The life and work of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) have had a considerable influence on the environmental movement in India. Mahatma Gandhi has been acknowledged as the ‘patron saint’ of the Indian environmental movement.
Environmental activists have relied heavily on Gandhian thought of non-violent protest or satyagrah and have drawn heavily on Gandhain philosophy against heavy industry which may displace or crush the poor and downtrodden. The chipko movement (Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Sunder Lal Bahuguna), Baba Amte and Medha Patkar (Narmada Bachao Andolan) all derived inspiration from Gandhi. Other groups like Sulabh International that work for uplifting of Harijans and sweepers, who
once lifted night soil were also inspired by Gandhian thought.
Gandhi was indeed an “early environmentalist” who anticipated the environmental crisis of the modern industrial society. His writings in ‘Hind Swaraj’ published in 1909 explained how the current mode of
development is “exploitative of man by man and of nature by man”.
The Gandhian emphasis on frugality and simple life does not mean that environmental ethics is contradictory to pleasure. However, it is to be understood that there is no pleasure in wasteful consumption. Pleasures come from living in harmony with each other and with nature. Pleasures should not be based on exploitation of creatures. It should not harm the earth, but it should come from creative work and activity and cooperation.
Environmental ethics also teaches us to appreciate the harmony in nature and its bounties. Environmental considerations must form an integral part of all planning for India’s growth and development, last but not the least, let us not forget what Gandhiji said: “Mother Nature has enough for our needs but not enough for our greed.”