Image credit: Eneas/Flickr
Mahatma Gandhi, born 140 years ago today, is remembered as the father of modern India but it was his simple lifestyle that has continued to inspired activists around the world. This humble aesthetic, however, is at odds with recent attempts to commemorate his legacy. Take, for example, the £15,500 limited-edition Montblanc fountain pen, which features an engraving of Gandhi and comes with a gold string symbolizing his spinning wheel.
Ganghi's great-grandson presents the commemorative pen. Image credit: Paul Noronha
The irony of this frivolous luxury item is painful. Gandhi famously said:
There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed.
In his life, Gandhi went to extreme lengths to demonstrate his vision of man striving to meet only his needs. He lived in a self-sufficient community, wore simple traditional clothing made from fabric he spun himself, and practiced vegetarianism.
When he explained that:
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
He was speaking from his own experience as an activist and visionary. This vision continues to motivate people today. Whether fighting for climate change, creating innovative systems to help the underprivileged, or rebuilding a more local and sustainable world, people embrace Gandhi's image and philosophy as a guiding framework.
For environmentalists, it's not only his simple lifestyle that is a touchstone. His belief that change can only be motivated by embracing truth is also valuable in an age dominate by a debate over the severity of climate change and resource use. Commenting on the nature of progress, Gandhi said that:
Speed is irrelevant if you are going in the wrong direction.
It is increasingly clear that we must change our direction, while maintaining speed, if we are to solve the issues threatening our planet.
Gandhi reminded us that:
The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our fore fathers but on loan from our children.
We should celebrate his birthday by honoring and embodying his vision, not purchasing a precious object.
Read more about Gandhi and the environment:
Gandhi, King, and Climate Change
Solar Swadeshi: handmade electricy
Echoes of Gandhi in Electricity-Generating Spinning Wheel: A "Micro-Power Plant" for the Poor
We Must Engage the Ethical Dimension of Combating Climate Change, Religious & Civil Society Groups Urge