MAN VERSUS NATURE (N. SRI RAM - SOURCE: THE THEOSOPHIST, JUNE 1969, P. 141)
An article in The Royal Bank of Canada, and reprinted in The Hindu of Madras, which refers to the unanimous view of some 200 experts from 50 different countries, who met at a UNESCO Conference last year in Paris, that if the present rate of pollution of air and water continues, life on our planet will begin in about 20 years to succumb to its effects. The process they apprehend is the gradual dying out of life in rivers and lakes, increasing unbreathability of the air which surrounds the earth, and the withering of plants from various poisons. These fears cannot be regarded as unwarranted or even, exaggerated, as they are based on data carefully collected and accepted by the Conference.
The effects of this process of pollution are already visible. The famous chain of lakes separating Canada from the United States, bordering highly developed industrial belts, receive so much of the effluents from factories and cities that already parts of the lakes are becoming uninhabitable by fishes. We are told that the U. S. Public Health Service has warned shippers on Lake Eerie not to drink, or use for cooking any water within five miles of the shoreline. The waters of Lake Michigan are also now loaded with poisonous substances from factories and cities, which thus dispose of their ever-increasing refuse. Some of these wastes are said to be of such a nature that even boiling and chlorination do not remove the contamination.
The pollution of the atmosphere is also proceeding apace. At least one hundred different air pollutants injurious to man and animal are said to have been identified. It is no wonder that cases of cancer are ever more numerous, and there are new mysterious diseases making their appearance. There has been an outcry from different quarters against nuclear test explosions, as the fall-out from them takes long periods to settle down, and when it does, it contaminates plants and water. However, it is not sufficiently realized that even without the serious injury, that radioactivity may cause to man and all other forms of life, enormous quantities of smoke and effluvia of other sorts are being thrown into the atmosphere every day poisoning the air, he has to breathe.
In the East and other less developed regions such as Latin America and Africa, the process of industrialization, which is largely responsible for the pollution, has not yet assumed such a scale or advanced to such a degree of sophistication as in Europe and North America. So the people there do not share the concern which is beginning to be felt elsewhere but the process of industrialization and the way, it works at present are steadily overtaking and, one may say, engulfing them.
The enormous increase of population and the need to find employment, together with industrialization, have resulted in the vast urban concentrations, which are a feature of the present time and have created a new kind of complexity in human life.
It is well known that animals, birds, and smaller forms of life can exist only in an environment, which affords them the particular food, and conditions they need. Already many species are extinct because of man's continuous depredations and occupation for his own purposes of spaces and forests, which these creatures formerly enjoyed as a sphere of their own. The indiscriminate use of pesticides, detergents, and fertilizers containing harmful chemicals has been an important contributory factor to the process of destruction, by setting up various chain effects affecting different inter-dependent species. Man has no regard or consideration for any other form of life, except to the extent that is necessary for his own convenience or use. Thus after millennia during which Nature managed her affairs, undisturbed for the most part, in her own way, man taking a strictly subordinate place in her household, there has come about a revolution which has placed him at the top. In exercising the domination he has achieved, he is creating far-reaching imbalances in Nature, which according to the scientists who discussed the question at Paris, are now threatening the stability of his own ecology. Man has yet to realize that as a biological entity he is a part of Nature, though he may have a mind and will of his own which he is able to use for his one-sided ends and in ways contrary to her processes.
In the article referred to, the writer states his view—and it is a view with which those who have given some thought to this matter will agree, “Nature is the expression a definite order with which nothing interferes successfully”. It has been said in the language of another epoch, “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.” For the word God, we might substitute Nature. Modern Science has shown that the construction of the universe in its physical aspect is purely mathematical. However, when we come to the region of life, its branching’s and processes, we are apt to lose sight of the fact that Nature is still governed by laws that operate with mathematical precision and certainty. All animals and birds are governed in their behavior by instincts, which for all practical purposes work like laws embedded in their rudimentary minds. In the language of The Mahatma Letters, “Nature is too well, too mathematically, adjusted to cause mistakes to happen in the exercise of her functions.” Therefore, the view is not so fanciful, as one might think at first, that the process of adjustment we see in Nature operates like the terms of an equation, with a degree of give and take; and in this process man is included though, in the overweening confidence bred by his Science and technology he thinks he can exclude himself. He may have to pay heavily for this delusion. If man is part of the whole scheme, he cannot disregard its laws with impunity. The Adepts who understand that scheme far more profoundly than ourselves call themselves Nature's co-workers, but we think we are her masters, while in effect acting as her enemy.
There is talk today in certain circles, based on the latest scientific achievements, of changing the pattern of the weather, of producing life in a test-tube, of altering the genes to create a new design, and so on. All this recalls, to one who is acquainted with the Hindu Puranas (myths of an allegorical nature purporting to embody facts with regard to the early history of the cosmos and of this planet), the story of a sage named Vishvamitra. As proof of having attained an exalted status, he sought to create a new world with new species of life but succeeded only in creating distortions and caricatures of what existed already. It is to be earnestly hoped that in spite of the present convergence of a number of ominous developments, all seeming to aim as of set purpose at the destruction of life on this planet, man will emerge into an era of peace. Where he can exercise the necessary self-control, as well as realizing his own limitations, and begin to show respect for other forms of life, which share this planet with him, and for Nature, the common mother of all.
(Copy of an article from source as indicated above with very minor grammatical changes only.)