Location: Muir Woods, California
Vinodh Valluri is a writer, editor, tree hugger and an advocate for all things green. He recently became the Managing Editor for the Energy, Environment & Sustainability team at Cactus Communications in Mumbai, India. Here, he talks about his experience of being hugged by a majestic redwood in Muir Woods, and his philosophy of leading a green life.
LS: How did it feel to be hugged by the redwood?
VV: Before I left California I visited Muir Woods, and a tree finally hugged me! As I contemplated on the occasion, I realized that the photo connected to what I had been reading recently – Hot, Flat & Crowded by Thomas Friedman, and Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Man is dependent on Nature first; and then, we serve Her by properly civilized living. It seems to me that conservation begins with an expression of humility by humans, that we are tiny in comparison to the elephants or the redwoods. It is Mother Nature that hugs us first, and if we hug back, it is an expression of love which reaffirms the knowledge and dedication it takes to protect our world’s forest, rivers, birds, animals, insects and mountains.
One may or may not believe in God, but being hugged by a redwood is direct proof that there are things in this world much bigger than our ego, even outside our own vivid imaginations. A moment in the forest is enough to consider the existence of a Supreme Source of all things majestic, all things beautiful, and everything that ever existed in this world. A walk in the woods is a talk about that spiritual aspect. To me, hugging a tree is a practical exercise of the Vedic axiom – a soul in all beings, and a Supreme Soul to which all are connected.
LS: When did you become a tree hugger?
VV: Some of the first trees I hugged were the victims of summertime fruit-stealing exploits of my childhood: a couple of red guavas, a few mango trees, one giant Jamun tree, and an Indian gooseberry – all growing in the vicinity of my home at the foothills of Simhachalam, a beautiful place of pilgrimage in south-eastern India. So, let’s just say it’s an old habit!
LS: What’s your inspiration?
VV: The ancient Vedic culture of India, which had woven sustainability integrally into her texts such as the Isa Upanisad and the Bhagavad Gita, is what inspires me to continue engaging in endeavors that benefit this planet and all living entities on it. One powerful quote is the first text of the Isa Upanisad which is like the most ancient definition of sustainability:
isavasyam idam sarvam yat kinca jagatyam jagat tena tyaktena bhunjitha ma grdah kasya svid dhanam
“Everything animate or inanimate that is in this universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.”
LS: When do you think people will start to realize the importance of taking care of mother earth?
VV: It is only when we see that it is She (Mother Earth) who clothes us, feeds us, protects us, and heals us that we will begin to tread carefully on this planet during our ephemeral stay here. Unfortunately, the impersonal, mechanistic world view which dominates current science (and by extension, our society) starves us of such love and affection by making our relationship with Nature a matter of mere business. However, let’s note that “A mind all logic is like a knife all blade”. Even, or especially, in the field of conservation and environmental sustainability, there is only so much that science and technology can do to solve the problems. Beyond a point, it matters that we show integrity in our daily actions and a sincere, selfless love for all living beings, without which we fail to learn even the smallest lesson from everything that we already know.
LS: Where do you work and what do you do?
VV: Currently, I am with an Editing company, Cactus Communications (Mumbai), that helps researchers and scientists from all over the world present their scientific articles in international journals. I consider myself fortunate to be the Managing Editor for their Energy, Environment & Sustainability team.
LS: What would you like to see happen in the next few years?
Firstly, our society could use a shift towards responsiveness. There is extremism, impersonalism, and compartmentalization in all spheres of life today. Why, the recent financial doldrums are clear signs of such cognitive dissonance in our world. We know that selflessness is the solution; that the more we give, the more we will get. However, we seek to remain blind to our own goodness, and instead focus on the negative in everyone. Creating ethical economics and sensible sustainability can begin only when a case is made for such selflessness on individual, regional, national, and societal levels.