The ecological vision of Rabindranath Tagore’
Dr. Aseem Shrivastava,
Writer and Ecological Economist,
Today, when all the elements - air, water, earth and fire (if you think of climate change) - are being so rapidly, so severely poisoned, with a confidence and bravado only desperate vainglory can dare, it is more urgent than ever to draw on visions of human culture and ecology that might help us reflect anew on the conditions on which life has been given to humanity. Rabindranath’s 1922 play Mukta-Dhaaraa about a prince who wishes to liberate a mountain-stream from a dam his father and his engineers are building across it, denying in the process, water to communities living downstream, is an uncannily premonitory metaphor for our times. Also indispensable is the1924 essay, Robbery of the Soil, where Rabindranath articulates in unalloyed terms his deep apprehensions about the predatory relationship between the city and the village in the modern world and the urgency of renegotiating it afresh in light of a mature ecological ethics. In his deep-seated anxiety and pessimism about industrial modernity, foreseeing well in advance the ecological cataclysms it has brought us, Rabindranath is our contemporary. In his far-reaching insight into the imperative for India to revive its villages if her civilisation is to recover he is at one with Gandhi. Like him, he is our prophet and guide.
Dr. Aseem Shrivastava is a Delhi-based writer and ecological economist. He is the author (with Ashish Kothari) of Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India, 2012.