Holism in Asian Traditions Holds the Key

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Learning from indigenous knowledge, cultural traditions and philosophical richness holds the key to the post-Covid economic recovery of Asian countries, says an Indian researcher
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With the world grappling with the COVID-19 for several months now, uncertainty is looming large over the global economy. As the world explores alternative paths to revitalise the economy and human life, experts say cultural and philosophical heritage of the East, including India, holds the key to the economic recovery of the Asian countries.
In an article titled ‘Ecoresurgence: A bottom-up approach towards mainstreaming ecological sustainability in the Post-COVID economic recovery’, in Energy Review 2(6), 2-3, Dr Nandakumar Janardhanan observes that learning from indigenous knowledge, cultural traditions and philosophical richness can help the Asian countries boost post-COVID economic recovery on a sustainable pathway. Dr Nandakumar Janardhanan is an Adjunct Fellow with the Institute for Australia India Engagement.
Stressing on the need of ‘a carefully crafted plan for economic recovery, keeping ecological sustainability as the central pillar’, Dr Janardhanan introduces a new concept called ‘eco-resurgence’, which ‘encompasses an overarching emphasis on indigenous, ecologically sustainable activities for the resurgence of Asian economies in the Post COVID-19 world.’
According to the author, unlike the homogenous West, the diverse Asia demands an altogether different architecture. “…the diversity of Asia in terms of governance structures, demographic differences and economic status demands an altogether different architecture for economic recovery than what is followed in the EU or the US as Green Deals. The EU is connected with a single currency which makes it easier to implement recovery plans. For the US, being a single country, the Green New Deal may find a favourable environment for implementation. The key point is that Asia may not necessarily benefit from a Green Deal model to design its economic recovery,” he writes.
“The diversity of the region has nurtured environmental consciousness for the past several millennia in varied ways. Though the vast Asian region has never been under the rule of any single kingdom or ideology, common philosophical elements have linked the region from time immemorial. Environmental consciousness always formed a key element in the cultural heritages that spread across the region,” observes Dr Janardhanan.
Elaborating on the idea of ‘Eco-Resurgence’ in view of Indian philosophy, the author writes, “The concept of self-reliance reverberated in the Gandhian views of Gram Swaraj was rooted in the ancient Indian philosophies that placed environmental ethics at the highest pedestal of the man-nature relationship.” On a similar note, he highlights the same underlying philosophy of the organic holism in the Confucius philosophies and the principles of non-interference or ‘wu wei’ in the Taoist philosophies, which ‘have given thrust to the correctness of social relationships’.
“Similarly, the perceptions of Mizukara (self) being an integral part of Onozukara (nature) also questions human domination over the environment and portrays that ecological sustainability needs to be the key element in driving the world towards a state of wellbeing,” the article further states.
To highlight how the ‘Asian thinking’ played a critical role in mainstreaming sustainability, the author states that Bhutan, a Buddist country, has successfully brought in an alternative way to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) based measurement of society’s progress through the approach of ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNP).
“Eco-resurgence is introduced as a need for Asian collective initiative for incorporating the learnings from indigenous knowledge, philosophies and environmental values and ethics of harmonious living with nature, to further sustainable development at local, national, regional and global levels. While mainstreaming the elements of environmental sustainability, the concept does not advocate to sacrifice the benefits of modern scientific, technological and economic progress the global society has acquired over centuries using millions of man-hours of intense learning and research. Instead, it stands for integrating environmental sustainability as the core of strengthening local economies, making national-level policies and building regional level networks. It then aims for integrating the benefits of ecological sustainability ingrained in the indigenous philosophies in the global processes towards climate mitigation and sustainable development,” writes Dr Janardhanan.
"The concept of eco-resurgence has special importance in the context of designing post-COVID economic recovery architecture. In order to streamline the indigenous thoughts and learnings, the author recommends a multi-stage bottom-up global governance mechanism that includes four key phases. These include what the countries in Asia do at domestic level as well as regional and international level. At domestic level, the policy streamlining should focus on local (sub-national) as well as national levels. It then needs to replicate at regional level and further at global level as described below”, he added.
“Though the vast Asian region has never been under the rule of any single kingdom or ideology, common philosophical elements have linked the region from time immemorial. Environmental consciousness always formed a key element in the cultural heritages that spread across the region”
Eco-resurgence Framework
  • Local: At the local level, the concept aims to promote a self-reliant economy. Strengthening the self-reliance in agriculture, food production, healthcare and local industries will be critical.
  • National: At the national level, the economic policies need to be sensitive to ecological sustainability and indigenous philosophies that nurture harmonious relations between humans and nature.
  • Regional: At the regional level, the governments need to promote common objectives while having shared pathways to foster collective responsibility towards sustainable development.
  • Global: A global platform to mainstream ecological sustainability that is deeply founded in the learnings from indigenous knowledge and philosophies which can contribute to strengthening the global goals of climate mitigation and sustainable development.
While the pandemic has undeniably led to high human casualties, it has also reminded us that the excessive push for human domination over the environment has made significantly adverse impacts on the ecosystem. The one and only way for peaceful and sustainable living is to re-wild our ecosystem and highlight the consciousness that human beings are just a part of the ecosystem and not its epicenter.