(Photo: Peter Max poster, 1970).

Question: What do you think will happen to our natural environment?

Swami Satchidananda: 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 by that suffering. All the terrible things that are happening in the environment and climate help us to realize we must clean things up. Why is the weather pattern like this? Who is the cause for it? We, as a whole, are. We did something wrong, now we’re facing it those results. And scientists also say that. They know the truth, yet many still don’t want to accept that.

Every city knows what smog can do. We’re polluting the air completely. Many years ago in 1970, I still remember that 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?” So, we all do that. We know what is wrong, but still we continue. So, the suffering is slowly educating us.

Nobody was thinking of the earth in those days. So, it is all a sort of indirect lesson for us. Blessings in disguise. Slowly, all these things are teaching us lessons. We are constantly learning lessons by our own mistakes. The world is teaching us.

Now companies have begun to introduce electric cars. In Europe, already big car companies there are making electric cars. It’s not new. Several decades earlier, they even made sample cars to run by electricity. But then why didn’t they manufacture those? 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 it 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.

So that’s why there are Earth Day celebrations and environmental consciousness everywhere today. The moment we stop polluting the earth, 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 here, we can try our best not to continue to pollute. Keep the little part of the earth where you are now as clean as possible. Let’s not misuse Mother Nature’s gifts unnecessarily.