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Bio?diversity: Nature’s Magnum Opus “Padamsingh Subba ‘APATAN’ Memorial Lecture” Talks Sense

MANDEEP LAMA

PART-II
As for Francis Bacon, who is commonly regarded as the originator of the maxim “knowledge is power,” it has been his philosophical and scientific basis “to give mankind mastery over the forces of nature by means of scientific discoveries and inventions.” To achieve such an unqualified mastery over nature, vis-à-vis the planet Earth, Bacon’s philosophy devised the most detrimental methodology: application of what has come to be paraphrased ever since as the “self-assertive masculine trait” to the hilt against the planet Earth. Thus began the macho notion of control and domination of our home planet for exploiting her resources as never before in the human history, which has reached its barbaric level today. What is even more shocking is, in his scientific writings, Bacon uses extremely violent invectives against the planet Earth. For example, he says that nature has to be “bound into service” and made a “slave.” She is to be “hounded in her wanderings” and “put in constrain.”
At one point, Bacon spells out an abominable aim for the scientists. He says that a scientist’s aim has to be to “torture out nature’s secrets from her.” As the Lord Chancellor and the Keeper of the Great Seal in the court of King James I, Bacon was familiar with the widespread persecution of women in the routine witch-trials and their terrible torture in dreaded dungeons across Europe in the early seventeenth century. Bacon simply borrows the awful expletives used in such witch trials and torture chambers to apply them on nature. Bacon’s bitter outbursts against the nature are today called the “Baconian Rhetoric,” which abundantly demonstrates his ruthless patriarchal mindset. With the Baconian idea of exercising control and domination over the planet Earth worshipped in the image of a supreme female deity – the Great Mother/Creatress Goddess – ever since the dawning of human consciousness, the idea of exploiting the feminine gender of the human race also got reinitiated with the Scientific Revolution.  
As for René Descartes and Isaac Newton, their philosophies and sciences forcefully came to portray the world as a dissociated collection of parts rather than an “integrated whole” or a gestalt. Both Descartes and Newton sought to establish the sort of a scientific thesis which stated that the universe, as well as the humans together with all other animals, to be a mechanical system, and that the “whole” could be understood by analysing its parts. These conclusions reached by Descartes and Newton became the shining leitmotif of their sciences and philosophies, and came to be called the “mechanistic” as well as “reductionist” world-view. The end result of this Cartesian-Newtonian paradigm was that (1) it made the Universe into a jumble of inorganic matters flying freely in the empty space that was put together by the God, (2) it believed in the acquisition of unlimited material wealth through economic and technological growth, and (3) it professed the idea of control and exploitation of the planet Earth including the feminine gender of the human race.
 Gestaltism, on the other hand, is called the “holistic” or, more appropriately, “ecological” world-view. In the ecological paradigm, the world is perceived as a pulsating living organism where everything is connected to everything else, and is mutually dependent upon one another for the purpose of living and evolving. Ecological world-view also acknowledges the fact that Nature functions on her cyclical rhythm of constant decaying and regeneration, which today is recognised by the proponents of the alternative economics model as the Earth’s inherent dynamics of “sustainability.”
Thus, the change in our perspectives requires a radical shift from the well entrenched Cartesian-Newtonian mechanistic model of the world to the ever pulsating and constantly transforming ecological world. For achieving this change in perspective, Capra says, we need to adopt an altogether different set of behavioural ethics in our thinking and value systems. We can adopt such an ethical behaviour by radically shifting our masculine “self-assertive” thinking, viz., rational, analytical, reductionist, and linear, to the feminine “integrative” thinking, viz., intuition, synthesis, holistic, and non-linear. Similarly, we need to shift our focus from masculine “self-assertive” values, which are expansion, competition, quantity, and domination, to the feminine “integrative” values like conservation, cooperation, quality, and partnership. However, this is not implying as pushing the masculine self-assertive thinking and value systems off the cliff and replacing it with the feminine integrative thinking and value systems. That would be equally disastrous. What is implied here is to achieve a harmonious balance between the two systems so that they could complement each other in their creative best.
The tension is really between the one and the many, or between the whole and the parts. Cartesian mechanics require reducing any phenomenon, an organism for example, to its ever smaller constituents to be able to understand the nature of the whole phenomenon. But the systems view of organism, or life, disagrees with this hypothesis. Once they are isolated from the whole, parts become devoid of the properties of the integrated whole, which it derives from its patterns of relationship with its parts. The sum total of a whole is therefore always greater than its parts. Thus, Descartes’ analytical module in understanding a phenomenon is squarely spurned and abandoned in the ecological view of life, favouring synthesis instead.
But, as of today, blindingly hypnotised by the Cartesian-Newtonian paradigm, humankind’s blatant arrogance and paranoid gluttony have sought to dominate, control, and exploit the planet Earth with complete disregard to the well being of all other species of living organisms. In doing so, humankind is merrily cutting off the golden bough of the existential tree on which they themselves are sitting rather precariously as of now! In other words, biodiversity – the ruling principle of the planet Earth that denotes interconnections and interdependencies – are at its greatest peril today. As such, organising a timely lecture on the subject to be delivered by one of the best proponents of the discipline in Sikkim is worth applauding.
However, I was not aware of any such lecture series dedicated to the memory of the late Padamsingh Subba till the month of June, 2012, when my brother, G. S. Lama aka  Sanu Lama, told me about it. He wanted for me to suggest some viable topics for the lecture. At that time I was re-visiting E. F. Schumacher’s path breaking book on economics entitled Small is Beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered ”; Lester R. Brown’s Eco?Economy, whose sub-title reads “Building an Economy for the Earth” ; and reading the just acquired John Ralston Saul’s The Collapse of GLOBALISM and the Reinvention of the World, a terse critique of the modern economic system. I was then resourcing materials for enhancing my understanding of the reasons for exponential growth of the economic phenomenon which, experts in the Green Movement say, is the chief raison d’être for many of our present day personal, societal, regional, national, and global, as well as intellectual, transpersonal, and spiritual crises. It has often been said that economics is not the sole governing criterion of democracy it has become today; public good is. But human greed has injected the sort of an upshot to the discipline of economics that it has malevolently upstaged the principle of “public good” as professed in many of the political theories of the earlier times. Hence, after a day or two, taking cue from the above listed books and others in my possession, I suggested to my elder brother a single topic for the Memorial Lecture, which I had found most prudently paraphrased by Lester Brown in his Eco-Economy. It read: “Redefining Wealth in terms of Human Enrichment rather than in terms of Monetary/Material Gains.”
Nevertheless, the topic “Biodiversity: With Special Reference to Sikkim” was an equally thought provoking as well. I was in a curious sort of mind though: how would K. C. Saheb approach the subject or what sort of an interpretative perspective would he provide? My curiosity was based on the fact that biodiversity is truly a mind boggling subject, and constricting it to a single lecture is almost a well nigh impossibility.
Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is a learned term coined to describe the variety of life forms on the planet Earth. Technically, it refers to the wide variety of ecosystems and organisms: plants, animals, their genes and habitats. All living systems are called organisms because each one of them is a “self organising system.” Organisms continually organise themselves on the strength of their innate properties, which are: 1) Self?maintenance, 2) Self?healing, 3) Adaptation, 4) Homoeostasis, and 5) Self?transcendence. Self?transcendence is a unique attribute gained only by the higher rung species like humans through their ability to acquire knowledge and wisdom. Although organisms are biologically closed systems, organisationally all living systems are open systems. In their natural state all living systems keep interacting with their surroundings through a network of relationships – interconnections and interdependencies – which is called the Web of Life. They continually keep exchanging information and nutrients like energy and matter for the purpose of living and evolving.
Embedded in their respective ecosystems, it is this inherent arrangement of co-existence amongst living systems that is seriously being threatened by the humankind’s blind and unbridled economic activities. Such activities are not merely obliterating countless number of species and their habitats rather routinely, but are also destroying the inherent ability of the planet Earth to create and sustain life, which she has done for the past three billion years. The development besieged modern and the post-modern human society seems to be in a hurry for self annihilation, therefore, it is absolutely imperative as of today to teach ourselves valuable lessons on the biological diversity of our home planet for maintaining the balance of relationship with other living organisms. Hence, the profundity of the lecture on biodiversity by Shri K. C. Pradhan in the second edition of “Padamsingh Subba ‘APATAN’ Memorial Lecture 2012” is rather well timed.
[To be concluded]

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi