How Ambedkarite Environmentalism is Unique and Help World Address Ongoing Climate Emergency

Dr Ambedkar has a democratic viewpoint on nature and people.
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Representational ImageThe CSR Journal

The Indian Constitution, which was drafted by a committee chaired by Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, is a testament to his opinions on socioeconomic, political, constitutional and administrative matters. However, a majority of Indians are unaware of his image as an environmentalist.

Many people might be surprised to learn that Dr Ambedkar had strong opinions about how humans and nature should interact, as well as how natural and ecological resources should be allocated.

“Ambedkar has a democratic viewpoint on nature and people,” Dr VM Ravi Kumar, who heads the Department of History at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University in Lucknow, tells Down to Earth, referring to it as “Ambedkar’s ecological-democratic thought”.

He says that democracy, for Dr Ambedkar, is a way of thinking and living. 

“The allocation of natural resources to humans must adhere to democratic principles if democracy is to be understood as a way of life. This implies that all facets of human society will have access to the resources found in nature. Ambedkar has mentioned this fundamental idea in the majority of his writings,” he says.

Kumar puts it simply as: Ambedkar is arguably the first Indian to consider how the democratic ideal of sharing ecological resources with humans might be applied.

Babasaheb believed that democracy is not restricted to the political system and polling booths. Rather, it must serve as a foundation for allocating natural resources to every segment of the human race. 

“Babasaheb lived his entire life upholding this unwavering stance,” says the academician.

Kumar says ecological crises are fundamentally social crises in Dr Ambedkar’s view. “He (Dr Ambedkar) believed that social hierarchy is a global occurrence. The appropriation of ecological and natural resources into the process of creating wealth, though in an unequal manner, is the result of this social hierarchy.”

According to Dr Ambedkar, he says, the process of creating riches in the world, including India, has resulted in the privileged segments of society having disproportionate access to natural resources, while the less fortunate have not been able to obtain enough of them.

“It is known as ecological equity, which is the cornerstone of Dr Ambedkar’s ecological schema,” he says.

According to Kumar, the management of these ecological catastrophes is the subject of the third pillar. Philosopher Ambedkar was quite practical. His worries extended beyond what had been taking place. Instead, he made an effort to alter how society operated.

He says Ambedkar’s ecological theory offers an excellent plan for democratizing access to natural resources for the Indian subcontinent. According to him, says the professor, India’s democratic morality, the Constitution and the democratic infrastructure present a rare chance to redistribute the natural resources that were unequally divided in traditional and conventional Indian society.

“His fundamental argument is that in order to lessen the ecological injustice done to the country’s social structure, we need to develop strategies, policies, values and attitudes that are based on the idea of equity. To achieve this, more egalitarian and equal allocation of ecological resources can be achieved by public policy and constitutional morality,” says Kumar.

When everyone in the population grows and has more equitable access to natural resources, he says, a robust society can be achieved.

“It is worth noting that Ambedkar was not content with normative and constitutional policy, which is perceived as a means of advancing Indian society. Instead, he gave equal weight to the moral aspect of human society. His 1956 book — ‘The Buddha and his Dhamma’ — is a reflection of his profound dedication to the development of an ethically sound and ecologically democratic society,” he says.

Having liberty and equality is insufficient, he says, adding, fraternity should be included as well. The Buddha valued environmental preservation. Through the Buddha’s quotation, Ambedkar makes it abundantly evident that equality amongst people is not the only thing that should be expected of humans. He (Ambedkar) muses on the idea of “biocentric equality” or the equality of all species, says Kumar.

Most people consider Ambedkar to be a modern thinker who has no regard for ecology or the natural world. This is untrue. “I have attempted to refute such ideas through my work and include Ambedkar into the ecological protection effort,” he adds.

When it comes to how they view the interaction between humans and the natural world, Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi disagree from one another. While Gandhi defines the relationship between humans and the ecosystem through tradition and agency, Ambedkar believed that ecological conservation is not only about following tradition but also about reason, science and morality.

Therefore, Ambedkar stands for a distinctive voice in Indian environmental thought that contends that tradition, rationalism and science are all necessary in order to address socio-ecological issues.

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