Climate: A case for why you are personally responsible
Even the continuous blare of a Trump-et cannot divert attention from the existential risk posed to humankind and to the natural world by the changing climate. Recent reports state that we are headed for a 3.5 C increase in global average temperatures by 2100 CE. Looking at how the estimates have consistently climbed every time they are made, the actual rise in temperatures is certain to be far greater. Notice also that these estimates assume that countries keep to their niggardly commitments; till now almost none appear to be doing so.
The environment is being destroyed by massive consumption. All consumption requires energy to convert the raw material into a consumable. Reduce personal consumption. All human activity is directed towards fulfilling human consumption demand. The mantra is REFUSE to consume, REDUCE what you consume, REUSE what you consume, RECYCLE what you can no longer consume.
At the same time the public is lulled into complacency with reports that green energy will solve the problem and that Greta Thunberg and her ilk are conspirators for the rich countries keeping the rest down. The public, unaware of what to do, leaves it to politicians to work out the solution. The politicians, grand-standing (Green-standing is a good word for this) as is their wont, make big of their commitments to controlling green-house gas emissions and, if they come from the poorer countries, championing the cause of their downtrodden peoples. But the emperor has no clothes; let me state some brutal facts.
- That the world is heading for disaster of a magnitude that cannot be imagined. The nearest equivalent is the strike of a meteor in Mexico 66 million years ago that wiped-out the dinosaurs.
- That there is very little time to mitigate the worst of the impact because whatever is done will take a long time to have an effect. We have already fiddled past the date by which action would have reversed the negative impact and our future generations would not suffer greatly.
- That no politician will ever suggest what needs doing because they would lose popularity. Indeed, most politicians are double faced. Take our own Prime Minister who, on the one hand trumpets India’s commitment to solar power and, on the other, is encouraging environmentally destructive policies such as “hawai chappals in hawai Jahaj” (UDAN) and the bullet trains. Not to mention the millions of kilometres he has flown all over the world in a huge personal aeroplane.
- That the middle classes and the rich classes in India generate far more greenhouse gases than does the average American but that they find general Indian poverty a good cloak from responsibility.
- That when the disaster strikes, as it surely will, it is the poor who will be the first to be hit and will suffer the greatest. It will do them no good to know that their politicians unsuccessfully fought tooth and nail to get the rich to take responsibility for this disaster, whilst themselves doing little that is crucial but unpopular.
- That the rich will not be coerced by the poor on the grounds of equity or morality because the impact on them of change in the climate is likely to be lower and, in some cases even positive.
- That business sees this as a great opportunity to make even more money, destroying the environment as they pretend to solve its problem. Five-star hotels, that survive on encouraging an environmentally destructive lifestyle greenwash their greed by allowing you the option of not washing your linen daily. Or the practice of paying a token contribution to cover the cost of air travel’s addition to the GHG ocean salves the conscience of families flying business class on foreign holidays every few months.
- Technology will not solve the problem. It is nearly 200 years since the first fuel cell was invented in a laboratory. Can you buy one on Amazon today? Forget the scientists; it is they who have got us into this mess with their environmentally destructive inventions that were seized upon by businessmen to get even richer.
So, what is to be done by the common man. It is simple. The environment is being destroyed by massive consumption. All consumption requires energy to convert the raw material into a consumable. Reduce personal consumption. All human activity is directed towards fulfilling human consumption demand. The mantra is REFUSE to consume, REDUCE what you consume, REUSE what you consume, RECYCLE what you can no longer consume. Do not wait for the politicians to solve the problem or for capitalism to show restraint. Do not believe business leaders when they spout commitment and long-term goals. Those are smoke screens for getting you to consume even more of what they provide.
Are you willing to lead a spartan life? If you are, you are the rare responsible human being. If not, you are one of the callous billions who lacks self-control and who will be responsible for the inevitable calamity towards which we are hurtling.
Every human has a responsibility to future generations. Would you want your progeny’s progeny to survive? Are you prepared to take a holiday only if it involves train travel? Are you prepared to use your current cell-phone/ shoes/ clothes/ car until beyond repair? Are you prepared to stop staying at expensive hotels, eat at expensive restaurants, fly except on dire necessity? Are you ready to surf the web only when essential? Are you prepared to use only public transport? Are you ready to not use the air-conditioner in your home, office and car? Are you prepared to drive (rarely) at the most fuel-efficient speed only and to disconnect your horn? In brief, are you willing to lead a spartan life? If you are, you are the rare responsible human being. If not, you are one of the callous billions who lacks self-control and who will be responsible for the inevitable calamity towards which we are hurtling.
If you are in business, are you prepared to actively shrink your top line, being happy with making less using even less? Are you prepared to make durable products that last very long and have the lowest of life-cycle environmental impact? Are you prepared to actively discourage those of your customers who want to buy your products if they do not need it or when what they have will suffice for their needs? Are you one of those who will give your today so that your children have a tomorrow?
[The writer is noted for his work toward improving corporate governance and raising awareness on environmental issues. He serves on the governing council of TERI and as an independent director on the boards of Thermax and Exide Industries]