Living Pathways: A Cosmology of the Possible

In recent times, the search for sustainability has become imperative for the survival of human beings and other species. Why? Nadarajah’s book offers deep insights worth engaging with at both personal and political levels, as he offers an orientation from the point of view of socially-engaged spirituality, staying away from the business-as-usual models of sustainable development.

It made me reflect. Homo sapiens have been blessed with everything in abundance in nature by the Creator to satisfy their diverse and legitimate needs. But being pleasure seekers, they have chosen the trajectory of destruction of nature’s biodiversity for their increasingly material only progress. From necessity to hedonism, from being to having, the progression was steady and then swift.

Man, with his technological armoury and growth-only economic orientation, savagely destroyed many little communities, their traditional cultures and pushed many animals to extinction, as Nadarajah so well explains, in relentless pleasure hunting and profit-making pursuits. Mother Earth, the goddess of patience, has been indulgently tolerant of man’s aggrandisement. But as man plunders her Being, with utter disregard for the disastrous consequences to the ecosystem, she had ‘no other option’ but to respond with a fury unseen, causing humongous loss to lives and livelihoods. This is poised to only increase in the coming years.

We have certainly messed up. And we are refusing to learn. The Climate Vulnerable Forum’s 2010 report warned: “In absolute terms, India will have the highest number of excessive deaths due to health impacts of climate change.” Our coastlines are going to change. Bangladesh and West Bengal are on the path of destruction as are many other coastal areas and islands around the world.

The protagonists of development present the theory of trade off between development and sustainability, which is totally unsound and unacceptable, as it is dishonest and manipulative. A striking example is the mining of bauxite for aluminium. The basic function of bauxite is conserving water and maintaining perennial streams in mountains. Social Anthropologist Felix Padel , who has been living in the tribal belt of Odisha for many years, observes: “Bauxite mines are in the mountains maintaining an ecological balance.” As mining means the destruction of mountains and depletion of bauxite, there are two serious damages: ecocide and cultural genocide (caused by displacement and disruption of livelihoods of tribal communities).

The predators of nature are, thus, compelled to re-examine the strategies of development dictated by capitalist profiteers, and their all powerful agencies and structures spearheading modernisation, globalization and mindless consumerism. We all need to rethink as individuals and as communities. And, as Nadarajah so aptly says there are no more cross-roads where we can make a choice. We have destroyed all meaningful cross-roads. We are all now at an abyss and we have to make an u-turn or take that bridge to genuinely sustainable futures, as our ancestors conceived them. The pasts had futures we carelessly neglected, marginalized or missed.

Nadarajah examines sustainability from a deep socially-engaged spiritual sense in the book, and has explored Asian cultures and traditions, where sustainability is embedded as a way of life. His meditations on sustainable cultures and cosmologies in Asia are not tautological, but they are presented with the power of facts and visual realities through his lens and from his pen. A great work on sustainability for those who believe in  “simplicity, sanity, spirituality and sustainability.” It is worth recommending this book to serious youths and young academics to expose them to LIVING PATHWAYs to sustainable futures in Asia.

T.K. Nair, PhD., 
Professor of Social Work, former Principal of Madras School of Social Work (MSSW). Author, Mentor, Human Rights Activist, Social Worker and an Active Gerontologist (India)

This review first appeared in livingpathways.weebly.com