Monday, April 15, 2024
Editorial

Towards sustainability

Editorial

Today there is among us a greater awareness of the seriousness of the challenge of global warming and other environmental threats. There is also an emerging sense of helplessness. Obviously the task ahead appears too daunting to take on. Today we have realized that we were building a fool’s paradise by concentrating too much on growth, to usher in economic sovereignty, by willfully ignoring nature. The future appears to be gloomy, because the drivers of deterioration are too powerful to counter, that our economy is too dependent on unguided growth, that our politics cannot accommodate long-term thinking, and that our society responds only to major crises. But this cannot be allowed to happen. Despite the gravity of our predicament, the situation is far from hopeless. Solutions – including the policy prescriptions and other actions needed to move forward – abound and we need but use them. In fact, it is clear that the needed changes will not simply happen. No hidden hand is guiding technology or the economy toward sustainability. The issues are long-term, chronic, and complex, where genuine, farsighted leadership from elected officials is at a premium. Unfortunately till date we have not seen this leadership emerge, and we have waited long enough. What is needed then is a movement of citizens, one capable of dramatically advancing the political and personal actions needed for the transition to sustainability. Environmentalists are often said to be part of ‘the environmental movement.’ Today we need a real one. Sure, leaders in the political and business worlds will eventually see that it is in their self-interest to promote the transition to sustainability. But the evidence to date is that, absent some new force in the picture, they will be much too late in coming to this realization. The best hope is to have a coalescing of a wide-array of civic, scientific, environmental, religious, student, and other organizations with enlightened business leaders, concerned families, and engaged communities, networked together, protesting, demanding action and accountability from the government, and taking steps as consumers and communities to realize sustainability in everyday life. A new movement of consumers and households committed to sustainable living can drive a world of change. Young people will almost certainly be centrally involved in any movement for real change – they always have been. New dreams are born most easily when the world is seen with fresh eyes and confronted with impertinent questions. The point is all efforts will fall short if people don’t cooperate and act. Take for example our state. Among many others, we are today faced with the problem of shrinking water resources. We have number of water bodies, but the condition of these is a poignant reminder of the failure to maintain them. This failure is not explained only by the underperformance of government departments, but people have significantly contributed to the disaster. So simple mathematics says that the two, the government and the community, must work in tandem to retrieve our shrinking water bodies. Besides the government and its agencies, the community needs to get involved. We need to change our behaviour. We have ourselves destroyed the water bodies, and we must compensate for our misdeeds. In fact all projects taken up by the government will yield little if people don’t contribute in a positive way. We are now aware that a phenomenal expansion of economic activity is projected for the years immediately ahead. Down one path, this growth can protect, regenerate, and restore the environment. It can provide sustainable livelihoods for the poor and lead to large improvements in quality of life for all. There is still world enough and time to realize this future. But it will not be won without a profound commitment to urgent action. The question is not whether we can recover from the ecological indiscretions so far, since the resilience of both humans and their natural environment is considerable, but why we proceed on the path to development so recklessly when there are win-win opportunities for green growth. Short-term economic growth indicators should not be our measure of development performance. Instead, a broader, integrated means of sustaining such performance must be instituted in public policy.

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