There has always been an unmistakable umbilical link between the dance form of Kerala called Theyyam and nature. The unique pantheistic art form of the Theyyam now faces increasing threats of gentrification and Brahminisation, thus paving the way for the destruction of the sacred groves where it was born. Text and photographs by Thulasi Kakkat.
The crisis in democracy is much discussed these days, but almost entirely in political terms that ignore its deeper causes. It’s the continuing failure to have this deeper discussion that has led to the democratic crisis we have. In this sense, the mainstream news media can be considered ‘enemies of the people’, peddling ‘fake news’.
People in older cultures, connected to community and place, held close in a lineage of ancestors, woven into a web of personal and cultural stories, radiate a kind of solidity and presence that I rarely find in any modern person. Whatever the measurable gains of the Ascent of Humanity, we have lost something immeasurably precious.
From Gaia Foundation: Alnoor Ladha, a founding member of the activist platform The Rules, which tries to “connect the dots between the various issues that are happening in the world to reveal the underlying antagonist: the economic operating system itself.” Here, he speaks on culture, technology and the cannibalistic economic system consuming life on Earth.
It’s been five years since the passing of G. Nammalvar, the icon of sustainable farming who died on December 30, 2013, while leading a campaign against the plan to extract methane gas in Cauvery delta. An agriculture scientist, he left his job and travelled across Tamil Nadu spreading the message of organic farming using story-telling.
From Vox.com: “For a long time I was a climate change denier,” says William T. Vollmann, the award-winning American author, journalist, and war correspondent. Yet, he has just completed a sprawling, two volume polemic called Carbon Ideologies, which explores the ideology of energy consumption, and is addressed to humans living in a “hot dark future.”
From The Conversation: The eminent American naturalist Aldo Leopold described the emotional toll of ecological loss thus: “One of the penalties of an ecological education,” he wrote, “is to live alone in a world of wounds.” Ecological grief reminds us that climate change is not just some abstract scientific concept or a distant environmental problem.
Stefany Ann Goldberg writes: Famous for his plant-response studies, J.C. Bose was also the first scientist to study inorganic matter the way a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. Bose performed his plant experiments on rocks and metals, too. Remarkably, he found that the “non-living” responded when subjected to mechanical, thermal, and electrical stimuli.
From The Millions: When human leaders fail us as role models, we should look to animals, says Sy Montgomery. “I can tell you that teachers are all around to help you: with four legs or two or even eight. All you have to do is recognize them as teachers and be ready to hear their truths.”
Most people have passed through some kind of initiation; a crisis that defies what you knew and what you were. Societies can also pass through a similar initiation. That is what climate change poses to the present global civilization. A key element of this transformation is from a geomechanical worldview to a Living Planet worldview.
A research-paper concluding that climate-induced collapse is now inevitable, was recently rejected by an academic journal, citing the emotional impact that it might have on readers. The paper offers a new framing to make sense of the disaster we face, called “deep adaptation.” It has now been released online by the author, Prof. Jem Bendell.
Aseem Shrivastava writes: Tagore’s play Mukta-Dhara foretells the manner in which people across the country have been losing their freedom— those uprooted by development quite obviously so, those ‘benefitting’ from it (mostly living in cities) more subtly and invisibly. This is the ecologically fatal price of ‘progress’, which Rabindranath anticipated in much of his work.
David A. Banks writes in The Baffler: Engineering has not strayed far from its military origins… Engineers are trained to “plug into chain-of-command decision making structures… In times like these it is important to remember that border walls, nuclear missiles, and surveillance systems do not work, and won’t even exist, without the cooperation of engineers.
From Jacobin Magazine: The New York Times’ blockbuster story on climate change concludes that democracy and human nature are to blame for the climate crisis. They’re wrong. You cannot tell the story of climate change without telling the story of twentieth-century capitalism. This isn’t just a missed opportunity or a partial story—it’s the wrong story.
Rarely do Indian environmental discourses examine nature through the lens of caste. Mukul Sharma shows how the two phenomena are intimately connected, and compares Dalit meanings of environment to Neo-brahminism and mainstream environmental thought. Here, he argues that the Ambedkarite vision is relevant for environmental sustainability, and it is Indian environmentalists who have marginalised Ambedkar.
“The worst thing about cars is that they are like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people”. So starts Andre Gorz’s justly famous 1973 essay which remains as relevant today as ever.
In 1964, renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray was asked to create a short film for a TV-showcase by American oil company Esso. Asked to write and direct the film in English, Ray opted instead to make a film without words. The result is a poignant fable of modernity and ‘development’, which remains just as relevant today.
Shashank Kalra writes: We have a vivid vision of a thriving urban space; but what would a thriving rural space look like? This was one of the key questions I went with in this Gramya Manthan, a rural immersion-programme. Here, I shall bring up some of the subtler issues, which aren’t ‘rural issues’ but all-pervasive.
Kerry Emanuel writes: There are strong cultural biases against discussion of ‘tail risk’ in climate science; particularly the accusation of “alarmism”. Does the dictum to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” not apply to climate scientists? If we omit discussion of tail risk, are we really telling the whole truth?
“These machines shape the way we view reality. We’re not just merging with machines, but with the companies that run these machines—who run these machines for profit. And here’s the existential threat… these technologies will change what it means to be human. Once we take this leap, it will be very hard to reverse course.”