In honor of Earth Day, here is the answer to a question a student once asked Swami Satchidananda the question: “What do you think will happen to our natural environment?”

It’s already happening. We are ruining it. Now we are thinking of repairing it. Well that’s the way we learn. Mother Nature allows us to make the mistakes and to learn by our own mistakes. The earth is not going to condemn you once and for all. And we cannot literally ruin the whole nature. It’s not in our hands. But we suffer by our actions and we learn to correct ourselves from that suffering.

All the terrible things that are happening in the environment and climate are good because this is nature’s way of doing things, cleaning up things. Not only individuals go through suffering. Countries go through suffering. Communities go through suffering. The entire world goes through suffering. They’re all efforts of cleaning it up. Why is that weather pattern like this? Who is the cause for it? We as a whole. We did something wrong, we are facing it. And scientists also say that. They know it. We still don’t want to accept that. We continue to do that.

Every city knows what smog can do. We’re polluting the air completely. I remember once, during the first Earth Day in New York, the entire Fifth Avenue was blocked to traffic. We all gathered there to talk about how to keep the earth clean. And Mayor Lindsay said, “We should stop polluting the air by driving in huge cars. And I asked the Mayor, “Sir, how did you come here?” We do that. We know what is wrong, but still we continue. So, the suffering is slowly educating us.

Now slowly they’re beginning to introduce electric cars. In Europe already big car companies are making electric cars. It’s not new. They know it already. Several decades ago, they even made sample cars to run by electricity. But then why didn’t they do it? They had to spend a lot of money to change the technology, change the manufacturing equipment, which they didn’t want to do. They had put a lot of money into manufacturing these gas guzzling cars. So, even though we know the technology—we had the technology earlier—we don’t want to do it because money plays an important part in our lives. For the sake of money we are ready to do anything. We pollute the air, pollute the water. Now a lot of damaging things fall into the rivers. Who does that? The money making companies. Who pollutes the lungs? Cigarette companies. Why? They want money. That’s why we are suffering. We never think of others. And that money, is it going to make us happy, healthy? No. An ill-earned money brings more illness. Well-earned money, even though only a little, will bring wellness to you. Ill earned money will bring ills to you.

Slowly, all these things are teaching us lessons. We are constantly learning lessons by our own mistakes. The world is teaching us. So, that’s why there are Earth Day celebrations and there is environmental consciousness everywhere today. Nobody was thinking of the earth in those days. So, it is all a sort of indirect lesson for us. Blessings in disguise. Mother Earth is not going to condemn us completely, no. The moment we stop polluting it will recuperate by itself. And that’s what we are trying to do now. And each one should do his or her part. Right now, right in this place, we can try our best not to continue to pollute. Keep this little earth where we are now as clean as possible. Don’t misuse the nature’s gift unnecessarily.