A Compulsory Choice

Joel Pett made this cartoon for the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009.
Joel Pett made this cartoon for the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009.

Head a hearty conversation with Anchal on the most cliched topic of our time: Sustainable Development. Posting the summarized conclusion here:

  1. We are trashing the environment and exhausting our limited resources. Our choices and lifestyle need drastic changes because they are continuously tipping the world towards the point of no return. Acting “Green” is not going to help any more.
  2. We are an irrational species by nature and hence the knowledge of the fact stated above is not enough to motivate corrective action. We already know it’s not all hunky-dory.
  3. The two most significant factors which influence our behaviour are: Money & Comfort. As long as the right choices are not cheap and/or easy, we will not change.
  4. Making the right choices appears to capture the entire picture, but it doesn’t. We should not forget that we can only choose from the options we are given.
  5. And this is where the people in power come into the picture, because they not only possess the ability to, but also actively manipulate the world around us to influence the available options.
  6. Globally the actual entities in power are not the governments or the policy makers, but the corporations. They are the puppeteers who run the puppet show called Governance.
  7. That said, even the big corporations are actually “people”, and hence are driven by their instinct to reap immediate profits even at the cost of long term loss. They, exactly like us, are driven by money & comfort.
  8. Two conditions which can change the current situation are: a) We achieve revolutionary technological breakthroughs which replace our limited resources with cleaner, cheaper and more abundant options, & b) Unsustainable practices and methodologies become economically unviable.
  9. The second condition is more or less inevitable; The scarcer our resources become the costlier they will get. But it can be artificially created right now by making policies which monetarily reward sustainable practices and punish unsustainable ones. Do note that this will in turn foster the first condition. The research money automatically flows towards ideas which help the companies cut cost.
  10. Policy changes will stop companies from externalizing the true cost of stuff, thus making business-as-usual uneconomical. And hence this is difficult [and almost impossible] to achieve as the corporations control the policy makers.

In an ideal world, the second condition can be brought about by making the people aware and then using the power of the masses to pressurize governments into enforcing laws which make being unsustainable ridiculously costly. But in our real world, neither us nor the corporations would take any significant steps towards a sustainable future until the situation becomes so grim that taking corrective action becomes not a choice but a compulsion.

The world will never cease to be. But, we can either mend our ways and bear the uncomfort of change to prevent greater loss and irreversible changes to not just our ways of living but also to the planet we call our home. Or else we can wait for the inevitable to forcefully change our ways and put us into greater discomfort. Live long and prosper!