Environmental Enthusiasm or Gunning Down People: Unusual Interplay of Recent Events


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

20 Mar 2019 – The last Friday, 15 March saw students from about 125 countries pushing their governments, parliamentarians and community leaders to come together for the protection of the environment that has degraded to an extent that life of human beings, plants and animals is at risk. This movement has been spearheaded by a 16 year old Swedish student Greta Thunberg. For the last many weeks she has not attended her school on Fridays and demonstrated outside the Swedish Parliament so that the government should act against the imminent danger of global warming and climate change.

On the same date 15 March, a totally different act has been perpetrated in a far away town of Christchurch in New Zealand by a 28 year old Australian Brenton Tarrant.

Brenton entered the city’s Al Noor mosque with his rifle and guns and started shooting the Muslim worshippers who had come for their Friday prayers in the mosque. A little later another shooting took place in the  nearby Linwood Islamic Centre by the same gunman. The shootings by Brenton in the two places have killed 50 worshippers most of whom (42) were in the Al Noor mosque. Some of them were foreign nationals including some from Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat. What an irony — Al Noor means bright light in Arabic. 

Brenton has been described as a white supremacist who has been obsessed with certain brutal attacks carried out by alleged Islamic terrorists  in 2016, 2017. He had been training with his weapons to carry out these deadly attacks as a means of revenge.

Although the date of 15 March will remain etched in our minds for these two different occurrences, one needs to consider if there is any underlying factor or commonness between them. At first glance it appears absurd to look for common factors between them — one a positive activity to again remind us of the risk the world is facing environmentally, the other a brutality in a small peace loving nation of about five million people. We do know, however, that the country New Zealand itself was created by white immigrants by decimating the indigenous peoples by the force of arms and deceit.

Now the Australian shooter Brenton is saying, in defence of his horrendous act of gunning down the old, the women and the children that these people are unwelcome immigrants who do not respect our culture and supremacy by worshiping an alien God, even if peacefully. These immigrants must not be allowed to scar our culture and religion. Facing hateful backlash and a long period of imprisonment if his brutality is legally proved, it is said that he does not repent his action in both the centres — after all did not Lord Jesus suffer for his beliefs and actions?

Returning to the Swedish student Greta who has inspired more than a million young people from around the world for propagation of a message of environmental well-being, her act is awesome and inspiring and it has already been reported that her name is being recommended for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. If the recommendation is accepted, she would become the youngest to get this honour — Malala was a year older when she shared this Prize in 2014.

However it is hard to believe that Greta has taken the initiative in Sweden, a country that is prosperous, safe, and relatively free from the scourge of air and water pollution. Her act has guided millions of students in 125 countries worldwide including India, but the placards reading FRIDAYS for FUTURE, PRESERVE for FUTURE GENERATIONS, are aimed at the elite sections of population that themselves are responsible for the degradation of the planet by their consumerism and inability not to waste unlike the poor who barely survive in the neo-liberal economic paradigm prevailing in most parts of the world.

Do I mean that the actions of tens of thousands of students pointing out to the risk of climate change are insincere and wasted? No, but what I would suggest is that the students and their parents should also individually act and live simply and avoid wastage and excess consumerism so that the degradation and harm to the environment is reduced. This way the economic and social divide between the wealthy few and the majority of poor populations would also be reduced.

In an uncanny way the action of the Australian Brenton Tarrant aimed at protesting immigration from non-white people appears fraudulent when his ancestors decimated the indigenous peoples from many parts of the world — Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Americas (North and South) etc.

The world we live in is complex and witnesses several unusual acts and issues that reflect the violence and selfishness, shortsightedness of individuals and several communities of people. What would peace lovers — Gandhi (whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated), and Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King have said at the turn of violence seen in New Zealand? The violence was compounded a few days later in a shooting incident in a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht thereby killing three people and wounding a few more.

One can only hope against hope that this scourge of bestiality and violence stops and we have peace, harmony and ecological well-being in our damaged, degraded planet.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Mar 2019.

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