouse effect and commit to net-zero carbon emissions.
In previous days ‘environmental personhood’ was consider to a fringe issue but now several countries are granting legal personhood to the elements of nature. In March 2017, the Whanganui River of New Zealand was declare to have all the legal rights of a human being. but the local Maori tribe fought for this recognition of the Whanganui River.
Following New Zealand, several other countries and organizations have launched ‘voice for the planet’ to give significance to the concept of ecopsychology. As a part of their environmental activism, many countries are now trying to become climate neutral. but the government of many countries is now emphasizing the calculation of carbon footprint to save the environment of our planet.
In times of environmental depletion, as human beings, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve our ecosystem. Instead of exploiting the natural resources now, we should embody empathy by trying to serve the environment.