“People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”, says Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist. Really? Are our climate and ecosystems deteriorating at such a fast pace that we humans are on the verge of mass extinction? We don’t really know, though we are sure that our environment is getting polluted, our climate is changing for worse, and our natural resources are fast depleting.
Activists Vs Deniers:
The climate change debate is growing hotter as the years pass because we have climate change activists and even climate change deniers. The climate change activists paint an alarming picture. The deniers, however, claim that all the alarmist rant in the name of climate change is only a propaganda launched by the socialists to stage a comeback.
Despite the heated debate, an overwhelming majority of the people strongly believe that our climate is changing due to human greed and if we don’t take urgent measures, our posterity will be in trouble.
Big Questions to Answer:
Now, we are haunted by big questions such as how are we going to reverse this trend? And, how are we going to contain our greed, which made us get immersed in materialistic pursuits round the clock? Also, if we stop being greedy and materialistic, how are we going to ensure high economic growth that is the driving force of humanity in this neo-liberal world that we created for ourselves?
It’s true that our actions have poisoned the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. But our societies, which are teeming with millions, also need employment. And our economies can ensure high employment only if we can keep our growth figures high. Is there any economic system that enables people to lead austere lives and at the same time ensures full employment to all the people? We don’t know. Many say socialism aka communism can do that. But are we ready to set aside our cherished democracy and accept the authoritarian communist rulers such as Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao? And, are we ready to accept a new socialist elite, who will keep most of the people poor in the name of socialism while enjoying all the luxuries themselves?
Most importantly, will humanity be able to dismantle the consumerist ecosystem that advocates an unceasing innovation that results in new technologies and fashions? Commercialization of all these technologies and fashions have resulted in an ever-increasing number of brands and all-pervasive shopping malls, which breed an insatiable hunger for new possessions. Though Gordon Gekko from the movie ‘Wall Street’ is a fictional character and his ‘greed is good’ speech is a fabricated rant, they both depict a realistic portrayal of the present-day society.
Hypocrisy Doesn’t Help:
As far as climate change is concerned, people are ready only for lip service but not ready to practice what they preach. The wealthy elite, whose king-sized lives leave a huge carbon footprint, are talking a lot about climate change. This shows that people want to enjoy organic food and clean water and air, but not ready to make the required lifestyle changes to mitigate climate change. Humanity, which started its history as hunter-gatherers, whose lifestyle was austere and tender on nature, progressed to become a free-market society, where people, who have unlimited desires, are obsessed with unceasing economic growth. And why not? For now, it seems to be the only way to create opportunities for the teeming millions.
Though there is a lot of discussion and debate on sustainable living practices, people and nations are too slow to adopt them. Nations, to cater to their hegemonistic desires and in their pursuit of one-upmanship, promoting relentless growth to maintain their competitive edge. The developed world wants to maintain its hegemony and the developing world wants to catch up.
Pragmatics of Sustainable Living:
Sustainable living allows you to plant more trees and bank more on renewable energy sources because they create more demand for saplings and equipment for generating solar and wind power. But you can’t reduce your consumption for the sake of sustainable living, because they say it will have an adverse impact on the industry. They trash you if you advocate the use of public transport because when people follow your advice the auto industry will be in crises. You can’t even oppose the conversion of forest and agricultural land into real estate because it will have an impact on the construction industry.
And, no government can afford the growth to slip even slightly because if it happens they will be subjected to a vicious attack from all the quarters for mismanaging the economy and being inefficient. We are living in an era where governments leave no stone unturned to keep the growth figures up. They bail out big corporations and dole out corporate tax cuts in the name of stimulus-package to kick-start growth. We are living in a world where the President of the United States, after the 9/11 attacks, called on the people to go shopping. India, to boost its exports, is planning to organize Dubai-like mega shopping festivals. Consumerism, which is inextricably intertwined with our lifestyle, has become an important part of urban life and even emerged as a main source of recreation.
America withdrew from Paris agreement on climate change citing the reasons that it would put America at disadvantage and damages its economy. President Trump who came to power with the slogan ‘make America great again’ felt that climate change mitigation efforts are an impediment to the progress of the US. Though China and India have taken some positive steps in the direction of climate change mitigation, the steps are not enough. It appears that the only door to the greatness in this world is unlimited and unceasing economic growth. That is the reality.
In this neoliberal world, a human’s identity has been reduced to that of a consumer. He must earn more, spend more and consume more to contribute to the growth. The developing world feels that double-digit growth, which is their cherished dream, is the only way available for them to pull the millions out poverty.
The world community is not able to strike unanimity over how to reverse the climate change. The developed world, whose development created this mess, is not ready to bear the costs of cleaning. And the developing world, which is under tremendous pressure to create opportunities for their populations, is not able to invest in sustainable technologies. This is causing a lot of delay in the implementation of the Paris accord on climate change.
“How Dare You” Won’t Help:
What the humanity needs to do is not the ‘how dare you’ kind of emotional outburst but a pragmatic approach to mitigate the climate change to enable the current generation to leave this mother earth in a habitable condition for the posterity. We have come too far to give up who we are and what we have achieved. Therefore, the only way we can face climate crisis is to carry out more research on sustainable technologies and adopting them on a war footing. Most importantly, we must contain population explosion. We can’t stop people from dreaming about the fairy tales of eternal growth if we don’t contain the runaway population growth. Because we must create opportunities for all.