Spiritual ecology is a patient training to let go our desire to control. Our logical brain fixes goals to achieve, and bulldozes its way towards perfecting them. But life is fundamentally without goals as it teaches co-dependence. Spiritual ecology brings us back to this fundamental property of life, i.e. dependence. At the same instant, we affect and we are affected.

 

LCEJ decided to develop pilot projects in the Diocese of Trincomalee. Those pilot projects are five-year projects. The first two years correspond to an experimental period. If the project is successful, the Centre will follow the project for three more years and will develop similar projects in different parts of Sri Lanka. If the project is a failure, the project is abandoned and, based on the reasons for failure, a new more sustainable project will be experimented.

 

In our contemporary societies, it is true that power makes you credible. Our citizens have been trained to put their trust in those who have titles, money and power. Our question in LCEJ is:


Why not trust all the aspects of life, including the powerless to develop an awareness about what life is about, and guide our actions?”  


In scientific experiments, the scientists can control the number of variables. This is not possible in real life as all variables matter. This is quite mind-boggling and requires techniques of meditation to gain a sense of co-dependence and co-responsibility. 

 

But eco-spirituality is not just about techniques of meditation, it is also about a lifestyle. With Kanniya Eco-Credibility Project, LCEJ is trying to develop a know-how to give credibility to the powerless, to the minorities, to the marginals and to those who have low-incomes.

 

Why Kanniya?

For our project, our point of entry is again a small Catholic Parish recently created in the village of Kanniya located between Trincomalee and Nilaveli beach. As a historical site and as a tourist attraction, Kanniya is famous for its seven hot wells. The legend connects those wells to stories found in the Indian epic, the Ravana. At present, it is a site of frictions between Hindus (Tamils) and Buddhists (Sinhalese) who would like to have a monopoly on the historical and sacred place. Power struggle . . .

But the reason why we decided to start a project in Kanniya lies, basically, in the establishment there, by the District of Trincomalee, of one of the largest rubbish dumps in the District. After international groups published pictures of the site showing wild animals, including elephants eating plastic and other toxic waste, the dump is now severely guarded and any attempt of taking a picture is sanctioned by the police. No one can enter in the site except the dump trucks. Wells are now polluted and the dump is a serious threat to human and animal health. In theory, the Kanniya dump is supposed to be a recycling facility, in reality it is a solid open waste dump growing every day in what used to be the jungle (the precious habitat of wild animals including elephants, monkeys and leopards. The dump exists since 2005 and has been the object of surveys by international organizations such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

 

No one really knows what is going on in the dump site. Is some kind of recycling going on? It is difficult to say. What is certain is that the horrible smell generated by the dump, the pollution of the wells, toxic gases and other toxic chemical transported by the wind or the rain is affecting the health of the population. So what to do? Those who are powerless can start demonstrations and voice their anger at the lack of regulations concerning the solid waste dumps. They might attract the attention of international organizations that can fiancé recycling plants. However, most of the time nothing really materialized and the situation worsen

 

Why eco-credibility?

Some of you might associate eco-credibility to eco-labels or eco-products. Here, we use the expression in a different way. If villagers use and dump plastic and toxic waste on a regular basis, they do not have much credibility to oppose having a dump yard in their vicinity. The toxic waste has to go somewhere.


What LCEJ is proposing is that villagers start to transform their lifestyle to create in their village a zero-plastic zone, then a zero-toxic-waste zone and finally a zero-waste zone. If a village can achieve that, then that village has the credibility to protest against having a dump yard in their vicinity. They can ask for the Trincomalee Council to work at creating a District that produces no plastic waste and no toxic waste.

 

LCEJ starts with asking the Catholic community to show that it is possible to reduce the usage of plastic and toxic waste in their village. This requires a patient training that will last a few years. LCEJ hopes that other religious groups will follow and that the entire village will cooperate at becoming a zero-waste zone. Fifty years ago, the District of Trincomalee was not producing much toxic waste. We cannot go back to the past, but we can listen to the older generation and be inspired by their wisdom. We can also learn from contemporary science how to be more friendly with the environment. However, the intuition of LCEJ is that the powerless are those who are the most apt at finding concrete solutions, those who are not afraid of improvisation, trial and errors, because they have nothing to lose. 

 

We aim at a new way of life, no less enjoyable than the present, but in a better harmony with the environment and with those who suffer. 

 

©2020 by Loyola Centre for Ecology & Justice.