The bespectacled man wore a white t-shirt with ‘rainforest’ emblazoned on it. His white hair was tied back into a pony tail. Although soft-spoken, when it comes to the topic of the environment, Australian John Seed can make his voice heard.
However it is not through shouting slogans or holding placards that that he gets the point across. Instead he speaks through music. With a guitar in hand, he sows the seeds of thought, on the importance of conserving nature.
“This notion that the earth is a pyramid with humans at the pinnacle is a sharp contrast to the wisdom of indigenous people who have always understood that the world is a web and that we are just one strand in the web. If we destroy the other strands, we destroy ourselves,” says John an environmentalist.
And although he is no doomsday prophet, the situation like in movies 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and Waterworld, he says, are distinct possibilities; life on earth could come to an end due to global warming and the like.
“The more we abuse the environment, the closer we are in snuffing out our existence. The earth is not a rock with resources growing on it. The earth is alive. And trying to protect it by preserving a tiny patch of wilderness here and there is like trying to keep humans alive by preserving representative samples of skin here and there. We must realise that it is we ourselves that we are protecting. It is for our very own self interest,” says John who adds that music is an effective tool to get the message across.
“Music can cross all barriers. It becomes a means to spread awareness regarding the importance of conserving nature,” says John who has released five music CDs that contain odes to nature.
But it is not just his music that speaks of his love for nature, his films too speak of them. One of his notable films is, On the brink which revolves around four endangered species in Australia and had David Attenborough, Olivia Newton John and David Suzuki to name a few working in it.
John is currently working on a 10-minute film titled Reweaving Shiva’s Robes, which tells the story of the formation of Annamalai Reforestation Society at Arunachala, Tamil Nadu and examines the juncture between spirituality and practical environmentalism. “According to Hindu mythology, the sacred mountain Arunachala is the form taken by Lord Shiva after the other gods complained of being dazzled by his previous form. However, a once lush forest, it is no longer so,” says John who is known for his role in saving rainforests around the world. He is also into wildlife protection.
It was a letter from Apeetha Arunagiri, an Australian nun who was residing at an ashram at Arunachala who brought this crusader of the earth there. “She had heard of my work, and of my centre, Rainforest Information Centre in Australia. She wanted help in reweaving Shiva’s tattered robes by planting trees in the mountain. Although it was quite a task, we now have the beginnings of a lush forest,” says John who has been singing and talking for rainforests all over the world.
He was in the city recently in connection with a lecture tour of India that has been sponsored by the Australia-India Council (a part of the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). John is the second environmentalist to have been selected for the tour.
John spoke on ‘How the Australian Rainforest was saved-the influence of Gandhi’ to a modest group of people at Balavihar. His music was weaved into his lecture.
It was a chance participation in an anti-logging protest at Terania Creek, Australia, in 1979 that changed the course of his life, he says during the event. “I did not know a thing about rainforests at that time but in the process of protecting Terania Creek, learnt about them. Rainforests are the womb of life, home to more than half a species of plants and animals in the world. I can’t really pinpoint why I turned an environmentalist, maybe it was the pristine nature or satellite images that showed how fast the rainforests were disappearing. Anyway I felt I had found my calling in life,” says John. John’s next stop as part of his tour will be Bangalore.