Spare the Mount from the crowd

The crowding on top of Mt Everest is a sign that the world is following Francis Bacon’s philosophy rather than Mahatma Gandhi’s

By Birinder Pal Singh
Published: Monday 03 June 2019
Mountaineers at the top of Mt. Everest

The majestic Mt Everest has also become vulnerable to traffic jams that we are quite used to experiencing anywhere — on the highway, the main roads of the metropolis or any city now, leave aside lanes and by-lanes, hospitals, the railways etc. It is surprising and shocking to note that the highest peak in the world is no exception anymore.

The mighty peak is the testing ground for human endurance that people had been undertaking. It remained invincible till Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed it in 1953, thus paving the way of its subjugation.

Since then, there has been a spurt in the numbers of those who are trying to win it over by trampling the mighty peak under their feet. So much so that a young Sherpa has set a record of doing it more than two dozen times. He wants to be number one and remain so, but for how long? None knows, including he himself.

Modern civilisation is bitten by the bug of “being numero uno”. And no place on earth remains out of sight from these number one seekers. We do not learn from the indigenous people of central Brazil who keep playing the match till the two teams score equally so that none dominates the other. They remain free from the superiority/inferiority complexes in this matter.

On the other hand, the modern teams continue the competition till the competing teams become unequal. They are given extra time, penalty strikes and still if they refuse to be unequal, they are tossed out. Why? Because there has to be one number one only. The teams and players are betted over millions of rupees leave aside the prize and advertisement money.

There is no need to be number one. It is a want which is not subsiding in the consumer culture of modern society. Gandhi advised humankind to keep to only those needs for which this earth has plenty but not for their wants. We have the privilege of the wisdom of great men and philosophers like Lord Mahavira who preached love for nature, ahimsa and prohibited polluting and exploiting natural resources twenty five centuries ago, when the problem of pollution (industrial) and waste were just not there.

Coca Cola alone uses three million tonnes of plastic every day. Where would that go as waste? The greed today is on such a scale that it is unstoppable and is making the world less sustainable.

Contrary to the logic of the modern market of dispensing with things old and acquiring the latest ones that hit the bazaar, a Jain muni (monk) uses his old clothes to make a cover; when that gets worn out, it is made into a rug for sleeping and when that wears out it is kneaded with clay to coat the floor. Thus, nothing is ever wasted by Jain monks and they cause no pollution to the environment.

The Nepal government is generating revenue by issuing permits recklessly, thus jamming the pristine peak with hordes of people queued up to win it over like getting notes exchanged during the days of demonetisation. The very sight at such a height is depressing.

It is the government’s greed that is responsible for taking ten lives till date in only this year. It is double the number of deaths in previous years which is normal and may be natural, a cost to win over the mightiest peak. The United Nations must intervene to save this peak from becoming a “death peak”, if necessary by compensating the loss of revenue to the Nepal government, if other means fail.

The domination of nature is the cardinal principle of modern science and culture. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) prescribes that nature must be “bound into service” and made a “slave”, put in constraint and “moulded” by the mechanical arts. The “searchers and spies of nature” (i.e. scientists) were to discover her plots and secrets. Nature’s womb harboured secrets that through technology could be wrested from her grasp for use in the improvement of human condition...Adam and Eve have been made sovereign over all other creatures.

This philosophy is responsible for the environmental and ecological disasters that we are experiencing; yet, we are not relenting in reaching out to the Arctic or space in search of more materials and wealth. It is high time we renounce the supremacy of Adam and Eve and realise the limits of Mother Earth in fulfilling our needs. Modern science and technology too cannot realise human wants incessantly and more so, under consumer culture.

The author is Professor of Eminence with the Department of Sociology & Social Anthropology, Punjabi University, Patiala

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.