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Being human means respecting ideas

nation Updated: May 23, 2016 14:18 IST

Starting today, Turkey is hosting an unusual UN Conferencethe World Humanitarian Summit. Thousands of people have descended in Istanbul to act on the fact that there is more human suffering today than ever before, after the Second World War.

While the conference examines strategies to prevent and end war, and broadly, at finding inclusive solutions for various forms of conflict, all of this makes sense for the India of 2016. We are not in active war, but violence is everywhere-against women, within castes, and against the environment.

As I see it, if you can’t respect people, how will you respect more abstract ideas, such as the environment, or relatively less empowered entities, like trees? Our extreme violence towards the environment is indicative of the loss of humanitarianism per se. How else does one explain elementary things the continued use of plastic bags, knowing they kill animals? Or that those who can afford alternatives still eat meat, cruel as it to the animals and hitting climate change? Sure, many acts of kindness exist, but not enough. One can’t but help askif our leaders don’t demonstrate humanitarianism then can India change?

We know most schools talk about non-violence. Yet, it is not internalized. The fact that the UN is actually holding a conference with this theme only underscores how vital it is to the fabric of our world. India must integrate the ethic of humanitarianism with environmental studies if we want citizens and leaders of tomorrow to stand up for the planet.

(The writer is director, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)