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  • Writer's pictureShatakshi Gawade

Nisargayan: The school of nature and happiness

by Aayushi Laddha and Shreya Deshpande

The ES batch of 2019-20 visited Kudawale village, in Ratnagiri district, for Nisargayan, the last camp of our course Sustainable Management of Natural Resources & Nature Conservation. Nisargayan is led by Mr Dileep Kulkarni and Mrs Poornima Kulkarni, a husband-wife duo who spent their early life in the urban setting of Pune, and have been living in this small village near Dapoli since the last 35 years.

Are you wondering why they made this shift?

Well, the answer is very simple -- to live a sustainable, toxin-free life. We got to learn about this life first-hand during the camp.

The 2-day camp included many lectures by Dileep sir, which taught us once again how economy and ecology are related. We learnt how we should actually be considering the Gross Happiness Index of the citizens instead of the GDP of a nation, and how all of our actions have multiple reactions on earth, nature and apparently on us. Poornima ma'am , with her fluent Marathi, taught us how to live a toxin-free life, and how to have a healthy body, mind and soul through Ayurveda.

Photo credit:

A special part of the Nisargayan camp was that we studied in the most natural way. We learnt while sitting under a dense canopy of trees, with a unique slate backboard hung on a simple bamboo structure, and enjoying all the natural elements of life – pure sunlight, pure air and the chirping of birds, while learning how to live in symphony with them. We like to call it our nisargashala. And we all kept wishing some parts of our actual school could be conducted in this manner.

As for what was taught, it was everything that people who really care about the environment and wish to live more sustainably might already know. They spoke about how all the processes in nature are based on the principle of cyclicity, and how the human need for linearity, constant growth, stable homes and permanent structures have hampered all laws of nature. How economics, which is the ruling principle of our life, completely ignores the costs that we impose upon natural resources while achieving our multi-fold growth ratios. And how the only thing that humanity has given this planet is an increase in pollution, self-centred development and garbage. This is depleting our natural resources, energy resources, and the biodiversity, which are actually holding the life of our planet together. We are the unnatural piece that has managed to single-handed crumple the natural design of life, because there is no place of linearity or exponentiality in nature. And finally, how all of this affects the only thing we all want – our happiness.

Photo credit: Gregg Segal

The rich, the poor, the ones in the middle – very few people are leading a happy life. Our consumption-centric lifestyle cannot bring us the basic satisfaction any person living in sync with their surroundings might have. We are increasingly losing peace, our morals, and our family centric culture, and that is killing us from within. We are seeing more and more double income no kids (DINK) families as many people don’t have the time to think beyond their work. In India, close to 82% people suffer from stress on account of work, health and finance-related concerns. A recent meta-analysis indicated that approximately five million deaths worldwide are attributable to mood and anxiety disorders each year, along with increase in suicides, especially under toxic work environments. And fast lives which we need to run away from by taking frequent vacations.

The changes during the Industrial Revolution were so rapid that our mind, which evolves organically, didn’t get a chance to develop at the same pace. The difference between the availability of technology and the development capacity of the mind leads to stress! We can see more cases of mental health patients in highly developed countries where their reliance on technology is more, as against less developed nations where manpower is still the primary source of labor. Consider this -- gadgets are supposed to make our life easier, but our lives have become more complex. Why is that? And doesn’t technology impose as many problems as it solves?

Created from the teachings of Dileep Kulkarni

As a modern society, we have adopted the rules of science. Initially, our scriptures defined the rules of our life. But the Bible stated that the earth is flat and the universe revolves around it. And science was basically instated to defy these incorrect facts, and make rules based on observations. In 1644, René Descartes, a French Mathematician and Philosopher wrote about the principles of science. Science was based on observation, mathematical arrangements, and it was assumed that the world is non-living. Me vs everything else was the approach of looking at things. And it believed in materialism – what I can see, only that I will accept. The rules were rigid. The belief was that if we can split a clock and have a detailed study of each small component, we will have learnt all about the clock system after merging all the studies of parts together (sum of parts). But modern science says that although super-specialisation is great and has helped us make many inventions, everything is moving in a circle, and a holistic approach has to be taken. After completing a whole cycle of discarding the knowledge of our ancestors given in scriptures, modern scientists are back to quoting many things that the scriptures taught us years ago.

This world is nothing but a system. The Universe is the main system. The galaxies are the sub systems, then comes the solar system, which contains our planet Earth. Under the system of our planet we have various nations, society, family, and then the individual person. Inside our body too, there are organs, tissues, cells, atoms, and energy which makes these atoms.

The only way this entire system can work is that we consider the well-being of a higher system while making independent decisions at each level of the system. Does a person behave in a way which is beneficial towards his family? Does a community behave in a way which is beneficial for the nation? And do the nations behave in a way that is beneficial towards the well-being of our planet? These are all the questions we need to ask ourselves. Survival of nature should be our prime goal, because in its survival, we ensure our survival. Our view should be the systems view, the ecological view and the organic view.

Now, as people who have realised and accepted this, we can take a top-down approach in which we hope that the nation would change its philosophy. Or we can take a bottom-up approach, where we as individuals change our philosophy and lifestyle.

We can incorporate a nature-friendly lifestyle which is based on principles of equity. We must actively think about respecting the limitations of nature, using renewable resources, decentralisation, and empowering ourselves to lead life without the constant need and support of gadgets or bigger systems. We should have a life that encourages physical effort, and encourages self-reliance as a more important principle. And finally, we must use degradable materials.

The way to achieve all this is the rule of 4 R’s

1) Refuse – What is your need? Recognise that. It is very tempting to buy a beautiful dress/the newest gadget in the market, or some showcase for your newly-made house. The easy way to recognise whether you need it is, when you go to the shop and view an item of your liking, keep the thought on hold for a week. If after a week you still feel that you need the item, go ahead and make the purchase.

2) Reduce – We all have needs, but is there any way to mitigate our impact on the planet? For example, this would involve using public transport, and limiting the use of four wheelers unless it’s absolutely essential, replacing plastic wherever possible, and not asking for a straw in restaurants! There are so many ways we can reduce our consumption.

3) Reuse – Like we all know, there is ample scope for reusing many materials lying around in our house. The obsession with BRAND NEW has to stop. We can encourage businesses and shop for materials which are second-hand. We can rent clothes, cars, apartments and what not.

4) Recycle – This is the most important factor today, because so many of the things which are currently our basic needs are non-degradable. The first thing a parent buys for their new born child is diapers! A population of 8 billion people is using non-degradable diapers for their children every day. Many women are using non degradable sanitary pads and tampons every month. And these are our essential needs. But can these things not be made with more sustainable materials? There might be some hassle involved in the process, but cotton diapers and cotton pads are the solution. Our ancestors used it for years, why can’t we?

There are countless such solutions which Dileep and Poornima Kulkarni offered us that day, and they are living it and are perfectly healthy. Most importantly, they are perfectly happy. We can find a way out of this human-centric system if we have the will and the resilience to walk on the path that they followed, or make our own path!

Mr Kulkarni has written many books which talk about these topics and solutions. They readily host the Nisargayan camps for individuals and groups over weekends. Please make full use of this opportunity and attend the Nisargayan camp, it will truly be a life-changing experience!

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