Greenpiece: Lessons we can take from Baiga’s lifestyle
India’s 700 plus tribes, or indigenous people, have typically walked the earth with the lightest possible footprints, each distinct from the other.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi used an acronym at the COP26 at Glasgow: LIFE, or Lifestyle for Environment. Most educated Indians think terms like this mean using fewer plastics or planting trees. But in fact, it goes much deeper.
India’s 700 plus tribes, or indigenous people, have typically walked the earth with the lightest possible footprints, each distinct from the other. Think of the Baiga, a forest-dwelling community, present most prominently in Central India. A Baiga eats primarily what grows on plants, with very little farmed food.
A few sources of jungle meat are also part of their diet. Now, chicken is also part of the menu. In bigger cities, you might find them selling their art. The Baigas are not the only light-treaders. Several other indigenous communities are also inherently low-carbon emitters.
Indians who want to be part of the solution, who wonder how to roll out LIFE in their everyday living, should take inspiration and instruction from such groups. Not everything is perfect-many are poorly educated, malnourished and struggling to survive. But as India raises their standard of living, we must know that we come from a culture-Baiga and beyond- that has experienced many forms of non-material joys and fulfilment.
It’s not that we should shift to a forest and own a small bagful of possessions. We simply cannot. But we should learn to consume local, consume less and collectively find joy outside active and prolific consumption. Let’s look at the ideas and practices our own country offers.
(Bharati Chaturvedi is the founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)