When Bhutan was graced recently by the birth of its first prince, there was the apparent expectation of a cultural celebration, one that in today’s world spells unending fireworks and unprecedented industrial waste. So when the small kingdom of Bhutan announced that it was going to plant 108,000 trees to celebrate the birth of the new prince, the loudest accolades came from environmentalists who are fighting tooth and nail for our sensitive ecological system.
However, on the other side of the kingdom of Bhutan, the situation is not that pleasant. On top of a deteriorating ecological condition unacceptable for a healthy lifestyle, a similar celebration of a birth is taking place.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the world renowned philosophical guru whose name carries the Art of Living foundation, deemed it naturally appropriate to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the AoL foundation with the largest public gathering in India right on the banks of the sacred Yamuna in the form of the World Culture Festival.
The Yamuna River, whose water remains stagnant for almost nine months in a year, is churning in a vicious sea of unchecked sewage and industrial waste. So when Sri Sri Ravi Shankar decided to gather the thumping of roughly 3.5 million heavy footfalls on the floodplains of the Yamuna in New Delhi to pompously register India’s name in the Guinness World Records, the battle put up by the flora and fauna by giving birth and growing steadily in a choking environment was already lost.
When you start measuring the growth of your country by happiness, maybe it is happiness you’re providing after all. Bhutan became the first country to commit to being carbon neutral infinitesimally in 2009. The forests in Bhutan absorb three times more the amount of C02 emissions the country generates. With the amelioration of ecological situation comes the improvement of health, and at a time when people suffering from airborne diseases turn to such vacant celebrations of humanity for help, the need for protecting our environment becomes imperative.
Despite its size and population, Bhutan has emerged as a model for many countries which are increasingly trying out new measures to decrease their carbon footprint. While India’s diversity can serve as a cultural deterrent for ecological progress, it is not entirely impossible for the Centre to gain a strong foothold with the issue of climate change.
Maybe the difference between Bhutan and India is not a hard conundrum to locate — while the former celebrates birth by giving more birth, the latter leans slightly more towards the celebration of the living where there is no actual, practical ecological space for the unborn.