Wednesday, 6 February 2008

World Land Trust in India and an old quoteation.

Just after Christmas, I returned from visiting India, and seeing what the Wildlife rust of India has been doing over the past few months. And very exciting it is too. The elephant corridors are a great success, with not only elephants using them, but lots of other wildlife including tigers.

That was the good news. But travelling around India, it was hard not to be filled with a sense of foreboding. Every three years or so, the human population increases by the size of Britain's population -- that's an extra 60 million people. And the standard of living, for a large proportion of that population is galloping ahead. The almost grid-locked cities are a testament to the new prosperity.

But one has to ask, What is fuelling this economic growth? And the answer is, to a large extent, the west's demand for cheap, mass produced goods. And despite all the rhetoric about 'sustainable development', there is no question that this development is far from sustainable.
And while travelling, I read a book, published nearly 70 years ago. Before foreign aid, and organisations like Christian Aid were saving Africa. But the writing had an amazingly contemporary ring to it. But can any of my readers identify the source of the following passage?

"..... the most significant facts are these: the inhabitants of every civilized country are menaced; all desire passionately to be saved from impending disaster; the overwhelming majority refuse to change the habits of thought, feeling and action which are directly responsible for their present plight. In other words, they can't be helped, because they are not prepared to collaborate with any helper who proposes a rational and realistic course of action. In these circumstances, what ought the would-be helper to do?'
'He's got to do something'said Pete.
'Even if he thereby accelerates the process of destruction?'....Doing good on anything but the tiniest scale requires more intelligence than most people possess. They ought to be content with keeping out of mischief; it's easier and doesn't have such frightful results as trying to to do good in the wrong way. Twiddling the thumbs and having good manners are much more helpful, in most cases, than rushing around with good intentions, doing things..... Incidentally, the price measured in human terms, is enormously high. Though, of course, much lower than the price demanded by the nature of things from those who persist in behaving in the standard human way. Much lower than the price of war, for example -- particularly war with contemporary weapons'...'

I would make a strong case for this line of thinking being just as valid today, as it was before the outbreak of World War II, when it was written. Rushing around doing good by aid agencies has caused many of the problems they set out to solve, simply because they do mot deal with the underlying, real reasons for the problems. They treat symptoms, not causes.

But can any reader identify the source of this quotation? I'll happily send a copy of Endangered Mammals of the World -- now 20 years old, and one of my last remaining copies, to the first person to identify the quote.

1 comment:

  1. Hi I absolutly agree with you by the way...
    I think this quote is by Aldous Huxley...not sure what book... but ironically I was searching for the correct reference to part of this for my doctoral work... the line 'Doing good on anything but the tiniest scale requires more intelligence than most people possess'. is quoted by Cardew in his book on potters in Africa - but I need the correct reference can you help...James Fathers