Jain Metaphysics and Science ► 6 ►Jain Cosmology and Universe ► 6.8 The Environmental Time Cycle

Posted: 13.02.2018

It was stated earlier that the Environment time cycle operates in Aryakhand of Bharat and Airavat regions. So it is a local phenomenon that is taking place in a part of land of action. Cyclic time changes do not take place on lands of enjoyment. It means that these changes occur when human beings employ six kinds of skills for their living. The human beings on a land of enjoyment depend on bio products for their living and do not undertake any activity that may damage the environment. The human beings on a land of action resort to agriculture use crafting and industrial skills to manufacture goods and products, which may use fuel for energy and produce harmful emissions and effluents, engage in trading which may need transport, animate or mechanized and weapons which may harm the environment. The environmental pollution on Earth today is a clear testimony to this phenomenon. All human beings on Earth are using the said six skills and influencing the environmental and so the time – cycle changes should concern the entire Bharata region and not Aryakhand only.

S.M. Jain has offered a plausible scientific explanation for operation of the time – cycle. In his book on Environmental Ethics he has proposed a forest-based life – style theory for environmental changes. "The 'kalpvriksas' are the benevolent trees capable of giving all that are desired by human beings, animals and other life forms. Forests play a vital role in maintaining climatic and overall environmental balance. It offers an effective protective shield to earth and its inhabitants from harmful ultraviolet radiation, floods, droughts, storms, epidemics, earthquakes and other vagaries of nature and ensuing calamities.

In natural forest areas all life forms live in harmony and are symbiotic with mutually cooperative relationship among themselves and also in relation to inanimate constituents. The bigger tree with deeper root system helps provide moisture and nutrients to younger and smaller companions. Men, animals and birds eat flowers, fruits, get necessary food and simultaneously help the plants in dispersal of their seeds. Butterflies and other insects suck nectar from flowers of plants but are agents of pollination. It has been proved by experiments that production of fruits increase by more than 25 % in orchards where homey bee farming is also done. There are different species of pest and predator insects on different plants in perfect natural balance and there is no insect damage. Many insects living symbiotically on trees produce useful products like lac, silk, honey etc. The burrowers like rats etc., which cause extensive damage in agriculture, are useful in forests as they work as tillers of land by burrowing and turning up the soil. There are carnivore's animals, birds, insects and micro-organisms which work as scavengers in nature by consuming naturally dead bodies, disintegrating all sorts of dead and waste material and converting it into products like manure directly or through their excreta. There is hardly any waste or dirty things left in good forests. There is no predation of any sort. Even the carnivore like tigers were initially scavengers and consumed only naturally dead bodies which were plentiful when entire earth surface was covered with good forests before the onset of agriculture. It was only when forests and wild animals were destroyed and naturally dead bodies became scarce that these carnivore started killing animals for food. It is well known that when number of wild animals declines then such carnivore kill domestic animals and even become man eaters when extremely hungry or while protecting off-springs or when injured by hunters. It has been observed that wolves, hyena, jackals and others generally feed on left over of tigers etc., but when these are not available they too start killing smaller animals and birds and even domestic cattle, sometimes children also."

"The most significant aspect of forest eco-systems is that populations of all life forms remain optimum according to availability of food. There is no population explosion or increase of any species. The meticulous interactions between the species, their inherent genetic characteristics and the environment are mutually reinforcing. All work and cooperate with each other within optimized capacities. There is no over- exploitation of any one of constituents by another. The renewable natural resources are utilized within their renewable and resilience capacities, reinforced by each other. Forest eco-system ensures symbiotic relationship between members of a species including humans, species to species and other physical constituents of environment. All life forms will be mutually beneficial including bacteria and viruses, which will not mutate to harmful mutations. Human social environment will also be amiable and situations triggering mental disorders, psychic as well as neurotic and cognitive depression, hysteria, schizophrenia, will be non-existent. Likewise it will also steer clear of physical ailments. Such is efficient and organized symbiotic system of management in nature which mankind has not been able to achieve in spite of astonishing scientific and technological advances."

"Homo sapiens (mankind) are supposed to be on this planet Earth since about 300000 years and for 99% of this time human population has been very limited within carrying capacity of the ambient environment and its constituent natural resources. Before the advent of agriculture mankind lived on products of natural forests and the population was conditioned by naturally available food. The population started rising with the advent of agriculture about 10000 years ago. Man saw that it was easier and less laborious to grow seeds nearby than to go round and collect these from forests. It was this sense of lethargy that gave birth to agriculture and subsequent sense of greed to grow more that triggered rapid extension of agriculture. As food supplies increased population also increased requiring more land for growing edible seeds. Initially land was naturally available flat vacant or as grass lands. Subsequently it was extended to forest areas. Trees were cut, burnt and land cleared for cultivation. The virgin lands of forest thus cleaned gave bumper crops of edible seeds for 5-6 yeas and the yields declined subsequently, people cleared new areas of forests to meet growing needs of food for increasing population. There was a crusade against forest. Initially when population was small people went on practicing shifting cultivation from one end to last end of forests of their village boundaries and returned back to the same point after 30-40 years as by then the land left fallow was again covered back by the same natural forest and became fertile. But as population increased the cycle of 30-40 years gradually decreased to 10-20 years and eventually to 5-6 years which did not allow forest to grow and make lands fertile. This necessitated shifting of whole villages to remaining forests and eventually denuding the entire landscape."

"When agriculture was started some people opposed it as they stuck to their forest based life style and were determined to preserve the natural forests from which they were getting food, clothing and everything they needed. These people were known as raksasas (demons), raksha meaning protection of natural forests. The others who adopted agriculture were known as suras (god) word sura meaning activity of cultivation. The society was then divided in two groups of suras or devas and asuras or raksasas. The entire mythology from Rigveda to Puranas is full of fierce battles between these two groups."

"In that era of fierce battle between devas and raksasas, there were saner towering personalities who brought rapprochement between the two warring groups or cultures and civilizations. The first such towering personality was Rishabha who introduced and advised agroforestry i.e. planting of rows of trees and cultivation of land intermittently. The trees were planted in a direction so that their shade did not affect the agricultural crops in between."

"The birth of agriculture gave impetus to increase in population which then needed more expansion of agriculture which further triggered more rapid population growth and the vicious cycle continued till now particularly in predominantly agriculture based societies in developing countries. As a result all available land up to 90% was brought under agriculture at many places. The health of the soil is getting more and more precarious being over exploited for feeding increasing number of mouths. Its natural productivity because of its multiple organic constituents and numerous microorganisms has almost been decimated. The living soil has been turned into an inorganic machine requiring more and more doses of chemical fertilizers to produce same quantity and pesticides to protect monoculture crops from pests and these are poisoning the air, soil and water bodies more and more. The poisonous pesticides are getting into human system through food chain with biological magnification almost ten times more in quantity then in soil and it is increasing the incidence of various asthmatic, psychiatric, cardiac, and other serious diseases and even cancer."

"After agriculture came the industrial revolution which further ruined the environmental conditions. In addition to direct pollution of environment by industrial emissions of poisonous gases into atmosphere and toxic effluents into water system and soil the most harmful impact of industrialization is that it is triggering consumerism. To meet the increasing demands, more and more industries are coming up which further trigger consumerism and the vicious cycle is going on. Before industrialization it was only increasing number of people that was adversely affecting the environment. Now it is double-edged sword i.e. of population increase and consumerism that is cutting ruthlessly the very fabric of environmental safety. Most of the energy needs are met by burning fossil fuels the oil and coal. Combustion of coal or oil in thermal power plants is never complete, lot of harmful gases produced damage the environment. There are numerous other toxic solid, liquid and gaseous industrial effluents and emissions polluting soil, water and air, causing immense harm to human and other life forms and producing various diseases like asthma, cardiac and even cancer. The nuclear power plants considered less polluting than thermal plants are in fact more dangerous. More chemical and consumer goods industries are coming up. All the harmful chemicals are ultimately discharged in environment, in soil, water and air. The indiscriminate use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers has also resulted in extinction of several thousand species of useful microorganisms, insects, birds, animals and plants, disturbing the natural ecological balance."

"The mutually sustaining eco-systems were damaged and degraded mainly because of anthropocentric approach of mankind that human beings are centre of the universe and all resources are for them. If natural resources are utilized within their carrying capacities they are self-sustaining. Even the degraded eco-systems start rejuvenating as soon as the biotic pressure mainly of man and his domestic animals is taken off and balanced to the carrying capacity. But unfortunately the forests are being exploited many times more. Today the erratic climatic changes, green house effects, widening ozone hole, melting of arctic ice-caps (already more than 48%) and glaciers are all threatening our health and even survival."

The last to come and most dangerous of all is the invisible radiation pollution. The increasing use of radio, television, telephones, computers, mobiles, microwaves, etc are posing great threats to humans, animals and the environment. Radiations have been found to cause diseases like deafness, sleeplessness, headache, irritation, exhaustion and even cancer in humans, loss of hunting power resulting in starvation deaths in animals, loss of fertility and milk production in cows, mental disorder and deaths in mouse, reduction in crop yield, illusion in birds, etc. One study shows that by 2017 half of human population is likely to suffer from electro hypersensitivity.

"The process of succession or progression as a result of controlling biotic pressure and also of retrogression by increasing exploitation of forest eco-systems has been well studied and documented. The process of biological evolution continues till a mix of species of plants and animals occupy the land and perpetuate in mutual collaboration. This is called climax stage. The intermediate stages are succession stages. If the balance in climate stage is disturbed by over exploitation and biotic pressure the process of retrogression sets in and species of higher climax stage are replaced by lower and lower ones of succession stages corresponding to the intensity of biotic pressure. It has been possible by human endeavour to maintain a particular succession stage of economically valuable species. Teak, the paragon of tree species is the tree of succession stage in tropical and subtropical forest eco-systems in India, Burma and other countries. If biological evolution is allowed by removing the required biotic pressure than teak will be replaced by biologically higher but economically less valuable species like syzigium cumunii etc. The system of manipulating biotic pressure of thinning, grazing, control burning is adopted to maintain succession stage suitable for teak. But this is also selfish concept of man. The best is climax stage which is self sustaining and mutually reinforcing."

According to S.M. Jain this phenomenon of succession and retrogression has been described in Jaina scriptures as the swinging time cycle. It has two swings one from best to worse known as Avasarpini i.e. down-wards retrogression like from the mouth to tail of a serpent and other Utsarpini i.e. upwards progression from tail to mouth of a serpent. Each half era of Avasarpini and Utsarpini has been divided in six successive stages as described earlier. The first stage of Avasarpini is the climax stage "Happy-happy" which is perfectly symbiotic, when even carnivore works as a scavenger of naturally dead and is not a killer. No species of plants or animals cause harm to others. The air, water and soil are in purest form without contamination of any sort. When greed and increased population disturb the balance the next slightly degraded stage "happy" follows. The greed and population continues to increase resulting in further deterioration of environment and the third stage of "Happy-unhappy" is entered. In this stage people are partially happy because forests providing requirements are there, though in reduced number, but unhappy because species start attacking each other, as there is a competition for decreasing available resources. The stronger like man, carnivore even annihilates many humbler ones, which too become aggressive like symbiotic bacteria, virus and insects becoming pests and harmful, causing ailments. The degradation continues and the fourth stage is "Unhappy-happy" i.e. people are more unhappy than happy as the forests suffer concerted onslaught because of expanding agriculture. The fifth stage is 'Unhappy" when people are by and large unhappy. This is the stage we are living in, when people are unhappy, in spite of phenomenal advances in science and technology, because the natural resource are being over-exploited many times more than carrying capacity and the environment has been polluted to a large extent. The fourth stage had pressure of agriculture but in the present fifth stage it is both from expanding agriculture and multiplying industries.

As a result of increasing consumerism, more and more exploitation and pollution of nature, the conditions will gradually deteriorate to worse when most of natural resources will be completely exhausted and environment will be so much polluted that life will become most miserable and a few numbers of a few species will be able to survive. This will be the sixth "Unhappy-unhappy" stage. The prediction seems to come true as the things stand and is unfolding. With fewer numbers and reduced biotic pressure the progression will start and events shall occur in reverse order finally culminating in "Happy - happy" climax stage. This will complete the full cycle and again the retrograde swing shall take place and the process shall continue.

As described in Table 6.2 the swing can be arrested and maintained at a particular stage, say the first stage, if the people or the habitants of that region are wise enough not to allow degradation and balance their demands according to resources and carrying capacity of the environment. At other places realization might come after stage one, two or third and conditions there are stabilized and maintained at that particular stage by commensurate balance of consumption and carrying capacity of environment. These trends are visible in different regions of Jambudweep and the loka where the inhabitants by their awareness follow environmental practices that maintain a particular stage of balance. The inhabitants of Earth appear to be the worst lot who has least concern about their environment and a minimum will to protect it.