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Don’t blindly rush into ‘good’ deeds
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
18 min
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Questioner: Pranam Acharya Ji, So the regards to that what must be done v/s what we want to do. A lot of things, one is Environment, Veganism, etc. We understand we have to choose one activity that is most critical. When you say critical it is like most people are affected by it. So, when i came to Mumbai here, I could clearly see a difference in the air which is in Bangalore and which is here. I feel very suffocating sometimes. So, what you said about understanding the issue, studying about the issue is probably the ideal case. So, not everybody is devoted to go to that length. So, I think is wherever you are start from there. If I am planting trees in one particular area, it is definitely not harmful it is beneficial for the people who are there

Acharya Prashant: It has to be thought of in terms of the overall opportunity cost. You see, you have to understand this, It’s not that you have to think of the most important issue. You also have to think of the most effective way to tackle that issue. You may very well be able to identify the most important issue. But what if you are using the least effective way to tackle that issue, and you know what is the problem with the less effective ways? The problem is not merely that they are less effective. The problem is that they make you feel that you are doing something effective. So they absolve you of your responsibility. You start saying, “You see I did my bit”, and when you say I did my bit, you became licensed and entitled to a lot of other kinds of rubbish.

I will say something with respect to this tree plantation thing. You see it is very well known that one tree over the course of 40 years would absorb just 1 ton of carbon dioxide. How effective is that, please? And that if that tree lives to get 40 years old. One tree over 40 years absorbs 1 ton of carbon dioxide. In one year how much does it absorb? 0.025 ton. Whereas, having one less child causes a difference of 60 tons per year. Now, do you want to plant trees happily, and then go home and have a child? One child is 60 tons per year, and one tree is 0.025 tons per year. But by planting a tree you start feeling that you have done your bit, and you feel very happy. Now you can go on a date, get married, and then obviously you will have kids. This is the kind of thing I become very unhappy with, very very unhappy with.

All the measures that social activism is taking can contribute not 1% of that which having childless does. But then all the do-gooders are roaming and they are going around with a lot of pride. “You know, we are climate warriors” what climate warriors? What is this tree plantation thing?

Devote your resources your energy, your Fridays your Saturdays, or your Sundays to doing the right thing. Have an awareness campaign. Go to young people in schools and colleges and tell them not to procreate. That is what you must be doing. Instead, you are feeling good about planting trees. Not that planting trees is harmful, I am fully in support of it. But then the opportunity cost is great, you understand opportunity cost. The same time that you invested in planting a tree, could have been invested in delivering a presentation in a particular college. By planting the tree, you refuse to make that presentation in the college, and this is criminal. This is outrightly criminal, I do not support this.

So do not say, “We are little beings, we can only do this much.” The ones who are doing this much, are the ones causing the problem. Misplaced climate activism is not solving the problem, it is a part of the problem. Everybody is becoming a climate activist, without realizing what is it that really needs to be done. There are a few things you must understand.

At the root of the climate catastrophe lies man’s tendency to consume.

And man consumes in three clear ways, and three distinct ways. Man wants to consume the entire world, and the entire world consists of human beings, prakartik beings (which you call natural beings), and man-made things. Whenever you will look around you, these are the three kinds of things you will find. Other human beings, other natural beings, and other man-made things. Man consumes all three, and consumption of all three leads to carbon emissions. When you consume other human being what do get? Kids. And that is the biggest cause of carbon emissions. When you consume man-made things what do you emit? Carbon. Because, whatever there is man-made is made using energy, and energy comes from fossil fuels. So whenever you are consuming something man-made, you are causing carbon emissions. And the third thing is the consumption of natural resources, whether you are eating vegetables, whether you are a vegan or not, or whether you are consuming meat. All of these is highly carbon emitting. Even if you are vegan, you will eat grains at least. Where will the grains come from? They can only come by felling forests. But then you start feeling great, “I am vegan, you know”. ‘I am Holier than thou’.

The earth does not have the resources to support 8 billion or 11 billion vegans. So do not be so happy about just being a vegan. Veganism does not help the cause of climate change beyond a point. We need two things, Less people and less consumption. And both of them, together. Are you getting it? Even if one of them is missing, you are gone. U.S. has not too many people. Just 32 crores are there, and yet they are the biggest carbon emitters in the world. Because they consume. On the other hand, is China. China, the per capita consumption is 1/5 or 1/10 of the U.S.A, and yet they are No.2 on the carbon list because they are just too many.

You need a situation where there are not 2 or 3 billion people in the world. That has been scientifically calculated to be the sustainable limit, and currently, we are 8 billion. We need to reduce it to 2 or 3 billion. Secondly, these 2 or 3 billion people have to be spiritual so that they do not have a tendency to consume. Unless you are spiritual, you are bound to be living a consumption centric life.

The very urge for Liberation when it does not find the outlet, it becomes the urge to consume. Do you see this? Where does the tendency to consume so much come from? It comes from the misidentified and thwarted urge towards liberation. If you will not provide liberation to a man, his energies will flow in the direction of consumption. So these are the two things that we require. One, less population. Secondly, the population that remains, must remain highly spiritual. Only then can you avoid climate catastrophe.

All this ‘Tamasha’ that is happening on the streets will not help. Instead, it is making people feel good about themselves. I look at these warriors, climate warriors, young men, and young women. Some of them were fighting the police recently in Bombay, and I thought to myself, will these young people refuse to have a kid? No, that they won’t. Here for a tree, they are prepared to lay down their lives, and I respect these sentiments, seriously I respect that. But then I want to question the efficacy of that. You don’t want these 2,700 trees to be cut down. But then if you get 1 child, that is the equivalent of cutting down Lakh trees. Bringing one child to the world is the equivalent of cutting down lakh trees, may be more. Just do the maths. But you show so much sentiment when a tree is hacked down, and you show no sentiment when you see family after family procreating. You in fact send them congratulatory messages, “wow nice didi”, “good that you had your second or third kid now.” Returning from the climate demonstration what does this young girl do. She calls up her didi and says “So didi, was the delivery fine?” What nonsense is this? Do you understand?

Climate Catastrophe is a spiritual problem, and it can only have a spiritual solution. All else that you see happening around you in the name of climate activism is just ‘tamasha.’ It will not help. Well, it will boost up a lot of egos. It will give fame and limelight to a lot of young people. They will become climate warriors, they will become saviors of the world. Tomorrow one of them might even get the Noble prize. So much of limelight is there, you know., “This young man, he has really brought this issue to popular consciousness, lets bestow upon him the noble prize of peace.” All that can happen, but all that will be just symbolic. Not helpful at all. Or even if it helps, it will help only to a very marginal degree. Do you get the real solution?

From 8 billion take it back to 2 billion, and you don’t have to kill people for that. You just have to educate and encourage people not to reproduce. Even if they want to have kids, let them have at max 1 kid. And the second thing is this 2 or 3 billion that finally remains must be deeply spiritual from the heart so that it does not have a tendency to feast upon the world. Are you getting it?

But the way climate activism is going, it is going in a very blind direction. People are trying to get governments to intervene by the way of legislation. What can the government do? It’s a democratic world. The governments will only do what the people will want them to do., and the people want only cosmetic steps to be taken so the governments will take cosmetic steps. In fact, chances are, you know as far as this tree plantation exercise is concerned, chances are we have already crossed the threshold where tree plantation can reverse the effects of climate change. That threshold had already been crossed. Now we need stricter action, now we need meaningful action, now we need real action. Planting trees might have been a useful step 20 years back, but that threshold has been long since crossed. You need to do more concrete action today, and more concrete action is not about, you know. Friday demonstrations and all those stuff and Friday strikes. All that is just a show. Real action needs to be taken.

Q: Two problems which I understand right now, consumerism and the human population, so I think which…

Acharya: At the center of all this, lies man’s tendency to consume which comes from an absence of spiritual education. Climate change is a result of the absence of spiritual education. Do not talk of two problems, there is just one problem. The problem is man’s misguided and uneducated ego. Unless you educate the ego about who it really is, it will keep proceeding in the direction of blind consumerism. Lack of spiritual education has brought this catastrophe upon us. That is the only problem., and therefore that has to be the only solution. All the other things that we are doing will not help much.

Q: I have tried to educate my friends and family around me, so maybe I should take a bigger step now to spread awareness.

Acharya: * If that is something that must be done, do it. It is not a time where you can gently nudge someone and feel that you have done your bit. Because it is nobody’s personal or private matter anymore. A fellow reproducing blindly is a threat to the entire humanity. How is this his personal matter? Tell me, please?

Somebody sets a Time Bomb in his home. A huge time bomb that will bring down the entire community. Will you say it’s his private matter because he is doing it within his home. Tell me please? Somebody, sets a bomb inside his home and the bomb is powerful enough to bring down the entire building, not merely his apartment. Will you say it is his private matter, how can I interfere? These are personal choices?

We have to respect personal choices. These are not personal choices anymore. If you are reproducing you are bringing down entire humanity. So you have to be more than gentle now. Are you getting it? And that does not mean cruelty, that means more compassion. More energetic action coming from deeper compassion and a deeper sense of responsibility. You will have to give up the notion that these are first of all personal choices, no, these are not personal choices. What you are doing has an effect on me, how is it your personal matter?

Q: Acharya Ji, regarding the population, generally when on the streets when I see women begging with their children or on the streets I see people I get really angry that you know how can they have kids being in the position they are in? Like, Firstly, they haven’t figured out a way for themselves. I understand that it is just by chance that the situations that we are born in and the kind of resources we have is just genetic chance. I understand that, but I really get angry when is see that you know very poor people who are not able to fend for themselves are having kids and then they just use them as tools for them to beg. So, how do we go about dealing with this….?

Acharya: You are looking in not exactly the right direction. That kid that you see begging on the street will have a far smaller carbon footprint throughout his life, even if there are five such kids in that beggar family. Obviously, that beggar family must not have five such kids. But the reasons for not having kids must be social and economic. By having five kids the beggar family is not really causing much harm to the climate. Because their consumption levels are extremely low. Wait, their numbers do not matter. India has 1.4 billion people. India’s carbon footprint is very small compared to that of the U.S. So numbers right now don’t matter that much. Compared to this, the 1 or 2 kids that affluent family has are a far bigger problem. Think of their carbon footprint and having a kid is not merely not having a kid. It is a geometric progression. You have a kid, the kid will have kids, and then they will have kids. It’s not 1 person you have given birth to. You have given birth to ‘100’ persons. There is an estimate that says that a woman can do all sorts of climate activism all her life and save a few tons of carbon emissions. But if she just decides to have one less child, she can save six times more carbon emissions without doing anything else. Either she can go out four hours every day of her life and indulge in tree plantation and this and that, and every single day of life she can indulge in climate activism., and that will result in the lessening of the global climate load by ‘X’ tons. Right? The other option is don’t do anything, there is no need for any climate activism just have one less child., and by having one less child you will save ‘6x’ tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Are you getting it?

Q: This information is not available.

Acharya: It is available, it is not being shared and broadcasted. It is very much available. Where else am I getting it from? I didn’t meditate and get this knowledge. I am getting it from public sources.

Q: It is just people get emotional when we tell them have one less child. I have tried with a couple of my friends and they are just like my kid needs company.

Acharya: Do hell will their emotions. Who are you? When somebody is being dragged to jail, he obviously feels emotional, so what? You will have to pay for your follies. When somebody doesn’t get selected for an entrance exam, he or she does feel emotional, so what? Just because you are emotional, you can not be granted a pardon or a favor. Now you see why lack of spirituality is the biggest problem? Because when you do not operate from a spiritual center then you operate from an emotional center.

These emotions are causing this climate change, and I am really surprised that so many people who are highly emotional are into climate activism. When the entire problem is of emotions. You are so emotional about that next foreign holiday, that is carbon-intensive. You are so emotional about having a good nice nest of your own, that is carbon. You are so emotional about having two nice kids that is emotion and that is carbon. Emotion equals carbon in a big way, and the solution to this emotional center is nothing but spirituality. Think of it, whenever you go emotional you start releasing carbon dioxide, don’t you? When you go emotional, you either drink, and that is carbon. Or you go and have a party, and that is carbon. This entire model we have based our lives on, the center around which we are living is flawed. And that is what is leading to this climate catastrophe. We are not addressing the central problem. We are just dabbling on the periphery, and that will not help. That will just help boost our ego. We will say, “You know, I did my bit”, “I am a climate warrior”, “I will have nice photos to put on Facebook”, and I now have the right to tell the others, "You know you are morally inferior to me." So if there is one action that you must take. To fight this menace. What is that? We said it is not merely important to identify the problem. You also need to identify the most effective way to fight that problem. What is the most effective way? It is not a tree plantation. The most effective way is spiritual awareness. That is what you have to do, and that is difficult. That is far more difficult than planting trees. So, we would rather plant trees. That’s how the whole thing goes.

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