Issues on nature and environment are actively debated on around the world. On international levels such as the G8 summit attended by world leaders in Scotland this year, the agenda to fight poverty rests on the investment of the human race on environmental and natural capital. This agenda is urgent since studies reveal that 30% of the natural resources of this planet have been consumed by the human race since the 1970s.
This integration of agenda’s to address issues on environment remains an uphill climb because different countries see nature and environment in different context. Western attitudes towards nature are different from Eastern attitudes specifically found in Africa, India and China. Before any conquering of the Europeans on Africa, the country had rich natural resources, traditions and history. The Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe writes explains this elaborately in his novel Things Fall Apart.
Africa’s rich diversity in both cultures and environment is founded in sustainable system of consumption. Through the novel, Achebe tried to reach to his readers the historical significance of the Ibo culture in remembering the historical past of these traditions in order to assert the development of environmental awareness that both East and Western beliefs must respect and value. Respect for environment in African culture conforms to theories on lessening the impact of the man’s environmental footprint on the planet.
While Africa holds this belief, India takes their environmental discourse to encompass the spiritual dimensions. In the great Indian literature, The Ramayana, much of India’s rituals and traditions that are founded in their spiritual beliefs are seen in how they view their environment. It is evident even in their daily lives, their habits of consumption and respect for animals such as the cow. More than sacred animals, Indian beliefs on the environment encompass the physical Earth.
The Ramayana expounds on the process of transformation from the physical body to the spiritual journeys via the charkas. Illumination, initiation and enlightenment, definitely unseen in the western context is evident in the Indian way of looking and appreciating nature and the environment. As the body is part of bigger cosmic universe, environment and nature therefore are also part of a bigger cosmic cycle of life and death. The great teacher Confucius summarize environmental stance of Eastern thought pertaining to nature.
Similar to the Indian and African environmental beliefs, the Chinese also highly respected nature and its forces so much so that it is highly incorporated into their culture and beliefs. Chinese characters are symbols that narrate mountains, rivers and streams. The west does not have this same kind of pretext. For the west, it has always been a division instead of integration. The west is historically new as compared to Asian cultures.
Men and women who have populated these western lands had one common objective on the environment and that is to consume it. While western individuals divided themselves between Platonist and Aristotelian philosophies, the Chinese belief in conservation is ruled under one Confucian construct. The Analects of Confucius has up to modern times been taught to each Chinese generation and continues to guide China’s critical role in addressing issues in the environment and nature.
Unfortunately, both US and China has not signed the pending Kyoto proposal that at best interest will try to decrease carbon emissions and help the planet cope with climate change. Until the East and the West gathers together their environmental contexts to form one unified value of the environment, nature will always be pulled apart in terms of development, diversity and preservation.
Chinua, Achebe. Things Fall Apart The Ramayana The Analects of Confucius