In the 21st century, everything is a rat race, everything is a competition, and everybody tries to establish his or her hegemony over the others. There is no time for the humanity to stand and introspect. In this modern era, the only yardstick to measure things is money. To earn that money people work more, invest more, produce more and consume more. Anything small or moderate is not accepted. Life is worth living only when it is lived king size.
Economists always speak about growth. They advise on how to formulate suitable policies to maximize growth. But what is growth? In simple terms, growth means increasing the production of the various goods and services. More production leads to more employment and more employment leads to more purchasing power and more purchasing power results in increased consumption and increased consumption ultimately results in more production, making it come full circle.
Okay. It all sounds good, right? What’s wrong with more production, more employment, and more consumption? They all result in human welfare. So far so good. But do they all happen without showing any undesirable impact on the humanity?
Certainly no, if we closely observe the quality of life we are experiencing. The Quality Of Life (QOL) is roughly defined as the general well-being of individuals and societies. The well-being is measured in terms of health, wealth and stability. As far health is concerned, the humanity has never been so unhealthy. Our life expectancy has certainly gone up, but the kind of life we are leading has made us into living corpses.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that everything we consume is either polluted or adulterated. Even tender coconut water and mother’s milk are no exceptions. Researchers found a serious dose of pesticide residue in breast milk (around 0.12 mg per kg). We all feel that tender coconut water is the safest liquid for us to drink. However, it has been found that even it is not free from the pesticide residue. So the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe – all are polluted. The frequency of our hospital visits has gone up. Newer diseases are putting the resilience of the humanity to test. Glandular diseases like diabetes and thyroid dysfunction have increased manifoldly. Hypertension and heart ailments are shooting up. The health care industry is reaping a bumper harvest.
As far as wealth is concerned, only a small section of the society managed to amass incredible wealth, widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The ever increasing economic inequalities appear to have a major role to play in the increasing social unrest in various parts of the world.
The population explosion is putting a lot of pressure on the natural resources. The industries are extracting the resources indiscriminately to produce more to satiate the burgeoning demand of the rich and the middle class. The growing industrialization is contributing to a lion’s share of the pollution the world is witnessing. The business organizations, especially the Multi-National Companies (MNCs), to induce the people to spend their high disposable income, are manufacturing various products, most of them unnecessary. This consumerism and conspicuous consumption are putting enormous pressure on the sustainability of the environment and the natural resources. It is a well-known fact that the environmental degradation and natural resource depletion will, in the long run, cause instability both in the societies and the nations.
Our mother earth has enough to satisfy the needs of the people, but it doesn’t have enough to satisfy their greed. Mother earth is like a cow. If we take good care of it and safeguard it, we can milk it for a long time and get the nourishment it provides us with. However, if we turn greedy and cut open its udder the cow itself dies. It is very clear that the humanity has turned greedy and grossly materialistic. In their blind pursuit of materialism, they are not in a position to realize the impending danger that is lurking around.
How long will this unsustainable growth continue, and how long will the humanity be able to tolerate the deteriorated quality fo life? We can’t continue this unsustainable lifestyle forever and one day the humanity has to stop this rat race and conspicuous consumption.
But what could be the solution to the innumerable problems created by the market-driven economy?
The only possibility that appears feasible is reverting to the primitive lifestyle. Primitive life need not necessarily mean reverting to the Stone Age. The Macmillan Dictionary defines the word primitive as “old-fashioned, simple, and without modern features or comforts”. So the humanity, instead of measuring development in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), should start measuring it in terms of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The GDP approach only triggers a rat race that results in over-exploitation of natural resources and conspicuous consumption, which is not sustainable in the long run. On the other hand, the GNP approach avoids rat race and results in building a society which prefers simple, need-based and sustainable lifestyle. Then only we will be able to leave this mother earth to the future generations in a good shape to enable them to lead a happy and purposeful lives.