Hero of Sustainability:
Mahatma Ghandi was an inspiration not only to the Indian nation but to the whole world. He is famous for leading the Indian independence movement which culminated in India throwing off the yoke of British imperialism. His promotion of equality, civil rights, anti-discrimination and freedom has inspired people the world over. However, few people may have thought of him as a hero of sustainability but he truly is.
He was vehemently opposed to greed and violence. He considered the dramatic growth of industrialisation in the 20th century as a form of violence against both people and the environment. He felt that a simple life with few needs which are provided for locally was the most non-violent way of life. He often talked of his dream world where people lived in self-sufficient small communities who rule themselves without hindering others and sustain themselves in harmony with nature.
Gandhi’s policy of “sarvodaya” called for the end of poverty through improved methods of agriculture and small-scale cottage industries in villages. Gandhi challenged modernisers in the late 1930s who wanted rapid industrialisation and centralisation of production based on the Soviet model. Gandhi saw that as dehumanising and contrary to the needs of the people, the great majority of who lived in rural villages at the time. According to Gandhi, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
Ghandi was not anti-technology or science but he believed industrialisation and automation took away meaningful work and purpose from people. He felt that appropriate-scale technology designed for local production and consumption using local resources was the ideal (i.e. most sustainable) solution.
Ghandi practiced what he preached. He is known for his austerity which he didn’t see as a burden but rather as a way to be strong and free. The yogic traditions he practiced were intended to strengthen his body and enliven his mind. He used this strength and vitality, along with his passionate desire to help the downtrodden, to achieve good for many millions of people.