SHANTANU MANDAL has a background in fashion design and fine arts. During his time as a reporter for La Croix in Paris, he played a key role in helping create the UN Youth Manifesto, and since then has been a key member of the Youth Forum at the UN Convention on Combating Desertification in 2019, a mentor in the Climate Ambassadors Program, and involved in area of “Major Growth for Children and Youth.” He is based at Mount Abu in India, the spiritual headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris, and has practiced Raja Yoga for 20 years. Shantanu is a facilitator, mediator, and bridge between different communities, helping collaboration and providing a space where they can co-create.
Any action that we want to happen at a bigger level starts from a single and a very humble individual origin. Something cannot be done “outside” if it is not embraced inside. For example, if Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t free inside, he could not have helped free his country. If Nelson Mandela wasn’t free inside while sitting in prison, he could not have visualised a free country. So, when I wanted to do something for the environment, I started believing in the things I was doing.
The first thing that motivated me was changing my lifestyle. I became minimalistic, not purchasing anything unless and until it was necessary. I changed my diet to become vegan. These little things built good energy inside me, so I started volunteering. That is how I have approached personal responsibility.
For big businesses, every stakeholder has their share of responsibility as an individual, then they take on responsibilities as part of the organization that extend to the dynamics of the group – are they aligned to the well-being of Mother Nature? Every stakeholder, whether an individual, a group, or a big company, has a role to play in climate action.
Some companies have a massive potential in shaping future society. They could start now, with the simple idea of promoting “flourishing.” Flourishing is different from progress. The word progress conveys a linear aspect of earning and earning, whereas the concept of flourishing, regeneration, is when everybody inside the team is progressing and flourishing, and nature and the environment are also flourishing. The problem right now is that even when the individual, the group, and the organization progress, Mother Nature is not progressing. Instead, it is being depleted.
A flourishing way of dealing or trading is when we also focus on the health of nature and the surroundings, because that’s our resource center. My computer, my jacket, and everything else has come from Mother Nature, and if I understand that beautiful connection, I will think holistically; I will consider every aspect of that connection. Every small or big stakeholder can do that.
It is something that comes naturally within faith-based communities. They look at development projects in a very holistic way – no aspect is left out. Even if the process is slow, it is substantial and powerful. Everybody flourishes, everybody’s good wishes are there, everybody’s good energy is there.
At an individual level, it can start from a very simply approach – look to make a healthy life. Thinking about the planet and other people can be a bit overwhelming, but having a very healthy lifestyle only requires four things:
- A healthy, nourishing diet.
- Proper rest so the body can function.
- Good mobility, exercise, and fitness.
- A positive attitude.
These four keep us healthy, and you can start with any one of them.
Is there something in your diet you can do without? Why are you attached to it? Do you need it for health? Can you manage without it? The answers to these questions will lead you to a more natural, eco-friendly diet. That’s what happens if you keep asking the right questions.
Looking at mobility and exercise, if you can’t spend a lot, walk to the market or local shop, instead of using a car or public transport. It will make a difference. I have been living in the UK for the past three months and whenever I can I walk. My colleagues don’t always understand it, but I walk as my exercise. The concept must come from a lifestyle practice.
Living non-violently and holistically in nature is not an add-on activity. Even if you can’t change your food, rest, and exercise, start with positive thinking. For instance, when you have gratitude for the things around you, it creates a bond with Mother Nature and the environment, and you will cause less harm. You will be eco-friendly in your choices. This will come very naturally, and you won’t have to work for it.
When you have gratitude for the things around you,
it creates a bond with Mother Nature and
the environment, and you will cause less harm.
So, start with any of these four aspects. The easiest one to adopt is a positive attitude, an attitude of gratitude for everything. It is free of cost and it will light up your heart; everything will start radiating from there. You will feel like eating non-violent food, walking in nature, and it will become natural for you. I know because it happened to me. It starts with a gentle inner commitment, because if it is not gentle it is not sustainable.
Going forward, my hopes for the future revolve around flourishing, love, friendship, and security: love for myself, love for each other, and love for the actions of others. I can openly appreciate what others do and show my love for what they’re doing. That includes love for Mother Nature, and for the Divine.
My hopes for the longer term also focus on strong friendships, strong collaborations, strong networks. Having all these, we will have a life full of protection, safety, and security, whether it’s emotional, financial, or physical. Strong friendships help us feel safe, and when we are safe and secure we can focus on what needs to be done right now. An anxious mind cannot act in the right direction, whereas a safe and secure mind will act appropriately and look at the needs of the time.
To do that, we need to become friends of ourselves, and find a very strong friend, like the Divine, Mother Nature, or anyone in whom we have great confidence. When we communicate within that friendship, we create a safe space where working becomes very easy.
To do that, we need to become friends of ourselves,
and find a very strong friend,
like the Divine, Mother Nature,
or anyone in whom we have great confidence.
When we communicate within that friendship,
we create a safe space where working becomes very easy.
It requires actions, not just romantic words and thoughts – actions of friendship. I cannot just sit here and think, “Maybe it would be nice if that person and I were friends.” We must come together, speak, call, or WhatsApp. Some action is needed to feel safe, and some action is needed to help everything flourish.
Shantanu Mandal has a background in fashion design and fine arts. During his time as a reporter for La Croix in Paris, he played a key role in helping create the UN Youth Manifesto, and since then has been a key member of the Youth Forum at the UN Convention on Combating Desertification in 2019,... Read more